Last weekend me and Jono were in Birmingham…as always it was on a budget but it was nice to get a couple of days away even though we lived on sandwiches and hotel room picnics 🙂
Birmingham is home to the largest Christmas market of its kind outside of Germany. It was very festive although a lot of the stalls had the same kinds of things for sale but it was nice to have a look around.
It’s in the perfect location just along from the Bullring Shopping Centre (which is huge!)
Not only is there the market but there’s also an ice skating rink and fun fair including a huge ‘big’ wheel, this is just outside the main shopping area but not too far to walk.
Birmingham seems to be under a lot of redevelopment at the moment, I hope they don’t knock down all the old buildings though. It’s a really bustling, busy place and just a short flight from Ireland.
We stayed in the Ibis hotel which is just across the road from Birmingham airport and is the perfect location for the NEC or getting a train into the centre. Jono was at a model railway exhibition at the NEC so this was very handy. If you want to go really cheap there is the Ibis budget, at the same location, but we stayed in one before and I’m not a fan at all. One of us ends up on a bunk bed and the shower is in a kind of cupboard!
I was at a bit of a loss to begin with as I was going to meet my friend but things didn’t go to plan. Normally I’d have things to see and do lined up but not this time. So I took the train into the city centre (top tip – an unlimited off- peak day travel ticket is just over £6 and covers trains, buses and metros within the central area).
I mooched around the shops and the market – although as you know I’m not a shopper and I don’t like crowds! In the evening I went to the Magical Lantern Festival which was held in Kings Heath – about a twenty minute bus ride from the Bullring. This was a lovely festival although it’s outside so do wrap up warm and check out the discount codes online, you’ll save yourself 20%. There was a lovely cafe selling hot chocolate, mulled wine and other goodies which I preferred to the bratwurst stalls that were also there. It’s not a big event so you’ll be in and out fairly quickly.
One of the highlights for me was the walk to The Custard Factory. This is such a cool place, as the name suggests it was the old custard factory. It’s now home to various creatives and there are some quirky shops there too. I’d have loved to look around the factory itself but it’s not open to the public and I was too early for the shops – typical.
On a previous visit I went to the Back-to-Backs which is a museum of old houses owned by the National Trust. If you are interested in history this is well worth a visit, they are the last surviving terraced houses of their kind in the city and date back to the 1800’s. Walking around the courtyard I could feel the atmosphere of the place, the smells and the noise and how desperate it would have been living in such close proximity to other families – and indeed your own! In some of the houses all the children had to share a bed – and they were big families.
If you are flying to Birmingham from Ireland West airport in Knock, Co. Mayo you can travel with FlyBe. Ireland West is the nearest airport to Sligo, it’s roughly around 40 minutes drive away from home. It’s great not to have a long journey before or after your holiday…and there’s never a traffic jam to get there either. I’ll be writing a feature in the next couple of weeks about the airport so keep an eye out for that.
So that was our 48 hours in Birmingham, a nice break away to get into the festive spirit and the weather during the way was fab! Like the summer we didn’t get.