Business Travel Guide: Birmingham, England
Birmingham, at the center of the West Midlands region, was once known as the "workshop of the world," the heart of Britain's 19th century Industrial Revolution. Here Boulton & Watt's steam engines were first built and exported to the western world, while Alec Issigonis' Mini motor car, which began production at Longbridge in 1959, is still in production today. Birmingham was vital to the Midlands canal system, transporting raw material into the city and finished goods out. While its industrial importance has declined, Birmingham's commercial importance has soared. The second most populous city after London, with a population of over one million and a huge number of commercial businesses, it is one of Britain's most visited places. Today it's a vibrant city with large and numerous shopping centers, new hotels and restaurants and a refurbished canal system. It's also home to some of the most engaging people in Britain, the "Brummies" as the locals are popularly known.
to Know Before You Go
no problem to exchange money at an airport in the
U.S. or in England once you arrive. In addition to the airports, many
tourist attractions house exchange booths such as
Thomas Cooke, but for the best rate, use an ATM or
get cash back on purchases. Although the euro is not
widely used, it is possible to spend it at airport
facilities and some retailers in town.
Transportation: For business travel in
and out of Birmingham, the Birmingham
International Airport is conveniently situated
just eight miles east of downtown.
It is the U.K.'s 6th largest airport and, after London Heathrow, one of the busiest airport for business travelers.
The airport is adjacent to
Exhibition Centre and is easily accessible
by rail and taxi. Birmingham International
Train Station is a two-minute ride from the passenger
terminal via the Air-Rail Link, a free service
that runs roughly every couple of minutes.
From the airport station, frequent trains will
shuttle you to the city's main train station,
Birmingham New Street, in about 15 minutes. If
you're arriving at the airport on an international
flight, save time by purchasing your ticket to
downtown while you're still in the international
terminal (T1) from automated machines marked "Virgin
Fast Tickets." Once at New Street Station,
Birmingham's main business district, the
Convention Centre and the National
Indoor Arena are but a short cab ride or a
10-15 minute walk away.
Cars: Birmingham International Airport
houses six major car rental firms at the Millennium
Link Building, which can be reached from Terminals
1 and 2. See the airport listing here.
Taxis: The easiest and most comfortable
way to get down to business in Birmingham is to
hop a black cab directly outside of the passenger
terminal. Cab fare to the City Centre costs approximately
£20. Within the city, taxis are quickest,
but eight local rail lines provide fairly efficient
travel to most meeting venues and other attractions,
as well as to outlying cities and towns.
Buses: There's an extensive bus service in and outside the city run by different private companies.
more on travel in England, see our guide.
a contemporary feel and sleek guestrooms, the Hyatt
Regency Birmingham seems like it was designed to cater
to large volumes of demanding business travelers. It
is well-suited for short stopovers and weekend meetings,
and it's especially good for longer conferences. The
rooms are sufficiently stylish, from the regular quarters
to the Presidential Suite, most having floor-to-ceiling
windows with views of the city or canal. The hotel has eight versatile meeting rooms and the Symphony Ballroom, with state-of-the-art facilities and a seating capacity of 240 theatre style. It also has a direct link to the huge adjacent International Convention Centre which boasts meeting spaces from small to large to accommodate up to 3,000 people, plus all business amenities, secretarial services and a currency exchange.
Situated in Birmingham's impressive Mailbox building, the ultra-modern, ultra-chic Birmingham Mal blends business class, stylish comfort and prime location. Five small but well-designed meeting spaces — well-equipped and perfect for groups of ten to 20 people, as well as one that can seat 70 theater style — complement the bold, individually designed guestrooms. Every room has a CD player, satellite TV and quick Internet access, and comes stocked with "Mal" goodies like fine wines and chocolates. Wi-fi is available in the bar, restaurant, lobby and all conference rooms. To unwind after a hectic day, le petit spa offers a variety of treatments, and business folks often rendezvous at the bar for after-work drinks. We also enjoyed the brasserie, which offers a variety of modern European fare from burgers to corned beef hash.
A ten-minute walk from the International Convention Center, the 39-story glass structure that is home to the Radisson Blu is a safe call for the Birmingham business traveler. Free wireless Internet is provided throughout the hotel, and their special Business Class rooms include a Nespresso coffee machine and large corner bedrooms with city views available upon request. The 1820 Presidential Suite offers magnificent views of the city. The upscale Filini restaurant (serving modern Italian dishes), two contemporary bars and a full spa round out the hotel. The modern banquet and convention halls and sophisticated meeting rooms decked out with floor-to-ceiling windows make this hotel an all-around good choice for busy travelers and events.
If you're planning a longer stay or want more privacy, another accommodation option is a posh apartment with Staying Cool. On the top floors of the Rotunda building, 300 metres from Birmingham New Street railway station and next to the Bullring shopping centre, the apartments boast king-sized beds, aromatherapy spa products, up-to-date technology such as Apple computers, flat-screen TVs with Sky, iPod docks, free wifi and Gaggia Espresso makers in the fully equipped kitchen. Apartments, named after the iconic cars made at nearby Longridge, range from one bedroom (Mini) to the penthouse (Roadster).
