Birmingham has a population of more than a million, a thriving student scene driven by five universities, and a healthy young professional market who love to work hard and play harder.
Given all this, it’s not surprising that the city is heaving with bars and pubs. These watering holes range from classy to edgy, and from budget to wallet-busting. Whether you’re after Brazilian cachaça, a rhubarb and almond bellini, or just an achingly cool craft beer with a ironic name like Beat the Dying Skunkrabbit, you’ll find it here.
The surprising one: Prince of Wales
The Prince, as it’s fondly known, is a tardis of a pub – with a few surprises hidden behind its traditional exterior and deceptively small front section. Without giving away too much, suffice it to say that this pub has something for everyone, and is a good choice whether the weather is sunny or soggy.
Fans of cigars, cheese and wine, cask ale and tropical cocktails will all be well-satisfied with what’s on offer at this eclectic venue.
118 Alcester Rd, Moseley, B13 8EE (0121 449 4198, www.theprincemoseley.co.uk)
The popular one: The Church Inn
Their website invites you to ‘come and kneel at the high altar of decadence’. And it wouldn’t be totally outrageous to say that there’s a bit of a cult developing around The Church Inn. Located in the Jewellery Quarter, this gem is a soul-food-serving, Deep-South-inspired bar with a passion for live music and regular events like crayfish parties.
Drinks-wise, expect classic Negronis and Old-Fashioneds, as well as any other cocktail thanks to the extensive list of spirits and liqueurs available.
22 Great Hampton St, Jewellery Quarter, B18 6AQ (0121 448 3866, churchjq.co.uk)
The secret one: The Site Office
Staying in the Jewellery Quarter, if you’re lucky you’ll stumble across a hidden rough diamond where the party atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. The Site Office is a bit of an underground bar with a cool, often bearded crowd and a chilled-out DJ at the helm. Access is by invitation only, so start making friends with the locals if you want to visit this exclusive spot.
The cocktail one: Island Bar
Even before it got a special mention in a Lonely Planet guide, Island Bar enjoyed a formidable reputation as Birmingham’s cocktail specialist. Claiming to have ‘the most comprehensive spirit and liqueur collection in the West Midlands’, the split-level bar serves many of its own creations.
The tropical drinks draw inspiration from the Pacific islands and the Caribbean, and the unusually late Happy Hour is perfect for weekend plans – from 8pm to 10pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
14-16 Suffolk Street Queensway, B1 1LT (0121 632 5296, www.bar-island.co.uk)
The flamboyant one: Bacchus
The name itself might give you a small clue. Bacchus is without doubt one of Birmingham’s most flamboyantly decorated pubs. Game of Thrones fans will love the vaulted stone dungeon and gothic features, while those more into Georgians or Victorians will enjoy the ornate ‘library’, with its golden-framed mirrors and leather-bound volumes.
Don’t miss the Egyptian room either, where you can raise a beer in the company of pharaohs and test your skills at reading hieroglyphics.
Burlington Arcade, New Street, B2 4JH (0121 632 5445, website)
The foodie one: The Plough
A great place to while away the hours on a weekend afternoon, The Plough is an institution based in Harborne: a quaint Victorian suburb of Birmingham. The pub is famous for its authentic stone-baked pizzas, in high demand on two-for-one Mondays. The burgers also deserve a special mention, with options like pulled Cajun chicken and chilli beef up for grabs (two for one on Tuesdays).
The brunch menu boasts delicious choices like eggs royale, pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, and a range of refreshing smoothies to wash it all down.
21 High St, B17 9NT (0121 427 3678, theploughharborne.co.uk)
The music-lover’s one: Bull’s Head
There always seems to be something going on at the Bull’s Head, whether it’s a Monday night reggae session, a Wednesday night art exhibition, a Friday night Soul and Funk party or a Saturday night electro-disco.
The drinks are almost secondary to the atmosphere in this venue, which is split across three sections including the outdoor area, very much a place to hang out in its own right. This pub-cum-club prides itself on its list of classic cocktails – think Black Russian, Midori Sour, Caipirinha and Cosmopolitan.
23 St Mary’s Row, Moseley, B13 8HW (0121 256 7777, bullsheadmoseley.co.uk)
The fabulous one: Champagne Bar at The Cube
With 360-degree views over the second-largest city in the United Kingdom, the Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar is a bar fizzing with wow factor. Head up there just before sundown and enjoy the transition from day to night, watching the lights of Birmingham come on from 25 floors up.
If you’re not too scared of heights, you can relax on the outdoor terrace or simply stand at the glass- walled edge of the building and look down.
200 Wharfside St, The Cube, B1 1PR (0121 634 3433, website)
The gourmet one: Ginger’s Bar
Fig liqueur, vanilla and cinnamon sugar, honey water and other decadent essences are the building blocks of the Ginger’s cocktail menu. This is a place where you should forget about your fall-back drink and opt for something new and exotic each time.
And if you feel peckish, remember that the bar is part and parcel of Purnell’s Bistro, owned by one of Birmingham’s top chefs. Find out more about the bar snacks and food on offer here.
11 Newhall St, B3 3NY (0121 200 1588, website)
The craft beer one: The Wellington
The Welly is an unpretentious pub with a well-deserved reputation for serving up some of the region’s most authentic brews. The Black Country brewery is well-represented, as is Purity, a major craft brewery in The Midlands, with its HQ situated out in the Warwickshire countryside.
The Wellington is a darling of CAMRA, winning their Pub of the Year award five times. So even the most hardcore hopheads can rest assured this pub will meet your needs.
37 Bennett’s Hill, B2 5SN (0121 200 3115, www.thewellingtonrealale.co.uk)
Find these great bars on our Birmingham map:
Get a taste at Birmingham Independent Food Fair
To discover more of Birmingham’s bars, drinks merchants and regional breweries, you’d do well to pop along to Birmingham Independent Food Fair, where the city’s cocktail, gin, whisky and beer-lovers will have a blast sampling the local liquids.