Beth's 36 Hours in Birmingham

I'm fairly new to Birmingham - I've only been here 5 years and seem to have spent most of that hiding in the Great Western Arcade trying to get At One Day Spa up and running!  So in my 36 hours I would like to explore.  I'm not interested in shopping (unusual for a girlie I know) and my budget is low so exploring sounds like a good way to go.  I've got my daughter, Daisy (2), and partner, Stuart, with me - it's a rare treat for us to get 36 hours together!

First of all we would start with a nice relaxing hot chocolate and butterscotch pecan cookie from the fabulous Six Eight Kafe in Temple Row and a chat with the manager, Hannah.  OK, so not the healthiest breakfast, but it's my 36 hours of indulgence.

Then we are heading off in the direction of the ThinkTank at the Birmingham Science Park.  I've been wanting to go here for ages but never seem to get round to it.  Daisy's now old enough to enjoy the interactive exhibits so I'm expecting a couple of hours of her running round like a loon and cackling (she has the most evil laugh ever for a two year old).

Then we will, no doubt, need to find something to eat and drink, so I'd head back to Great Western Arcade and take Stuart and Daisy to the new Bistro 1847 vegetarian restaurant.  I had lunch there with some of the team from the Spa last week and it was brilliant.  Fabulous cocktails and inspired veggie food - a million miles from quiche and salad.  Stuart will love the smoky potatoes and cocktails that really do smoke.

Lunch over, we're heading to Victoria Square to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and then go and visit the new Library.  All of which I've walked past and heard great things about, and promised I'd visit, but just never seem to have the time.

I particularly want to see the Staffordshire Hoard in the Museum before it finishes, and if we visit now then Daisy can enjoy the Julia Donaldson exhibition too.  In the Library of Birmingham I want to seek out the archives so that I can do some research on Great Western Arcade as I've been waiting months to do that.  I suspect that Stuart and Daisy may disappear at this point and find something more entertaining to do in the Library!

We are going to head home for the night so that we can feed the cat, but we're taking Birmingham with us.  A bottle of wine as recommended by Phil from Loki who always recommends something I love, a big plate of meats, cheeses and olives from Anderson & Hill, a few lovely chocolates from Chou Choute and something from Mr Simms Sweet Shop.

Every Sunday when I walk into work from parking my car, I go past the most amazing singing coming from a church. I've not been able to work out which building it's coming from - but I'm going there!  Sounds like my kind of place.

And then I'm going to finish off my 36 hours by walking along the canal in the direction of Solihull.  I know that sounds weird, but I once walked along the canal from Solihull into Birmingham and went past the most amazing array of environments - from run-down industrial areas to upmarket developments.  l just really would like to do it again.  I don't get much time to just walk and be in my own space these days.  I might even leave my iPhone behind so I don't miss the views by constantly checking my email!  And I'd take along some water and a tomato and mozzarella ciabatta from the Bread Collection in Great Western Arcade.  Yum Yum!  Just need someone to collect me from Solihull and take me home now....

Beth is owner and masseuse at At One Day Spa and and can be contacted via @AtOneDaySpa. Read her blog here.

Peter's 36 Hours in Brum

By Peter

Monday to Friday I spend a lot of my time in the business district of the City at Urban Coffee Co where I work. And, don’t get me wrong, I love it. Fantastic architecture, LOADS to see and eat. There’s that real city buzz. Often though by Friday night I’m ready for something else, something smaller and I love those ‘village’ areas of cities which nuzzle just outside the centre.

