Once a byword for bad town planning, England's second-largest city – known to locals as 'Brum' – is shaking off the legacy of industrial decline, and spending some serious money replacing its drab 1960s concrete architecture with gleaming glass and steel. The town centre looks better than it has done in decades, helped in no small part by the revitalised Bullring centre, and the iconic Selfridges building, which looks out over the city like the compound eye of a giant robot insect.
With its industrial legacy and chaotic road network, Birmingham might not leap out as a tourist attraction, but there's a lot to see, including some fine museums and galleries, and the nightlife and food are the best in the Midlands. Sleek Modern British restaurants dominate in the centre, while the 'burbs were the birthplace of the balti – England's unique contribution to the world of curry, invented by Pakistani workers who moved here in the 1970s.
Best places to stay in Birmingham
Globetrotting for chocoholics
Love chocolate? Discover how to feel full of beans on this non-stop choc-focused tour of the planet. Flanders, Belgium Belgians love chocolate almost as much as they love beer – which is to say, a lot.