With more canals than Venice, plus lakes and rivers, Britain’s second largest city has plenty of opportunities for sailing, canoeing, fishing or windsurfing, which is pretty unusual for a place in the English Midlands, nowhere near the coast. A melting-pot of cultures, Birmingham is the UK’s curry mecca, but people don’t just come for the food. Visit the National Motorcycle Museum, the Jewellery Quarter, and the Barber Institute of Fine Art to see fine paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck.
Burning Man: The Birmingham Chilli Festival
What do Scotch Bonnet, Indian Red and the Carolina Reaper have in common? That’s right, they’re all chilli peppers. Every September, Birmingham honours its love of all things spicy with a free two-day chilli festival in the city centre, offering up entertainment, drinks and food featuring temptations like chilli pork from the Caribbean, Indian samosas, Brazilian steaks and Thai curries. For a laugh, you might want to check out the chilli eating competition with contestants hoping to be crowned Chilli King or Queen by eating some of the hottest chillies on the planet. Whether they escape unscathed is another story!
Bellhangersand Button Makers: The Birmingham Back to Backs
The Birmingham Back to Backs, which date from the 19th century, are the last surviving examples of a once popular housing style seen in the city’s traditional working class areas. Birmingham’s history is rooted in Britain’s Industrial Revolution and back to back housing was a common sight in towns with large numbers of button makers, bellhangers and other craftspeople. Birmingham operates the houses as heritage museums since all other back to backs, which are usually 2 or three stories high, were demolished in the 1970s. Visit these dwellings for a unique view into urban life in 19th century England.
School of Creation: The Ikon Gallery of Contemporary Art
Housed in what used to be the Oozells Street Board School, the Ikon Gallery features contemporary work in all types of media including sculpture, video, sound and photography, so everybody will find something to suit their tastes. The gallery has its beginnings in 1965 and moved to its current home in a Neo-Gothic former school in 1997. There are always regular talks, tours and workshops for the public through the gallery’s art education programme, as well as two floors of temporary exhibitions showing modern and contemporary artworks. The Ikon is an internationally respected arts venue, and what’s more, entry is free!