Birmingham

By: Simon Haughtone

Located near enough in the centre of England, one of Birmingham's many claims to fame is that is it Britain's second largest city with around a million people living and working there. The city has a diverse mixture of cultures and there is a plethora of things to keep you occupied during your visit.

Birmingham's canal network works its way across the whole city. With more miles of canal than Venice, albeit without gondolas, you can drift back to the olden days by either renting a canal boat and exploring the routes that used to be essential for trade in the city or just simply watching the colourful narrowboats that are a constantly changing feature of the city.

If you want to watch canal boats as they are moored or as they maneuver through narrow canal locks, one of the best places to start is the recently redeveloped Brindley Place. Millions of pounds have been spent on this and the investment shows. In recent years, the area has become one of the essential places to visit whether you want to have a quiet drink in one of the canal-side pubs or eat a leisurely meal in the wide choice of restaurants at Brindleyplace. Because the development is so central, it is almost certain to be within easy reach of your chosen hotel. If not, it will probably only be a short taxi ride away.

Close by is Central Square. This is a large open space that regularly holds open air events and, if you time your stay in Birmingham right, the annual Arts Fest which, as its name implies, is a festival dedicated to the various arts.

Whilst continental style lager seems to have taken over as the "traditional" beer of England, Birmingham still keeps up with its long tradition of local ales and breweries. Indeed, the modern trend of micro breweries has seen this industry start to thrive again and fans of real British ale will be astounded at the different brews available.

Anyone who has read J R R Tolkein's epic novel "The Lord Of The Rings" will want to explore the parts of Birmingham that inspired the author during the formative years that he spent in the city. These include the 96 foot tall Perrott's Folly - an ancient monument that was built by local land owner John Perrott some 250 years ago. It is generally thought that this tower was the inspiration for the towers that are regular features of Tolkien's novel.

As you would expect from such a diverse city, there is also a wide variety of hotels and guest houses for you to stay in on your next visit. These range in size from small, friendly bed and breakfasts - often to be found in the quieter suburbs of the city - right the way through to the large skyscrapers that define many of the world's modern hotels. If there is a large show at the nearby National Exhibition Centre or a big conference somewhere in the city, these bigger places will fill up fast with delegates. But providing you broaden your search to some of the other places to stay, there should be no problem in finding suitable accommodation for your visit.

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