There's plenty to do and see - in and out of a spa - in the UK's second biggest city. Birmingham doesn't sound like the most zen-like place to go for a chill out break, after all, it's an industrial city and not immediately associated with calm and peace. You'll be pleasantly surprised with what you find when you stop over, though.
The west Midlands is a fantastic area for unspoiled countryside, and the Lickey and Clent Hills aren't too far from the action. There's also a surprising 8000 acres of public parks and gardens in and around Birmingham. You have to pay the gorgeous Cannon Hill Park a visit if you're looking for green space, and a trip to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses or the pretty walled garden at Castle Bromwich Hall is bound to do wonders for your inner calm.
Canals and historical buildings are all around the city if you want to get a real feel for the background to Birmingham while you're there. If you're staying a while, and want some real English culture and history, you're close enough to places like Stratford-upon-Avon for the famous theatres, Shakespeare's birthplace and the adorable Anne Hathaway's cottage.
The city itself boasts the Birmingham Royal Ballet (formerly known as Sadler's Wells) and the not-to-be missed Jewellery Quarter which dates back well over 250 years and is a designated heritage site as well as home to over 100 specialist jewellers.
Museums like the Birmingham Back to Backs, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and historical buildings complement the vibrant, modern city that's bustling with fabulous places to flex your credit card - Selfridges and Harvey Nichols for starters!
- the fairlawns hotel and spa is a lovely privately owned hotel set in nine acres of landscaped gardens just ten miles outside of birmingham, and open for day spa packages as well as overnight stays. beautiful pools and contemporary exercise suites are there for you to be energetic in if you feel the need, but if you/"re in chilling out mode, head for the treatment rooms and experience one of the indulgent treatments, pad around in your comfy slippers and robe and help yourself to the unlimited refreshments.
- Everyone's favourite, the Holiday Inn Bromsgrove, Birmingham is more than you'd expect - and the spa facilities are pretty impressive here. Everything from natural ingredients and high-end spa brands like Guinot to hi-tech Hydradermie facials are on offer, as well as St Tropez tanning and more. The deck level swimming pool is a fantastic relaxation area, fully stocked with glossy magazines, and there's a cute sun terrace for catching some rays later.
- Staying in the beautiful Grade II listed Coventry Country House Hotel has some great benefits location wise - it's close to the NEC, just three miles from Coventry city centre and 15 miles from Birmingham. The hotel has some gorgeous landscaped gardens and parkland to explore, and the Spindles health club has its very own 18m heated pool, sauna and steam room, fitness centre and of course the spa with delectable treatments to sample. Guests are charged £2.50 a day to use all the facilities - or you can book a pamper day?
- There might be a sharp intake of breath when you first spot the Radisson Blu Hotel in Birmingham city centre - after all, it's hard to miss a 39-storey designer hotel! An ideal for a central location, the hotel is stunning and the You Spa also features some first class treatments spread over three therapy rooms and the spa's signature Sarah Jones London spa treatments and products. The fantastic views from the gym may even entice you to work out!
- The Best Western Premier Moor Hall Hotel & Spa is a lovely place to stay and unwind on a spa break, or just enjoy a pamper day. The four star country house hotel is set in some beautiful parkland in Sutton Coldfield, not too far from Birmingham, and it's easily accessible by road and rail. Choose from up to the minute spa facials and body treatments with Thalgo products - or opt for a healing reflexology or massage treatment. Then you can take a dip in the fabulous pool or Jacuzzi, chill out in the spa lounge or work out hard in the gym, whatever you fancy.
In the city that's recently started it's very own 'Food Fest' every October, there's bound to be something for all types of foodie to enjoy. The Birmingham Food Fest is an event that celebrates the diversity of Birmingham's food, so it's a must if you want a gastronomic treat as well as a spa break.
