From its industrial roots, the city has evolved into a major commercial and cultural destination, and is now one of the UK’s most dynamic and youthful cities (40% of the population is under 25).
The largely pedestrianised city centre features some seriously modern architecture, cultural landmarks and world class retail, with the old industrial canals cleaned up and serving as backdrops for a thriving café, bar and restaurant scene.
Being a large city, Birmingham has its own well-established Gay Village, located just to the south of the city centre, in an area now known as Southside.
The Birmingham gay scene caters mainly for the huge and relatively young urban population. Tourism is growing rapidly (Birmingham is England’s second most-visited city outside of London) but does not yet attract the same volume of gay visitors as London, Manchester or Brighton.
With its location at the very heart of England, Birmingham is easy to reach. The city is a major UK rail hub, with fast and frequent connections to London and other major UK cities from the main station, Birmingham New Street. There are additional rail services from Snow Hill and Moor Street stations.
Birmingham International Airport is located near Solihull, 8 miles from the city centre. It has frequent daily flights to other major UK and European cities. There are also direct flights to Delhi, Dubai, Islamabad, New York and Toronto. A free Air-Rail service links the passenger terminals to the International Rail Station, with frequent rail services to New Street Station (costing between £3-4). The X1 and 97/A buses go into the city centre for £2.40. Taxis can cost close to £40.
Birmingham is also at the heart of the UK’s motorway network, with fast road connections to London and the South East via the M42, to the East via the M6 and the South West via the M5.
With a good range of city centre hotels and the central location of the Gay Village, you will be able to easily reach most destinations by walking, or taking a local taxi.
Network West Midlands provides a public transport network of buses, trains and metros connecting all areas of the city. Whereas in other European cities it is common for public transport systems to be integrated this generally not the case in the UK (at least, outside of London) therefore you will have to buy separate tickets depending on your mode of transport or pay extra “add-ons” to your original price.
For a list of recommended hotels near the Gay Village on Hurst Street and within the Birmingham city centre, visit our Gay Birmingham Hotels page.
Highlights include the city centre Bullring, rejuvenated with the architectural wonder that is the Selfridges store. The city also has a Harvey Nichols, a wider selection of exclusive stores at The Mailbox and the world famous Jewellery Quarter.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery – Chamberlain Square. Home to a large permanent art collection, temporary exhibitions and The Waterhall Gallery of Modern Art.
IKON Gallery – Oozells Square off Broad Street. Modern and conceptual art gallery with a great café.
Aston Hall, Trinity Road, Aston. A restored Jacobean mansion featuring period rooms and works of art.
Symphony Hall, Broad Street. This major concert venue is located in the heart of the city centre.
Birmingham Royal Ballet, Thorp Street. One of the major UK ballet companies, whose performance home is the Birmingham Hippodrome, located in the city centre and close to the Gay Village.
Cadbury World Museum – Cadbury chocolate is synonymous with Birmingham. Their huge chocolate factory is just to the south of the gay village and open to visitors most days.
Think Tank Gallery, Millennium Point, Curzon Street – hands-on Science Museum. Combination tickets are available for the nearby IMAX cinema.
Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Vyse Street, Hockley – An opportunity to visit an abandoned jewellery workshop, in the area of many commercial jewellers.
The city is home to diverse communities from around the world, and features many different religious centres including Birmingham Cathedral, Birmingham Central Mosque and Birmingham Buddhist Centre.
The world’s cuisines are also well represented in the city with many Chinese, Indian, Thai, Italian, French, Spanish and even South American restaurants.
Birmingham Pride kicks off the UK’s Gay Pride season and is held over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, attracting large numbers of participants (around 70,000 in 2014). The festival is held at the Gay Village, with market stalls, performances, a funfair and a Pride Parade. The event now charges an entry fee, and is one the UK’s largest Pride events.
In recent years, the UK has tightened its immigration procedures and introduced the use of biometrics. Full details can be found here.
Most visitors from Hong Kong SAR, Singapore and Taiwan do not require a visa (please check here to see if this applies to you).
Most other visitors from Asia need to obtain a visa before travelling to the UK. You will normally be required to attend an interview at your local British Embassy.
Entry is normally permitted for a period of 6 months, and you are free to travel anywhere in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A British visa is not valid for travel to other European countries.
The UK currency is the Pound Sterling, symbolised by £. Euros are not accepted as payment in the UK.
Visa & MasterCard and debit cards are accepted almost everywhere. American Express and Diners cards are widely accepted. The UK uses a ‘Chip and PIN’ system for all payments. If your card has a microchip, expect to be asked to enter your PIN number rather than sign. If you do not have a PIN, expect to be asked to show official photo ID.
Exchanging cash into British Pounds in the UK can be expensive. Most Asian travellers get a better rate by exchanging currency before travelling to the UK.
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