Birmingham is renowned for its shopping. The Bullring, in the heart of the city, was the UK’s first indoor city-centre shopping complex when it opened in the 1960s. Completely rebuilt in 2000, the shimmering new The Bullring & Grand Central is one of Britain’s biggest and busiest shopping malls. With more than 200 retailers and more than 460 restaurants and cafés, there’s plenty for discerning gay and lesbian shoppers.
Just north of the city centre, the Jewellery Quarter has Europe’s largest concentration of jewellery traders, producing 40% of all jewellery made in the UK – making this an ideal place for anyone planning a romantic gesture on their trip (wink wink).
A little-known fact, Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice - just over 56km compared to Venice’s 41km. The life-blood of Victorian Birmingham, today these canals and towpaths provide a fascinating route for walkers and joggers. The bustling hub of the canal network, Gas Street Basin has colourful narrowboats and busy cafés, restaurants and bars in set in revamped warehouses.
An ethnically and culturally diverse city, Birmingham has vibrant Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. It also has some of Britain’s best Asian restaurants. The award-winning Asha’s is co-owned by famous Indian singer Asha Bhosle, serving exotic cocktails and delicious curries.
On the city’s south side, Birmingham’s gaybourhood is Hurst Street, just minutes from the Hippodrome theatre, the Bullring and the Chinese Quarter. As well as pagodas and oriental-influenced architecture, you can see gay street art - look out for a sparkly, rhinestone-encrusted rhinoceros on the roof of Wynner House.
To mingle with Birmingham’s stylish 30-something crowd, head to The Loft Lounge, a plush bar with velvet couches, chandeliers and exposed brickwork. Missing is a lively gay party bar with events and DJs or if you’re after cocktails, contemporary lesbian bar The Fox is a trendy choice. A former car showroom, Sidewalk retains its huge plate-glass windows and warehouse-style décor and is popular with a predominantly younger mixed crowd.
Occupying the 23rd and 24th floors of the distinct Cube building, the bedrooms of four-star Hotel Indigo maximize their elevated status with private balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests have access to the club and spa, thermal pools, treatment rooms and even a Champagne Nail Bar for luxury manicures and Laurent Perrier champagne. The cherry on the cake is the top floor MPW Steakhouse Bar & Grill, a Birmingham hotspot from celebrity chef Marco Pierre White.
Staying Cool offers serviced apartments on the top four floors of a Birmingham landmark, the Rotunda building. Available in four configurations, from studios to two-bed penthouses, this funky self-catering option is a great choice for a chic, centrally-located stay.
A budget choice that doesn’t compromise on style, BLOC Hotel describes itself as pared-down chic. The 73 rooms are stylishly efficient with the things you need like powerful drench showers, comfortable beds with Egyptian cotton sheets, super-fast Wi-Fi and HD TVs.
Championing queer arts and culture, SHOUT produce a number of annual events to showcase LGBTQ+ film, visual art, music, theatre and literature. Annual events include the SHOUT Film Festival, but look out for other events via their website.
The UK’s largest two-day LGBTQ+ festival, Birmingham Pride is generally held over the May Spring Bank Holiday weekend, so it’s the perfect precursor to Pride season. However, for 2020 it has been rescheduled for September. The streets of Birmingham’s gay village pulsate with a carnival parade, live music, cabaret stage, women’s arena and a community village.
Birmingham is situated in the Midlands, 120 miles northwest of London. Regular trains connect Birmingham to London in one-and-a-half hours. Birmingham Airport is 10 minutes by train from the city centre and is served by flights from Europe, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, North America and the Caribbean.