From hitting Birmingham clubs to sampling its live music and whiling away the evening in one of its best pubs, Birmingham certainly knows how to bring the party. Its bars, though, are what it's all about for many. Birmingham's best bars really do know a thing or two about showing we revellers a very good time indeed. From deliciously decadent DJ bars to underground drinking dens and those secret little spots only the very coolest of cool kids know about, Birmingham's got drinking down. We've put together our favourite places to partake in a tipple or two, so take a look and slide up to that bar. Bottoms up.
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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 décor within. The bar is tucked away on the basement floor of the Burlington Arcade, a complex of hotels and shops in the centre of town, and 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 and ran wild with it.
This is a bar with definite wow factor, thanks mostly to its position 25 storeys above street level, which commands fantastic views of Birmingham on two sides. You’ll find the Champagne Bar at the top of The Cube, a luxury city-centre development with canalside views. The building also houses several cafés, restaurants, a gym, health spa, hotel and private apartments. Located next to the Mailbox and near to Brindleyplace, it’s the perfect spot to start (or finish) a night of bar-hopping in the area.
Ginger’s is part of a prestigious family tree. It’s housed within Purnell’s Bistro, which, along with the nearby restaurant of the same name, is owned by Birmingham’s renowned Michelin-starred chef, Glynn Purnell. The decor is sleek and impressive without being overly fancy. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and the staff are friendly. Plus, the bartenders really know their stuff. The cocktails (around £6-£9) are expert blends ranging from the classic to the contemporary.
This is one of Birmingham’s best-known and most-loved cocktail bars – and for good reason. It’s part of a local family encompassing other creative venues such as The Victoria and Bodega, but Island Bar stands out among them all. Located in the city centre, this place can be found near the recently revitalised John Bright Street, which is the scene for a number of new restaurants, cafés and bars. Island Bar is also a neighbour of the Alexandra Theatre, making it an ideal stop for pre or post-show tipples.
Loki is one of Birmingham’s real treasures. Essentially a wine merchant where you can also enjoy a few drinks, it has gained recognition outside the city with plaudits from both the wine industry and the national news media. The owner, Phil Innes, is a true wine expert and is almost always around to offer advice. What makes Loki special beyond simply selling wine by the bottle is that it also allows self-service tasting and sampling by the glass. This is done with the help of dispensing machines and a Loki card, which can be topped up with cash and spent on whichever drinks you choose.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the dots on the ‘o’ are unnecessary and the letters ‘j’ and ‘e’ are totally useless. Luckily, Nörjske’s pretentiousness ends with the faux Nordic spelling. The bar itself is a simple and relaxed venue with the honour of being Birmingham’s first and only (as far as we know) Scandinavian-themed bar. Edgbaston, with its columned Georgian buildings and tree-lined avenues offers a smart location for Nörjske, but the building it’s housed in is more in the boxy 1960s style, helping to give the venue a quirky and interesting feel.
Despite offering over a hundred beers, Pure is as often the pick of Brum’s gin-swigging contingent as it is the protectorate of boys’ business lunches or post-work ales. With local legends Purity Brewing partly behind the city centre’s industrial chic, the beer is unsurprisingly served right every time, and the drinks list includes a blackboard chock full of tasty surprises.
Cheap, cheerful and utterly fantastic – you can’t fault The Actress & Bishop for a spot of good old-fashioned fun. Is it a pub? Is it a bar? Is it a club? Who cares? There’s a reason this place fills up every Friday and Saturday and that’s because the atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and even a bit rock ’n’ roll. Located next to St Paul’s Square, a very sedate plaza of smart restaurants and bars in the Jewellery Quarter, the Actress is definitely the noisy neighbour. Its raucous crowds spill joyfully out on to the smoking terrace for fresh air and a temporary escape from the madness inside.
