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Moving to Birmingham

The UK's unofficial 'second city', Birmingham is a thriving metropolis at the very heart of England. The city has much to offer and continues to lure new residents with its vibrant lifestyle and diverse populace.

Living in Birmingham

Birmingham is the UK's second-largest economy and generates billions of pounds a year. Once a manufacturing hotspot, Birmingham saw a decline in the industry from the mid-1960s onwards, which forced the city to diversify its economy. Today, the retail, tourism and service industries are the main sources of employment and income in Birmingham, along with healthcare and education.

With a convenient geographic location, Birmingham is in an excellent position to act as a regional transport hub. Most cross-country services passing through the area will stop at New Street Station. Local transport is also well developed, and residents can choose to travel by train, tram or bus.

Accommodation in Birmingham is far from cheap but is generally of good quality. The high cost of rent can be somewhat mitigated by choosing an outlying suburb rather than areas closer to the city centre, which is in high demand and therefore pricier.

The lifestyle on offer in Birmingham is one of its biggest drawcards, and new arrivals will find plenty to keep them occupied. From art museums and Michelin-star restaurants to chocolate factories and megamalls, there's something for everyone.

Cost of living in Birmingham

Those moving to Birmingham can expect to bear a fairly high cost of living. The city's continually growing population places a high demand on accommodation beyond what can be met by its housing supply. This results in inflated accommodation costs that can eat up a fair chunk of the average resident's salary each month.

The good news is that healthcare costs are taken care of by the government's NHS (National Health Service), though those looking for faster service times may prefer to opt for the much pricier but generally more efficient private sector.

Another silver lining is that parents looking for good schooling can find it in Birmingham for free, provided they can secure a spot – the city's best-rated schools are all public schools that don't charge fees.

Families and children in Birmingham

With excellent schooling options, great healthcare and a wide array of things to see and do, Birmingham is a wonderful place for families. Plenty of green spaces offer fresh air and space for the kids to run around, and there are seemingly endless options for walks and hikes.

Climate in Birmingham

Birmingham's climate is fairly typical of the West Midlands region. Winters are wet and chilly, with the rain only abating slightly in summer as temperatures rise from cold to mild. Grey skies are the norm, so residents tend to make the most of rare sunny days in one of the city's numerous green spaces.

Those moving to Birmingham will find that living here means having the best of the UK at their fingertips. Though it's bound to take some time to adjust to life in a new city, it won't take too long to feel at home among Birmingham's welcoming and friendly locals.

Weather in Birmingham

Birmingham's oceanic climate, typified by wet, cold winters and mild summers, is fairly typical of an inland UK city.

During winter, from December to February, grey skies are the norm with plenty of rain. It doesn't often snow in Birmingham but the city does experience the occasional white Christmas. January is the coldest month of the year with an average temperature of 40°F (4°C).

Summer brings warmer, though still mild, days. Heatwaves can occur, though they are usually infrequent and fairly short. Rain continues to fall throughout summer but is somewhat less frequent than in winter. The warmest month in Birmingham is July, with an average temperature of 62°F (17°C).

 

Working in Birmingham

Birmingham is the UK's second-largest economy, only outdone by London. That said, with an unemployment rate well above the country's average, it can be difficult to secure a job here.

Those who do manage to secure employment in Birmingham will be joining a workforce that has repeatedly been rated as one of the UK's happiest, thanks to the generally excellent working conditions and overall good work-life balance available here.


Job market in Birmingham

Birmingham has a long history as a manufacturing and engineering hub, with cars and jewellery being among the city's main exports. However, though manufacturing was once Birmingham's bread and butter, it has had to diversify in recent decades.

Today, Birmingham's economy is more service based. Tourism, retail and finance are prominent industries, alongside continually growing sectors such as healthcare and social work. Birmingham's central location also makes it an ideal base for logistics, transport and distribution operations.


Work culture in Birmingham

While work culture varies significantly between industries, Birmingham companies are generally friendly and relaxed places to work, as long as employees meet all their responsibilities. It's not unusual to head out for a round of drinks after work, and the casual atmosphere provides a good environment for bonding with coworkers.

Birmingham's widely known good work-life balance is one of the major benefits of moving here, and future Birmingham workers will be glad to know that they're unlikely to be taking work home with them or working excessive hours of overtime.

Cost of living in Birmingham

Mercer's 2022 Cost of Living Survey ranked Birmingham as the world's 94th most expensive city out of the 227 cities surveyed. This puts Birmingham's cost of living well below that of London, ranked at 15. These two are the only cities in England that make an appearance on the list, so while Birmingham has a far better position than London, it is still one of the country's priciest cities. In a global context, the cost of living in Birmingham is similar to cities such as Madrid, Toronto and Perth.


