The famous German Christmas market is lit up early this year in Birmingham’s Victoria Square as everyone in the UK is excited to celebrate Christmas after two years of the pandemic. There’s a familiar buzz and cheer in the air as famous landmarks, art galleries, cafes, bars, and shopping streets are decked up to welcome tourists, who visit the city of canals every holiday season. Just two hours away from London, there’s so much history and culture in Birmingham that one can experience on a leisure vacation. Here are some of the best things to do in the heart of West Midlands to soak in the festive vibe of the city through art and culture.
City’s crowning glory:
Birmingham’s most famous lane, the Jewellery Quarter, is home to over 700 jewellers and independent retailers in the United Kingdom and it is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. The urban village is famous for hip bars, restaurants, boutiques, and jewellery stores tucked in old world red brick buildings. Frequented by tourists, history buffs, and foodies, the Jewellery Quarter has some amazing buildings and offices from the past that are worth visiting.
In the middle of posh diamond and gold shopping streets, we found some important buildings like the old and new Assay offices that are still functional. Before the official testing methods were devised, the assaying (testing) and hallmarking of precious metal items like gold, silver, platinum, and palladium were done by jewellers. In 1773, the first Assay Office was founded in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter to test the purity of metals.
A walk in the art district:
A melting pot of alternative art and culture, Birmingham is home to some iconic music venues and theatrical performances. To understand the multi-ethnic vox populi of the Brummies, we decided to visit the iconic cultural stops that are known for their legendary status. Our first stop is the art power house Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Hippodrome Theatre, where classic ballet and contemporary dance performances bring new life to the traditional art form with creativity and technology. Patronized by none other than the royal family of England, we get to witness the modern rendition of Coppélia in a mesmerizing performance by Europe’s leading ballet dancers on an unforgettable night out.
The hotbed of the alternative scene in the UK, Birmingham’s love for all-things-arty speaks highly of ethnic digression and evolution with time in contemporary music, art, and live performances. As we walk across Centenary Square, it’s hard to miss the yellow-blue Library of Birmingham. The ten-floor tall avant-garde structure boasts a huge collection of books and audio material that can hook a book lover for days. It is also the best place to get an aerial view of the city from the terrace gardens. On the top floor of the library is the Shakespeare Memorial Room, where you can find everything about the renowned playwright and his best works. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to see the ‘Influence of Shakespeare on Bollywood’ exhibit on display that highlighted the influence of his stories in Indian cinema.
Viva La Musica
A little ahead of the library, a treat for music lovers awaits – the famous Birmingham Symphony Hall. Home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, this is an iconic music venue where great artists and bands perform regularly. With a capacity of over 2200 seats, it is considered to be one of the finest concert halls in the world. Located in Birmingham’s Victoria Square is another historical landmark – the Birmingham Town Hall, a Grade I listed building built like an ancient Roman temple with towering columns, and one of the most coveted venues for musical maestros. Believed to be the oldest surviving concert hall of its size in the world, it is a fitting venue for renowned artists and music festivals. As we marvel at the legendary venues and preserved cobble-stone pathways in the old town, we make a halt at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to know all about the famous Que Club. An exhibit on the city’s love for music and cinema gives us an insight into the cult underground music venue that thrived in a church and hosted well-known English bands and club nights before it finally shut in 2017. To catch the local pulse, check out the alternative neighbourhoods like the Birmingham Gay Village (an LGBT district or “gaybourhood” next to the Chinese Quarter) and Digbeth that are always buzzing with non-bougie sounds and arty vibes.
(Experince and travel courtesy: Visit Birmingham )