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Situated in the heart of West Midlands, Birmingham (nicknamed "Brum") is one of England's most powerful and populous cities. Second only to London in terms of population, this city is sometimes referred to as England's "Second City." During the Industrial Revolution, Brum earned various other epithets, including the "City of a Thousand Trades," the "Workshop of the World," and even the "Venice of the North," due to its distinctive canals. Starting in the 18th century, Birmingham became a major hub for Enlightenment thought and industry. Not only was Brum at the heart of industrial innovation in all of Europe, it also was a major center for radical political thought. After being badly damaged in World War II, Brum has since built itself up to be a major university town and tourist destination. In this article, we'll take a look at some of the most significant places to visit in this extremely important British city.
A Historic Tour Of The City
Traces of Brum's immense power and industrial might can be found all over the city. One place well worth visiting is the Sarehole Mill
, located on Cole Bank Road. This mill was first built in 1542, but the building we see today dates back to 1771. During the 1750s, industrialist Matthew Boulton made this mill into a metal working shop. A few other things this mill was used for over the years include metal rolling, making fertilizer, and even making buttons. The mill stopped operations in 1919, but was saved from destruction in 1969. Lord of the Rings
fans may know that author J.R.R. Tolkien, who grew up nearby, drew a great deal of inspiration from this mill.
After taking a look at the working conditions in Sarehole Mill, take a trip to Soho Avenue and see how the wealthy industrialist Matthew Boulton lived at the Soho House Museum
. Boulton lived in this opulent Georgian house from 1766 to 1809, and guests to this home will learn all about his life and legacy to this city. Tour guides also tell stories about the various scientific luminaries that met with Boulton in this house during the Industrial Revolution.
Another highly respected residence in Brum is known as Aston Hall
. This Jacobean mansion dates back to 1618, and it has been lovingly restored with period plasterwork, artwork, and furniture. Cannon fire during the English Civil War damaged quite a bit of this mansion, and a few marks can be observed on parts of this structure. Aston Hall is perhaps best known for inspiring two talented authors: Arthur Conan Doyle and Washington Irving. Irving's story "Bracebridge Hall" was actually based on his visit to this great example of 17th century architecture.
The best place to get a sense of the cramped housing conditions for working class families in Brum is at the Back to Backs
buildings. Founded in 1840, these back-to-back houses are the only ones left in the city. Today, the Back to Backs is officially owned and maintained by the National Trust. Tours are offered everyday except Monday, but you should buy your tickets well in advance.
Jaguars and Chocolates
Now that you've got a firm grasp on the history of Brum, why not take in two of the city's most popular factories? First, book a tour with the Jaguar Castle Bromwich Assembly
on Chester Road. This local assembly line puts together some of the classiest Jaguar vehicles on the market. The company does allow people to visit the factory, but you have to pre-book your visit.
For all those chocolate lovers out there, you'll be thrilled to hear that Cadbury World
has one of their factories just south of the city's center. Cadbury offers guided tours of this factory that inform visitors about the company's history, the history of chocolate, and a gives everyone a chance to see Cadbury's central factory. You can also buy some Cadbury goods at the gift shop on your way out.
Good Grub In Brum
Since there are six major universities here, you'll easily find many cheap eateries in Brum. Budget eats tend to be clustered around the Selly Oak area, and most of them are Indian, Italian, or Chinese restaurants. Besides these less expensive eateries, there are a few high-end restaurants catering to fine dining travelers.
One of the finest restaurants in the city is the Rectory Bar & Restaurant
on St. Paul's Square. This restaurant is well known for its succulent steaks and its huge wine list. Besides steaks, you can also order lamb shank, pork rib, and various fish dishes. For those stopping by at lunchtime, the Rectory also offers a wonderful assortment of high-quality sandwiches.
is a contemporary restaurant located on Cornwall Street. Awarded a Michelin Star in 2009, this restaurant continues to delight food critics from all around the United Kingdom. A few specialties cooked up daily at Purnell's include monkfish masala, a marinated loin of balmoral venison with red cabbage and buttered hispi, and Orkney scallops served with cider pickled turnips, smoked eel, and Oscietra caviar.
Another wonderful Michelin Star winning restaurant in Brum is called Turners
. Situated on High Street, this stylish restaurant serves up dishes such as lemon sole meunière with herb butter, Anjou pigeon with spruce and Madeira, and a saddle of rabbit with Jerusalem artichokes, watercress and mustard.
The "Workshop of the World" may no longer be the center of the Industrial Revolution, but it is still home to many wonderful tourist attractions. Whether you want to visit a local factory, walk around a few parks, take in some historical buildings, or just have a wonderful meal, you're sure to find something in good old Brum. Feel like taking a trip here soon? Get in contact with GOGO Charters as quickly as you can. GOGO can help you plan all your transportation needs to this wonderful city.