Cost of accommodation in Birmingham

Rental prices in Birmingham are high and continually on the rise due to high demand. Utilities and council tax are usually charged in addition to rent and this should be kept in mind when budgeting. New arrivals looking to minimise their accommodation expenses should concentrate their house hunt on Birmingham's outlying suburbs, which are usually cheaper than inner-city areas.


Cost of groceries in Birmingham

The cost of groceries in Birmingham varies considerably depending on the outlet. Mid-range supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons are generally affordable, but good savings can be found at discount retailers Aldi and Lidl. Meanwhile, high-end supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer and Waitrose sell plenty of imported products but are expensive.

Apart from making a savvy choice of where to shop, other ways to save include buying in-store brands rather than name brands and opting for local produce over imports.


Cost of transport in Birmingham

With a good selection of bus, tram and train routes, most Birmingham residents find the local transport network meets their needs, saving them the cost of purchasing, maintaining, insuring and fuelling a car. The city also has some good cycling infrastructure, making getting around on two wheels a breeze.


Cost of education in Birmingham

Birmingham is home to a number of excellent schools. Most of the city's best schools are funded by the state and are therefore free to attend. There are also a number of good private schools, but fees can be high and they are often outperformed by local state schools.


Cost of living in Birmingham chart

These are average costs for Birmingham in July 2022. Prices may vary depending on product and service provider.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

GBP 2,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

GBP 1,200

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

GBP 790

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

GBP 650

Shopping

Milk (1 litre)

GBP 0.95

Dozen eggs

GBP 1.85

Loaf of white bread 

GBP 0.95

Rice (1kg)

GBP 1.30

Packet of cigarettes (Marlboro)

GBP 12.25

Transport

City-centre bus/train fare

 GBP 2.40

Taxi rate per km

 GBP 1.12

Petrol/gasoline per litre

 GBP 1.56

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 GBP 6

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

 GBP 1.45

Cappuccino

 GBP 2.80

Local beer (500ml)

GBP 3.85

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

GBP 50

Utilities

Internet (uncapped ADSL per month)

GBP 26

Mobile call rate (mobile-to-mobile per minute)

GBP 0.15

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

GBP 185

Accommodation in Birmingham

When moving to a new city, finding a spot to call home is always high on the priority list. With an undersupplied property market, Birmingham's accommodation tends to be pricey and available housing is snapped up quickly. New arrivals will therefore need to approach the house hunt with a clear yet somewhat flexible idea of what they're looking for in a home.


Types of accommodation in Birmingham

Housing in Birmingham consists of freestanding-, semi-detached-, and rowhouses, as well as low- and high-rise blocks of flats.

There are quite a few historic houses to be found in and around Birmingham, mainly from the Victorian era. These properties tend to feature several bedrooms and are typically spacious. In and around the city centre, many old warehouses have been converted into trendy living spaces.

For younger new arrivals, houseshares can be a great introduction to Birmingham, providing an opportunity to meet other residents and save some money at the same time. Birmingham's aforementioned larger Victorian houses are particularly well suited to housesharing.


Finding accommodation in Birmingham

When looking for a place to live in Birmingham, it's best to cast the net as wide as possible. Online property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla can be useful in getting to know the various areas and price points available, but listings on these websites tend to move quickly. Hiring an estate agent to do the legwork and advise on the most suitable areas for the prospective tenant's needs and budget can be a great help.


Renting accommodation in Birmingham

The rental process in Birmingham is fairly simple and easy to navigate.

Leases

A typical lease length is 12 months. New arrivals looking for something more temporary may prefer to opt for short-term accommodation instead, which tends to be more expensive and in even higher demand but offers more flexibility.

Deposits

A deposit, usually equivalent to a month's rent, is to be paid prior to moving in. The deposit should be accompanied by the first month's rent, which is paid in advance.

At the end of the lease period, the deposit should be returned in full to the tenant, provided the home is returned in good condition (apart from normal wear and tear).

Utilities

In a fixed-term lease, utilities are typically an extra expense paid for by the tenant. Council tax as well as electricity, water and gas bills should be taken into account when planning one's budget. Short-term accommodation, on the other hand, usually includes these costs in the rental price.

Areas and suburbs in Birmingham

The best places to live in Birmingham

Birmingham is a city that, despite its sprawling size, is chock-full of charm and character. New arrivals will have a wide variety of areas and suburbs to choose from, each with its own unique pros and cons, and house hunters will have to evaluate their budget, lifestyle and needs to ensure they make the right pick.

Young professionals working in the city may find it convenient to skip the traffic associated with commuting in from an outlying suburb. On the other hand, rental prices in the city centre are high. Families often prefer the suburbs, which tend to be leafier and more spacious, but can mean a long drive into work each day.

