Booking.com
    First Published: September 2002
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
With a city as densely populated as Birmingham you can expect a few poofs about the place. In fact Birmingham has always been a hotbed of trade.
The pioneers of the Industrial Revolution formed the Lunar Society here - a scientific forum that spawned the world's first ever purpose built factory, the invention of gas lighting and the mass production of the steam engine. Now OutUK's Adrian Gillan gives the gay low-down on Birmingham - capital of the West Midlands; and England’s “second city”. Canals in Brimingham Courtesy: Marketing Birmingham
With its abundance of renovated canals, parks, imposing industrial and civic buildings and squares, Birmingham’s definitely undergone a first rate face-lift in recent years.
From the revamped Bullring Shopping Centre, complete with its space-age Selfridges flagship building, to the popular Farmers' Markets near main civic hub, Victoria Square, there is a wide variety of shopping experiences to be had in Brum; as well as many interesting areas to visit - from modern developments like Millennium Point to heritage-steeped zones like industrial-era Digbeth.

Other attractions include the mouth-watering Cadbury’s tour and other equally mouth-watering cultural treats like the Birmingham Royal Ballet, oft spied at the Hippodrome, down near the gay area; the world-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in its own fabulous Symphony Hall; plus the Birmingham Rep theatre, where Laurence Olivier started his career.

birmselfridges.jpg (23K) Selfridges in Birmingham.
Courtesy: Marketing Birmingham

And - with one of the most compact, constantly re-invigorated, easily accessible and sizeable gay scenes in the land - get over the accent and you’ll soon succumb to Brum, and all those manly Midlands men! Dozens of venues vie for attentions in a queer cluster mere yards from New Street Station. Hurst Street is surely up there with those other UK world-class queer streets, Canal and Old Compton.

Drink

Stalwart and anchor of the scene is undoubtedly the habitually rejuvenating Village Inn (152 Hurst Street; T: 0121 622 4742; villagebirmingham.co.uk), an upmarket, friendly gay pub pumping out music and drag into the wee small hours in its busy dance area.

The trenchantly traditional Wellington (72 Bristol Street; T: 0121 622 2592; thewellyhotel.co.uk) is an extremely welcoming pub-cum-cabaret joint. Nearby Fountain (102 Wrentham Street; T: 0121 622 1452; www.thefountaininn.com) is also a hit with the older, albeit slightly cruisier, set. The Angel (127-131 Hurst Street; T: 0121 666 6220; theangelbirmingham.co.uk) entices queer trade along its not inconsiderable length, downing booze and food - its vast windows perfect from, and through, which to preen-and-be-seen. A few doors down, Equator (123 Hurst Street; T: 0121 622 5077; www.equatorbar.co.uk) is an airy lounge bar for the full-on style set. Ditto Loft Lounge (143 Bromsgrove Street; T: 0121 622 2444; www.theloftlounge.co.uk), just around the corner, with fab food.

Missing (Hurst Street/Bromsgrove Street; T: 0121 622 4256; www.missingbar.co.uk) is a true Brum favourite and packs ‘em in - all ages, all nights - with its busy disco and dizzy shows. Likewise, just west of Hurst Street, bar-club Chic (28 Horsefair; T: 0121 666 6806) is, for many, still the trendy king of the crop - possibly the most stylish video bar in the land, and immensely popular with the young. Other favourite bars on or around Hurst Street include friendly, earthy Eden Bar (116 Sherlock Street; T: 0121 622 1953; www.theedenbar.co.uk), right down the end; The Fox (17 Lower Essex Street; T: 0121 622 3213); chic Purple (Hurst Street; T: 0121 622 4064); The Queen’s Tavern (23 Essex Street; T: 0121 622 5012; www.queenstavern.co.uk); and Bar Jester (Holloway Circus; T: 0121 643 8344).

Dance, Steam, Shop

Time for some full-on clubbing! Feted Nightingale (Kent Street; T: 0121 622 1718; www.nightingaleclub.co.uk), or “The Gale” as it is affectionately known - now spans more than four full decades and has recently undergone a major redevelopment to keep apace of the times. With a capacity of almost 2000 across three levels and a lovely outside garden, it is no surprise to hear that legendary artistes, from Boney M to Boy Zone, have all appeared over the years. Alternatively, check out nearby cruisy Boltz Club (40 Lower Essex Street; T: 0121 666 6888) or stylish The Core (Sherlock Street; T: 0121 622 2797; www.thecoreclub.co.uk) Brum’s two main gay saunas are Unit 2 (Lower Essex Street; T: 0121 622 7070; www.unit2sauna.info) bang in the centre; and Spartan (127 George Road; T: 0121 382 3345; www.spartanhealthclub.co.uk), a little further out. For boy toys and the like: Clone Zone (84 Hurst Street; T: 0121 666 6640). The Birmingham Gay Pride Festival and Mardi Gras Parade historically takes place over the last Bank Holiday weekend in May of each year. More at: www.birminghampride.com

Stay and Eat

Bang in the middle of Birmingham, a mere 10 minutes’ walk from the gay scene, the converted former eye hospital that is now the 66-room Hotel du Vin & Bistro Birmingham (Church Street, Birmingham B3 2NR; T: 0121 200 0600; www.hotelduvin.com) shows off its early Victorian red-brick splendour.
It's a true gem in the city’s revitalised Jewellery Quarter. Enter, and the old-world foyer tugs and pulls you in various directions – left into the plush champagne and wine bar, amidst cork pops and fizz; down into the local-real-ale Pub Du Vin basement where pewter tankards clunk and clink; or through into the light and airy central courtyard; or maybe to the spa or gym. Hotel du Vin & Bistro
Hotel du Vin
And that’s before you’ve even ascended the grand lift or plush stairways to your bedroom or roomy suite - all featuring luxurious mattresses, fine Egyptian linen, vast baths and invigorating drench showers, not to mention plasma TVs and DVDs. That’s before you’ve got comfy at the spacious, elegant Bistro du Vin, the hotel’s beating heart – offering a classic, French-styled, elegant-yet-informal setting for lunch or dinner, biz or pleasure. Dine on the freshest local Midlands produce, washed down with fine wines selected by highly skilled sommeliers attuned to your every dish and wish.

You can book the Hotel du Vin at our hotel partners Booking.com. For more information about visiting Birmingham go to www.visitbirmingham.com. Birmingham New Street station is just 1 hour 20 minutes away from London Euston, and even closer from other major UK cities, by Virgin Trains : www.virgintrains.co.uk

 

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