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Birmingham

England

England's second biggest city has undergone something of a metamorphosis in the last decade or two, transforming it into a veritable cultural hub with loads of sights and activities to discover. Canals and waterways give Birmingham a trendy Amsterdam-esque feel, while space-age buildings like the Library of Birmingham (Europe's largest public library) make for a striking contrast against the classical Town Hall and Edwardian buildings dotted around the city.

Birmingham, which is located in the West Midlands region, was a major player in the country's Industrial Revolution, known in the 1700s as "the first manufacturing town in the world." To get a taste of what life was like back then, pay a visit to the Birmingham Back to Backs, homes built in the 19th century to house the city's growing population.

The city still retains something of an industrial reputation, as well as being known for arts, culture and education. It's home to five universities, so the student population is significant, giving way to a vibrant nightlife and calendar full of events. And the Bull Ring shopping centre, which has been a commercial centre since the Middle Ages, consistently draws visitors from far and wide.

One thing many visitors remark on that makes Birmingham especially fun to visit is the friendliness of the locals, or "Brummies." Expect warm smiles, a self-deprecating sense of humour and a tight-knit community.

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