Birmingham – known as the second city of the United Kingdom – is a city and metropolitan borough in the county of West Midlands in England. It is the second-largest city in the United Kingdom, with a population of 1.145 million in the city proper; 2.92 million in the West Midlands metropolitan county; approximately 4.3 million in the wider metropolitan area – the largest metropolitan area outside of London.
Located centrally in the West Midlands region of England, approximately 100 miles (160 km) from London, it is considered to be the social, cultural, financial and commercial centre of the Midlands.
Historically a market town in Warwickshire in the mediaeval period, Birmingham grew during the 18th century during the Midlands Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, which saw advances in science, technology and economic development, producing a series of innovations that laid many of the foundations of modern industrial society. Its distinctive economic profile, with thousands of small workshops practising a wide variety of specialised and highly skilled trades, encouraged exceptional levels of creativity and innovation. This provided an economic base for prosperity that was to last into the final quarter of the 20th century.
It has five universities, Aston University, University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, University College Birmingham and Newman University – making it the largest centre of higher education in the country outside London.
It has a vibrant sports scene – with the following football teams in the city and nearby:
- Aston Villa
- Birmingham City
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
- West Bromwich Albion
Birmingham also boasts the Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society – the oldest tennis club in the world – and the Birmingham and District Cricket League – the oldest cricket league in the world.
Warwickshire County Cricket Club play at Edgbaston Cricket Ground – that also hosts test cricket and one day internationals and is the largest cricket ground in the United Kingdom after Lord’s.
The city is also home to professional Rugby Union clubs such as Birmingham Moseley and Birmingham & Solihull.
The AEGON Classic is, alongside Wimbledon and Eastbourne, one of only three UK tennis tournaments on the WTA Tour. It is played annually at the Edgbaston Priory Club.
Two major championship golf courses lie on the city’s outskirts. The Belfry near Sutton Coldfield – the headquarters of the Professional Golfers’ Association – that has hosted the Ryder Cup more times than any other venue: and the Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club near Birmingham Airport that is a regular host of tournaments on the PGA European Tour, including the British Masters and the English Open.
The Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr is the headquarters of UK Athletics, and one of only two British venues to host fixtures in the elite international IAAF Diamond League. It is also the home of Birchfield Harriers and has many international athletes among its members.
The National Indoor Arena is the only British indoor athletics fixture to qualify as an IAAF Indoor Permit Meeting – and a wide variety of other sporting events.
Professional boxing, hockey, skateboarding, stock-car racing, greyhound racing and speedway also take place within the city.
Birmingham has an international airport located 6 miles (9.7 km) east of the city centre in the neighbouring borough of Solihull, is the seventh busiest airport by passenger traffic in the UK and the third busiest outside the London area, after Manchester and Edinburgh. It is a major base for Flybe, Jet2, Ryanair and TUI Airways. Airline services operate from Birmingham to many destinations in Europe, Africa, the Americas, Middle East, Asia and Oceania.
The main railway station in the city is Birmingham New Street – the busiest railway station in the UK outside London. It is the national hub for CrossCountry – the most extensive long-distance train network in Britain and a major destination for Avanti West Coast services from London Euston, Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley. Other stations include Birmingham Moor Street and Birmingham Snow Hill that are the northern termini for Chiltern Railways express trains running from London Marylebone. Curzon Street railway station, which is currently under construction, will be the terminus for trains to the city on High Speed 2 (HS2) – the first phase of which will open around 2030.
Birmingham’s major cultural institutions – the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts – enjoy international reputations and the city has vibrant and influential grassroots art, music, literary and culinary scenes.
The city successfully hosted the 2022 Commonwealth Games and, as of 2022 is the third most visited city in the UK by people from foreign nations.