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Photograph: Kilo Ziro

The 25 best bars in Birmingham

From mead specialists and wine connoisseurs to Prohibition-style speakeasies, these are the best bars in Birmingham right now

Written by
Richard Franks
Contributors
James Brennan
&
Kayleigh Watson
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Birmingham is a city that somehow simultaneously fulfils expectations while being delightfully surprising. That trend is true of its bars, an impressive collection of venues that are as much about history and heritage as they are about style and sophistication. The bar scene here tells its own story of Birmingham, a tale that needs to be heard.

Sure, most might think of classic Victorian boozers and real ale pubs when they dream of nights out in Birmingham, but Brum does a fine line in colourful cocktails, speciality gins, and innovative craft spots. There is even a zero-waste bar, which happens to be spectacular. Birmingham, your bars are brilliant.

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At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Best bars in Birmingham

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars

Proclaimed the World Gin Bar of the Year in 2019 by Gin Magazine, 40 St Paul’s proudly presents no fewer than 140 of the only very finest gins. This is a cosy and intimate spot overlooking St Paul’s Church on Birmingham’s last remaining Georgian square – and with just 24 seats, you might want to book ahead.

2. 1000 Trades

During the Industrial Revolution, Birmingham was known as the City of a Thousand Trades, and this hip hangout in a listed building in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter is all about craft. From craft beers to natural organic wines, 1000 Trades is thoughtfully stocked with artisanal goodies. The same philosophy applies to the kitchen residencies, DJs and artwork adorning the exposed brick walls: everything is local, expertly crafted and proudly presented as the best of Brum.

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  • Bars and pubs

Bacchus makes the grade thanks to its sheer wackiness. It’s one of those places that’s always fun to duck into with a visiting friend, if only to watch their reaction to the extravagant decor. The bar is tucked away on the basement floor of the Burlington Arcade, a complex of hotels and shops in the centre of town located on one of Birmingham’s oldest streets. Dating back to 1398, this is a pub that’s taken the historical theme of the area, sprinkled a little bit of Hogwarts, and run wild with it. 

4. The Ruin

Said to be influenced by Budapest’s famous ruin bars, The Ruin is one of the city’s most underrated boozers. Digbeth is its home – an industrial street art-laden area sympathetic, in parts, with the style of Szimpla Kert and co in the Hungarian capital – and it couldn’t be more suited. The Ruin is famous not only for its rustic decor but its excellent beer selection and a banging Sunday roast.

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5. Couch

Couch is somewhat of a stalwart in Stirchley’s booming drinks scene – and it’s easy to see why. Ranked by The Daily Telegraph among the world’s best 20 bars in 2021, this cosy neighbourhood cocktail spot is spearheaded by some of the city’s brightest bartenders, with the previous cocktail selection inspired by musical legends and their finest tracks.

6. Ikigai

This Japanese-themed cocktail bar is one of the city’s more original neighbourhood gems – partly down to its use of rare ingredients. Cocktails include sought-after ingredients like the tropical plant pandan, while a healthy selection of speciality sake is also on offer.

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7. Nortons

Creamy pints is all you need to know. On a more serious note, Irish bar Nortons is probably Birmingham’s best pint of Guinness and also one of its top party spots. By day, it’s an unassuming, warehouse-style Irish bar showing live sports and serving up hand-stretched pizzas, but by night, you’ll have no choice but to get stuck in with the live trad music. Sláinte!

8. The Botanist

With locations scattered across the country, you’ve probably heard of The Botanist by now. If not, you’re in for a treat. They take what they do seriously, and by ‘seriously’, we’re talking taste and portion size; the hanging kebabs (yep, it’s just what it sounds like) are a firm favourite. The liquid offerings are similarly generous, with the range of botany-themed cocktails making it a winner for all taste buds and gardening fans. Some cocktails are even served in mini plant pots. 

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9. Attic

Attic is a thriving Stirchley taproom with a very famous beer in these parts: Intuition. Their flagship pale draws craft aficionados from all over the country to sample it for themselves – and they’re never disappointed. Keep an eye on Attic’s social media to see which brewery they’re collaborating with next. Furthermore, Bournville railway station is next door; you won’t even need a designated driver.

10. Grain & Glass

Those into a wee dram or two should look no further than Grain & Glass. Home of the Birmingham Whisky Club for the last decade-plus, this Jewellery Quarter bar is home to some of the finest and rarest whiskies you’re likely to find in a bar outside of Scotland. Well over 300 different whiskies are on the cards here, and private tastings can also be booked.

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