- Meanwhile, it would be remiss not to mention the famous Birmingham Balti Triangle. The city is brimming with fantastic award-winning Indian restaurants and is well known for an appreciation of different types of Indian cuisine, so get down to the Curry capital of the UK and try a few of the chef's specials. The Balti Triangle is roughly the area around Sparkhill, Balsall Heath and Moseley and there are far too many great restaurants to recommend just one, so head over there and pick one for yourself!
Address: 186 Ladypool Road, Sparkhill, BIRMINGHAM B12 8JS
Tel: 0121 753 3120
- San Carlo Ristorante is a top notch Italian eaterie on temple street, ideal for anyone wanting authentic Italian dishes and a stunning setting in which to eat them. It's a celebrity favourite, has won awards and it's ideally located right in the centre of the city. The menu choice is breathtaking in itself, with a possibly over the top 150 dishes - but the restaurant has an enviable reputation for its great fish dishes if you're looking for a tip. Another tip - it's best to book in advance.
Address: 4 Temple St Birmingham, West Midlands B2 5BN
Tel: 0121 633 0251
- Opened in September 2009, but given the accolade of an A A Three Rosettes award after just four months, Loves Restaurant is the perfect place for a quiet, intimate dinner by the canal side. It must be good, it's also been voted one of Birmingham's top five restaurants, and there are plenty to choose from. Choose from an a la carte, set or taster menu, with dishes that use fresh ingredients, locally sourced where possible. Scrumptious.
Address: The Glasshouse, 3 Canal Square, Birmingham, West Midlands B168FL
Tel: 0121 454 5151
- The only fine dining style restaurant in Birmingham that offers authentic Malaysian dishes - the stylish Oriental Bar and Restaurant on Wharfside Street is ideal for anyone who likes their food spicy and classy. With a reputation for great food and fine wines, the menu encompasses dishes from Thailand, Malaysia, China and Japan.
Address: The Mailbox, 120-122 Wharfside St, Birmingham, West Midlands B1 1RQ
Tel: 0121 633 9988
- Trendy Apres on Summer Row is the perfect place to be seen at when you're enjoying a bite in Birmingham. It's part of the uber-trendy Summer Row development, and features a multitude of little places indoors and outside where you can chill out, enjoy some great food and a drink or two. It's popular for the ambience and unusually-styled interiors and ideal if you're looking for somewhere to eat with a relaxed vibe and great menu.
Address: 39 Summer Row, Birmingham, B3 1JJ
Tel: 0121 710 4233
- If you're in the financial district, sit back and watch the busy-types as you relax in Edmunds. Open all day for delicious food, the restaurant prides itself on using fresh, local ingredients and offers a selection of tasty snacks to full-on filling meals, all washed down with something from the pretty impressive wine list or selection of traditional ales (Edmunds has made it into the CAMRA Good Beer Guide too).
Address: Six Brindleyplace, Birmingham, England B1 2JB
Tel: 0121 633 4944
There are more students in Birmingham than in any other city in the UK outside London, so it's hardly surprising that the nightlife is vibrant and energetic. Everything's catered for here from bars and clubs to theatres, concerts and comedy. Not forgetting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Royal Ballet for culture vultures...
For clubbers, there's plenty of choice - Gatecrasher Birmingham with its four clubs in one venue, Hed Kandi and Superstar Boudoir nights is a must-visit for serious clubbers, and Miss Moneypenny's is hard to resist. Or you could head off to the Legendary Q Club which puts on regular events like Cream and Raveology in the old Methodist Central Hall on Corporation Street. The Q Club was brought back to life in 2007 and the impressive building has a total of seven rooms - including the Chapel, Loft and fantastic Main Arena.
Mechu is a sophisticated bar, club and grill on Summer Row that's ideal for a more laid back night on the town. It's laid back and trendy, the bar decor is all exposed brickwork, candles and fabulous purple timber flooring, and you can enjoy cocktails, wine and champagnes, or a beer or two if it takes your fancy. Move into the club for a bit of VIP treatment, the posh Champagne Bar and private booths - and not to mention an eclectic, stylish music selection to keep you in the clubbing mood all night.
