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This Chic Hotel In Birmingham Is Spotlighting The UK's Second City

For whatever reason, Birmingham is often overlooked as a UK city break. But recently-refurbished hotel, The Grand Birmingham, is helping the UK’s second city gain a place in the spotlight. 

Ideally located in the middle of the country and with more Michelin-stars than anywhere outside of London, a plethora of cultural attractions, and plenty to entertain children, Birmingham demands consideration when planning your next UK getaway

At the centre of Birmingham’s renaissance is The Grand, located in the city’s buzzy Colmore business district. Reopened in 2021 following a £50 million refurbishment, the historic Grade II-listed building had been left to gather dust over a 20-year period, before emerging phoenix-like from the pandemic. Originally built by architect Thomas Plevins in 1879, in its original heyday it welcomed everyone from King George VI to Winston Churchill, with more recent guests including Tom Cruise, who visited while filming the latest Mission Impossible film. The Grand has a historic, boutique feel, transporting you to a bygone age when travel was glamorous and exciting.

The Vibe

Living up to its name, The Grand’s vibe is impossibly chic, with an imposing marble staircase upon entry. But there’s not a whiff of snobbishness here. Instead, it’s a delightful cornucopia of original features and modern flourishes. Take Madeleine, its French-inflected main bar, which mixes high corniced ceilings, parquet wooden flooring, marble columns and painted bay windows alongside plush velvet sofas, jauntily-printed cushions, contemporary chandelier-style light fittings and brass fixtures. Meanwhile Isaac’s, its subterranean diner, where breakfast is served, is Birmingham meets America, with incredible green tiled walls, a gallery wall of vintage black and white photographs and a rather imposing piano forte – should you want to tinkle the ivories. Events take place in the palatial ballroom, which has incredible gold-leaf detail on the ceiling and original chandeliers. There’s also balcony seating, so you can watch the goings on below –we can imagine a Bridgerton-esque ball here. 

The Rooms

As a listed building, the rooms and suites are all ample in size – no tripping over the bed here. With bright, modern interiors and plush furnishings, everything is designed with comfort in mind – from arm chairs arranged around a floating table in front of the TV, to clever night lights that turn on and off when pushed in and out. There’s plenty of storage, from wardrobes to bedside cabinets, plus amenities like a Nespresso machine, a tea-making set, and a fridge, complete with Cadbury’s Wispa bars, if you need a midnight snack. 

The bathrooms are also incredibly spacious, with marble floors and fittings including a bathtub, plus toiletries from Penhaligons (the Halfeti scent, our favourite). Despite the buzz of the hotel, once you close your doors, you’ll feel completely cocooned – even more so under the thick and swaddling covers. 

The Food + Drink

Madeleine is a destination in its own right in Birmingham, with locals and tourists booking this stylish venue for client drinks, special occasions and of course, its afternoon tea. Bar snacks include beautifully delicate mini-quiches topped with truffle and hash browns doused in parmesan, while the cocktail list is comprehensive and themed around fairytales (the barmen can whip up whatever you fancy, off-menu, too).

Afternoon tea is a high-glam affair, with one of the best selections we’ve ever tried: think hot smoked salmon and caper sandwiches, egg cress in a brioche roll, gingerbread scones, black forest gateau bombes, pistachio tarts and more. For an additional supplement, you can add bubbles, including rosé. Breakfast is served downstairs at Isaac’s, with a cold buffet of cereals, fruits and pastries and a selection of hot dishes to order à la carte, including avocado on toast and a full English. It’s also open for lunch and dinner with options like native lobster, Maryland crab cakes, short rib burger, New York style hot dog and oysters.

The Little Extras

Chromecast is included on the TV, if you just can’t go one night without your Netflix and chill, and the room service menu is also very tempting, if you do decide to stay in. If you’re travelling with children, you’ll appreciate the sweet kids package which includes a Yo-To player in the room, plus a bull teddy (in homage to the city’s famous mascot) to take home and the teeniest tiniest soft bathrobe. We also love the inclusion of large umbrellas to rent at a machine by the door – surely this should be a mainstay of all British institutions? Staff are young, friendly and attentive, all remembering our names.

The To-Do List

Opheem by Aktar Islam

Opheem by Aktar Islam, Birmingham

No trip to Birmingham is complete without indulging in a little Michelin-star dining. In the city centre, our favourites include Opheem, Aktar Islam’s modern Indian restaurant, or Purnell’s, which has retained its star since 2009. For something just as special but less pricey, head to Six by Nico, which offers incredibly inventive six-course tasting menus with a different theme every month (past themes have included ‘the chippie’ and ‘mad hatter’s tea party’). Orelle is the place for rooftop drinks, while Fox and Chance does great speakeasy-style cocktails and Loki’s wine bar and shop do amazing tastings. Our perfect day would include a walk around the Botanical Gardens, shopping at Harvey Nichols in the Mailbox and getting our nails done at Townhouse, before heading to the Hippodrome, Rep Theatre or Glee Club for a show. Bringing the kids? It’ll be very easy to bribe them with Cadbury World or the Sea Life Centre.

Lead image: Photograph by Rajeysh Chauhan, in-image artwork by Charles Pedone

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