Jewellery, guns and chocolate may have helped put this city on the map, but there are plenty of fun facts about Birmingham.
Known as the city of a thousand trades, Birmingham in the West Midlands was once a manufacturing powerhouse. With the jewellery and gun quarters, and the extensive canals built for goods transport, the city proudly displays the results of its amazing growth during the Industrial Revolution
That’s not to say the city is bleak – far from it! Bright and thriving Birmingham has an incredible wealth of green spaces, festivals, and cultural activities. Needless to say, with such a rich history there are lots of fascinating facts about Birmingham.
For example, did you know that Birmingham has Europe’s largest urban nature reserve? Or that Birmingham is home to the original spaghetti junction?
Whether you’re planning a weekend away in the city, or you’re local to the area, you might find yourself wondering, “what is Birmingham famous for?” Well, for starters, Birmingham is a foodie heaven. From Balti houses and Cadbury chocolate to Michelin Star restaurants, there is something here to suit all tastes. Many surprising everyday items also originate from the city.
With the Commonwealth Games planned to take place in Birmingham in 2022, this bustling city is about to get a whole lot busier. So get yourself into the mood by reading these 20 fun Birmingham facts.
20 Fun Facts About Birmingham
1. Quick Birmingham City facts
Birmingham is the second largest city in the United Kingdom in regards to population and one of the most densely populated places in the country outside of London. From Birmingham you can reach 90% of the rest of the UK within 4 hours, and the city has around 34 million visitors a year. Birmingham has the nickname Brum, and people who live here are referred to as Brummies.
2. Lords of the land
Birmingham first became a metropolitan district in 1974. Following a reshuffling of district borders in 2004 the city limits expanded to become much larger. Today with over one million people in 69 wards being represented by 101 councillors, Birmingham City Council is the most populated local council in the UK. Not only this, it is actually Europe’s largest local authority.
3. Youthful looks
One of the most interesting facts about Birmingham is that the population is on average younger than the country as a whole. The average age in the UK is 40.3 years, where as Birmingham is just 32.6. This is partially due to the large student population. As of the 2019 mid‐year population estimate, people under the age of 30 make up 46% of the city’s population.
4. Water city
When it comes to Birmingham city facts, one of the best is that by length the city has more canals than Venice! These canals were created during the Industrial Revolution to transport heavy goods for production purposes. The city has 35 miles of canals, which can still be enjoyed today. These are part of the larger Birmingham Canals Navigation network, which stretches out over 100 miles.
5. Park life
Even though Birmingham is a bustling city, it still has plenty green spaces to enjoy. In fact, the city has 571 parks covering 3,500 hectares. Sutton Park, which sprawls out over 970 hectares, is not only the largest park in Birmingham, but also the largest urban nature reserve in Europe!
Located in the north of the city, the Gun Quarter was once one of the world’s prime gun manufacturing hubs. The first gun manufacturer in the Birmingham opened in 1630, and by 1865 almost 10,000 people were being employed in the industry. While production has long since decreased, a few manufacturers still remain in the area.
7. Getting some bling
One of the most incredible Birmingham city facts is that 40% of the UK’s jewellery is made here! In fact, the centrally located Jewellery Quarter is home to the most concentrated collection of jewellery businesses in Europe. Alongside the many jewellery manufacturers, this quarter is also home to the Birmingham School of Jewellery, which is run by Birmingham City University and is Europe’s largest jewellery school.
8. Paints a pretty picture
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a collection of English poets, painters, and art critics in the mid 1800s, defined by their classical tastes in art. Birmingham local, renowned 19th century artist, Edward Burne-Jones, was one of their members and produced many paintings in the style. Today, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite pieces in the world, with over 3,000 works on display.
9. Heavy metal
When it comes to music, what is Birmingham famous for? Heavy metal! Birmingham is said to be the birthplace of heavy metal, with the style developing there in the late 60s and early 70s. Bands such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest are from Birmingham, as is half of Led Zeppelin. Other bands of note that come from the city include The Streets, Duran Duran, and Electric Light Orchestra.
