Is Birmingham better to visit than London? Five reasons why you should make for the West Midlands

Chris Parsons
News Editor
Is Birmingham better to visit than London? Five reasons why you should make for the West Midlands

An influential U.S. travel bible has urged tourists to visit Birmingham over London.

New York magazine, one of the most fashionable publications in the States, said the West Midlands city is now a preferable holiday destination to the capital.

Our second city has long been stereotyped (mainly by derisive southerners) as unfashionable and bleak - but if a leading U.S. travel mag rates it above London, it must be doing something right.

Here are five reasons why New York magazine were actually spot on in listing Brum as a top tourist trip.

A 'bostin' library:

The £189m newly-opened public library just off Birmingham's Broad Street is the latest centerpiece of its 'urban renewal'.

Prince Charles once famously compared Birmingham's old library to an 'incinerator', but the lavish, shiny replacement stands proud overlooking the city.

It took more than three-and-a-half years to build and is now the biggest public library in Europe.

Its futuristic exterior - described by New York magazine as 'a stack of Legos wrapped in mesh' - was designed to reflect the city's numerous canals and tunnels.

Fewer tourists:

New York magazine made the valid point that there are simply fewer visiting travelers in Birmingham than London.

I have lived in both cities and it makes a big difference living in a place where you're not overrun by map-flapping, slow-walking, landmark-gawking pavement hoggers.

[Predator living statue attack: Man cautioned]

Whether it's throngs of schoolkids cramming onto the already-packed Tube near Hamleys, or simply trying to get anywhere in the West End at the weekend, any Londoner will tell you while tourism is a huge boost in the capital, it can often make getting around a 'testing' experience.

Birmingham, despite an extensive recent PR push and its second city status, rarely has the same  problem - and it's a much more relaxing experience for it.

A city on the up:

Birmingham has already undergone a considerable facelift over the past two decades, following the completion of the new library, futuristic all-purpose block The Cube, and the unmissable facade of the Bullring shopping centre.

[Linesman hit by flare during Villa-Spurs match]

City bosses have pledged to make Birmingham even more tourist friendly, however, through an ambitious 20-year Big City Plan which will transform the centre.

More than 60,000 sq metres of public space, 28km of walking and cycle routes, and a £650m redevelopment of the city's much-maligned New Street Station are just part of the plans.

'Waterway' to have a good time:

Marketing executives in the West Midlands must've been rubbing their hands with glee when it was revealed that Birmingham has more canals than Venice.

The waterways are one of the city's best features - providing a picturesque backdrop to Birmingham's trendy Mailbox food and shopping complex, as well as a photogenic diversion extending 35 miles around the city.

The water around the Gas Street Basin is a delightful way to spend an afternoon almost all year round, and there's even a canal boat restaurant.

A belting Balti:

Birmingham's curry heritage has long been trumpeted as one of its shining lights, and with good reason.

The city's 'Balti Triangle', an area encompassing Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Moseley, boasts over 100 Asian restaurants which welcome tens of thousands of diners a week.

Compared to the overrated (in my opinion) experience of London's Brick Lane, Birmingham's 'Balti Belt' easily matches the capital's curry credentials.

And that's not all for foodies - there are a healthy number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Birmingham, as well as over 200 eateries in the city centre serving food from nearly 30 countries.