Date Posted: 26/02/2015
Birmingham is the only UK destination in a list of the ten most exciting destinations to visit in 2015 compiled by the travel guidebook series Rough Guides. Here's what the city has to offer groups.
A host of new openings and developments make 2015 the most important year for Birmingham in more than a decade, and provides GTOs with even more inspiration to visit this cosmopolitan city with its fascinating history and world-class cultural scene.
The Mailbox shopping centre, overlooking Gas Street Basin, relaunches this spring and the flagship Harvey Nichols store will more than double in size. There will be more retail opportunities when Birmingham New Street railway station’s £600 million redevelopment is unveiled in September. John Lewis is opening one of its largest stores outside London at the station’s new Grand Central shopping precinct.
Transport gets a major boost with extension of the Midland Metro tram line, also being completed by September. It will provide groups with a new route into the heart of the shopping district and a fast link between New Street and Snow Hill rail stations.
Meanwhile, due to open this spring is Resorts World Birmingham leisure and entertainment complex. Located next to the NEC, the £150 million development includes a designer outlet mall, four-star hotel, cinema and restaurants.
Jewellery Quarter: Around 40 per cent of all jewellery manufactured in the UK is made in this small district within a mile of Birmingham city centre. Even if you only want to do a spot of window shopping, do take your group to see this dazzling district that dates back more than 200 years.
The Bullring: The heart of the city since 1166, the area is now home to more than 160 shops, including Selfridges, in an area the size of 26 football pitches – so make sure your members are wearing comfortable shoes before they set off! Take a group photo by the bull statue, claimed to be the UK’s 3rd most photographed landmark.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: Meet Egyptian mummies, marvel at the £3.28 million treasures of the Staffordshire Hoard, see the world’s largest collection of pre-Raphaelite art and wander through 40 galleries housed in a spectacular listed building.
Take a tour
Canal cruise: With more miles of canals than Venice, a narrowboat trip is a wonderful way to see the city from a new perspective. Informative commentaries cover the history of the manmade waterways and the old and new buildings lining the banks.
BBC Birmingham tours: Step inside the fast-paced world of broadcasting at BBC Birmingham, and discover what goes on behind the scenes of Midlands Today, BBC WM, the Asian Network and the Archers studio, if production schedules allow. Coach parties are welcome.
Balti Triangle: Birmingham’s signature dish is the balti, and for curry lovers a visit to the district packed with Asian restaurants is a must. Alternative Tours provides a fascinating and entertaining insight into the history of this legendary dish for groups of up to 60 and packages can include visits to spice shops.
Best for groups
Birmingham Library: Opened in 2013, Europe’s largest public library is housed in a stunning building and has become a tourist sight. So much so, there are guided tours or GTOs can explore at their own pace with the printed trail or audio guide.
Wonderful World of Trains and Planes: Model rail enthusiasts and the young at heart will definitely want to be among the first to experience this new attraction which includes railway layouts set in landscapes from around the world, a model car racetrack and flight simulators.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens: People are often surprised to learn about this green gem near the city centre. Set in 15 acres, the four glasshouses span from tropical rainforest to desert climates. There are private group tours and benefits include discounts in the shop.
Where to stay
The Hyatt Regency Birmingham has undergone a refurbishment with new features including the Gentleman and Scholar pub.
The affordable Premier Inn Birmingham Broad Street occupies a central location close to the Bullring and other city centre attractions.
Hotel du Vin’s largest UK hotel is situated in a former Victorian eye hospital near the Jewellery Quarter.
Villa Park, one of the country’s oldest stadiums, will be in the spotlight when it hosts two matches of the Rugby World Cup in September. However, groups can enjoy tours of Aston Villa’s home ground throughout the year, with the option for lunch on Sundays.