Re-defining Birmingham’s cityscape near New Street Station is the curved exterior of the Bullring centre, clad in gleaming discs like a sequinned dress. Housing 160 stores, the complex includes four floors of Selfridges and designer shopping like Armani and Hugo Boss concentrated in the stylish Mailbox mall. For vintage finds and organic food head to Digbeth’s Sunday Flea, in the Custard Factory art hub, south of the centre.
The innovative Ikon Gallery in city centre Brindleyplace shows off the latest in contemporary art in a glorious neo-Gothic schoolhouse. Its sister gallery, Ikon Eastside, lies in regenerated Digbeth to the south. Behind the Victorian facade of the free-entry Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is the world’s largest pre-Raphaelite collection. Modern art masterpieces reside in St Paul’s Gallery, north of centre in the Jewellery Quarter. Book tickets at Symphony Hall to hear classical pieces performed by the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The Electric Cinema’s global film programme and the Birmingham Hippodrome are popular with film buffs and theatregoers.
For sublime curries, the Balti Triangle of Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Moseley in south Birmingham is a must on a Birmingham city break. Take your own drink as most restaurants are unlicensed. Chinatown, near the Buillring, is crammed with great-value Oriental eateries. In the summer, nothing beats alfresco dining by Brindleyplace’s canals. For Michelin-starred food, order guinea fowl and Devonshire crab at city centre Purnell’s restaurant.
Over 200 hands-on exhibits bring science and history alive at Thinktank at Millennium Point, north of the Bullring. Star-gaze inside its state-of-the-art Planetarium. At the National Sealife Centre by Brindleyplace, sharks, rays and sea turtles are among the residents of the million-litre ocean tunnel. Also don’t miss its Sensorama 4D cinema where you can even smell the seaweed. Four miles from central Birmingham is Cadbury World. Experience a virtual chocolate rain shower and stock up in the world's largest Cadbury store.