Birmingham today enjoys a reputation as a cultural, culinary, and entertainment hotspot and is increasingly visited by those looking for a weekend city-break. The city centre has also, in the last two decades, become a major residential area packed with modern apartment buildings much favoured by young professionals who work for firms based nearby.
The limits of city centre area include the Jewellery Quarter, Ladywood, Deritend, and parts of Bordesley as well as the commercial and business area around Colmore Row. These areas form the area that was once the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Birmingham and where in the middle ages the Lord of the Manor Peter de Birmingham developed a market in the area now covered by the Bull Ring shopping centre.
The market town grew into the city during the 17th and 18th centuries and was known for the manufacture of metallic items such as guns and was at the forefront of the industrial revolution. Men such as Matthew Boulton, James Watt and Erasmus Darwin pioneered new scientific methods, industrial techniques, and formed intellectual societies in central Birmingham. During the 19th century the city was known for its liberal politics, the Birmingham School of landscape painting, and the second city of Empire and the workshop of the world. Many of the fine buildings of the city centre such as the Town Hall and Council House were erected at this time.
The property types available in the city centre today vary from terraces that are highly desirable for first-time buyers on the outskirts of the central area, to high-rise apartment blocks. Many of these modern developments, that can be seen on Newhall Street, Holiday Street, in the Ladywood area, around Broad Street and along the canal, stand on land formerly occupied by factories and warehouses. Many of the premises formerly used by traditional industries have been converted to modern apartments.
There are three main stations in the city centre – Snow Hill, New Street, and Moor Street, from where connections reach London in around two hours. Several roads lead out of the centre through the suburbs including the Pershore, Hagley, Bristol, Walsall, and Alcester Roads that provide links to the M6, M42 and M40 motorways.
Those living in the city centre have a wealth of entertainment and shopping options available on their doorstep. There are major entertainment venues at the NIA, Symphony Hall, and the Hippodrome Theatre, and modern shopping venues at the Mailbox, the Bullring, and in the Palisades. There are also restaurants and bars in the Mailbox and at Brindley Place and in the streets north of Colmore Row. Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum, the Ikon Gallery, and the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery are all located in the city centre and showcase works that illuminate the history of the city as well as Old Masters and contemporary art.