You’ll have to leave the city centre for this one, but it’s well worth it for a lively and casual night out at one of Birmingham’s most exciting neighbourhood venues. Music is far and away the name of the game; throughout the week, a series of live gigs and takeovers bring everything from soul and reggae to disco and indie rock. The vibe is upbeat and the crowd is young – particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, when the upstairs nightclub area is generally taken over by a bearded DJ and the beats start to drop.
This Louisiana-themed bar calls itself ‘a pub with a twist’ and takes inspiration from the soulful, laid-back culture of New Orleans and Cajun country. The atmosphere is chilled out and sophisticated, and the décor is brilliantly rustic and vintage at the same time. New Orleans classics fill the cocktail menu. Try the mint julep (£6.25) – a refreshing bourbon and mint mix that’s the ultimate Deep South cooler. At the other end of the scale, The Church’s expert mixologists also do a line in original blends, like the 'Banoffee Flip' (£6.25).
One for the dancers, the rockers, the hipsters and the ravers, The Hare & Hounds has an eclectic programme of live music and party nights to cater for almost every taste. It’s also a great place to while away a lazy Sunday. King's Heath, the increasingly vibrant area to the south of the city centre, is where this musical mecca is found, in a Grade II-listed building sprawling across multiple floors and spaces. There’s a relaxed and friendly atmosphere – even on busy nights – in a venue that manages to retain its neighbourhood pub vibe.
Quite possibly Birmingham’s quirkiest bar, The Jekyll and Hyde is also a specialist in the subtle science and precision art of gin. With hordes of fans the city over, this is a place that Brummies are rightly proud of. While the location is somewhat uninspiring – wedged between the old law courts and the Children’s Hospital at a far end of the city centre – The Jekyll and Hyde is a destination in itself.
Perfectly placed in the vicinity of Chinatown and the Gay Village, the Loft Lounge is a decadent and fun bar that provides the perfect launchpad for a night on the town. The atmosphere is relaxed during the day and early evening, giving way to a hive of activity on weekend nights, when revellers pour in to enjoy a drink and a chat in the luxuriously decorated bar. High-backed chairs and gilt-framed mirrors set the scene. Cocktails are the big pull here, with a two-for-one deal running all day Sunday to Friday.
Bitters ’n’ Twisted is a Birmingham company that has the formula for a successful bar locked down. It’s behind the likes of Bodega and Island Bar, and it recently landed another success with The New Inn. Housed in a 200-year-old building, The New Inn updates the mood with copper tables, zany wallpaper and quirky china ornaments. It also boasts one of Birmingham’s best beer gardens, with a vast lawn dotted with picnic tables and an outdoor bar for the summer months.
Sitting pretty in the suburb of Harborne, The Plough is one of Birmingham’s favourite pub-restaurants, with a lively atmosphere and fully occupied tables whether you visit on a Tuesday or a Sunday. Harborne high street is lined with pubs, but The Plough wins hands down for a number of reasons. The wine list is extensive, and the cask ale selection has won repeated praise from CAMRA. Recently, a 'Wall of Whisky' has been launched, showcasing over 50 different drams from around the world.
If you haven’t yet visited, we suggest you stop reading and make a date to go there. It’s when you notice little touches such as the giant moose head above you that you realise there’s more here than meets the eye. Will you grab a wine and cheese at the Shed du Vin? Or sample a Cuban cigar from the Cigar Club? Or maybe you’re hungry enough to grab a bite from the pop-up street food trader in the corner? And last but not least, the fully fledged Mo-Tiki bar is where you go for a taste of tropical paradise.
One of Birmingham’s stalwart pubs, The Wellington is simple, unpretentious and stocks an impressive range of craft beers and real ales. The Welly, as locals affectionately call it, is at the top of Bennett’s Hill, a street branching off from the city centre core and leading up to the Colmore Row area. With a number of bars and restaurants in the area, it’s a good place to duck into on an evening bar crawl. The vibe is that of a no-nonsense, old-fashioned pub, with comfy seats, good conversation and a black and white cat that sometimes likes to play with the punters.