Table of Contents
- 1 Getting to Birmingham
- 2 Moving around Birmingham
- 3 Things To Do In Birmingham
- 3.1 Shop at the Bullring & Grand Central
- 3.2 Learn about history at the Back to Basics Museum
- 3.3 Visit the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum
- 3.4 Indulge your inner bookworm at the Library of Birmingham
- 3.5 Stop by the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
- 3.6 Take selfies at the Custard Factory
- 3.7 Enjoy some art at Eastside Projects
- 4 Getting back to Manchester
Birmingham is one of those cities I’ve always wanted to go. I mean, it is the second-largest city in England. I also almost attended Birmingham City University. It is only natural that I want to explore the big cities as well as the small ones. I think I planned to go last year but as life happened I moved it to my schedule for 2020.
So, a couple of days ago, I set out as early as 10am and spent my entire day at Birmingham.
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Getting to Birmingham
I initially planned to take a train to Birmingham when I noticed that taking a coach will take about two hours plus. I decided a while ago that any journey that is more than two hours will be taken by a train. This is because trains are usually faster and cuts down the commute by at least an hour. But then I had the week off from work and decided that I wasn’t in a hurry to go and come back. So I took the National Express coach from Manchester Coach Station in Cholton.
The coach departed at 10.05am but the 2hrs journey was far from perfect. But before I proceed, I’ll like to mention that we got to Birmingham 30 minutes early which I thought was very impressive. Despite the accident that caused the 1hr delay when I was returning, we got to Manchester 30 minutes earlier as well. I was really impressed with National Express. Anyways, the trip to Birmingham was almost a disaster because for the first time in a long while, my motion sickness came back in full swing and I did not prepare for it. We hadn’t even left Manchester and I began to feel woozy. My head was spinning, my eyes were tearing up and I wanted to throw up the tiny breakfast I had had. Talk about the very worst timing. I tried to distract myself by watching a movie, reading a book and listening to music. But it just made the whole thing worse. Then I remembered that I had actually bought motion sickness pills from Boots last year but never got around to using it. I also didn’t have mints in my bag to help with the nausea. Eventually, I just took a nap till we got to Birmingham. That seemed to calm my system and I was back to normal in no time.
Moving around Birmingham
Birmingham Coach Station in Digbeth is easily one of the biggest coach stations I’ve seen. I think it’s actually bigger than Manchester Coach Station. It looked organised. It was busy enough but not too crowded. Like I mentioned earlier, we arrived 30 minutes earlier so I had more time to start my exploration. Before my trip, I had created a Google Maps list of attractions I wanted to visit. I found this nifty trick after my trip to Paris and I’m currently obsessed with it. As a Google Local Guide, I’ve never really used the lists because I thought I didn’t know anywhere. But right now, it’s currently the best thing since the Google Travel app was discontinued. This list helped me decide where I wanted to go beforehand so I wasn’t confused or overwhelmed.
Before I left the coach station, I tried to determine the nearest attraction to me. That would be my starting point. It is important to mention here that when I go on day trips like this one, I avoid taking any form of transportation except it is actually necessary. I usually try to walk as far as my legs can take me. Typically, I don’t stray far from the city centre except there are major attractions on the outskirts like Disneyland and Cadbury World. Most times, by the time I’m done exploring the city centre, I’m going for the day.
Unfortunately or unfortunately, I jumped on a few buses and eventually had to pay for an unlimited day pass because I could not for the life of me navigate my way around the city centre. Do I regret it? Seeing that the buses were not eventually necessary? Oh well, it’s all in the past.
Things To Do In Birmingham
Shop at the Bullring & Grand Central
The first major attraction I saw was the unique structure of the Birmingham Bullring &Grand Central Shopping Centre. I thought the structure was fascinating. I actually hoped it was a museum or something. But getting closer and cross checking with my map, it turns it is an ultra modern contemporary shopping centre. I’ve never seen anything like it. Not even in Paris.
I took one of the pedestrian walkways and stopped by St Martin in the Bullring, a cathedral. I honestly can’t be the only one wondering how a cathedral can be so close to a shopping centre. But this is England and anything is possible. Just beside the cathedral was the Bullring Indoor and Rag market respectively. It just shows that whatever it is quite an all round extensive market. I wish I had more time to stop by but unfortunately I didn’t.
Learn about history at the Back to Basics Museum
While I tried to figure out my way around Birmingham city centre, I ended up going around the massive Bullring & Grand Central and found my way in the Chinese Quarter. According to my Google Maps list, the next nearest attraction was the Back to Basics museum. So I headed that way.
