From the 19th floor of the fabulously located and appropriately named Staying Cool apartments in the heart of Birmingham, the panoramic view is jaw-droppingly spectacular. In fact it’s as good as the view across any major city from the sky; a truly bird’s eye snapshot of a busy metropolis in all its colour and diversity. Of course it helps that there are floor to ceiling windows, so whether it’s sunrise, sunset or pretty much any time in between, simply gaze out across the cityscape and you will not be disappointed.
Silver Travellers will appreciate a special offer currently available at the Staying Cool apartments known as the “Alternative Weekend” – if you stay on a Sunday and Monday night, there’s the bonus of a complimentary full English breakfast as well as a bottle of champagne. And a short break at a Staying Cool apartment in December also brings with it the attraction of the Frankfurt Christmas Market now in its 11th year which lines the pedestrianized area of the city centre. I had heard about the market before my visit, but the vast scale of this huge collection of Alpine style chalets adorning the streets makes for a very special mid-winter experience. Ornaments, crafts, jewellery, decorations and hand-made toys and souvenirs from the Frankfurt region are complemented by traditional food and freshly baked produce; and of course no German market would be complete without its Bier Keller.
It was a simple but very pleasurable experience to partake in a beer tasting session (with a £4 refundable deposit on the glass – no plastic beakers here). And it was made all the more enjoyable accompanied by German style sausages (Frankfurters of course!), as well as Pretzels filled with local cheese, roasted ham in a bun, and all kinds of chocolate, and Kuchen. On a crisp December night, standing outside amongst the crowds of other Brummies and tourists, the ambience was akin to après ski in the mountains. Winter street life with a Bavarian twist – what could be better?
Apart from the market, there are numerous other attractions in Birmingham on a short break; after all this is the UK’s second city and the wealth of culture does not disappoint. A few ideas for a short trip include the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery with free entrance. Here the pre-Raphaelite collection comes courtesy of the industrialists who acted as patrons of the arts in early Victorian Britain. You can find around 150 pieces with exhibits by Millias, Ford Maddox Brown, Burne-Jones and Rossetti, plus many other less well known artists of that period. There’s a real sense of how pre-Raphaelites were borne out of industrialism to try and depict a romantic view of pastoral paradise. Even for the casual visitor the museum is worth a quick visit. Being situated adjacent to the Christmas Market you can pop in for a 40 minute wander and add a little culture.
Otherwise, why not explore the picturesque canal side paths and attractions. With more miles of canal than Venice, there are plenty of beautiful views and a visual reminder of Birmingham’s industrial past. Or for retail therapy, there’s the Bullring Shopping Centre, with a huge Selfridges as well as the full range of shops and outlets to satisfy every taste and budget.
After a day’s shopping, sightseeing, and of course a few beers and Bratwurst at the market, it was the shortest of strolls back to the Staying Cool apartment and its fabulously convenient location right next to the Bullring and at the start of the pedestrian area which leads up to the Town Hall, Museum and Art Gallery. This is a great alternative to a boutique hotel: the apartments themselves are modern, practical and with some touches of luxury to make a short break into a very special and memorable experience. These include high quality bathroom products in proper sized bottles (which make all the difference); fine cotton sheets and a delightfully comfortable bed; flat screen TVs in the bedroom and lounge and a well-equipped kitchen with a thoughtful selection of welcome provisions. High above the city, a restful night’s sleep was enjoyed with a delicious breakfast included in the Alternative Weekend package.
Getting to Birmingham could not be easier with access by rail into Moor Street from Marylebone or into New Street from London Euston and Milton Keynes, or by car in under 2 hours from central London. And once in the city centre it is compact and easy to get around on foot with ample parking both in and around the Bullring shopping centre as well as the university and museum areas.
The verdict? A very cool short break in a cosmopolitan and buzzing city which makes you want to return. Highly recommended.
Staying Cool Apartments Alternative Weekend comprises a Sunday and a Monday night stay and includes a complimentary bottle of champagne and full English breakfast. Use the rate code ALTERNATIVE and book here.