Birmingham, the second largest city in the UK by population, was at the heart of the UK's industrial revolution, and its wealth was built upon the multitude of trades that were spawned. This lead to a massive canal network, with more miles of canals than Venice.
Much of the city was destroyed during the Second World War, and the replacement buildings added little to the city. Indeed a standing joke among people is Spaghetti Junction - a mass of intersecting motorways and dual carriageways that will send the unsuspecting driver off in completely the opposite direction to that which he intended.
However, within the last ten years Birmingham has been undergoing a radical change and many of the post war buildings have been replaced. The majority of the city center is now pedestrianised, and the canals cleaned up to make for attractive walkways. All credit to the city's planning department as the city retains its industrial heritage whist now appearing modern and forward looking.
Birmingham airport is situated about 8 miles South East of the center. It is linked with a train station that has frequent trains to Birmingham's New Street station (the main central station).
Birmingham is pretty much at the hub of England's rail network. There are 3 stations in the city center: New Street - by far the largest, Snow Hill and Moor Street. Thus it's really simple to get to any other destination in the UK.
Birmingham is surrounded by motorways. The M5 will take you to the South West, either the M40 or the M1 will take you to London and the South East. In the other direction the M1 will take you to Leeds and the North East. The M6 will take you towards the North West and Manchester.
Note that between July and September 2004 there are extensive works at Spaghetti Junction (Junction 6 of the M6) meaning it is not possible to get from the M6 heading West to the A38(M) Aston Expressway heading South (into Birmingham), nor is it possible to get from the A38(M) heading North (out of Birmingham) to the M6 heading East. Most other routes have taken displaced traffic, and getting in and out of Birmingham by car is not to be advised during Summer 2004.
Within two hours driving time of Birmingham are Manchester, Liverpool and London, making an excellent central base to visit all of the major cities in England. It is also within an hour of Warwick and Statford-Upon-Avon
You can take coaches from Digbeth Coach Station to most destinations within the UK. The coach station is just South of the Bull Ring shopping center on the A34/ Stratford Road.
The local bus system is extensive and buses are fairly frequent. For more outlying areas you can take a train. These run from all three of the city center's stations
National Indoor Arena - The NIA hosts many national and international sporting events.
International Convention Centre - The ICC is one of the country's leading conference and events centers
Symphony Hall Symphony Hall opened in 1991 and is recognised as one of the best auditoriums in the world. It is located within the ICC.
Aston Hall Aston Hall is a large and beautiful Jacobean house to the east of the city center. Every two years, for a week or so during the winter months, it opens its doors for candle-lit evening tours.
Think Tank Think Tank is the newly opened museum of Science and Discovery. Many of the exhibits are interactive and will appeal to younger visitors.
Sarehole Mill Sarehole Mill is one of the few remaining mills in Birmingham and is credited as the inspiration for the Shire in Tolkien's in Middle Earth.
Shopping - during the last few years Birmingham has developed enormously as a shopping center, with the old Bull Ring being demolished to make way for a large shopping center including Selfridges.
Birmingham has three universities Birmingham University, Aston University and the University of Central England.
What possibilities are there for travellers to earn money in this city? Note that this is kind of long-range and probably won't be appropriate for most destinations.
To the north of the city center is the Jewellery Quarter, containing literally hundreds of jewellery shops, workshops and wholesale outlets.
Balti Balti Balti - this is the UK home of baltis. Find out more here
Birmingham suffers (in my opinion) from that strange beast called dress code, so be careful to check out each night's policy. It is also advisable not to go in large groups of males as in my experience there is always one of you that gets refused for not having the 'correct' type of shoes/coat/trousers/face etc. Broad Street has a large range of clubs, bars and pubs. Those looking for a cheap student night could do worse than check out Snobs which plays a mix of indie music. For a more eclectic mix of music and people take a look at the Medicine Bar in the Custard Factory just off the A34 in Digbeth - it's the big blue building! If you like techno then Atomic Jam at the Que club has to be seen to be believed. Although threatening to close for ages the Que Club has to be the largest 'underground' venue I have ever been to. With a maximum of 5 rooms it used to be a church.
Birmingham has its share of gun crime problems, but these shouldn't affect you unless you make yourself part of the larger drug gang problem. The city centre is well policed and is a very safe environment. The areas of the city to avoid are Aston and Newtown. These are becoming more dangerous than the Bronx due to the earlier mentioned problem. However other areas that were considered rough like Smethwick on the outskirts to the West, are becoming more and more desirable areas as they are redeveloped. The areas of Harborne, Bearwood and Warley, on the outer ring road have the highest rising house prices in the UK currently.