Wednesday 16 September 2015

My list of Birmingham's #HiddenGems - places to eat, fun for kids and The Frankfurt Christmas Market

Birmingham city centre - To Become Mum

I've lived in Birmingham for 13 years now so I think I can safely say I am an honourary Brummie. I married a Brummie too and have chosen to call this fair city - England's second city, no less - my home.

It's a great place for shopping, there's lots of interesting and historical buildings to see and there's lots of suburbs worth exploring too, from the vibrancy of the Jewellery Quarter to quieter, almost villegesque locations like Harborne.

There's lots of places to enjoy a good meal or a fun night out and it really comes alive from mid-November when the Frankfurt Christmas Market takes over the city centre with its twinkling lights, German style hotdogs and steaming hot Gl├╝hwein in decorative glasses.

I think all too often Birmingham gets a bad rap, with people who have never visited before believing it to be a concrete jungle. This is not the case, certainly not any more, with the reinvention of the Bullring over a decade ago breathing new life into the city and the latest redevelopment of New Street Station, into Grand Central, due to open later this month, making Birmingham a must visit destination.

My Mum loves coming to visit - she loves cities and likes the hustle and bustle - and so too my university friends still make regular trips back to catch up with us and the city we called our home for three years as students.

Our house isn't always big enough to accommodate guests but there's so many hotels nearby and in the city centre, that's never an issue. There's 12 Travelodge hotels in Birmingham alone, so you're bound to find somewhere close to where you want to be. There's one just around the corner from us, just a couple of miles from junction 7 of the M6, which proves useful for my parents, as well as one near the Bullring, for shopaholics, and another on Broad Street, nice and close to the night-life.

So, if you are coming to Birmingham, what do I recommend you see? Having been here for a fair while now, what are my #HiddenGem recommendations?

Well, I have shared the best places to see Santa in the Midlands before (I'll be doing a 2016 addition soon) and I've also written about great days out in the Midlands, but what about Birmingham itself?

Hmm... here's a few of my #HiddenGems to get you started:

For a nice drink...

The Botanist Birmingham - To Become Mum

The Botanist - one of the newer bars in the city, you'll find The Botanist on Temple Street, near Colmore Row tucked behind New Street. It's quirky, they serve great cocktails and it's a really nice place to spend an afternoon... into an evening, if you're going out-out.

Jekyll and Hyde - for gin lovers, this compact pub/bar is one of my favourite places. BC (before child), hubs and I used to go see black and white movies in their upstairs room on a Wednesday and you can go for gin tasting sessions too.

Rose Villa Tavern - if you're in the Jewellery Quarter, this pub is also part of the Bitters'n'Twisted group, like the J&H and also The Victoria and Island Bar (two other noteworthy places if you're out and about) and is also well regarded by us locals for the good drinks and great atmosphere. Hubs and I used to live around the corner when it was a carvery pub but now it's a very cool place to be - it has beautiful stained glass windows, a telephone box inside and tree branches across the ceiling!

Otherwise, if you are out for the evening, try Summer Row and The Vaults if you're heading towards Jewellery Quarter or start at The Mailbox for a nice meal then head down the canal to Brindley Place, enjoying a few tipples along the way (the Tap and Spile is a characterful spot worth visiting, for instance).

For a bite to eat...

Bodega Birmingham - To Become Mum
There's so many places to eat all within a short walking distance in the city centre, including all your usual high street favourites from Wagamama, Handmade Burger Kitchen, Pizza Hut, Ask and Pizza Express through to Jamie's, Browns, and a few independents including one of my personal faves, Bodega.

Another Bitters'n'Twisted owned destination (they're really know how to create somewhere you want to go back to again and again!), Bodega is a mexican themed 'cantina' that's bright and colourful and has a great range of street food. Order the fish tacos and sweet potato fries, then thank me later.

We also have a Five Guys (expensive, but the best burgers you'll ever taste) and a couple of Ed's Diners too (one near the Sea Life Centre, behind Brindley Place, the other inside Selfridges in the Bullring) for the best shakes.

For brunch...

Boston Tea Party Birmingham - To Become Mum
Do not miss Boston Tea Party for brunch or any kind of munch. There's one near the law courts and one in Harborne too, both full of character and both serving up a huge selection of delicious foods - my personal fave is poached eggs with chorizo, spinach and bubble and squeak cakes.

For coffee and cake...

Around the back of New Street, you'll find Cherry Reds - a cafe/bar shop filled with mis-matched furniture and lots of interesting nic-naks. I co-organised a blogger meet up there last year and it was a lovely place to spend an afternoon.

For the kids...

At Brindley Place, there's the Sea Life Centre, which always has something new to enjoy and plenty to keep children entertained. The penguins are a real highlight for me and we last went when the starfish attraction had been added. Online prices start from £12 so well worth doing, with under 3's getting in for free.

The ThinkTank museum at Millenium Point is also a good choice, mixing education with general wonderment,

For film fans...

Birmingham is brilliant for movie buffs. Whilst we have two Odeon's (one at Broadway Plaza, near Broad Street and one within two minutes of Bullring) and one Cineworld cinema (on Broad Street), we also have The Electric Cinema, the UK's oldest working cinema, offering sofas, at-your-seat service and special screenings, and if you want a premium experience, take a trip to Everyman Cinema in The Mailbox.

To feel festive...

The Frankfurt Christmas Market - ok, so not really a #HiddenGem, but this is certainly a very good reason to hop in the car or on a train to see Birmingham. It starts on 12th November this year and runs until 22nd December, with 180 plus stalls planned, spanning the centre of the city, from the Bullring, down New Street and all the way through Town Square, Paradise Forum and up to the top of Broad Street.


This is just a snapshot of my fave places to go, but for further Brumspiration, it's worth taking a look at the Visit Birmingham website for information on what to do, where to stay and what's going on throughout the year - even I use it to keep in the know!

You can also take a look at my recent guide to days out in the Midlands, if you're planning on visiting for a little longer and Time Out has just shared their top places to find peace and quiet in Birmingham.

Plus you can also follow the #HiddenGem hashtag on Twitter too, to see what other must-see places people are sharing from the cities they love.

Travelodge has also created a new interactive that shows the changes in Birmingham’s history, which  you can view here.


  1. There's some gorgeous looking venues you've highlighted that I really want to check out now. Good excuse to go when the station is back open! Thanks for sharing Kelly.

  2. I've lived in Birmingham my whole life and didn't know about some of these! Great post, thanks for sharing x


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