BIRMINGHAM: ONE DAY ITINERARY

birmingham

Having visited Birmingham four times in less than three years, I thought it was high time to write something about it.

red palace birmingam

My last visit to Birmingham, and a few before, were to attend concerts. The last band I saw was Black Sabbath, whose members are Brummies, and chose the city as their last spot for their last ever tour show. So, yes, heavy metal was born in Birmingham! That may make it more interesting for some of you.

For those with less context, Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK, but small in comparison to London. So one day is actually not bad to get a good look at it! It’s actually very easy: almost everything you need to see is within walking distance from the station.

1- Main Square & St Phillip’s Cathedral:

You will most likely start from the train station. If you are driving, the Town Hall parking is not expensive or you can park further out and walk your way back to the center. After leaving the station, walk seven minutes to Victoria Square. This is one of the most beautiful squares of the city. Here you will find the City Council which is beautiful, stop for a picture! You will also find the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery which is also interesting and it’s free so you can at least pop in for a few minutes. After that, walk four minutes to the baroque St Phillip’s Cathedral. Walk around the square and admire UK’s third smallest Cathedral from the outside or inside.

st pauls church
St. Paul’s Church

2- St Paul’s Church & Gallery:

Exit St Phillip’s by Church street and walk straight, you will get to St Paul’s Church & Square which is also very nice. Walking an extra 2 more minutes, you will arrive to St Paul’s Gallery. This is one of my favorite spots in Birmingham! It’s the world’s biggest exhibition of album cover fine art. It includes pieces signed by artists and band members including Pink FLoyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, etc. I bought a print of Pink Floyd’s album cover Meddle signed by the cover artist and Nick Mason here! There are also a few pop art pieces as well.

st pauls gallery
Cover art at St Paul’s Gallery

3- Jewellery Quarter:

The Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham is Europe’s largest concentration of businesses involved in the jewellery trade, and produces 40% of all the jewellery made in the UK. But what do you care? Well, the reason why it has become a tourist attraction is that many of the workshops retain their 19th century appearance. What stood out for me is a lot bright red bricks, the architecture does look actually pretty cool. A short walk around it will do – try to find the giant padlock sculpture for a photo op (see below).

giant padlock birmingham
Giant Bronze Charm Bracelet which marks the start on one of the Jewellery Quarter’s pavement trails. Photo credit: Erebus555

4- It’s curry time: 

As most of the UK, Birmingham also has great Indian food. I found out about Hen & Chickens on TripAdvisor on my first visit. When I went there I was a bit skeptical as the place is basically a run down pub, but my skepticism vanished when the food arrived. It was glorious. I ate there four out of four times I visited the city. I wasn’t a vegan then but came back recently and it is vegan friendly (I had the Tharka Dhal). If you are not fond of Indian another great option is The Warehouse Cafe a Vegetarian award winning cafe with tons of Vegan options. They had me at vegan chocolate brownie with ice cream!

hen & chicken birmingham
The curry at Hen & Chickens

5- Now, let’s go shopping:

Walk back to the center to The Bull Ring, Birmingham’s major commercial area which has been this way since the Middle Ages! Today, there is a huge shopping center there which encircles the church of St Martin in the Bull Ring. You will quickly recognise the area because of the Selfridges building which is covered in thousands of shiny discs and looks pretty cool. While shopping or roaming around, take a picture with The Bull, a tall bronze sculpture of a bull inside the shopping complex which is a symbol for the area.

the bull birmingham
My dad and I being tourists with The Bull

6- It’s tea time:

Probably all the walking has made you hungry again. On my quest for a vegan treat I found the Cherry Red’s Cafe Bar. They have tons of vegan options, sweet or savory. I had the Vegan Red Velvet cake which was amazing. The decoration is quirky and fun.

vegan red velvet cake
Vegan Red Velvet Cake at Cherry Reds Cafe

How to get to Birmingham

You can take a bus or train from where you are in England, use GoEuro that shows you all the options in the same search.

Where to stay in Birmingham

Need to spend the night in Birmingham? No worries I’ve got you covered, I’ve pre filtered the best and cheapest hotels, click here to start booking one.

Last, if you need a visual of my itinerary please find the map with the walkways and main sights below. Hope you enjoy your visit!

itinerary birmingham

 

Birmingham One Day Itinerary

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a small commission, at no extra cost to you in order to help support my blog. My stay at The Beach Club was complimentary however as always my opinions are my own.

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10 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN TOKYO

tokyo

Tokyo is busy, colorful, bright and wonderful. The Japanese capital will blow your mind and it just takes getting off the plane to realize that. At first, the excess of billboards, lights and signs you cannot read will overwhelm you. But you’ll be soon marveled by the whole thing and will definitely miss it when you return home. Tokyo is a big city and comparable to New York or London in terms of the trillion things there are to do; it’s just never ending. My goal is to give you an overview of the main attractions to visit as a tourist with no time to spare. Hope you enjoy Tokyo as much as I did!

tsujiki market
Sushi being prepared a Tsukiji Fish Market

Visit the world’s most famous fish market

Tsukiji Fish Market, located in the neighborhood of Ginza, is the biggest fish and seafood market in the world. It’s most famous because of the tuna auction that takes place here everyday at dawn. Visitors are allowed to the tuna auction but be warned that it requires you to queue at inconvenient hours of the night (before 3AM depending on the time of year). Alternatively, you can go early in the morning (around 8AM) to browse the market stalls and have some sushi for breakfast. As to which stall to eat in, Daiwa Sushi and Sushi Dai are the most popular ones. If the queues are way too long, just try any other; all of them are wonderful and probably the best sushi you will ever have! For full details, including opening times, check this article.