It's up to each individual to weigh up the factors most important to them, and this can be a daunting prospect. To help in the hunt for the right neighbourhood, we've listed some of Birmingham's best-loved areas and suburbs below.


Suburban life in Birmingham

Sutton Coldfield

Sutton Coldfield

A lush area with plenty of greenery, Sutton Coldfield is a breath of fresh air. Families often choose this area not only because of its green spaces but also because of the range of good schools in the area. Good transport links make getting around on the bus, train or by car easy and convenient.

Harborne

This leafy suburb is conveniently situated just outside Birmingham's city centre. A charming Victorian area, Harbone has plenty of green spaces and hosts a good selection of schools. It is also known for being home to some of Birmingham's best pubs, which can be explored in the pub crawl known as the Harborne Mile.

Edgbaston

Sports lovers are sure to be in seventh heaven in this active neighbourhood. Affluent Edgbaston is famous for its cricket grounds, which frequently host international games. Also in the area is the world's oldest lawn tennis club as well as the beautiful Botanic Gardens. Those less enthused by the outdoors may find the multiple Michelin-starred restaurants in the area a more appealing prospect. Either way, life in Edgbaston is never boring.


City living in Birmingham

Jewellery Quarter

Jewellery Quarter

Fondly known as the JQ, this historic area is in the midst of a resurgence and is dotted with old buildings that were converted into new housing units. Residents are never far from a bite to eat or a drink, thanks to the over 80 restaurants, bars and cafes located here. Transport links are good, and those heading into the city centre can choose between an easy 10- to 15-minute stroll or a short tram ride.

Digbeth

Once an industrial district, Digbeth has been transformed into a trendy inner-city area. The Digbeth of yore lives on in the area's housing, with many of the former warehouses being converted into modern flats. This old-meets-new aesthetic is the perfect breeding ground for creativity, and those who live and work here are often artsy or tech start-up types.

Education and schools in Birmingham

For families moving to Birmingham, the quality and variety of education and schools available in the area will be of great importance. Fortunately, Birmingham is home to a number of excellent government schools, which can be attended free of charge. Parents who prefer private schooling for their children also have plenty of options to choose from, though these institutions charge higher fees.


Government schools in Birmingham

Government-run schools can be attended free of charge and operate according to catchment areas. Many of these schools are single-sex and some operate from a particular religion's standpoint.

Some of Birmingham's top government schools include King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys, King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls, and Eden Boys' School.

School inspections are regularly carried out by a government body known as Ofsted. Reports are available to view online, along with each school's past performances in academic benchmarks and tests. When faced with a long list of potential schools, this site can be an efficient way of narrowing down options.


Independent schools in Birmingham

Though significantly more expensive than government schools, independent schools typically offer smaller class sizes and better facilities. A variety of independent schools can be found in Birmingham, some of which subscribe to a particular religious ethos. Both single-sex and coeducational independent schools are available.


Special-needs education in Birmingham

In the UK, special needs are geared towards the goal of integration. Children with special educational needs are, therefore, kept in mainstream schooling as far as possible, provided their needs can be met there.

The local council is responsible for assessing children with special needs. Post-assessment, an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan is drawn up. The plan assigns a particular school for them to attend. In the case that a mainstream school is unable to provide the kind of support required, the child may be assigned to a special school. There is a number of special schools in Birmingham catering to children with various social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.


Tutors in Birmingham

New arrivals in Birmingham may find tutors to be a useful tool in their children's education. In cases where students need help getting up to speed with their new school's curriculum, or if English isn't the family's first language, tutors can be a great help.

Finding a tutor is fairly simple. Recommendations from teachers and fellow parents are a good place to start, while online tutoring companies offer a wide selection of tutors for every need.

Lifestyle in Birmingham

The relaxed lifestyle in Birmingham is one of the city's best assets, and new arrivals are sure to find something to pique their interest among the wide variety of sights, attractions and events.


Shopping in Birmingham

Arguably the country's best shopping hub outside of London, Birmingham is a mecca for big spenders and bargain hunters alike. Bullring & Grand Central, a megamall made up of two shopping centres joined by a bridge, offers everything a shopaholic can imagine. Other popular shopping centres include The Fort, The Square and Mailbox Birmingham.


Eating out in Birmingham

From Michelin-starred fare to mouthwatering street food, Birmingham has a wide variety of cuisine to explore. Food from every corner of the globe can be found here, and the city has the English tradition of afternoon tea down to a fine art.

Birmingham is the birthplace of the 'balti', a type of curry made in a flat-bottomed steel bowl with two handles. This unique piece of equipment was first designed by a Pakistani restaurant owner in the '70s and manufactured locally. The best place to sample this dish is the 'Balti Triangle', made up of several Pakistani restaurants.