Indulge in contemporary pan-European cuisine with some inventive twists — mushroom risotto followed by marinated breast of chicken with Malayan spices, sweet potato, coconut and lime are seasonal options that set the tone. Not only does Bank offer breakfast, lunch and weekend brunches, but its location in Brindleyplace, so close to the International Convention Centre, makes Bank an easy choice for busy dealmakers who are looking for quality as well as culinary variety. The crowd varies and includes families and couples. The restaurant provides "private" dining in a dramatic glass-enclosed space in the middle of the restaurant, putting diners as much on display as its diverse food specials. It fits perfectly with the cool, chic feel of this brasserie with its open kitchen and al fresco dining looking over the peaceful canals.
In a country famous for its Indian food, and a city which prides itself on its Indian community, Lasan takes an extra step to distinguish itself and its cuisine. Everything about this restaurant still feels fresh and modern. The young owner and chef pride themselves on a menu that includes some traditional dishes, but also uses European flavors and culinary sensibilities to jazz up customary Indian classics. Try dishes like king prawns cooked in the tandoor and served with baby leaves in a fresh grapefruit vinaigrette. The atmosphere is bright and the staff has won numerous awards from regional newspapers and trade groups for service, management and innovation.
It's a feast for the senses as well as for the taste buds. Bright and colorful, with a dramatic atrium roof, the Metro Bar & Grill serves standard British and European food in a stylized urbane environment. The bar is popular with friends meeting for a drink after work and the Grill is great for a quick, no-pressure meal. The menu offers a real range of tastes: seafood, grilled meat, chicken and fish, or perhaps an assortment of inventive starters like the baked goat cheese parcel with sweet red pepper marmalade. For a sweet end to your meal, there is also a list of specialty puddings for dessert.
Somewhere between classy and informal, this trendy restaurant makes for an exciting night of eating out. The restaurant prides itself on sourcing local, free-range meat and wild fish, and it shows in the excellence of seasonal dishes like loin of venison with braised red cabbage, carrots and chestnut risotto or one of their superb fish dishes, perhaps a prawn and crayfish cocktail followed by Scottish lobster or Cornish crab. Opus also has a smart special events dining room perfect for taking a larger group of associates out for fun (and delicious) surf and turf dinner.
Chef Glynn Purnell's self-titled restaurant is housed in a beautiful redbrick and terracotta Victorian building in the heart of one of the city's conservation areas and the business district. Its location and the fact that the restaurant is small and intimate (seating up to 45 people), makes it the perfect dining experience to impress your clients. Not to mention the food which is exciting and innovative. The food varies, but you might start with the lightly spiced salmon cured in green mustard with enoki mushrooms, mizuna leaves and caviar, and mains like brill cooked in coconut milk which comes with aubergine purée, salsify with Thai spices and lime or Cornish lamb with toffee and cumin carrots, Indian lentils and a red pepper purée. This is food made to impress.
Museums & Art Gallery
0 121 303 2834
premier collection of historic art works and artifacts
is actually a network of seven different museums, historical
buildings and galleries. The main museum on Chamberlain
Square houses the city's largest array of paintings
including the most comprehensive pre-Raphaelite collection
in the country. Other arms of the archives include the
Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, a preserved jeweler's
factory where you can watch live re-creations of what
it was like to work in the district during the last
century. The Aston
Hall, a preserved Jacobean mansion, the 18th-century Soho
House and the 700-year-old Weoley
Castle are stunning relics of the area's past
and are museums unto themselves.
of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Metro stop: New Street Station
0 121 616 6500
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra offers a wide variety of orchestral performances aimed at attracting a broad range of audiences. Friday nights are reserved for a more lighthearted classical repertoire. The Orchestra puts on smaller lunchtime chamber music concerts at the CBSO Centre while the major music events take place in the adjacent Symphony Hall which opened in 1991. Under the direction of Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo, the CBSO gained international acclaim and now tours throughout much of Europe. The new Music Director is Latvian-born Andris Nelsons, but Oramo remains as Principal Guest Conductor for events like the final part of IgorFest, a series of performances which have covered the complete works of Stravinksy. The orchestra also sponsors a variety of free shows and unpaid classes for schoolchildren and young musicians.
Blue Badge Guided Tours
Birmingham is a great city to get to know by foot, and there are plenty of fascinating aspects of it that you can discover on a guided or non-guided walk around the city center, from ones based around the canals to a tour devoted to exposing Birmingham's natural history. The city's tourism board has been active in promoting seven walking trails that take visitors past some of the city's most impressive architecture, historic sites and public art displays. These trails are well laid-out and can be walked separately or linked together to form a longer excursion through Birmingham. The cost per person varies depending on the walk.
General Area bound by Vyse Street, Warstone Lane, and Great Hampton Street
the past 200 years, Birmingham's Jewellry Quarter
has been a crossroads for British jewelers and craftsmen.
Get lost in the hundreds of jewelry shops and boutiques
that line Vyse Street and the various lanes and alleys
branching off of it. In addition to the jewelry manufacturers
and wholesalers that bring in scores of businessmen
and offer better prices on finished jewelry than most
British shops, an assortment of pubs, restaurants and
fashion shops are littered throughout the Quarter. We
recommend starting on Vyse Street and then wandering
on foot throughout the historically rich neighborhood.
There is also a selection of museums and other landmarks
such as the Pen Room Museum & Learning Centre and the St Paul's Gallery. (Author: Mary Anne Evans)
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