10. Well read
Opened in 2013, the Library of Birmingham is actually the largest public library in Europe. Designed to reflect the many canals and tunnels of the city and spread out over ten levels, this library has more than one million books. Many significant collections, such as an impressive Shakespeare collection of over 43,000 books, also call this library home.
11. Spaghetti Junction
Do you ever hear people describing roads that are twisted and intertwined like a spaghetti junction? Well, the original is in Birmingham. While not its official name, when the Gravelly Hill Interchange was first in development planning in the 1960s, a journalist described it as a “cross between a plate of spaghetti and an unsuccessful attempt at a Staffordshire knot”. The piece was given the title ‘Spaghetti Junction’ and the nickname was born.
12. Donning green
Each year St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in style in Birmingham. Tens of thousands of people line the streets to watch the parade, the beginning of which is marked by a blast of confetti. This celebration has become so popular that it said to be one of the largest St Paddy’s Day parades in the world.
13. Something to celebrate
St Patrick’s Day is not the only celebration in Birmingham; in fact, the city hosts over 50 festivals a year! From the Comedy Festival and International Jazz Festival, to the St Georges Day parade and the UK’s largest gay pride event, there is always something to look forward to. Over the winter Birmingham also plays host to the largest German style Christmas market outside of Austria and Germany.
One of the most surprising facts about Birmingham is that this is where tennis was created. Story has it that two friends, Harry Gem and Augurio Perera, developed the sport in the mid 1800s through combining elements of pelota and raquets. In the 1870s they, along with a few other players, went on to open the first tennis club in the world.
15. Fine dining
After London, Birmingham is the city with the most Michelin Star restaurants in the UK. The most recent addition, Opheem, was added to the list in 2020. The city and surrounds now have five spectacular food experiences to enjoy! The restaurants vary in styles, with a selection of British, modern, and Indian cuisine on offer.
16. Birmingham and the Chocolate Factory
If you’re a chocoholic, you’re going to salivate when you hear this fact about Birmingham. This is the city where Cadbury’s famous chocolate comes from! Cadbury’s first store was opened in 1824 by John Cadbury, where he would prepare cocoa and powdered chocolate for his customers. From these humble beginnings, Cadbury became a global success. In 1990, chocolate themed adventure park Cadbury World was opened, where people young and old can live out their chocolate factory dreams.
17. Bells and whistles
Birmingham may have been known as a manufacturing powerhouse through the Industrial Revolution, but what is the city actually famous for inventing? The whistle, the smoke detector, the postage stamp, and the kettle! Furthermore, Cadbury chocolate isn’t the only delicious food to come out of Birmingham. Bird’s Custard, Bournville Drinking Chocolate, Typhoo Tea and HP Sauce all hail from this productive city.
18. Birmingham on stage
The Birmingham Hippodrome, located in the Chinese Quarter, was opened in 1895. Along with being the home stage of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, other productions such as pantomimes, operas, and West End shows are also regularly performed here. With around 520,000 visitors a year it’s the busiest theatre in the UK.
19. Balti triangle
When you were wondering “what is Birmingham famous for?”, I bet north Indian food didn’t come to mind! Since its introduction to Birmingham in 1971, this Indian and Pakistani style dish has made quite a name for itself. Balti became so loved in Birmingham that multiple places started offering it, and it wasn’t long before Balti Houses, sprung up all over the city. Many of these were clustered together in the city’s south, earning this area the name of ‘The Balti Triangle’.
20. On the big screen
Last but not least on our list of facts about Birmingham is that the Star City complex holds the title of the largest cinema in the UK. Opened in 2000, the complex boasts 30 screens, some of which are dedicated to Bollywood and other Asian film styles. Built on an old industrial site, the complex also includes a bowling alley, escape room, and mini golf.
We hope you enjoyed these facts about Birmingham. With such a fascinating history, it’s no wonder there’s a lot to learn!
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