Friday evening. Work’s done, and 15 minutes on – what is often claimed is Europe’s most regular bus service - the 50  later I’m in Moseley. If there’s a whiff of sunshine I make my way up to Lewis’s Deli, pick up something fabulous, and head over to Moseley Park and Pool for a picnic. It’s one of those places where I’ll normally bump in to people I know, it’s quiet, relaxing and really quite wonderful*.  It’s such a change in pace and one of those magic places where you really can forget you’re in the country’s second city! Then it’s a drink in the Fighting Cocks before heading home…

I am not a retail therapy kind of guy in the normal sense of the word. I can take or leave clothes and shoes, but food, well, that’s another story!  Saturday morning it’s off to do the weekly shop. This isn’t the weekly boring- lug-around-the-supermarket-shop for me!  It’s a walk down Ladypool Road to pick up spices and daals, grabbing a samosa from Milan’s on Stoney lane.  Then on to Chinatown and maybe lunch in Café Soya. After that, it’s the markets. They may not be the prettiest markets in the world but they are great. Wonderful fresh fish, great meat, fruit and veg from the UK, as well as exotic produce too! You name it, it’s there! And it seems as if the whole city meets here on a Saturday!  I walk around wondering HOW I’m going to get all this stuff in the fridge and, with a smug feeling, try to work out how much it would have cost me if I ‘d  got it from a supermarket.

Saturday night has to be the Prince of Wales in Moseley.  I don’t think there’s anywhere else in Birmingham that is a proper old local but with the bonus of a Cocktail Bar, Wine Hut and Tiki Lounge all in one Pub filled with people from every walk of life!  So it’s a cocktail (or two) and a pint (or two) of Old Rosie Cider….

Head ache…

Sunday morning…. (Meat in the oven on slow) Time for a walk to clear the cobwebs,

A walk to the MAC to see what’s on, and on through Cannon Hill Park. You can walk through Cannon Hill and all the way through to Highbury Park, a great river of green space through the city, and a fantastic way to spend a groggy morning. Once I arrive in Kings Heath,  it’s off to  Cherry Reds with lovely staff who know your name,  great drinks, (I’m normally ready for a Bloody Mary by now) and  the Newspapers.

I could, and often do, sit there all day. Before walking home to cook some of that market fresh veg, carve the slow cooked meat for Sunday dinner with friends. Still miles away from the men and women in suits, and buildings of glass which I’ll be surrounded by bright and early tomorrow morning.

*If you don’t have a yearly subscription to the park you can always get a daily pass!

If you can’t see Peter in any of the above places you can contact him via Twitter.

All photos by Peter.

Debra Jane's 36 Hours in Birmingham

By Debra Jane

Birmingham is such a big city, with many wonderful places to visit and fabulous things to experience.  And so, deciding how I would choose to spend 36 hours was certainly a challenge.  However, after some thought, here’s my guide to 36 hours in Birmingham.

Friday early evening...Great Hampton Street may not appear to be the obvious choice in which to embark upon 36 hours of adventure in Birmingham, yet you’d perhaps be surprised at the gems that it holds.   My first stop would be The Lord Clifden for a nice relaxing drink, and perhaps a yummy hand-made burger (the Lamb and Mint is my personal favourite).  If I were feeling particularly adventurous though, I would probably nip next door to Blue Nile Restaurant, to partake of a delicious Ethiopian meal, where their traditional flat bread becomes your knife and fork, and a mixed platter leaves a multitude of tantalising tastes for you to ponder.

With my belly full and the night still young, I would slip over the road for an evening of great value entertainment at one of Birmingham’s best kept secrets – Blue Orange Theatre.  If you enjoy fabulous live theatre, and want great value for money, then this delightful little place (which, true to its name is both blue and orange inside) offers just that.  At just £10 a ticket, it’s well worth a visit.

Saturday morning arrives with a healthy appetite, which I would personally quench with a visit to Brewsmiths Coffee & Tea, where you can enjoy good coffee, proper tea (not a bag in sight, unless you want a take out of one of their scrummy cakes) and anything from a hearty Full English through to fruit, granola and yogurt.  With its cheerful decor and excellent soundtrack, it’s a great place to relax and build up energy for the day ahead.

Now it’s time to stretch your legs on a cultural tour. First up, there is the wonderful Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.  Here, I would definitely spend some time gazing upon the glorious statue of Lucifer, a beautiful sight to behold, prior to exploring the latest exhibitions, stunning Pre-Raphaelite art and concluding with a sweeping global tour of history.