Getting there, I was expecting a grand structure which is typical for museums at this side of the world. But no, I saw a two storey building which I almost missed because it was inconspicuous. Turns out you needed to buy tickets to join one of the guided tours. I wasn’t patient enough to find out whether or not there was a free ‘unguided’ tour so I kept it moving.
Next up, I found my way back to the Bullring & Grand Central to grab some lunch at KFC. I also couldn’t avoid the temptation to stop by a couple of stores that were having a closing down clearance sale. I got a book and some lingerie for steal.
Visit the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum
After lunch, I was well sated and ready to cram as many attractions into the shortest possible time. At this point, it started rain and got really annoying because I wasn’t wearing the appropriate coat. But I had no choice but to fudge ahead.
After a bit of back and forth, I finally found the Thinkthank Birmingham Science Museum located at the Millennium Point of Birmingham City University. Just as I was about to go further, I saw something about tickets. ( I don’t know why I always expect all museums to be free. I never learn). Of course I realised that the museum wasn’t free so I turned back. But before leaving, I checked out the Thinkthank Science Garden.
This is when I started to get exhausted. Walking started to feel like climbing a hill. At some point, I started to gasp for breathe. I realised that if I continued this way, I wouldn’t touch all the attractions I had planned. So I took the bus to the Library of Birmingham.
Indulge your inner bookworm at the Library of Birmingham
Stepping into the Library of Birmingham had the same exhilarating feeling of steeping into Disneyland. That’s the only way I can describe it. It was magical. It felt magical. The massive library is Europe’s largest modern state of the art public library. Yes, it is absolutely free for anyone to use. The only thing that kept running through my head was ‘how is this free? how is this funded? I need to come back here and spend an entire weekend in this library.’ I literally couldn’t get over it.
Of course, as a result of being free, I actually went in and looked around. From the ground floor to the third floor, each floor had different categories of books. When I done, I went to the rooftop which was open to enjoy the view of Birmingham. Even though the weather wasn’t so great, I thought it was fun. I spent about 30 minutes all together even though, I didn’t want to leave at all. But I had a few other places I needed to be before it got dark. When I was leaving, I tried to get some cute fridge magnets that showed the unique structure of the building but I was incredibly disappointed by the quality of the ones available.
Stop by the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
When I left the library, I passed through the Centenary Way to the Victoria Square where there was a lot of construction work for the tram network going on. The weather wasn’t the best and it was about to rain but I just took a few pictures of the Queen Victoria Statue and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I was so sad that I couldn’t go in and spend a few minutes. From outside, you could see banners of their current exhibitions.
There were other museums on my list that I planned to visit. Like the Pen Museum, the Lapworth Museum of Geology and the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. Like other big cities, I’ve learnt that you cannot possible explore them in one day. So you have to pick the most important attractions to you and prioritise them.
Take selfies at the Custard Factory
From Victoria Square, unknown to me, I walked past another shopping centre called Martineau Place and took a bus to the Custard Factory. At first, I was expecting an attraction of sorts but turns out it was just a company with a lot of graffiti and statues. If you’re a creative or influencer, this is definitely a Instagram spot.
When I walked in through the Zellig and walked down the pathway, I’m not sure what I was expecting. I just continued walking. Looking back, I’m sure I should have walked into one of the buildings. But there was an ongoing construction work that just put me off. I figured there wouldn’t be much to see anyway. After a few minutes, I took some pictures and left.
Enjoy some art at Eastside Projects
The last attraction I planned to see for the day was an art gallery called Eastside Projects. It was a walking distance from the Custard Factory. But by the time I got there, it was closing time. So I couldn’t even go in at all. I just stood at the opposite side of the road and took as many pictures as I could. When I was done, I took a bus to Chinatown. Turns out, it was the wrong one. Lol. So I got down and took another one back to the Bullring.
I had about an hour to kill before my coach departed. So I tried to enjoy the nightlife at Bullring. I walked as far as I could, bought some souvenirs and some groceries I would need to make dinner. When I was down, I walked back the same way I came to the coach station.
Getting back to Manchester
When I returned to the Birmingham Coach Station, it turned out that there was a major accident in the road. This meant that there was gonna be a one hour delay. There was really nothing I could do that just wait. But thankfully, the coach station was really comfortable and I just took a few seats and relaxed.
Fortunately, the coach came about 15 minutes earlier. So, I’m about two hours we were back to Manchester Coach station. Again, this was impressive because the commute should have been about 2hrs 40 minutes.
I’ll definitely be coming back to Birmingham even if it is just for the library. It is one of those cities where you need to spend a weekend or two. 24 hours is definitely not sufficient.
Of course, I could not get to the biggest attraction which was Cadbury World because it is about an hour away from the city centre. But I’ll definitely be back.