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Published July 20th 2016
50 of Birmingham's Best?
Fact 4 (image by Cadbury's World)
A visit to Britain usually begins in London, where the touristy treats of culture, history, architecture, art and pageantry await. British rail is a fantastic way to explore the island and Birmingham should be your first stop as you venture north. These facts about Birmingham highlight the best aspects of this city, loved by locals and tourists alike.
1. The world's top racquet sport, tennis, began at Edgbaston in the 1850s.
2. Aston Villa, the football club cheered by millions, has raised the trophy in the national football league 7 times. They've also beaten the best on the continent to win the European Cup.
3. Locals are nicknamed Brummies, a simple abbreviation of the city's name but also for the city's local name and dialect – Brummagem.
4. Love chocolate? So do Brummies – Cadbury's Chocolate began production in Bull Street in 1824, receiving the Royal Warrant 30 years later. Cadbury's World on Linden Rd is open for chocoholics.
5. The 18th century Industrial Revolution put Birmingham on the map as a manufacturing powerhouse.
Fact 40 and 41 (Allan warren / CC BY-SA 3.0)
6. Many believe Roald Dahl created the imaginary chocolate factory owned by Willy Wonka after discovering the Cadbury experience.
7. Exhibitions need a hall – Bingley Hall, now part of the International Convention Centre, was the world's first.
8. Join millions of shoppers for a retail fix at the Bull Ring, hosting merchants for over 800 years.
9. While candle light is romantic, gas lighting was more practical before the discovery of electricity. William Murdock, a local worker, invented the method to light his cottage.
10. The industrial revolution needed machine power. James Watt developed the steam engine here. See the world's oldest steam engine in action at the Thinktank.
11. Let there be light – but how bright? The watt is our modern measure of power, named for the inventive Scot, James Watt, as he developed many technical marvels in Birmingham.
12. Thank your dentist for the x-ray if it avoids painful drilling. The first medical x-ray was snapped here.
13. Birmingham is the 2nd largest city in the UK with almost 4 million people calling it home. It's also in the top 10 in Europe for population.
14. Hug a tree – there are 6 million to choose from.
15. You spin me right round. The spinning jenny was invented by local, John Wyatt, to spin wool.
Fact 10 (Tenderlok / CC BY-SA 3.0)
16. It's always nice when someone pumps up your tyres (i.e. gives you a confidence-boosting compliment). John Dunlop, a Birmingham local, invented the pneumatic tyre, manufactured in the Fort Dunlop, considered the largest factory in the world in 1916 as over 3,000 workers produced the iconic tyre used to win countless motor racing championships and propel millions of passenger and commercial vehicles around the world.
17. Gondoliers serenade lovers in Venice but they'd be at home in Birmingham, with more canals than the Italian floating city.
18. Birmingham is the home of reinvention. After pioneering the manufacturing process in a variety of trades, it's now ruling the service sector, with 6 prestigious universities, retail giants and event centres for international conferences.
19. Feed your rumbling stomach with a balti bowl, a spicy curry served in a small wok. Birmingham hosts hundreds of balti restaurants, many grouped in the Balti Triangle.
20. A night at the theatre is a must in most cities. Birmingham tops the list as the Hippodrome welcomes over half a million guests every year.
Fact 19 (ayes / CC BY-SA 2.0)
21. Dress up for fine dining without the heartburn-inducing prices in London. Birmingham rivals the English capital with many of the country's Michelin-star restaurants.
22. The artwork of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of painters, formed in the mid-19th century, is on display in Birmingham with over 2,000 paintings to choose from.
23. A classic cinema has that golden age aura to rival the shiny new multiplex. Enjoy timeless films in the Electric Cinema, the oldest working cinema in the UK. It began life in 1909, presenting silent films.
24. Head banging began here with heavy metal giants Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath strumming their first hits in the 70s.
25. LPs have been replaced with cassettes, CDs, mp3s and now streaming music. The LP is still loved by many, often for the iconic album covers. St Paul's Gallery in Northwood St has the largest collection in the world.
Fact 22: Medea by Frederick Sandys - Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
26. Search for 'my precious', the ring in The Lord of the Rings series of fantasy novels, at Sarehole Mill, where a young J.R.R. Tolkien dreamt of Middle Earth.
27. Bunch up in the back to back terraces in, homes sharing a wall, in Inge and Hurst St. These historic homes are listed National Trust properties and host a museum.
28. Research and development conjures images of repetitive testing to solve serious issues. Chocolate deserves R&D too – almost £20 million are spent locally to invent the next chocolate treat.
29. Classic British meals, from baked beans on toast to a breakfast fry-up, deserve a dollop of HP Sauce, invented in Birmingham.
31. Join the bling ring in the Jewellery Quarter, hosting hundreds of jewellers in the nation's centre for jewellery creativity.
32. Christmas means shopping and the city's Frankfurt Market is the UK's largest collection of Christmas street stalls, welcoming millions of last-minute shoppers every year.
33. Sprint 100 metres in under 10 seconds in Birmingham. It worked for Usain Bolt, the world-record holder from Jamaica, training here before his 2012 Olympic gold medal feat.
34. Offside! Blow the whistle ref! The referee can take charge without shouting after the football whistle was first invented and made in Birmingham.
35. There are no bats in Birmingham's Belfry. It's too busy hosting golf's Ryder Cup.
Fact 29 (Windell Oskay / CC BY 2.0)
36. Trains started talking in Birmingham, with many believing Reverend Wilbert Awdry created Thomas the Tank Engine while listening to trains chugging along local lines.
37. Sherlock Holmes applied his detective insight in Birmingham in The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk.
38. The biro is a convenient pen but it lacks the style of the pen nib. Birmingham was the home of pen nib manufacture, dominating the world market before the biro scrawled the writing on the wall.
39. When the heavens open, Alexander Parkes prevented us from getting drenched as he invented waterproof fabric and the earliest flexible plastics, including celluloid, the medium used to record film.
40. Diana, Princess of Wales and romantic icon, was the step-granddaughter of Dame Barbara Cartland, the classic local romance novelist.
Fact 1 (Esther Lim CC / BY-SA 2.0)
41. Feed your romantic urge with the Dame's novels. She wrote 723 novels, including Jig-Saw, Elizabethan Lover and A Duel of Hearts.
42. Strike it rich with the Staffordshire Hoard, a massive stash of over 6 kilos of gold and silver recovered from Anglo Saxon origins.
43. Indulge your philatelic urges at the birthplace of the reformed postal system and the postage stamp, created by local schoolteacher, Rowland Hill.
44. Better than a fingerprint, DNA is the unique genetic code fuelling forensic science and family historians. Local scientist, Maurice Wilkins, was honoured with the Nobel Prize for his efforts to discover the secret of our genes.