I come from an area where I can catch a train to Manchester, Leeds or Sheffield with less than one hour’s journey time. I’m used to lots of individual shops, cafes, art galleries and more; so at first I was quite disappointed at the lack of individuality and art when moving to Birmingham. It wasn’t until my second year at UCB that I realised you just have to know where to look. I have now accumulated a list of my top favourite places I have found and wish to share for others like me!
1. ARCO LOUNGE – https://www.facebook.com/arcolounge.loungers/
This cafe/bar is a true find. Located in High Street in Harborne, Arco Lounge offers a varied breakfast, brunch and lunch menu with unique cocktails and soft drinks, I recommend the Sherbet Lemonade! Furthermore, they’re offering craft days that are aiming to raise money for Parkinson’s disease over half term.
2. IKON GALLERY – https://www.facebook.com/ikongallery/?fref=ts
The Ikon Gallery is a contemporary art gallery that is currently featuring the work of Dan Flavin, which is a really mesmerising exhibition. The gallery is free entry and holds a number of events that are featured on its website. What’s more, it has a really cool shop within their gallery and a cafe with an outdoor seating area. This gallery is slightly hidden away, just off Broad Street, but it’s a really interesting one!
3. DIGBETH DINING CLUB – https://www.facebook.com/DigbethDiningClub/
Digbeth Dining Club is my all time favourite event in Birmingham, it is held under the viaducts in Digbeth with the most amazing atmosphere. The event is held every Friday evening and is essentially a food festival with a number of street food carts that change every week, there is also a bar that usually has a DJ. I had not attended for a while so when I went on my last visit I was happy to find it has expanded so if you fancy it try and get there early to avoid the queues and take cash! Follow their Facebook page to find out what carts will be there when you plan to go.
4. COW VINTAGE – https://www.facebook.com/pages/COW-Vintage/109906839070023?fref=ts
Cow Vintage has shops in both Manchester and Sheffield therefore I was extremely pleased when I stumbled across the Birmingham shop. If you’re into “upcycled” vintage fashion this is the place for you. It is reasonably priced and has a real variety of items, I find that the shops are so impressively designed it’s almost like going to a vintage museum.
5. GREAT WESTERN ARCADE – https://www.facebook.com/GreatWesternArc/
Great Western Arcade has entrances on Temple Row and Colmore Row and was built in 1876-77. It’s acknowledged as a pioneer in Birmingham for individual retail. Although some of the shops are fairly expensive, I personally just like to window shop, it’s that beautiful!
6. CUSTARD FACTORY – https://www.facebook.com/CustardFactory/
I found the Custard Factory in my first year at UCB and if I have any visitors I always take them here – it is just so random and unique. It is located in Digbeth and features a number of clothing shops, a sweet shop, an art gallery, a few cafes, a bar, and there’s even a skate park round the back! Can’t say I go for the skate park though… I have a soft spot for the Custard Factory as it was the first place I found that interested me, I really recommend it.
7. TILT – https://www.facebook.com/tiltbrum/
This cafe is located in the town centre in the City Arcade so is again pretty hidden away. The unique selling point for this particular cafe is the fact that they have loads of pinball machines, such a random idea, however I think it’s fun and different. They also hold pinball league events and “Beer & Board” games nights. I think it would make a really cool date night…
8. BIRMINGHAM CANALS – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birmingham-Canals/107593042663948
Although the Birmingham Canals aren’t by any means a hidden gem, I still believe they should make my favourites list! I always have a Friday night walk around the canals as I enjoy the hustle and bustle of Brindley Place due to the ‘Friday night work drinks’ attendees. There are a number of pubs along the canal, I recommend the Fiddle & Bone for a quiet one.
And that is it! If none of these places seem like your cup of tea, I have found a really great app called GLP, Great Little Places, that lists hidden gems and individual shops and bars around your location. Also feel free to watch my YouTube video on my days out to some of these places, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5f_vQrdxG8 🙂
Thanks for reading, Emilia x