Birmingham, West Midlands
Discover why Birmingham was chosen as one of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2022 in their words.
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.
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Prices are correct as of April 2022.
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