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Top 10 facts about Birmingham

It’s a well-known fact that bustling Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK, but there’s far more to learn about this fascinating West Midland’s borough that you might not already be aware of. Below, we’ve listed ten of the biggest and boldest facts about Birmingham that some of the proudest born-and-raised Brummies may not even know! From the city’s wonderous waterways to its culinary creations, vibrant Birmingham is simply bursting with interesting titbits.

1. Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice!

While Venice is home to 26 miles of magnificent waterways for tourists and locals alike to explore, Birmingham boasts a mammoth 35 miles of canals.

During the Industrial Revolution, these far-reaching canals were packed with boats transporting raw materials like coal and iron, but nowadays they’re popular spots for walkers, cyclists, and narrowboat owners.

2. The Jewellery Quarter produces 40% of all jewellery made in the UK

Home to more than 100 independent specialist retailers, diamond dealers, workshops, and craftspeople, the Jewellery Quarter is an undeniable gem in this city’s crown. Their hard work all contributes to the creation of an estimated 40% of all British jewellery!

The centre of jewellery-making, Birmingham is the city to visit if you’re preparing to pop the question or simply snap up a sparkling treat for yourself.

3. Birmingham is the birthplace of the ‘balti’

Keen on a curry? You may already be aware of Birmingham’s reputation for this culinary delight with their infamous string of curry restaurants lovingly known as the ‘curry mile’, but the British version of the ‘balti’ curry was actually invented in this city in 1977 by a Pakistani Brummie restauranteur.

Following the rise in popularity of this dish, an area of authentic balti houses in the south east of Birmingham earned the nickname the ‘Balti Triangle’, and they still produce some of the tastiest curries in the country to this day.

4. It’s one of Europe’s greenest cities!

With more than 8000 acres of award-winning public green spaces and parks, Birmingham is one of the greenest cities in Europe. Birmingham even overtakes Paris when it comes to parks, boasting over 500 compared to the 400 that can be found in Paris!

Whether you’re taking a stroll around Cannon Hill Park or heading to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens to reconnect with nature, this sensational city is hiding no end of publicly-accessible outdoor spaces.

5. Birmingham is bursting with Michelin-starred restaurants

If you’re a self-proclaimed foodie that prefers the finer things in life, then you won’t want to miss out on Birmingham! While it’s well-known for irresistible curries, this magnificent city actually has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other UK city, apart from London.

This includes Opheem, Birmingham’s first two Michelin-starred restaurant, as well as the ever-popular contemporary hotspot, Adam’s, and Simpsons – providing a fine dining experience you won’t soon forget.

6. Hailed as “the first manufacturing town in the world”

The British economist, Arthur Young, described Birmingham as “the first manufacturing town in the world” in 1791. A hive of energy, the city built thriving manufacturing and automotive industries, with many renowned scientists and inventors living or working in Birmingham.

This includes the likes of William Murdoch (developed gas lighting), George Andrew Darby (invented the smoke alarm), and both Matthew Boulton and James Watt who made crucial developments to the steam engine.

7. Birmingham was home to the world’s first ODEON cinema

Opened in 1930, the world’s first ODEON cinema was located in Perry Barr, Birmingham. The chain of ODEON cinemas was founded by Oscar Deutsch and grew to a huge 26 cinemas just three years later and a mammoth 250 in 1937.

Deutch’s publicity team went on to claim that ODEON was an abbreviation for ‘Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation’. However, ODEON was being used for cinemas in France and Italy years before Deutsch founded the chain.

8. The Birmingham Bullring market has been running since the 12th century!

Nowadays, the Birmingham Bullring is packed with high-street fashion shops, eateries, and homeware stores, but it’s built upon a long and interesting history. Legally, the market began hundreds of years ago in 1154 when a Charter of Marketing Rights was obtained from King Henry II.
Originally, this area was known as ‘Corn Cheaping’ and only gained it’s more recognisable name in the 16th century.

9. Known as the origin of heavy metal music

Dubbed the birthplace of heavy metal, Birmingham has seen countless Birmingham-born heavy metal bands rise to fame including the likes of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Napalm Death, and Godflesh.

The sounds of heavy metal began to take the city by storm in the late 1960s to early 1970s, attracting metalheads from across the world. The city’s heavy metal history is still evident today in the number of heavy metal bars, festivals, and museum exhibitions.

10. Birmingham inspired Lord Of The Rings

World-renowned Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit author, J.R.R Tolkien, was raised in Sarehole from the age of four, Birmingham and has been said to owe some of his inspiration for these books to the city.

Historic Birmingham places and landmarks that are believed to have inspired the incredibly successful author include the 250-year old watermill, Sarehole Mill, as well as the Grade II-listed monuments, Perrott’s Folly and Edgbaston Waterworks Tower.

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