City Guide of Birmingham: International Student Guide

City Guide of Birmingham: International Student Guide

Welcome to Birmingham, a city known for its vibrant culture and academic excellence, nestled in the heart of the UK.

As an international student, you might find it challenging to adjust to a new city while juggling your studies and social life.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essentials of living and studying in Birmingham.

Welcome to Birmingham

Birmingham, often fondly referred to as ‘Brum’, holds a special place in the UK’s landscape. It’s not just the country’s second-largest city after London, but also a melting pot of cultures and histories.

Known for its industrial heritage, Birmingham has transformed into a vibrant, modern city while retaining its unique historical charm.

From the iconic Bullring shopping centre to the serene canals that once powered its industrial rise, the city offers a blend of the old and new, making it an amazing destination for students from across the globe.

Scroll down to explore what makes this city that it’s known for.

Educational Institutions: The Academic Landscape

Birmingham’s academic scene is as lively and diverse as the city itself. These institutions are celebrated not just for their academic excellence, but also for their  cutting-edge research, a vibrant student life, and state-of-the-art facilities.


  • University of Birmingham
  • Birmingham City University
  • Aston University
  • Newman University

Specialized Higher Education Institutions:

  • University College Birmingham (focus on vocational courses)
  • The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (music and performing arts)
  • Birmingham School of Art (art and design)

Further Education Colleges:

  • Birmingham Metropolitan College
  • South & City College Birmingham

Navigating the City: Transportation and Getting Around

Getting around Birmingham is a breeze, you can hop on a public transport to reach an location and then explore on foot or by bike for last mile connectivity.

The city’s public transport is a benchmark, with buses, and trams linking up pretty much every corner of the city. Grabbing a bus or a train is a smart, wallet-friendly way to zip around, especially with student discounts on travel cards.

If you’re into a bit of exercise or just want to soak up the city vibes, cycling or walking is the way to go. Birmingham’s got a growing network of bike lanes and paths, making it safer and easier to cycle around.

You’ll find plenty of bike racks and storage spots around the city and campuses. Walking is another great option. The city centre is pretty compact, so you can easily stroll between shops, cafes, and parks. It’s a cool way to discover hidden gems and really get to know Birmingham.

Types of Passes

Bus Travel Passes

  • Provider: National Express West Midlands and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).
  • Options: Passes exclusively for bus travel or combined bus, train, and tram travel.
  • Duration: Available as monthly, 4-week, or termly passes.
  • Special Fare: ‘The Hop’ offers reduced-price travel between Selly Oak, the main campus, and the city centre on showing a university

Train Travel Passes

  • Provider: Transport for West Midlands and West Midlands Railway.
  • Options: Regular travel passes for chosen zones; student season tickets for specific routes; flexible season tickets for irregular schedules.

Swift Cards

  • Usage: Ideal for less frequent, pay-as-you-go travel.
  • Top-Up: Can be topped up as needed for occasional journeys.

Steps to Obtain a Student Pass

  1. Select the Right Pass: Use a ticket finder tool to find the most suitable pass.
  2. Account Creation: Create an account on the relevant transport provider’s portal.
  3. Enter Details: Input details into the system.
  4. Upload Documents: Upload supporting documents as proof of student status.
  5. Receive the Pass: The pass or card is mailed to the student after processing.

Cultural Immersion: Arts, Music, and Entertainment

Birmingham is a city that’s alive with culture, offering a rich tapestry of arts, music, and entertainment that’s just waiting to be explored. You can explore your art enthusiast side, a music lover’s side, or a human being looking for some fun, there’s something here for everyone. Let’s dive into the top spots across Birmingham:


  1. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: Known for its world-class collections, including Pre-Raphaelite paintings and ancient artefacts.
  2. Ikon Gallery: A leading contemporary art gallery, showcasing thought-provoking works.
  3. The Custard Factory: A creative hub in Digbeth, home to independent shops, studios, and regular arts events.
  4. Barber Institute of Fine Arts: Houses a stunning collection of European art, from Renaissance masterpieces to modern works.
  5. Eastside Projects: An artist-run space that challenges the traditional gallery format with experimental exhibitions.