With that done, it’s time to take a stroll up onto Broad Street and tuck into a delicious lunch at Cafe Opus, before enjoying the latest exhibition at the glorious Ikon Gallery above.  Despite wanting to walk off lunch, I’d be sure to ride in the singing lift, a surreal treat indeed.

As afternoon gives way to evening, I’d head out of the main buzz of the city in search of live entertainment with a side order of tasty food.  For this, I would head south into Kings Heath and explore Kitchen Garden Cafe where they offer a variety of live entertainment, including music, storytelling and poetry, throughout the week.  The ambiance is warm and welcoming and the food, a delightful conclusion to a busy weekend.

By Debra Jane. Find out more and contact here or tweet via @NotASkinnyMini

Photos: Blue Orange and Blue Nile  courtesy Debra Jane. Coffee courtesy Brewsmiths. Ikon photo from Brum Faves archive

Colleen's 36 Hours in Birmingham

By Colleen Campbell I’ve lived in Birmingham all my life – bar a few years when I was studying in London - and love all that the city has to offer; it has some of the best shops and restaurants and is renowned for its great heritage, so here’s what I would do with 36 hours in the city. I’m a Registered Nutritionist and Personal Image Stylist, so most of my time would be spent shopping for fashion and eating good food!

36 hours Colleen Collage

I live about 20 minutes from the city centre, but have always liked the idea of living in a swanky contemporary city centre apartment, so I would rent a short stay Staying Cool apartment for the weekend in the uber-cool Rotunda.

On Friday, once I’d got my glad-rags on, the gals and I would go to the prestigious Mailbox, which houses a great selection of high end shops like Harvey Nichols and restaurants offering a variety of cuisine. I’d line my stomach with a glass of champagne from the chic Bar Epernay before taking a few steps next door to the Italian restaurant, Zizzi’s. With our bellies full we’d make our way to the Champagne Bar situated on the 25th floor of the imposing Cube building and enjoy stunning 360 degree views of the city.

It’s Saturday morning, so it’s time for a good breakfast at the Boston Tea Party café, which has a really relaxed feel about the place. The pancakes are delicious!

Right…….now it’s time for some shopping. It’s got to be the iconic Bullring – Top Shop, Zara, and Selfridges, here I come! After all that shopping I’m feeling peckish so it’s a trip to Browns’ for a late lunch; I order the tasty duck salad. This is also a great time for a photo opportunity outside the beautiful St Martins church. After lunch I take a 10 minute stroll to the Custard Factory to browse all the new indie boutiques.

I take my bags back to the apartment and get ready for dinner at Thai restaurant, The Thai Edge in Brindley Place - arguably the best Thai restaurant in Birmingham - before we cop a squat by the BrindleyPlace canal-side to do some people watching.

After Sunday breakfast, we head off to the recently refurbished Leisure Box to do some ice skating (or you could have a go at bowling if you value your limbs too much). It costs £9 to go skating, £7 if you have your own skates which I do. All that skating has got me ready for Sunday lunch, so off I trot to the brasserie-style Aalto restaurant in Hotel LA Tour.

I’d close the weekend with a pamper session – massage and facial – at the intimate and aptly named spa At One Day Spa. I was really surprised and pleased to hear that they were open on a Sunday; Sunday is my usual day of relaxation and this is the perfect little place to unwind after a busy weekend and in preparation for a busy week ahead.

Colleen Campbell runs a Nutrition and Personal Image Styling Consultancy and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Tim's 36 Hours in Birmingham - On a Shoestring

Birmingham is an amazing city and so much of what you can do can be done for minimal cost. Every activity chosen here is done with budget in mind. Tim 36 Hours collage

Friday night ….

For early evening food, I love going for Vietnamese meal at Cafe Soya II. Give it a whirl! Any of their deep fried squid dishes are awesome!

The Electric Cinema - take in a movie at the UK's Oldest Working Cinema. If you feel indulgent reserve one of their sofas and text in your snack orders.

Head out left towards John Bright St. A two minute walk will take you to a great choice of bars either The Victoria, Brewdog or The Island Bar.

