If asked about the UK’s most musical city, most people would promptly say Liverpool, the city where the Beatles started their carrier. Meanwhile, the true capital of talents should be Birmingham – the birthplace of the rock stars who changed the history of popular music.
In Roman times, in the place of today’s metropolis stood a fort guarding crossroads. The city was a very important trade centre as early as the 12th century, and thanks to the discovery of hard coal deposits, over the time it had developed into a major industrial centre. Although the works on the network of canals began in the 18th century, the period of greatest prosperity fell at the time of the Industrial Revolution. Suffice to say, it was the first city illuminated by gas lights. Presumably, about 2600 lights shone in a Soho steam engine factory built by Matthew Boulton and James Watt! Birmingham had also been an important centre of armament production since the times of Oliver Cromwell – an important fact that put the city at risk of frequent bombing by Germans during World War II. The city was rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s, and revitalized in the late 20th century, making it a modern metropolis and a real attraction.
Most famous for:
The impressive number of world-famous rock musicians born in this city.
Famous historical monuments:
The St Philip's Cathedral, Sarehole Mill.
A breakthrough moment in history:
The Industrial revolution that made Birmingham one of the most important industrial centres in England.
Kenny Baker – the actor who played R2D2 in the “Star Wars” saga, Jeff_Lynne – the founder of Electric Light Orchestra, Ozzy Osbourne – the leader of Black Sabbath and one of the most famous rock stars in the world.
Most interesting architecture styles:
Victorian architecture and industrial style.
One definitely needs to:
Set out on a trip through the network of canals.
Something for gourmets:
Five Michelin star restaurants and the Birmingham Food Tour for gourmets wishing to discover the flavours of this industrial city.
A place for a walk:
Cannon Hill Park, Handsworth Park, Kings Heath Park. You can go for a walk to 1 of Birmingham’s 571 parks. Although the city is mostly associated with industry, it now deserves the name of a green city.
Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum with an interactive exposition tailored to the interests of children of all ages, the science garden and planetarium; penguins in the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham; the Chocolate Museum.
Off the beaten track:
A trip to William Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon. It was in this town in Warwickshire County, that one of the most eminent English writers was born.
Birmingham in the rhythm of rock
Not without reason is Birmingham called the homeland of rock music, as the most trailblazing rock groups from the 60s and 70s, i.e. Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, come from this city. It is also a place where the British reggae and ska made their debut, with groups such as Steel Pulse, UB40 and Musical Youth. Therefore, it is worth embarking on a trip that follows the traces of the artists, whose music has changed the world rock scene forever. The list of stars who came into the world and started their careers in Birmingham is impressive:
Blaze Bayley, a former vocalist of Iron Maiden and Wolfsbane, Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Tony Martin and Ozzy Ozbourne of Black Sabbath, Ali and Robin Campbell of UB40, Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals, Mark “Barney” Greenway of Napalm Death, Rob Halford of Judast Priest, Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Dave Pegg of Jethro Tull, Michael Pinder of The Moody Blues, or the famous Taylor brothers of Duran Duran.
Those who prefer trips to monuments described in guide books will also not be disappointed. The historical Jewellery Quarter in the capital of West Midlands is definitely worth visiting. Tourists will be delighted by the exposition hosted by the Museum of the Jewellery and, of course, more than five hundred renowned jewellery factories! Moreover, it is certainly also worth setting out on a romantic trip through the water canals, especially in order to admire the coastal architecture. Furthermore, fans of sacred art can enjoy the St Chad’s Cathedral from the 19th century, that is currently the mother church of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, as well as St Philip’s Cathedral, considered one of Britain’s most valuable monuments, St Paul’s Church in the Georgian St Paul’s Square, which was designed by Roger Eykyns of Wolverhampton in the 18th century, or StMartin’s Church that dates back all the way to the 13th century. Interestingly, the last of these churches is located in the historic shopping district of the Bullring Centre, currently known primarily for one of the most futuristic architectural buildings in Europe, located just next to the historic church.
Lovers of classics should visit Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery that hosts one of the most important collections of works by the Pre–Raphaelite Brotherhood, as well as the works by old masters like Bellini, Rubens and Canaletto or rich collections of seventeenth-century Italian baroque paintings. Birmingham of the Industrial Revolution times can be seen during a visit to the Birmingham Back to Backs museum complex, also called Court 15. The complex includes beautifully restored 19th century back-to-backs houses, which create an extremely atmospheric industrial open-air museum, where, with the help of a guide, you can learn about the history of the city. A perfect crowning of this trip may be a visit to the open-air Black Country Living Museum, which will take you to the end of 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Fans of “Peaky Blinders” will be glad to hear that some of the scenes from the third season of this highly popular TV series were filmed in the museum. It is an ideal place to visit with children who will not complain about the lack of attractions, as you can spend the whole day exploring the coal mine or retro shops, admiring the automobile of the era, and even riding a wooden tram.
Nevertheless, those who would like to get off the beaten track, but still enjoy the atmosphere of classics, may follow the footsteps of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, an author of “Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”. Young Tolkien, after his return from Africa where he lived with his parents, at first settled down with his mother at Sarehole Mill, where a museum dedicated to him is located.
The area remained intact from industry and its rustic, idyllic character later became the inspiration for the Shire – the homeland of the Hobbits. After that, John lived in Moseley, then King’s Heath, and eventually settled in Edgbaston. All of these places left a mark on the author’s imagination and became a model for the fantastic places he depicted in his books.
An extensive network of canals
thanks to which the city is called Venice of England.
whose structure resembles a construction made of metal balls.