Birmingham is the UKs second largest city and set in the heart of England in the Midlands. Birmingham also played a huge part in the Industrial revolution, and used to be a large market town in the Middle Ages. Today it’s a large, vibrant and multi cultural city, with lots to offer in terms of attractions, restaurants, bars and lots of shops.
I used to come to Birmingham a lot when I was younger for big nights out with friends and go clubbing at the Gatecrasher nightclub. I hadn’t been to Birmingham for a while and really fancied going there for a weekend with my husband as neither of us had been there for years.
I always book all my hotels through Agoda as you earn points and cash back to use towards future bookings. I had accrued about £85 worth of points which needed to be used by the end of the year, so suggested to my husband to go away for the night somewhere not too far from where we live, so we decided on Birmingham as it’s only about an hours drive from our hometown of Milton Keynes.
We decided to not to go sightseeing as such, this was more of a date weekend away to spend some quality time together enjoying the Birmingham shopping scene and having some nice food and drink.
Sights & Activities
Bullring, Grand Central & LinkStreet
The Bullring in Birmingham is one of the things everyone associates with Birmingham and knows about. The Bullring was built back in 2003 and replaced two older shopping centres and the old market area. The Bullring is now a huge shopping complex and has lots of high street chain shops, as well as designer shops and departments stores and lots of restaurants and cafes, as well as some markets.
It’s always heaving on a weekend, but always worth going to when in Birmingham especially if your a shopaholic like myself.
We visited just after Christmas so all the beautiful decorations were still up, unfortunately the Christmas markets had finished but there was still the Snow House Bar and a few food stalls still operating. While shopping in the Bullring we decided to have a break, and go and sit in the Snow House Bar which is a pop up style igloo. We sat here overlooking St Martins Church enjoying a mulled wine. If you visit Birmingham during the Christmas period make sure to check out the markets and the pop up festive bars and food stalls.
Grand Cental is another shopping complex which has been built onto Birmingham New Streets train station, it’s directly opposite the Bullring and has also become part of this huge retail complex.
LinkStreet is part of the Bullring and a walkway which links both Grand Central and the Bullring together. This walkway has been designated to small pop up shops, independent shops and some quirky retailers. I really loved all the quirky shops along LinkStreet and while in the Bullring, definitely give this place a look.
Great Western Arcade
The Great Western Arcade is a gorgeous little Victorian shopping arcade dating back to 1876. The arcade is a beautiful grade 2 listed building. In the arcade are several boutiques, cafes and niche shops. It’s really central too so can easily be walked to from the Bullring.
The Mailbox is really central and is a great place to base yourself if you decide to stay at the Malmaison or some of the other hotels located close by. The Mailbox was redeveloped from the Royal Mail sorting office which is how it got its name.
The Mailbox is a modern and up market shopping centre, it doesn’t have lots of shops, with regards to the Mailbox it’s more quality than quantity with a few posh shops, and some home furniture shops. There is however a Harvey Nichols department store inside which is worth a visit.
As well as some high end shops there is also a great selection of restaurants and bars in the Mailbox with some overlooking the canal.
New Street is just by the Bullring and is one of the main shopping streets in Birmingham, it has lots of chain shops as well as high end shops. Coming here at Christmas also means you can see all the festive lights which align the street. At the top of New Street there is also Birmingham Town Hall and Birmingham Council House which overlook Victoria Square, both are grand looking buildings.
The Oasis Market is about a 5-10minute walk from the Bullring, and if like me you like a bit of quirky or alternative fashion then this place is great to pick up something a bit different. I used to come here years ago with a friend, and have to admit it has gone downhill as there wasn’t as many stalls as there used to be, however as it’s not massively out of the way I would recommend coming here for a wander around and also helping local businesses if you do decide to make a purchase.
Food & Beverage
Aluna is a cocktail bar that has a great location set on the canal at the back of the Mailbox. I loved Aluna I would say it’s pretty similar to the Alchemist and Bottomist Cocktail bars. It has a huge array of cocktails on offer, and good vibe to the place also playing decent house music. The Mixologists create the most magical and quirky cocktails, I tried the Marshmallow Daiquiri and the Bubblegumtini which were both made beautifully and tasted delicious.