Saturday morning…

Go for an early Saturday morning stroll along the canal. Start your walk from the Mailbox, walking along Gas Street, pass under Broad Street, and the ICC and turn right before the LG Arena, down pass The Flapper, underneath Summer Row, under Newhall Street and get out at Livery Street.

Turn left and you have one minutes-walk to Brewsmiths, a homely and lovely coffee shop in the Jewellery Quarter where you can get a tea/americano with an amazing bacon sandwich for £3.40 - the locals call it the 4B! Their breakfasts are legendary. Check ‘em out!

Depending on what weekend it is … get on the bus and go to one of our Farmers Markets and/or visit one of the neighbourhoods. We have some amazing farmers markets showcasing some of our finest independent merchants - Moseley, Kings Heath, Kings Norton. 

Get to explore the leafy and attractive burbs, eat some great nosh and take home supplies!

The adventurous amongst you can get on the number 11 bus and do a full circuit of the burbs of Brum … but as we only have 36 hours let's continue. Get a 45, 47, 50 etc back into the city centre.

Afternoon

Go window shopping in the Great Western Arcade and then go for coffee and cake at any of the indie coffee establishments. Relax with a paper or a book and throw back an hour at one of Birmingham's most important scenes.

Evening 

Eat at Bodega for some cool Mexican nosh.

Sunday morning...

Breakfast

Head into the Jewellery Quarter for brunch at Urban Coffee JQ.

Take a walk up around the beautiful Jewellery Quarter take in its many wonderful buildings. Or better still, if you want to hear about Birmingham's glorious histories, take in a tour from Midlands Discovery Tours (check their website for availability).

Afternoon 

Go for lunch at The Lord Clifden, available at weekends.

Travel trips.

Travelling to/from the city centre. Get a one-day bus pass for under £4. Travelling after 6.30pm. You can travel by train anywhere in the West Midlands region for £2.20 return providing you return that evening.

By Tim 'walking coffee bean' Wilson

Creative Action Man, Head Boffin at IndieLove, Drummer and Coffee Drinker. Follow at @timmy666

Rebecca: 36 Hours in the Custard Factory & Digbeth

By Rebecca Chitty 36 hours Rebecca collage

I’m lucky enough to work in one of the most vibrant areas of a city I love. The Custard Factory quarter has it all: history (Alfred Bird invented custard powder here for his egg intolerant wife), character (how could a building wearing a tie not have?) and best of all something different to the norm. It’s a short walk from the Bullring but a world away in atmosphere.

My 36 hours starts here on a Thursday evening where, being a crafty kitten, I take part in a workshop run by the knowledgeable Lucy and Laura from Rethink Remake Relove. In a couple of short hours, they show me how to turn tatty old blouses into some fabulous bunting.

Friday starts with a walk down the Digbeth High Street where I’m reminded that this is the Irish Quarter by the bars and pubs and the striking JFK memorial mosaic, painstakingly re-erected on the corner of Floodgate Street. Back at the Custard Factory, lunch is in order. Yumm Café lives up to its name with great salads and baguettes and the service is super friendly. Making cakes for a living, you’d think I’d be immune to sweet offerings, but I’m only human, so it’s a slice of triple layered Victoria sponge and a cup of tea too.

The afternoon is spent browsing the independent furniture shops where I mentally redecorate my house several times over. There’s everything from vintage (Blakely Browns and Fragile Design) to up-cycled shabby chic (Whatnot and Doodah) and just plain beautiful (More by Design).

If the giant sculptures and quirky graffiti aren’t enough to remind you that this is the creative hub of the city, an art gallery in the new Zellig part of the building will. If you’re lucky you may see Jinxy himself at work creating stunning artwork made from coffee.

By evening it’s time for food, and Digbeth Dining Club are leading a street food revolution around the corner showcasing artisan traders like The Meatshack and Bournville Waffle Company. The only way to wash down the restaurant quality food is with a drink at The Old Crown (the oldest pub in Birmingham) whose walls ooze history.

