Birmingham's grandest civic buildings are clustered around pedestrianised Victoria Square, at the western end of New St, dominated by the stately facade of Council House, built between 1874 and 1879. Public art here includes modernist sphinxes and a fountain topped by a naked female figure, dubbed 'the floozy in the Jacuzzi', overlooked by a disapproving statue of Queen Victoria.
To the west, Centenary Square is bookended by the art deco Hall of Memory War Memorial, the International Convention Centre and the Symphony Hall. There's a gleaming golden statue of the leading lights from Birmingham's Industrial Revolution: Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdoch. Centenary Sq's showpiece is the spiffing Library of Birmingham.
During the industrial age, Birmingham was a major hub on the English canal network and today the city has more miles of canals than Venice. Narrow boats still float through the heart of the city, passing a string of glitzy wharfside developments.
Birmingham has been a major jewellery player since Charles II acquired a taste for it in 17th-century France. The gentrifying Jewellery Quarter, three-quarters of a mile northwest of the city centre, still produces 40% of UK-manufactured jewellery. Dozens of workshops open to the public are listed online at www.jewelleryquarter.net.
Take the Metro from Snow Hill or the train from Moor St to the Jewellery Quarter station.