Stratford-upon-Avon and the Heart of England Feature


Cruising Birmingham's Canals

With eight canals and 34 miles of waterways, Birmingham has more canals in its center than Venice. The city is at the heart of a system of waterways built during the Industrial Revolution to connect inland factories to rivers and seaports—by 1840 the canals extended more than 4,000 miles throughout the British Isles. These canals, which carried 9 million tons of cargo a year in the late 19th century and helped make the city an industrial powerhouse, have undergone extensive cleanup and renovation, and are now a tourist attraction.

A walk along the Birmingham Canal Main Line near the Gas Street Basin will bring you to modern shops, restaurants, and more developments such as Brindleyplace in one direction and the Mailbox in the other, and you can see the city from an attractive new perspective. Contact the city tourist offices for maps of pleasant walks along the towpaths and canal cruises on colorfully painted barges.

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. The museum is built around the workshops of Smith & Pepper, a firm that operated here for more than 80 years. Little had changed here since the early 1900s when they finally closed their doors in 1981. A factory tour (about an hour) and exhibits explain the history of the neighborhood and the jeweler's craft, and you can watch demonstrations of jewelry being made in the traditional way. 75–79 Vyse St., Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B18 6HA. 0121/554–3598. £5. Tues.–Sat. and national holidays 10:30–5; last admission 1 hr before closing.

Sherborne Wharf. Birmingham has around 100 miles of navigable canals, and you can take a ride on a barge from Sherborne Wharf. Trips leave daily April through October at 11:30, 1, 2:30, and 4, and on weekends the rest of the year, departing from the International Convention Centre Quayside. An hour long trip costs £8. Sherborne St., City Centre, Birmingham, B16 8DE. 0121/455–6163.

Thinktank. This interactive museum in the state-of-the-art Millennium Point center allows you to explore science and the history of Birmingham over four floors of galleries. You can watch giant steam engines at work, explore deep space, program a robot to play the drums, and help perform a hip operation; it's great for families. The IMAX cinema and planetarium put on shows throughout the day. The museum is a 10-minute walk from Moor Street railway station. Curzon St., Digbeth, Birmingham, B4 7XG. 0121/202–2222. £12.30; IMAX cinema £4–£13; planetarium £1.50–£3. Daily 10–5; last admission 1 hr before closing.

Updated: 10-2013

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