Saturday starts at a tiara workshop run by the Birmingham Bead Shop where Vina expertly shows me how to make a glittering tiara. I stock up on colourful beads, then pop next door to compare my efforts with the professionals. Sara Priestley’s unique designs show that it’s not just the Jewellery Quarter that can offer top notch bling in this city.

Lunch at the Greenhouse allows me to sit outside with tasty food that’s locally sourced and a bit different to your usual café fare. Chicken gumbo and colourful fleece blankets keep me warm as I chill out with a book and watch the buzz of the Custard Factory’s weekend entertainment. There’s sometimes an antiques market or vintage fair to visit and music can be heard pumping out over the bustle around the central pool.

The rest of the afternoon is spent in a vintage style – shopping for clothes in the array of vintage shops to suit any budget. Even if vintage clothes aren’t your bag, Urban Village is worth a look for its fantastic retro displays. At the Vintage Salon I am transported back to the 50s by the décor and even the hairdryers used to create my fabulous hairstyle.

Rebecca runs Chitty's Cake Company - a bespoke cake studio in the Custard Factory and can be contacted via Twitter @chittyscakes

Rickie: 36 Hours in Birmingham

By Rickie I’m fortunate to live in my favourite UK city as I get to at least one (or several) of my Birmingham Favourites every week. Here’s what I’d do with 36 hours in the city.

It’s Friday evening and I’m starting it old-school with a visit to, famously, the oldest working cinema in the UK, The Electric. See an indie flick, preferably kicking back on one of the 2-seater sofas with ice cream or maybe coffee served in cups & saucers served at the seat.

On the way out, try a drink at The Victoria, my favourite pub for live music.

Rickie 36 Hours

Every Saturday should start with breakfast at Brewsmiths. This two-year-old down to earth café with old school service is a solar system away from the pretentious coffee shops that are now creeping out of London and into our friendly city. Dave and his team, however, will greet you warmly and then you can relax/play Connect 4/work while they make your drinks and the best value breakfast in town. All locally sourced too including the legendary To Bizzy 2 Bake cakes. Plus it's home of the bottomless coffee cup, a revelation in this country!

So now you’re ready for a visit to church i.e. the library, currently in transition with the new one opening on 3rd September, not that I’m counting the days for the largest lending library in Europe to come back to us. Nearby is the immense Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery that I can easily spend half a day in but even half an hour takes you to another place, namely the splendour of the Edwardian Tea Room for a restful cup of something.

Saturday doesn’t get as crazy as other cities when it comes to shopping and it’s perfectly relaxing to stroll through any one of the bountiful shopping districts in the mid-afternoon maybe, grabbing lunch from Wrap Chic on route and then a drink at Hotel Le Tour’s Aalto Bar, where the Wilson Espresso was invented especially for this man.

To round-off Saturday, there is food, drinks & maybe live music (every night during International Jazz Blues Week June/July) at The Lord Clifden, tucked into the bit of the Jewellery Quarter that is still called Hockley.

Sunday starts with a walk into the Jewellery Quarter, where 40% of the UK’s jewellery is made, for breakfast at Urban Coffee Co. There are Benedicts or all sorts of other egg concoctions to set you up for the day and if you plan it right, your view will be the brand new Library of Birmingham, which looks like a giant wedding cake.

Energised? Good! Take a walking tour with Midlands Discovery Tours and enjoy the city while hearing stories of Birmingham’s characters and heritage. This way, you can fit in a Sunday lunch at Loves who open cook on Sundays once a month or on another Sunday afternoon tea with silver service splendour is served at (presently) the city’s only five star hotel Hyatt Regency.

To close the weekend, what’s better than a matinee film or theatre showing at the Crescent Theatre, just around the corner at the right end (i.e. just outside) of Brindleyplace.

By Rickie J , founder of Birmingham Favourites, who can be contacted via @BrumFaves or @RickieWrites

Look out for other city dwellers sharing their 36 Hours in Brum with us but in the meantime, have a think, what would you fill your precious 36 hours with?