The perks of Birmingham city centre

As our new employee Jessica Blythe-Green settles into her new home in Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, she tells us what she has found exciting about the city over the last few weeks…Shopping!

Jess in the city

One Month In… Time to shop!

When living in a city, access to good shops and bars is important to live up to the desired cosmopolitan lifestyle as a twenty-something. Taking the plunge and moving to a large city, has definitely for me, opened my eyes to the vast array of excellent shops and fancy bars, especially moving from a small historic market town, with a limited selection of both. Now that I have lived in the Jewellery Quarter for just over a month now, and have dipped my toe into the ‘spoilt for choice’ nature the city has to offer, venturing the fifteen-or-so minute walk to New Street and also around the local streets of the JQ. When you ask someone what they know about Birmingham – people usually say “oh yeah, it has the Bull Ring” however this norm is expanding to include the newly opened Grand Central and the increasing selection of small boutiques around the JQ.

Figures have shown that over the last couple of years, more and more tourists are venturing to Birmingham to take advantage of its superb shopping around (New Street, Bull Ring and Grand Central…), eateries and host events including the Rugby World Cup at Villa Park, and the England Vs Australian Test Match held in Edgbaston – I really am starting to grasp the city’s importance and exciting future as The Second City in the UK. Although I would love to say that I would have attended the Test Cricket and the Rugby World Cup, those who know me would just know I’d be lying if said that I stayed up until the early hours of the morning trying to get tickets.

More expectedly of a twenty-something, the growth of the fashion culture in the city fuels excitement (and noticeably my overdraft) to be part of a rapidly growing city. I really get the sense that the opening of Grand Central is the tip of the iceberg for new and exciting times for Birmingham. Located next to New Street and within a small leap and a hop from the Bull Ring, from what I have seen, Grand Central offers chic shopping experience with a worthy selection of bars and restaurants.

The architecture of the building is contemporary on its exterior offering sculpted mirror metal walls, reflecting light and illuminating its position amongst the streets close by. Inside, the domed glass ceiling allows an enormous amount of light into the shopping area and station, keeping the space feeling fresh and modern. Shaped circularly, with access to the train station located on the ground floor, the shops, bars and restaurants are located in a ring above the train station. For the fashionistas, shops include John Lewis, Hobbs, Pandora, The White Company, Joules and Cath Kidston. I get the impression that the Grand Central shopping experience at the moment is tailored to suit more feminine shopping, or for those partners who have forgotten it’s their anniversary and must make the mad-dash shop before catching their train home after work – we all know it happens… Luckily the shops are upmarket and if the latter were the case, fashion options include good clothing, an array of country-chic items to pretty statement jewellery.

Preferably the eateries and bars are what I think excel in Grand Central. Restaurants currently include chain-affairs such as Carluccio’s, Giraffe, Handmade Burger Co and Eds Diner. For a more original experience, on offer there is Square Pie – an award-winning pie restaurant, Tortilla the in-trend Californian-Mexican food, and lastly, my favourite Frizzenti – a wine bar with both sparkling and still wine on tap! The perfect spot for a mid-shopping break or breakfast if it’s your birthday…

Although the buzz of the city centre fashion and food scene is super, I like to find smaller and more niche bars and shops to break away from the crowd. The Jewellery Quarter, (as you can tell from my endless love statements about the area) does offer this. My absolute favourite shop I have found so far is Braderie. Located on Caroline Street, Braderie offers a slice of retro and edgy vintage clothing, with an abundance of denim jackets, bespoke two-piece outfits, snazzy Ralph Lauren shirts and popular Barbour jackets. On top of this, there are some trendy homeware items which can bring vintage-chic to any home in the JQ. I love this shop. Not only are the clothes excellent and affordable, but they also offer you a stand-out-of-the-crowd look, but the owners are also very friendly and accommodating and give you a friendly yet relaxed shopping experience.

After living in Birmingham for just over a month now, although my purse is taking a suffering, shopping – whether in the Bull Ring, Grand Central or the small boutiques around the JQ, has lived up to city-life expectations, and with the rapid growth around the city, I feel that I have moved to the area at the perfect time!

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