Outdoor activities in Birmingham

With forests, public gardens, lakes, canals and parks, Birmingham residents looking for a breath of fresh air are spoilt for choice. Whether looking to go for a stroll, enjoy a picnic or go for a bike ride, there are plenty of picturesque places to do so. Highlights include Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston Reservoir and Castle Bromwich Historic Gardens.


See and do in Birmingham

The city's vibrant culture and fascinating history mean there's always plenty to see and do in Birmingham. Below are our top picks for a day out.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

This hidden gem is nestled at the heart of the University of Birmingham's bustling main campus. Though it's a fairly small gallery, it's well worth a visit as it's packed full of paintings from the greats, including Monet, Degas, Gauguin, Botticelli and Van Gogh.

Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park

Cute critters abound in this lovely park where visitors will be able to spot a few of its furry residents, such as red pandas, lemurs, meerkats, otters and monkeys. A visit to the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park is more than just a fun afternoon out, as the support of visitors helps the park in its mission to conserve a number of endangered species.

Cadbury World

A delicious day out awaits those visiting Cadbury World, which is situated at the original Bournville manufacturing site. Learn about the history of chocolate and the Cadbury company, enjoy a chocolate-themed high tea, and embark on the 4D Chocolate Adventure, a unique cinematic experience that includes motion seats.


What's on in Birmingham

The fun seemingly never ends in Birmingham, whose annual calendar is packed with exciting festivals, concerts, celebrations and showcases throughout the year. Here are a few of the city's not-to-be-missed events.

Birmingham Pride (September)

Head to the area fondly known as the Birmingham Gay Village to join in on the city's yearly celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. The main event is the Pride Parade, where the typical turnout of participants and viewers numbers more than 75,000. Beyond the parade, there's much else to experience, including a street party, concerts on the main stage, cabaret performances and a funfair.

Birmingham Heritage Week (September)

The city's annual Heritage Week sees all sorts of attractions opening their doors for free in the name of celebrating Birmingham's history and culture. This usually includes at least a few venues that aren't normally accessible by the public, giving attendees a rare opportunity to peek behind the scenes.

Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market (December)

Kick off the festive season with this beloved event as stalls pop up all along Victoria Square and New Street. Having a go on the big wheel, ice rink or carousel is sure to be a blast for one and all, and don't forget to indulge in some traditional German fare.

Getting around in Birmingham

Getting around in Birmingham is a breeze thanks to an efficient transport network. The city's location in central England makes it a useful regional hub and, after significant investment, the city's public transport infrastructure is well developed. Continuing investment from the government enables continual extensions and upgrades to the system.

Travelling by car is another option, and though fuel prices are currently extremely high, many still prefer the freedom and comfort that come with owning a car, particularly those with children.


Public transport in Birmingham

Managed by Transport for West Midlands, public transport in Birmingham is widespread and easily accessible.

Trains

Trains are a popular mode of transport in Birmingham; the city's railways see England's highest proportion of rail commuters outside of London.

The main railway hub is New Street Station, which serves as the calling point for most intercity services to and from Birmingham. Several local commuter lines also branch out from New Street Station.

Tram

The West Midlands Metro tram system currently has one line running between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. This line is in the process of being extended.

Buses

A large number of bus services operate in Birmingham, the most prominent of which is National Express West Midlands. Buses arrive fairly punctually, and many routes run late into the night and on Sundays.


Taxis in Birmingham

It's easy to find a taxi in Birmingham; they can be ordered online or found at a taxi rank. While it's possible to flag down a taxi on the street, only Hackney Carriages (black cabs) may be hailed in this manner. All other taxis are considered private-hire vehicles and, by law, must be booked ahead of time. Uber and Bolt are operational in the city and fall under this category.


Driving in Birmingham

A city with a history of car manufacturing, Birmingham has an abiding love of driving and many people use cars daily. Excellent road networks make navigation easy.

Drivers from abroad can continue to drive on their licence from home for up to 12 months of living in the UK, from which point a British licence is required to keep driving legally.

The UK has agreements with a number of countries that allow drivers to directly exchange their foreign licence for a local licence, including Australia, Canada and South Africa. EU licences can be used for as long as they remain valid.

Drivers not from the EU or a designated country will need to do a written and practical test to obtain their British licence.

Some parts of the city, such as the area inside the A4540 Middleway Ring Road, are designated Clean Air Zones. Cars driving in these areas must either adhere to certain fuel-emission standards or will have to pay a fee.


Cycling in Birmingham

Cycling is becoming increasingly popular in Birmingham as the city authorities continue to build and expand cycle routes. West Midlands Cycle Hire operates a large-scale bicycle-hire scheme that includes both pedal bicycles and eBikes. These can be picked up and dropped off at any of the many docking stations around Birmingham.