If you like your nights out to be massive, you'll love the Oceana entertainment venue with its five bars and two clubs, all with a completely different atmosphere. The venue also hosts the famous Jongleurs comedy nights, and it's a favourite with celebs so you might spot a few famous faces in the VIP area.
For a night out with a bit of a difference, the Grosvenor G Casino on the Fiveways Leisure Complex might be up your street... and not just if you fancy a bit of a gamble. They also hold live entertainment nights every Friday and offer free parking along with everything you'd expect to find in a gambling emporium.
Music lovers will already know about the Birmingham NEC, O2 Arena and LG Arena but if you feel like investigating Birmingham's own music scene, try 'Birmingham's Best Rock pub' - the wonderfully-named Scruffy Murphy's on Newton Street, catering for anything from classic rock and ska to punk and thrash metal, they also do food and some great beers. Or you could head towards West Bromwich and visit the arty The Public for live shows and bands.
The Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath is another music and entertainment Mecca, with a live music offering that covers all genres as well as comedy nights, vintage fairs, spoken word events and even quizzes.
You must get over to the Jewellery Quarter if you're in Birmingham, just to see it even if you don't have the credit card limit to be able to splash out. It's said that around 40 per cent of all the Jewellery made in the UK comes from here, and you'll find over a hundred specialists and craftspeople at work. You could indulge in something ready-made or even commission your own piece. The Quarter is also home to Europe's largest School of Jewellery, and some examples of the work are often on display at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, St Paul's Square and the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter which is on Vyse Street.
The best-known shopping centre in Birmingham is undeniably the Bullring...it's right in the heart of the Birmingham action, and choc-full of designer and high street shops that will tempt the money out of your bank account in no time. It's one of the UK's biggest shopping centres, and is also home to Selfridges which comes complete with a food hall that's hard to resist.
For some upmarket style, The Mailbox is the ideal place to spend some time indulging yourself. Not just home to top shopping and designer fashion (Emporio Armani and Hugo Boss just for starters) there's also luxury hotels, spa and salon facilities, bars and cafes to chill out in as well as a Harvey Nichols to peruse...
For a pretty place to do your retail therapy, check out the hand-painted ceiling of the Piccadilly Arcade, which is just off New Street. Best for independent and specialist shops, it's also something of a fashion hotspot and there are some high end jewellers there too. If your manicure needs a top up there's also the Marco Benito nail bar.
If centres aren't your style, the main shopping streets are New Street, Corporation Street and High Street, with Martineau Place another place to pay a visit just off of Corporation Street. There's also an excellent food curt, in the Pavilions Centre close to High Street.
BIRMINGHAM'S TOP THREE SPAS
- The Sensory Spa in Birmingham's bannatyne priory health club is just perfect for popping into when you're in the city, with all the spa facilities you'd expect from a top class spa like bannatyne/"s in an easily accessible location. As with the other Bannatyne spas, the Sensory Spa here is packed full of all the latest spa treatments and Elemis products, added to an enviable selection of complementary therapies and a top class gym, studio or pool to work out in if all the relaxation gets a bit too much for you.
- If you want a spa that's right in the centre of the city, the fabulous amala spa could well be the choice for you. It's an urban day spa offering day and half day packages too, found in the Hyatt Regency Birmingham. The spa has been designed by those in the know to give weary travellers a respite from the daily hustle and bustle of Birmingham city life. Amala is a stylish, relaxing haven with state of the art therapy rooms, Pure Spa treatments, a private Hammam and the beautiful Tranquillity Ritual. All complemented with a tea lounge serving fine loose leaf teas. Blissful!
- Ok, so it's not in Birmingham, but the walton hall - the hotel collection isn't far away from the city and it deserves an accolade just because it's gorgeous. it/"s half an hour from the NEC and less than an hour from Birmingham city centre, so the perfect retreat if you like the action but enjoy peace and quiet too; not to mention the attractions of Stratford upon Avon. Head here for the relaxation in a restored old English stately home, complete with fabulously relaxing spa facilities and acres of gardens to wander at your leisure.