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Birmingham is the UK’s second-biggest city but, despite the fact I’ve never lived more than two hours away, I hadn’t spent much time there ’til recently.
This all changed last week as I headed for a busy 1 day in Birmingham, England.
If anywhere can rival London for me, it’s probably cool and quirky Manchester or beach town, Brighton. However as I had arranged to catch up with a friend in the Midlands and we’d picked Birmingham as the location, discovering the city was on the agenda.
Birmingham is also one of the cheaper cities in the UK which is a blessing if you’re travelling the UK on a budget.
Birmingham 1 day itinerary
Birmingham is definitely an urban jungle. It was once the heart of industry and now seems to be more about shopping, eating and nightlife.
Whilst researching I couldn’t find any major tourist sights but that was quite nice… Often when I visit a new city my must-do list is as long as my arm and I feel exhausted before I’ve arrived.
Here’s how to spend 1 day in Birmingham:
Morning – The Chinese Quarter
As we were staying in an Airbnb near the Chinese Quarter, this was the first place we wandered. The streets were lined with Chinese lanterns and not-so-Chinese multicolored umbrellas making it a really vibrant area.
As you can imagine, the area boasts loads of Chinese restaurants, as well as Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai and Korean eateries.
So often in the UK I find Asian restaurants serve a bit of a mish-mash – Vietnamese places add pad Thai to the menu and Thai places also serve sweet and sour chicken.
In contrast, Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter feels really authentic. The Vietnamese place we ate at had nothing but Vietnamese dishes on the menu and I knew from my time in the country they were true representations of what the people eat.
At Miss Vietnam I had prawn summer rolls to start followed by bun cha, my favourite meal from Hanoi. Bun cha is basically slow-cooked pork balls in a broth with a side of noodles, herbs and fried spring rolls to dip.
I washed it down with a sweet Vietnamese iced coffee and the whole experience brought back so many delicious memories of my Asia trip.
Street art in Birmingham
Street art fans will enjoy their 24 hours in Birmingham. Most of the art is in
There are a couple of other arty locations out of Digbeth, too. I glimpsed the fox below in Chinatown and the Bowie image on Dudley Street in the city centre.
Afternoon – The Bullring
Next, we walked off our food with a trip to the Bullring, an absolutely enormous shopping centre.
Shopping isn’t really my thing as I spend all my money on travel but if it was – wow. This place is super glam with every shop under the sun inside.
Not far away is the Mailbox, an area of shops, cafes and restaurants all set around the canal. This is a buzzy area which is always busy at weekends.
Simply sitting on the steps on a sunny day with a coffee is a great way to people-watch during a Birmingham itinerary for 1 day.
From there we took a walk over the bridge, which is adorned with love locks, and along the canal on the other side.
Early evening drinks – Regency Wharf
After walking along the canal, we ended up surrounded by colourful canal boats at Regency Wharf. A cool pub to check out is the Canal House where we stopped for a G&T (okay, three).
Dinner in Birmingham – Shiraz Restaurant
No 1 day in Birmingham would be complete without sampling some Indian or Middle Eastern food.
With a large Indian population, the city is actually the birthplace of the balti. Apparently, it was invented in a Pakistani restaurant in the 1970s as a way to combine the country’s flavour with Western tastes.
A helpful Insta follower told me about Iranian restaurant, Shiraz, and I’m so glad she did. I’d recommended the
We did have a tiny space for dessert however which was a FREE creamy rice pudding topped with pistachio and cinnamon.
Nightlife in Birmingham
Nightlife is one of the things Birmingham’s best at. Even though I didn’t go on a fullscale night out, we fitted in drinks at a few of the Birmingham bars. Top picks if you have just 1 day in Birmingham include:
- The Canal House – the place we drank sunset G&Ts overlooking the canal boats.
- Jekyll and Hyde – this Alice in Wonderland-themed bar has a beer garden and serves cocktails in mini bathtubs. 2023 update – this place is now the Queen’s Head!
Sunday morning brunch – Boston Tea Party
If you have 1 day in Birmingham, you’ll likely have time to grab a hearty brunch before you leave the city. I would recommend
During our Sunday morning visit, I ate the sweetcorn hash with halloumi, poached eggs and
Where to stay during 24 hours in Birmingham
Airbnbs are great value in Birmingham and if you don’t mind being slightly further out and hopping on a bus to town, you’ll find rooms for £20 a night.
You’ll pay more in the city centre but they’re still reasonable – as are hostels which start at £10 a night and hotels which start at £30.
Getting to Birmingham
Birmingham New Street station is connected to the Bullring so if arriving by train, you don’t even need to step outside for shopping and dining. Journeys to London start from £5.50. Book on Trainline for the best prices.
During weekends and at peak time they’re more expensive so you can also consider a journey on the National Express coach which leaves from the Digbeth station. Compare and book UK buses on Busbud.
My verdict on 1 day Birmingham
I can’t say I fell in love during my Birmingham itinerary. Because the shiny, modern Bullring and Mailbox dominate the centre of town and get all the regeneration work and customer spending, the surrounding area can feel quite shabby and I didn’t find much in the way of local or independent shops and businesses.
However, if you like shopping, it’s heaven so maybe that was just a bit lost on me. If I’d been there for a night out I’d have probably been more impressed too as the nightlife is well renowned.
Still, I had a great time during my 1 day in Birmingham. The food in Birmingham is awesome and I’d return for my Vietnamese meal alone. Also, if you’re visiting around Christmas time, Birmingham is famous for its Christmas markets.
Visiting the UK?
Flights (international and domestic) – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Car hire – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in the UK (and all around the world).
For UK trains, I use Trainline. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website.
For buses, I use Busbud. It’s the only site that compares UK coaches and buses. Find London to Manchester journeys for £1!
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
I use GetYourGuide for tours & activities when I don’t want to travel solo. The guides are knowledgeable and you can’t beat the prices. I also check Viator as they often have fun and unique offerings.
For food tours pairing travellers with passionate local chefs and foodies, check out EatWith.
Pack the latest copy of Lonely Planet UK.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!
Thanks for reading my Birmingham itinerary!
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If you’re looking for England inspo, check out some of my other posts:
- How to spend a weekend in Oxford
- How to spend a weekend in Manchester
- How to spend a weekend in Norfolk
- Things to do in Liverpool in winter
- The big Bristol travel guide
- 2 day Lake District itinerary
- Bath day trip itinerary
- The perfect Margate day trip from London
See you next time for more adventures,
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