Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Brum Full of Delights

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Brum Full of Delights

Article excerpt

Byline: By Gordon Barr

Earlier this year, when the winner of the European City of Culture 2008 was announced, I had a gut feeling Newcastle/Gateshead would lose out.

But I never for a moment thought Liverpool would win. Despite wanting N/G to win, I thought the gong would go to Birmingham - a city I have long been familiar with and which, like Tyneside, has undergone a huge transformation. I would have been happy if they'd won.

In fact, I adore the city. It's Britain's second largest, and it has a buzz about it to rival any European hotspot (minus the weather!)

That said, the last time I visited Brum, the weather was terrific, and it was because of this I discovered a whole new side to the city.

Whereas N/G is still very much on catch-up with cafe culture - 10 minutes in London, Manchester and Glasgow would prove my point - Birmingham has embraced it.

Down by the canal, there's a maze of drinking and eating places, trendy but unpretentious, perfect for whiling away the afternoon. Turn a corner and you escape the hustle and bustle of the massive city centre.

And if you want to mix eating and drinking with some top-notch shopping, check out The Mailbox, which has an array of hip designer shops including Harvey Nichols. Or try the city's main department store, Rackhams, nearby.

Birmingham means home (ham) of the people (ing) of the tribal leader Birm or Beorma.

Its first canal was opened in 1769 and linked Birmingham to Wednesbury. The city is also home to Cadbury's Chocolate. George and his brother, Richard Cadbury, moved their successful chocolate making business from Bull Street, Birmingham, to Bournville, in 1879.

And if you were wondering about culture in the city, just take a look at the Symphony Hall, built in 1991, and home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, or the city's many art galleries.

The Symphony Hall forms part of the International Convention Centre, which has a central mall linking the seven halls to a public way leading from Centenary Square to the canals and leisure complexes.

One of the focal points of the city is Victoria Square, at the junction of three streets, New Street, Paradise Street and Colmore Row. In the 1990s it was redesigned and rebuilt, costing pounds 3.2m. Only the statue of Queen Victoria remains in its original location.

But there's another statue to catch your attention - a kind of wingless Angel of the North. It comes as no surprise that Iron Man does, indeed, come from the hands of Antony Gormley.

You can spend hours walking through the city centre, looking at the architecture, shopping, visiting the many galleries. Check out the Ikon Gallery, which also boasts a great tapas cafe.

A visit to Birmingham is incomplete without experiencing Thinktank - Birmingham's Museum of Science & Discovery and its Imax Theatre. …

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