Hotel: Pentahotel (£54 per night)
Parking: Horsefair (£5 per day)
Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will remember that last year, I went on a five day road trip across the north of England with my friend Brontë. This year, we had been working with charities in Bedfordshire and the Midlands and decided to make the most of our drive up to the West Midlands. We were in Birmingham for less than 24 hours, but in our classic style, we managed to fit quite a lot in!
Before arriving at our hotel, we had been told that we could either park in the minimal spaces provided or we could park at the nearby Mailbox parking lot, both for £16 for the day. Luckily, we took a wrong turning so we managed to find 24 hours of parking for £5 at ‘Horsefair NCP’ just around the corner. This is obviously much cheaper and there are a few NCP car parks dotted around the city centre to make use of. Unlike London or Liverpool, Birmingham is quite easy to drive through so we would recommend this over the train as a form of transport.
We arrived in Birmingham around 6pm and decided to go for a walk around and begin our hunt for sushi. Eventually, we chose to go to Ocean Dragon (which has now been renamed, but is located next door to Las Iguanas) for some sushi. This place is really good value for money, the service is excellent and the sushi was on point. For around £12 each we got a drink, a tempura bento box, temaki and a tuna/crab sushi platter.
After dinner, we explored more of the city centre before heading back to the hotel. We couldn’t find the canals and were hesitant to do so in the dark anyway, but we did walk by the Bull Ring, the Hippodrome and the ‘Mother church’ of Birmingham. The city has a welcoming atmosphere and great architecture, with lots of unusual buildings. You can check out some of the weirder ones here.
Pentahotel is really cool – the check in desk is a 24 hour bar and there’s a pool table in reception. I would recommend this hotel for a short stay in Birmingham but maybe not for longer than a night or two, as it was quite noisy. It does have a great location however, being about a 10 minute walk from the city centre.
The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and walked to York’s Bakery Café. We always try and research where we would want to eat ahead of time, especially if we are working to a schedule. YBC has an extensive Middle Eastern inspired menu, with loads of options for vegans or those who are gluten free. I had heard great things about their Arabian buttered eggs so I tried them out, while Brontë opted for the Instagram classic, avocado smash with poached eggs.
The buttered eggs weren’t as life changing as I was expecting them to be (unlike Kopapa’s Turkish eggs), but the mixture of cumin, labneh, butter and crispy sourdough was really delicious. This restaurant definitely lived up to its hype, so it should be on every food lover’s hit list when visiting Birmingham. Many places around the UK have jumped on the ‘avocado train’ (i.e. independent cafés offering alternative breakfast menus) but this place does get it just right.
After brunch, we decided to walk around the area and found ourselves in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I love the Ancient Egyptians and Brontë loves the Pre-Raphaelites, so although we were starting to run out of time, we decided to take a little ‘sweep browse’ of the museum before hitting the road again.
This museum opened in 1885 and is most famous for its large collection of paintings from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The PRB was a group of English painters/poets/critics founded by John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. They were bored of the style of art popular at the time and sought to defy convention by returning to the classical and romantic styles of the late Medieval and early Renaissance periods.
They had a room dedicated to artefacts from Ancient Egypt, but it was a fairly small one in comparison with somewhere like the British Museum. I would still recommend visiting this museum for the works of art, as it’s small enough to see everything within 1-2 hours and it has free entry.
Leaving the museum signalled the end of our time in Birmingham, as we then hit the road for a weekend in the Cotswolds (blog post coming next weekend). We both agreed that we would definitely want to come back and explore the city in more detail – I’m sure we barely scratched the surface. If you’ve been to/are from Birmingham and have a place/restaurant/activity to recommend, leave a comment below!
Thanks for reading,