Birmingham is an often misunderstood place. It's the UK's second-largest city by population but is usually overlooked by people hoping to plan a domestic city break. In truth, Birmingham - known as the capital of the Midlands - has just as much going for it as London and other major city destinations in the UK, like Edinburgh and Manchester. It's just a case of knowing what to see and do, and where to find it.
Birmingham's most famous landmark is the Bull Ring: a huge shopping centre characterised by its distinctive silver exterior. Thanks to this development, Birmingham has become known as one of the UK's best shopping destinations - and if you're a shopaholic, it won't disappoint. Other shopping malls worth visiting in the city include The Pavillion and the Mall at the Pallasades. For more upmarket shopping, head to Victoria Square. Or if you're visiting mid-week, sample the culinary delights from some great local producers at New Street Farmer's Market, which opens on the first and third Wednesday of every month.
But Birmingham isn't just about retail therapy: there's plenty of culture to be sampled there too. Art enthusiasts shouldn't miss the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which boasts one of the best collections of pre-Raphaelite artworks in the world. Highlights include work by Edward Burne-Jones (a native Brummie), Ford Maddox Brown's The Last of England and Dante Gabriel Rosetti's world-famous Proserpine. The Barber Institute of Fine Art offers up an eclectic collection of greats, with works from the likes of Turner, Gainsborough, Picasso and Van Dyck. Alternatively, for contemporary art, the Ikon Gallery is just the place. A former Victorian school, the building's new modern interior and its trendy cafe are as much of a draw as the art itself.
If you're travelling with children, you'll be pleased to know that Birmingham is teeming with family-friendly activities. The best-known is Cadbury World, a must for children and chocolate-loving grown-ups. At Cadbury World you'll get to explore various exhibits about the history of chocolate from one of the world's most famous chocolate manufacturers. It can be very busy, especially during school holidays, so it's worth booking ahead. Elsewhere, Thinktank offers a fantastic way to introduce and explain science and technology to children, and has a new digital Planetarium. And if your kids are yearning for some adrenaline-filled fun, then Alton Towers - the UK's most visited theme park - is just a short drive away.
Thanks to its central location, Birmingham is relatively easy to get to by train and coach. The average rail journey time from London is just 1.5 hours, with the development of high speed rail plans between the two cities set to make this time even shorter. Hotels in Birmingham can be found across the city, so think about where you'll be spending most of your time during your stay before choosing a location that best suits you.
Sean Burke writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client of said agency. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.