Birmingham is the second most populous city in the United Kingdom, second only to London. However, Birmingham trumps London when it comes to Christmas markets: Birmingham hosts the largest outdoor Christmas market in the country.
Getting to Birmingham was easy. Not so easy finding the Christmas Market. Despite the rain, city traffic, construction detours, and getting lost even with the sat nav (because of the detours and nasty traffic), we finally arrived at a parking lot somewhere in the vicinity of the Christmas Market. We knew the Market was on Victoria Square and New Street, but weren’t such exactly where that was. We forgot to bring a map and had left the sat nav in the car, but were confident that we would find the Market if we just followed our noses, ears, and the largest wave of pedestrian traffic. We were thrilled when we first spied the Town Hall (pictured above, but the photo was taken as we left the Market).
Then we saw the children’s rides in front of the Council House in Victoria Square.
And then we stood at the edge of rows of chalets with a fast-flowing river of humanity in between. The chalets, or traditional stalls, were selling Christmas decorations, unique toys, jewelry, hand-knit hats and scarves, and other goods, plus the all-important COFFEE!!, Gluhwein (German mulled wine), beer, Pimm’s (warm and dressed for the holiday), freshly roasted nuts, gingerbread, candy of all kinds, sausages, bratwurst on a roll, crepes…..(now I’m getting hungry).
Chamberlain Square, adjacent to Victoria Square, hosted a concurrent Craft Fair, which encircled the base of the Chamberlain Memorial (the spire). The Christmas Market and the Craft Fair included around 180 stalls. No, we did not visit them all. Not even close.
After following the crowd through an indoor mall and exiting the other side, we saw the Hall of Memory. It was open, so we went inside.
The Hall of Memory was originally erected to commemorate the citizens of Birmingham who died in the “Great War.” Now, the Hall of Memory serves as a memorial for the men and women of Birmingham who gave their lives in the First World War, Second World War and in active service since 1945, including Korea, Vietnam and the Falklands. We were reminded of the sacrifice made by so many, which made us appreciated our own lives even more. We took a few somber moments before returning to the fray of the Market.
Before coming to Birmingham, I had no idea what to expect from the city. How can a city surpass expectations if you don’t have any? Well, Birmingham did. I’d like to return to all the areas where we walked (but preferably at a more sedate time). In addition, since our visit, I learned that Birmingham has about 100 miles of navigable canals, which is more than are in Venice. I’ve even found canal walks. How promising! Or is it? I also read an article by a Brummie (someone from Birmingham) who states:
Can a city with Willy Wonka’s, er, Cadbury‘s chocolate factory really be so bad? I’ll ask the trees the next time I’m up there.
P.S. Are you wondering why I’m blogging about a Christmas market in April? Let’s just say that I’m a little behind in sorting through my trip photographs. I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless.