If you crave big city bustle, Birmingham's spirited nightlife, sophisticated culture and travel connections could meet all your expectations.

Birmingham is the largest city outside of London, spreading into suburbs such as Edgbaston, Bournville, Sutton Coldfield and Harborne. Once an industrial giant, Birmingham is now creating a new identity as a centre of arts and culture and a top foodie destination.

Where is Birmingham?

Birmingham is a major city in the West Midlands, 120 miles north of London and about 90 miles south of Liverpool and Manchester.

Excellent road and rail links, as well as six universities, including the respected University of Birmingham, mean that the city has maintained a strong property market. Despite this, the average price in the city centre is still a reasonable £199,000 (check the latest figures).

Read all about the West Midlands with our detailed guide.

Living in Birmingham: what to expect

Birmingham's centre has a clash of architectural styles. Iconic red-brick and terracotta Victorian buildings sit next to state-of-the-art structures such as the Bullring shopping centre. Luxury new-build apartment blocks are also rising up next to traditional Victorian terraces.

The city offers entertainment on a large scale. The Barclaycard Arena (the former National Indoor Arena), Birmingham Hippodrome and Symphony Hall are just some of its grand venues.

Birmingham's schools are also a draw for families. The best schools in Birmingham include King Edward VI Handsworth School and Queensbridge School. Both have received 'outstanding' ratings from Ofsted.

Buildings in Birmingham

Top places to start your property search

City centre: The city centre is dominated by architecturally striking apartment blocks, both old and new.

The most popular apartments are in The Mailbox, Digbeth and the Jewellery Quarter. The latter has flats in converted factories as well as some 18th- and 19th-century terraces and town houses. Take a look along Camden Street for examples.

The Mailbox on Wharfside Street is one of Birmingham's most distinctive buildings. Above its shops are luxury flats with two to three bedrooms. Residents benefit from an open-plan living space, a gym, 24-hour security and underground parking.

Alternatively, take a look at what's available in The Cube, also on Wharfside Street. This striking building has two- and three-bedroom flats with stunning city views.

If you prefer an older property, check out the Orion Building. It has an sleek facade with floor-to-ceiling windows, communal gardens, underground parking and a concierge service.

Edgbaston: This area is characterised by its leafy roads and substantial houses. The most desirable streets are around the Calthorpe Estate and on Farquhar Road and Westfield Road – but you will need deep pockets.

Edgbaston also has a number of modern properties. Purpose-built apartment blocks such as Melville Road offer views over the city, as do the flats on Edgbaston Crescent. The latter has an eye-catching hemispherical block of apartments that come with a concierge service as well as communal grounds.

Also look out for occasional listed properties. Bristol Road has mainly 1920-30s detached homes but also a few scattered Georgian town houses with sash windows and generous gardens.

Moseley: Moseley has a pleasant 'village community' feel with plenty of parks. It also has a cosmopolitan attitude, which makes it appealing to young professionals.

Most properties tend to be large Arts & Crafts houses. Sandford Road has some good examples – look here for roomy four-bedroom semis with mock Tudor details, attached garages and large driveways. Streets such as this are typically very leafy and the properties have generous gardens. Yet more Edwardian homes and1930s semis can be found on Blenheim Road.

Moseley also has a fine selection of Victorian properties. Red-brick Victorian terraces and detached homes can be found on Trafalgar Road. These homes boast airy bay windows and arched doorways. Grand Victorian and Edwardian semis are also available on Oxford Road and Cotton Lane. Character features include open fireplaces and high ceilings.

Harborne: Harborne is to the south west of the city, just three miles from the centre. Streets such as Park Hill Road are lined with three-bedroom, red-brick terraces with bay windows. Other period features include dado rails, sash windows and cast iron fireplaces. Edwardian three-storey properties are also on the market boasting original stained-glass windows and tiled hearths.

Sutton Coldfield: Sutton Coldfield is a town on the outskirts of the city but it has a direct rail link with the centre. Inter-war semis with long driveways line streets such as Springfield Road. More Arts & Crafts houses are on Knighton Drive. These detached properties have large bay windows and mature gardens.

For something more modern, check out the contemporary three-storey town houses on Langley Park Way.

