Known as England’s “Second City,” Birmingham is a former industrial boomtown that has gradually turned into a contemporary city, packed with creative restaurants, trendy cocktail bars, and classic English pubs. Much of the city looks the way it did a hundred years ago, but there are flashes of wild modernism to be seen. Check out the gleaming Library of Birmingham and the quirky Selfridges Building, an interesting display of “blobitecture” that looks like it’s been completely shrouded in bubble wrap.

Birmingham has a long history of Irish culture due to the large number of immigrants that came here a century ago, and the district of Digbeth is full of traditional Irish pubs and plays host to the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration outside of Ireland. Perhaps the coolest thing about exploring Birmingham is the fact that you don’t necessarily have to ride a bus or hoof it around town; you can take a canal tour. Hop on one of the many boats offering sightseeing trips down the old canals that snake their way through the city for a unique perspective.

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