Birmingham, West Midlands

Discover why Birmingham was chosen as one of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2022 in their words.

Stroud, Gloucestershire

Va va Brum. You’ll be seeing a lot of Britain’s second city this year — and not just Peaky Blinders on the small screen. The Commonwealth Games will put the city on the global map in the summer, and new film studios will add a sprinkle of stardust to Digbeth, already the UK’s jolliest work and play zone, and HS2 is arriving.

But it’s not gangs in flat caps building empires here — rather blue-chip businesses such as Lloyds, HSBC and Goldman Sachs. With low-rise suburbs stretching for miles in all directions, Birmingham is not short of houses. So where to base yourself?

The Jewellery Quarter remains the shiniest diamond in a city where some areas would benefit from a little more polish. Plenty of jewellery is still made here, but this area is about much more than metalwork. It’s Birmingham’s most attractive neighbourhood, with history oozing out of the lovely old workshops and warehouses in the streets surrounding St Paul’s Square in the shadow of the BT Tower (a reminder, along with an NCP car park, that you’re not in 1850 any more).

The 6,000 residents have 80 restaurants and cafés to choose from, along with art galleries, smart shops and, in the Jam House, an intimate live music venue, and, in Albert’s Schloss, a venue for intimate late-night fun. And it is just 1 hour 50 minutes from London Marylebone.

Away from the centre, you are spoilt for choice. South is always best here and last year’s picks still hold good: up-and-coming Stirchley for its zesty bars and restaurants, and tranquil Bournville, the model village that’s more William Morris than Willy Wonka.

Traditionally, the title of king of the Birmingham ’burbs has been a two-way fight between professional Harborne and boho Moseley. Our pick for 2022? Kings Heath, one of the city’s greenest, pleasant and most diverse neighbourhoods. The big news is that a new station is on the way, as part of a plan to reopen the Camp Hill line to passengers. There won’t be any trains until 2023 at the earliest, but in the meantime there’s plenty to admire while you sit patiently on the No 50 bus.

Kings Heath is close enough to Moseley to share in its independent spirit, but far enough to escape the muesli-belt house prices. It has good schools and cracking green spaces in Kings Heath Park, with playgrounds, a tearoom and a plant nursery, and wilder Highbury Park, a haven for birds and bees. The Hare & Hounds is another of Brum’s music venues and there’s sport too, with a cricket, squash and hockey club, plus golf at Cocks Moors Woods where there’s also a leisure centre with a pool.

The high street has been on an upward curve for years, and you don’t have to look far to find an interesting bar or quirky shop on the side streets, such as the craft and knitting shop Armadillo, or Grace + James, an organic wine and cheese outlet, whose owner Sophie Poultney couldn’t be happier here. “We love Kings Heath —  a perfect balance of city living and lovely green open spaces. Plus we have a friendly local community, and plenty of independently owned amenities right on our doorstep,” she says.

High Street

The Jewellery Quarter is still dominated by jewellers, and there are some interesting art galleries and shops — especially the RBSA gallery. There’s a choice of chemists and Tesco Expresses within easy walking distance, and pretty much everything else can be found in the city centre. Shopping may be limited, but not so eating and drinking. Highlights range from breakfast at the Hylton Cafe, freshly made bagels (smoked salmon £7) and doughnuts for lunch at Saint Kitchen, to Indian fine dining at Asha’s, Lasan or Opheem, which has a Michelin star (ten-course tasting menu £115). 

Things are a little more down-to-earth on the main drag in Kings Heath, where Lidl, Asda and Peacocks scream convenience rather than aspiration. You don’t have to look hard to find some independent gems, though. There’s Johnstan’s butcher, Top Banana for vintage clothes, Cooshoo for children’s shoes and A Painted Room for vintage-tinged homewares.

No tasting menus here, but lovers of Indian food can take their pick from a trio of top-class curry joints: Kings Indian Dining, Sylhet Spice and Poplar Balti, for a weekend treat after the kids are in bed. Gorilla Coffee Cafe will meet your brunch and coffee needs, and fix your bike at the same time, while Grace + James serves burrata (£7.50) or charcuterie plates to help you to down its ever-changing selection of natural wines. 

Connections

The Jewellery Quarter has its own station, although Birmingham Snow Hill is just as close (depending on where you live, of course) and has trains to London Marylebone (1 hour 50 minutes) as well as to Stratford-upon-Avon and Worcester (both 1 hour) and Stourbridge Junction (30 minutes). On foot, it’s a 20-minute walk to New Street station, from where trains take 85 minutes to London and 1 hour 40 minutes to Manchester. Allow an extra five minutes to the Bullring shopping centre.

Until the Camp Hill line from New Street to Kings Norton reopens (other stops will be Moseley and Stirchley), you will have to rely on the 50 or 35 buses, which take a shade under 30 minutes to New Street Station. By car it’s a 30-minute drive to the M42.

Broadband

The Jewellery Quarter and central Birmingham have lots of locations where speeds are slower than 20 Mbps, but pick carefully and you can find Gigabit broadband from Hyperoptic or Openreach. Kings Heath is better served, with very few slow spots, and is covered by Virgin Media and also Openreach full-fibre.

Schools

The Jewellery Quarter isn’t really a family area, although there are plenty of schools within a mile radius. Most of the primaries are rated good by Ofsted. Of the secondaries, Nishkam High was rated outstanding in 2014 while the Jewellery Quarter Academy requires improvement.

Kings Heath has an embarrassment of riches. Among the local secondaries, King Edward VI Camp Hill schools for boys and girls are rated outstanding, as are Selly Park Girls’ School, Wheelers Lane Technology College, Queensbridge, Swanshurst, and Kings Norton Girls’ School. Outstanding primaries include Woodthorpe and Moor Green. The nearest private option is King Edward’s School, rated 33rd best in the country by The Sunday Times Parent Power guide (fees £4,885 a term).

Best Address

In the Jewellery Quarter, St Paul’s Square is best for atmosphere and facilities, and you don’t have to stray far to find stylish apartments in developments such as Derwent House or the Pressworks. The biggest and best flats can cost well over £500,000, but prices for a decent two-bedder start at around £200,000. In Kings Heath, Cambridge Road is top of the tree. Handsome period four and five-bedroom semis here can fetch upwards of £650,000. Valentine Road and Springfield Road are fine alternatives. 

Property prices

Average house price: £234,000 
Growth since 2020: 12% 
Source: Halifax using Land Registry data

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Prices are correct as of April 2022.

Halifax is a division of Bank of Scotland plc. Registered in Scotland No. SC327000. Registered Office: The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1YZ. Bank of Scotland plc is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under registration number 169628.