An Independent City Guide to Birmingham, UK

Independent Birmingham card
Independent Birmingham card | © Facebook

Freelance Travel and Music Writer

In a city as large as Birmingham it’s often difficult to decide where to go out. To give you a helping hand, here’s our independent city guide to Birmingham, featuring the best bars, restaurants, music venues, record shops and more.

Top tip: Before you explore any of Birmingham’s wonderful indie retailers, make sure you pick up an Independent Birmingham card for exclusive discounts at your new favourite hangouts.

Independent bars and pubs in Birmingham

If we had a pound for every independent pub or bar in Birmingham we’d be able to open our own. Probably.

Birmingham is not bereft of options for a pint or two. Take Purecraft Bar & Kitchen, located just a stone’s throw away from Snow Hill station. This is a real beer emporium with food selections to match their tap offerings. Meanwhile, the recently opened Dig Brew Co make their own Digbeth Lager which is one of the best pints you’ll find in the city (and pairs amazingly with their ace pizza). Other pint perfect places in Brum you’ll want to check out include The Wolf, and The Ruin while special mentions go out to Kilder, and Paper Duck respectively – two of the city’s newest craft bars.

Taps at Dig Brew Co

For cocktails, you’ll want to head to the Jekyll & Hyde (yep, it’s Alice in Wonderland themed) and Bourne & Co, a 1920s-style prohibition cocktail lounge. Island Bar must also be written in Birmingham folklore by now, as a self-proclaimed ‘tropical cocktail paradise’.

Those in to spirits are catered for too with The Birmingham Whisky Club and 40 St. Paul’s (winner of Best Gin Bar 2018) in the Jewellery Quarter while The Gin Vault, almost hidden on the canal at Gas Street Basin, stocks more than 200 different types of gin.

G&T slushie

Independent cafés in Birmingham

Too early for alcohol? Not to worry, there’s plenty of indie cafés here too.

For something on the move, inside a narrow doorway on New Street is Medicine Bakery serving what we’d say are probably the best pastries in Brum. Pay attention or you’ll miss it. If you have a little more time we’d recommend the very central Cherry Reds, Quarter Horse and the majestic Edwardian Tearooms inside Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

Medicine Bakery

In Digbeth? Kanteen serve the best brunch we’ve had for a long time, while Boo Boo Coffee and Saint Kitchen in Harborne and the Jewellery Quarter, respectively, are two that we also love.

Independent restaurants in Birmingham

Brum’s food scene has seen a massive boost in the last couple of years alone, with a large number of indie traders opening new eateries in the city. One of the newest of the lot, Bonehead, is a craft beer and fried chicken joint which only use the best chickens in the UK from the Cotswolds. Indian street food has become a sure-fire hit in the city too, with Indian Streatery, Indian Brewery, Zindiya all serving up their fast takes on classic indian dishes.

Indian Brewery, Birmingham

Birmingham’s burger scene is up there with the best in the country, if not the best. Original Patty Men, The Meat Shack and Flying Cows are testament to this. The latter is more of a street food shack then a restaurant, but you can find them at Digbeth Dining Club on a regular basis.

For the finer things in life, The Wilderness is a culinary experience like no other; allow head chef Alex Claridge to stimulate your senses with a tasting menu that includes ants, flora and a dessert called ‘Oh Bollocks’, which looks like a Mr Whippy ice cream dropped upside down on a plate. Birmingham has more Michelin stars than any UK city outside of London, with Purnell’s, Adam’s, Carters of Moseley, and Simpsons flying the flag for Brum.

Independent shops in Birmingham

Birmingham, dubbed the city of a thousand trades, is certainly not short of independent outlets either. Whether you’re after some handspun steel lampshades from The Workshop Below, some new art for your walls from Vincent Van Doodle or some new threads from Liquor Store, pretty much every angle is covered.

Artwork © Vincent Van Doodle

Fancy trying some new craft beer? Clink. Craving chocolate? The Chocolate Quarter. Interior design your thing? Minima.

But at the end of the day, sometimes it’s just nice to kick back with a nice book from Ikon, or with your favourite record spinning on the turntable from one of our independent record shops.

Independent music venues in Birmingham

Often underrated but incredibly iconic, Birmingham’s music scene is up there with the best, but the likes of Black Sabbath, UB40 and Duran Duran all had to start out somewhere. From the hip, 150-capacity Sunflower Lounge all the way through to the world famous Town Hall & Symphony Hall, there’s something for everybody here.

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

One of our favourite venues in the country, let alone this city, the Hare & Hounds is Kings Heath’s gem. Proudly boasting one of the best PAs in the city, along with a tight-knit team of promoters and DJs bringing the best international music to this leafy suburb, Birmingham should be really proud to have a venue like this.

Other notable mentions should go out to the newly renovated Castle & Falcon in Balsall Heath, Actress & Bishop in the Jewellery Quarter as well as Mama Roux’s and The Night Owl in Digbeth. Not forgetting Snobs, the Mecca of Birmingham’s nightlife.

The best of the rest

Brum’s indie offerings don’t stop there, either. For a start, there’s the oldest working cinema in the UK, The Electric, as well as Birmingham’s newest cinema, The Mockingbird. In to the theatre? The Hippodrome and Birmingham Repertory Theatre have you covered.

Mockingbird Cinema

We’ll assume you’re all worn out from your independent exploring of the city now. Not to worry – hotels like Bloc and Staying Cool will ensure you get that well earned night’s sleep…

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