King's Heath: This area has plenty of inter-war houses. Chanston Avenue and Hazelhurst Road have 1920-30s houses with double bay windows and attached garages. More spacious detached versions can be found on Haunch Lane.

For something more modest, search along Drayton Road and Woodville Road for Edwardian terraces with bay windows.

Victorian house in Birmingham

Best ways to get around Birmingham

By rail: Birmingham's main train station is Birmingham New Street. It runs services to London Euston (85 minutes), Manchester Piccadilly (90 minutes) and Liverpool Lime Street (90 minutes) as well as Edinburgh, Leeds and Bristol.

However, the planned HS2 (High Speed 2) train services will link Birmingham to London, the East Midlands, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester. This new faster service will reduce journey times, cutting the travel time to London to 50 minutes.

Birmingham also operates a Metro tram service. Midland Metro runs between New Street and Wolverhampton, stopping at Bilston, Wednesbury and West Bromwich.

By car: Birmingham sits at the centre of the national motorway system. The M6 passes through the city and heads north to Manchester. Drivers can follow it south to get to London.

The M40 can be used as an alternative route to London, passing through Oxford on the way. Also heading south is the M5, which links the city to Worcester, Cheltenham and Bristol.

Another major road is the M42, which runs across the east of the city and links the M40 to the M6.

By air: Birmingham Airport is a 20-minute drive from the city centre via the M6 or a similar-length train journey from Birmingham New Street station. It has 50 airlines that offer flights to more than 100 direct destinations.

Terraced house in Birmingham

Best things to do in Birmingham

History: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery was first opened in 1885 and has 40 galleries within its landmark building. It has a dedicated gallery for the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest Anglo-Saxon hoard of gold ever found, as well as a renowned collection of Pre-Raphaelite artwork.

The Jewellery Quarter is more than 250 years old but is still home to more than 400 jewellery businesses. Visitors can tour the shops or visit the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, The Pen Museum and St Pauls Gallery to learn more about its history.

Cultural: Town Hall and Symphony Hall are Birmingham's prime concert halls. Symphony Hall is the home of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Town Hall has hosted internationally-renowned bands, including The Beatles.

The Rainbow Venues are 11 venues in former industrial spaces around Digbeth. They host atmospheric club nights, festivals, street food markets and art exhibitions.

Outdoors: Kings Heath Park is a 35-acre Green Flag park. It was originally a private estate but now has two playgrounds, a tea room and a bowling green. A particular highlight is the Television Garden, which has been developed over several years by a series of gardening shows.

Greater wilderness is available in Lickey Hills Country Park. It spans 524 acres and is just 10 miles south west of Birmingham. Its grounds consist of an attractive mix of woodland, heathland and open grassland.

Shopping: The focal point of Birmingham's retail is the Bullring. It's one of the largest shopping centres in the UK and has more than 160 stores, including designer shops. It also has a popular Food Hall.

Other centres include The Mailbox, which has fashion and lifestyle shops such as Harvey Nichols. The new Grand Central, above New Street station, also has 60 premium shops, including a large John Lewis store.

Quirkier independent shops are most easily found in the Custard Factory. The shops are housed in the restored riverside Victorian factories that were once responsible for making Bird's Custard. Today they are filled with 30 independent shops, salons, cafés, bars and a cinema.

Food and drink: Birmingham's restaurant scene provides cuisines from all over the world. Modu specialises in Korean food whereas Lasan is an Indian restaurant recommended by Gordon Ramsay.

However, the best Indian food in Birmingham can be found in the 'Balti Triangle'. Al Frash is one of the most recommended.

Restaurants in Birmingham also include several Michelin starred kitchens. Turners at 69 holds one Michelin Star and serves dishes such as wild sea bass with parsnip, barbecue leeks and red wine.

Period buildings in Birmingham

Hidden Birmingham

Birmingham has the last remaining examples of Victorian back-to-back workers' housing in the Midlands. These preserved 19th-century properties are owned by the National Trust can now be explored via a guided tour so you can learn how people worked and lived in these small houses.

5 reasons to live in Birmingham

  • Big city lifestyle
  • Great road and rail connections to the rest of the country
  • Retail hotspot – including the Bullring centre
  • Active arts and culture scene
  • Plenty of foodie destinations

Does Birmingham meet your expectations for big city life? Let us know in the comments below...

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