Three reasons to visit Birmingham in summer 2012
Date Posted: 17/04/12
If you're considering a weekend break to one of the country's great urban cultural centres then look no further than Britain's second city, Birmingham.
Its industrial heritage in the heart of the West Midlands should by no means be a turn-off for tourists, with the destination offering a wealth of entertainment, culture, shopping opportunities and fantastic hotel deals.
Chocoholic's heaven at Cadbury World
If you can't get enough of Britain's premier confectionery brand then make a bee-line for Cadbury World in Bourneville. Spend a day at the factory exploring the history of chocolate production and even indulge yourself in some tastings along the way.
You can find out about the chocolate making process from start to finish, including how the cocoa bean is farmed in South America, where the historic cocoa trade route to Europe can be found and how Cadbury eventually turn the crop into the chocolate bars that we know and love.
There's a replica of the company's first ever shop on Bull Street, a sneak peek of the factory floor and you even get to taste some of Cadbury's best chocolate.
After finishing your visit to the factory, take a walk around the nearby village of Bournville. John Cadbury turned the scattered cottages in the area into a coherent and carefully planned settlement in the mid-to-late 1800s for the benefit of the company's workers.
Bournville is a fascinating example of early town planning that aimed to cleanse its inhabitants of the ills of Victorian city life. The village is still regarded as one of the best places to live in Britain - and an equally good place to visit for a day out.
Enlighten the family at Thinktank
If you're travelling to Birmingham with young children then you won't want to miss out on a trip to the science museum Thinktank, which is located at Millennium Point in the city centre.
The museum offers four floors of exhibits, featuring hundreds of hands-on displays and artefacts that can teach all ages about the scientific wonders of the world.
Each of the floors has a theme based around the past, present or future. One floor, titled Thinkhere, explores local development of the City of Birmingham itself.
Whether you're interested in the natural history of the earth, the story of the cosmos or how robots will soon feel emotion, Thinktank has it all. There is so much to keep guests enthralled and expand their knowledge beyond their wildest imagination.
Shopping in Birmingham - from the Bullring to the Custard Factory
Birmingham has a lot to offer shopping fanatics, with the Bullring making a name for itself as the most popular shopping centre in the country during the first year following its launch in 2003.
No one could possibly miss the shopping centre's dramatic facade, made up of 15,000 aluminium discs that gives it a shiny and spectacular appearance.
Inside the shopping centre there are over 160 stores across more than 125,300 square metres of retail space. You can shop at number of prominent locations including Selfridge's, Debenhams, Europe's first Forever 21, Next, H&M, Topshop, Hugo Boss, All Saints, the Apple Store and Armani Exchange.
There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes where you can get a spot of lunch to refill energy levels. Highlights include the likes of Jamie's Italian, Nando's, Browns Restaurant and Cafe Rouge.
If, however, you're seeking a more nuanced shopping experience then Birmingham has plenty of artisan shops and independent boutiques to keep you happy.
The Custard Factory in the industrial district of Digbeth is an arts centre that hosts an array of shops during the day before it opens up for night-time revellers when the sun goes down.
You can find fashion shops such as Get a Grip and Hanoi Jane, health and beauty establishments including The Vintage Salon and the World of Homeopathy as well as specialist craft outlets like Graffiti for Hire and Steve Gerrard Photography.
Where to stay?
There are plenty of great Birmingham hotels both in the city centre and the suburbs. Chain locations offer the best deals but if you are looking for something a little more personal try one of the city's many B&Bs.
Travelodge Birmingham Central, for example, is an affordable location in the heart of the bustling city, close to shops, restaurants and a myriad of transport links. Prices begin at £20.75 per night.
Paragon Hotel, on the other hand, is located a mile outside of the city centre inside a striking Victorian Grade II Listed building that has been lovingly restored for its present function. It's still within walking distance of the city and has a bar and restaurant on-site that serves up casual drinks as well as traditional English and Asian food.
Posted by Louise Millard
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