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CANARY WHARF WINTER LIGHTS 2017

winter lights canary wharf

It’s freezing in London, but that didn’t prevent the Canary Wharf Winter Lights guys from creating free entertainment for Londoners. Canary Wharf Winter Lights features 30 amazing light installations throughout Canary Wharf: sculptures, structures and installations from some of the most innovative artists and designers worldwide. It is actually really cool so get your warmest coat and get ready for a 1-2 hr stroll full of light! Do hurry as it is just two weeks long.

How much: It’s FREE, ain’t London cool?

When: Until Friday 27th of January 2017, from 4pm to 9pm

Where: Canary Wharf tube station Jubilee Line. See map of attractions below:

canary wharf winter lights map

Favorite installations:

Ovo: egg shaped sculpture that shoots of vapor – great photo material

Angels of Freedom: Lighted angel wings that change their color and make a nice postcard

The garden of floating words: the name says it all

Light bench: another self explanatory name

Cathedral of Mirrors: 12 towers with moving lights that respond to visitors using sensors

Water wall: a mist screen with constantly moving objects, also allows visitors to interact and paint on the mist canvas by moving

Huge Reeds: vertical tubes with light sapping top to bottom

AND MY TWO FAVORITES

Horizontal Interference: horizontal lighted straps linking trees in a psychedelically marvelous way

Bloom: cute little balls of light and sound which coordinate themselves with changes in ambiance

DON’T MISS THIS! If you did, were curious about it and got this far, I hope you’ve enjoyed the review. And hey, you’ll make it next year! I’m sure there will be another one. Last year we had Lumiere in Kings Cross in January, this year Winter Lights at Canary Wharf…we’ll need to wait until 2018 then!

If you want to see the full list of installations/sculptures you can always visit the Official website.

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12 things to know before going to Japan

japan

Visiting for the first time: 12 things to know before going to Japan

Japan is a wonderful country, you’ll soon fall in love with it’s culture and how different it is from the “Western World”. If you are traveling to this destination soon and would like to know a little bit more in order to not be caught off guard or be out of line, here are a few things to know.

Greeting = bowing & eye contact to be avoided

Hugging, touching or even hand shakes are generally a no-no in Japan. What instead? Bowing! You may not be used to this custom but you’ll be in no time. The lower the bow the more respect shown; there are books about bowing but no need to read them. Just do it! You won’t be off. Also, Japanese consider prolonged eye contact to be rude. The rule is keep it to 25%!

English is extremely limited

This was the case all over Japan, but don’t worry, you’ll get by. Many times the people I interacted with understood me and just nodded and pointed out where what I needed was, or mentioned some basic words in English. Worst case scenario, use google translate and show the word in Japanese. It’s really handy to know or understand some basic words though, I literally used “arigato gozaimasu” (a-ree-ga-tou go-zai-mass), which means thank you, every five seconds.

Smoking cigarettes on the streets is not allowed

I mean it is, but only in designated areas which is quite funny. What surprised me is that some bars do allow you to smoke inside (or have designated areas). Normal restaurants don’t.

Tipping is non-existent

Although this may sound crazy for some, specially Americans, it’s true. In a few occasions I dared to give a tip. I already knew about the tipping etiquette but just said f* it, I’ll try. Every time they insistently turned it down, even if they had just given me a free tour. Mind boggling, isn’t it?

Say hi to chopsticks!

You will probably find no alternatives in most places, so do try to learn how to use them. There is chopstick etiquette as well, but I didn’t know about it and I was fine – just don’t do crazy stuff with them.

Cherry blossom season

The cherry blossom season or “Sakura” forecast is usually released mid Jan–but generally the season opens somewhere in Japan early March and closes somewhere else in Japan in late April. Keep in mind that the season in each location is usually shorter. If you are serious about seeing the cherries, research: just google “cherry blossom forecast”.

Toilets are amazingly technologic

Seriously, definitely something you haven’t seen before, they splash water in various different forms, intensities, temperatures, throw air – you can heat your toilet seat, and the funniest one, you can trigger soothing water noises or flushing noises. You’ll also see that most of them are from a brand called “TOTO”, it’s kind of a monopoly they have. So funny.

Matcha, matcha, matchaaaa….

Matcha is becoming increasingly popular worldwide but the matcha frenzy is a million times bigger in Japan! There is matcha everything: latte, ice latte, ice cream, all sort of candies, cakes, biscuits…the offer is just never ending. Make sure you try it all!

japan things to know
Japanese women dressed as geishas having matcha ice cream

Cash is king

Despite being one of the most technologic countries in the world, cash is still the most common form of payment. 90% of the hotels I stayed in had to be paid in cash, some stores don’t accept credit cards, and some ATMs don’t accept foreign cards, so I personally exchanged money in advance and would recommend you to do the same.

It’s expensive

Tokyo is within the most expensive cities in the world, and I found Japan in general very expensive compared to London which is were I live, mainly when it comes to accommodation and eating out. However supermarkets are really cheap so the convenience stores such as Seven Eleven, Lawson & Family Mart quickly became my best friends. Also, big supermarkets sell quite good sushi and food for low prices so do check them out.

things to know before going to Japan
Loads of sushi on a supermarket aisle

 

No trash cans

Japanese consider eating while walking to be rude and trash cans in crowded areas to be dangerous, hence you’ll find it very difficult to throw your trash on the streets. Hold on to your trash until you find one!

 Transport etiquette

You’ll notice no one talks on the subway. Talking loudly in public places is considered rude, so keep a low voice. Also, there are women only carriages on the subway which you will easily identify by a sign on the floor, just be alert.

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