If Birmingham is known for anything at this time of year, it’s the German market. Its official title is the Birmingham Frankfurt Market, as Brum is twinned with the German city, and it’s a magnet for tourists. For locals, it’s a love/hate relationship. Personally, I love the sausages and lebkuchen, but I’m less enamoured with the crushing crowds, not being able to walk across the city without a battle, and the endless stalls of tat wheeled out every year and sold for extortionate prices.
So this year I’ve compiled a list of 5 festive things to do in Birmingham that aren’t the German Market.
The team behind Wilderness are hosting a festive pop-up on the site of the former Two Cats Kitchen. Wonderfully named Bar Humbug, the concept sees James Bowker behind the bar to create four “darkly festive cocktails” paired with snacks from Wilderness, all for £50 per head.
Bar Humbug is open from 5pm Thursday – Saturday until the 23rd of December on 27 Warstone Lane, Birmingham.
Christmas at Birmingham Botanical Gardens
The Christmas light trail at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a festive must-do, especially for families.
Set in the beautiful grounds of the gardens, the trees are illuminated, there are light projections on the paths, there’s a traditional carousel, and even the chance to see Santa and his elves.
One of the spectacular sights includes a dancing light show set to Christmas music.
For foodies, there’s hot dogs, hot mulled wine stops and bottled pre-mixed cocktails made especially for the Botanical gardens, including a gorgeous cold rum toddy with lemon, honey and dark rum.
The Christmas light trail is on until December 30th with adult tickets priced at £16 in advance of £18 on the night.
Digbeth Apres Ski at The Old Crown
The Old Crown, one of Digbeth’s best pubs, is transformed into an Alpine ski lodge this December with their Digbeth Apres Ski events.
There’s mulled wine, hot spiced cider, hot chocolate, cocktails, European beers and Schnapps on offer to drink, and the team behind Seasonal Markets are bringing you an Alpine inspired street food menu of fondue, raclette and waffles.
Tickets are still available for 22nd and 23rd December at £12.50 per person.
Digbeth Dining Club
Digbeth Dining Club never fails to put on a great spread, and their December line-up is no exception. They’ve got 7 nights on between now and Christmas, serving up Birmingham’s best street food from the likes of Flying Cows Burgers, Esmie’s, Platinum Pancakes and Urban Cheesecake.
There’s even a New Years Eve special Shanty Town Takeover with tickets available online for £7. If street food is your thing, give the German Market a miss and get yourself to Spotlight this December.
Other than the sausages, the German Market is famous for its huge steins of beer. While I do love a large beer, Birmingham has so many wonderful pubs serving up an interesting and diverse range of beers that make festive drinks way more fun.
Cherry Reds on John Bright Street is a great place to start. As well as the ridiculously friendly staff, there’s an impressive selection of beers, with a focus on local craft breweries and brilliant Belgian beers that are hard to find elsewhere, as well as a menu of simple, tasty cafe style food.
The Wellington on Bennett’s Hill, just off the main stretch of the German Market on New Street, is famous not only for its real ales, but also for its whisky selection, and its eponymous cat Welly. The place has a really traditional feel, but a buzzing atmosphere. The bar staff really know their stuff, even if you don’t, so you’re bound to find something new and exciting.
If you’re heading to the big wheel and ice rink in their new location at Eastside Green this year, stop in for a beer at The Woodman. From the outside, it looks like a cosy, traditional little pub, but their beer is impressive, with craft brews on tap, a fantastic selection of bottles and even more of those delicious Belgian ales. If you’re lucky, they sometimes do hot mulled cider too.
If you end up getting through the German market up towards Broad Street, head to The Bulls Head, a heritage Birmingham pub that’s also been frequented by the cast of Peaky Blinders. The brewery behind it, Davenports, make some really traditional style beers like Highgate Dark Mild, but also some more crafty styles like their Red Eye dry hopped red ale.
There you have it, my 5 festive things to do in Birmingham that aren’t the German market. What are your festive faves?