Birmingham is proving an unlikely holiday hotspot for overseas visitors, with their numbers increasing by a massive 32 per cent compared with last year. The huge jump in foreign tourists puts the city at 4th spot on the list of Britain’s top destinations behind London, Edinburgh and Manchester. If the current rate of growth is maintained, it will oust Manchester as the “capital of the North” by 2015.

Just why are tourists flocking to Birmingham in droves? Here is a quick run-down of what the city has to offer as an alternative gateway to Britain.

Retail and shopping

Visitors looking to grab an overseas bargain will not be disappointed with a trip to Birmingham. There are plenty of places to shop, with the Bullring being the largest shopping complex in the region, featuring 160 stores including luxury department store Selfridges.

For something a little more upmarket, The Mailbox is well regarded and houses the department store Harvey Nichols. It is also a base for BBC Birmingham.

If jewels, trinkets and watches are more to your taste, then the Jewellery Quarter is worth visiting. Apart from a museum, there are over 100 shops vying for customers.

For shopping of a different kind, chocoholics should make their way to Cadbury World for some edible souvenirs as it boasts the biggest Cadbury chocolates shop in the world.

History, arts and culture

There are countless museums and galleries for those who are more interested in arts and culture. The Birmingham Museum Art Gallery and Barber Institute of Fine Arts have wonderful collections of artwork by old masters as well as modern classics. The Ikon and Eastside Projects on the other hand, showcase international and British contemporary pieces.

The Stoneleigh Abbey is another big draw card. Set amongst stunning scenery, the Cistercian abbey is a must for history buffs as it is more than 800 years old.

Of course, being on the edge of Shakespeare country, Birmingham provides convenient access to famous attractions such as Shakespeare’s birthplace, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Warwick Castle.

Music and Theatre

Birmingham is also famous for its many theatres, including The Hippodrome, The Drum, the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) and the Town Hall. There are plenty of shows on offer to suit every age and taste.

Rich industrial heritage

Finally, for those with a scientific mind, Thinktank at the Birmingham Science Museum will help you understand the city’s industrial heritage and how technology made an impact on the lives of locals.

Written by Melanie, a travel writer for Hotel La Tour – a luxury 4 star hotel in Birmingham city centre.

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