Chez Mal is the Malmaison Hotels bar and we came in here after we had been to Aluna, and before heading to bed we decided to have one more drink. For a hotel bar the Chez Mal seemed popular with both guests and locals and had a really good buzz about it.
There’s a good selection of cocktails too from signature cocktails to other cocktails named after places in the UK. I decided to order the Brighton Cocktail. The music was also really good and my type of music, it was Saturday night so they had lots of dance music and HedKandi style house music playing. We really liked Chez Mal and it was a lovely way to end our night before heading to bed.
Not Dogs is in the Bullring – LinkStreet, and serves up vegetarian and vegan hot dogs and burgers. There is a good selection of quirky hot dogs. I decided to try the What The Duck Dog (hoisin duck hot dog) and it was so tasty I couldn’t tell that both the hot dog and duck were vegetarian. my husband chose the The Cris-P Chicken Burger which again I couldn’t believe it wasn’t actually chicken or bacon.
We also ordered a side of waffle fries and vegetarian chicken nuggets. I also ordered a gingerbread milkshake too which was a Christmas special.
Not Dogs is great value for money and also quick and easy as you order at the counter and the food is made fresh quickly and bought over to you.
Tamatanga is in a really good location not too far from the Bullring and located opposite the Mailbox. We really enjoyed our evening meal here, it’s fresh Indian food but with a modern twist. The restaurant itself is bright and colourful inside, and the staff are really friendly and helpful.
You can’t book a table unless in a group, the restaurant accepts walk ins and they get you seated pretty quick, we waited at the bar for about 10mins and got our drinks while we waited.
We both chose to have poppadoms and dips and the Tamatanga chips to start and both decided on the Thalis for our mains. We were both really stuffed after eating all this food. The Thalis are great as it’s lots of small Indian dishes, and you can choose your curry and Naan. With us both being vegetarian we decided to choose 1 different curry each so we could try each other’s (such an married couple thing to do, I know).
We couldn’t fault Tamatanga the food, service and atmosphere were all amazing and it’s a great place to come for either lunch or dinner.
We decided to opt for Tom’s Kitchen for our breakfast, as most hotel breakfasts offer buffet breakfasts which my husband isn’t a massive fan of. Tom’s Kitchen is located in the Mailbox, and also has a separate deli cafe for anyone that’s in a hurry and doesn’t fancy a sit down meal. The cafe offers drinks and snacks to go.
We both decided to order the Vegetarian breakfasts which were delicious and fresh and also really filling, the portions were quite big. We went on Sunday morning at about 10.30ish and the place was still pretty quiet which was nice. If your staying near the mailbox I would really recommend Tom’s Kitchen for a decent filling breakfast. The restaurant also serves brunch, lunch and a dinner with a variety of British classics and comfort food.
I always see Malmaison hotels in all the big cities around the UK, and had been wanting to stay in one for ages, as they all look contemporary but also have a bit of a cool edge about them.
I put my points I earned from Agoda towards our stay so we only had to pay about £19 for our room, which was an absolute bargain. The hotel is set in the Mailbox right in the centre of Birmingham. The Bullring and New Street were only about a 5 minute walk away, so it’s an ideal location.
The rooms were clean and modern and had pop art prints up which I loved. The bed was huge and the mini bar also had a good selection of drinks and snacks too. The reception staff were also warms an welcoming too. The Hotel Bar Chez Mal is also worth stopping in for a nightcap.
I would recommend while staying or visiting Birmingham to eat curry, Birmingham is known as the curry capital of the UK and serves up some of the best curry in the Country. It is also where the Balti was invented.Even if you decide not to go with my suggestion of Tamatanga there are so many amazing Indian and Pakistani restaurants in the city to try, you can’t come to Birmingham and not sample at least one curry.
If you are visiting the city for a shopping trip try and plan what shops you want to visit as there are so many shops and shopping areas, I would recommend having a few in mind, I had a quick look on the Bullrings website to see what shops were there.