  1. Symphony Hall: Acclaimed for its acoustics, it’s a prime venue for classical music and big-name concerts.
  2. The Sunflower Lounge: A hotspot for indie and alternative music, showcasing up-and-coming bands.
  3. Hare & Hounds: A historic venue in Kings Heath, known for its eclectic mix of live music and club nights.
  4. The Jam House: Owned by Jools Holland, this place offers a blend of live jazz, blues, and rock.
  5. O2 Institute Birmingham: A go-to for major gigs and club nights, set in a former church in Digbeth.


  1. Birmingham Hippodrome: Hosts theatre productions, from West End musicals to ballet.
  2. The Electric Cinema: The UK’s oldest working cinema, offering a mix of mainstream, indie, and classic films.
  3. Glee Club: A leading comedy club where you can catch stand-up acts and live comedy shows.
  4. The Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen: A boutique cinema and dining experience in the heart of the Custard Factory.
  5. Birmingham Repertory Theatre: Known for its high-quality theatrical productions.

Eating Out: A Taste of Birmingham

Birmingham’s food scene is a real treat, with something for everyone. In Birmingham, you can go for a quick bite, a chilled-out meal, or even a fancy dinner. As an international student, keeping the budget under control is essential, so don’t forget to check student discounts on food before going out.

Grab-and-Go Eats

  1. Original Patty Men – These guys serve up some of the best burgers in town.
  2. Digbeth Dining Club – A cool spot for street food lovers.
  3. Baked in Brick – Award-winning pizzas and more.
  4. The Indian Streatery – Quick, tasty Indian street food.
  5. Morridge – A go-to spot for healthy, quick oat-based dishes.

Relaxed Dining Spots

  1. Damascena – A Middle Eastern delight with a cosy atmosphere.
  2. The Plough – Great for a mix of British and international dishes.
  3. El Borracho de Oro – Authentic Spanish tapas in a relaxed setting.
  4. Carters of Moseley – Casual but sophisticated, with some really good food.
  5. Simpsons – A relaxed dining experience with a Michelin touch.

Fancy Food Adventures

  1. Purnell’s – A Michelin-starred spot with some seriously creative British dishes.
  2. Adam’s – Another Michelin star here, famous for its incredible tasting menus.
  3. Opheem – Taking Indian cuisine to a whole new level.
  4. The Wilderness – Bold flavours, unique dining experience.
  5. Harborne Kitchen – Offers fine dining without the formality.

Shopping and Leisure: From High Streets to Markets


Birmingham’s shopping scene has got it all, from cool, budget-friendly spots to places where you can splurge a bit.

Budget-Friendly Finds

  1. Bullring & Grand Central – Home to a mix of affordable brands.
  2. Birmingham Rag Market – The go-to place for unique, wallet-friendly stuff.
  3. The Custard Factory – Perfect for quirky and independent shops.
  4. Perry Barr One Stop Shopping Centre – Everything you need without breaking the bank.
  5. Selly Oak Shopping Park – Ideal for students looking for deals.

Mid-Range Shopping Spots

  1. The Mailbox – A stylish mix of mid-range and designer stores.
  2. Great Western Arcade – Old-school charm with modern shopping.
  3. Harborne High Street – A local vibe with a variety of shops.
  4. Touchwood in Solihull – A short trip away for a bit of everything.
  5. Resorts World Birmingham – Shopping, movies, and more.

High-End Retail Escapes

  1. Selfridges in Bullring – An iconic store for high-end brands.
  2. Harvey Nichols at The Mailbox – Luxury shopping at its finest.
  3. Jewellery Quarter – Famous for stunning, handcrafted jewellery.
  4. Brindleyplace – Upscale boutiques and eateries by the canal.
  5. The Fort Shopping Park – A selection of premium brands.

Student Accommodation in Birmingham: Finding Your Home Away from Home 💜

When you’re an international student in Birmingham, finding the right place to call home is a big deal. Prime Student Living, Kensington House is situated in the heart of the city centre, and only  few minutes’ walk from the station and shopping centre. You’re also super close to China town too! The property consists of 100% fully fitted studios, which come with superfast wifi. Kensington House also features loads of amazing social spaces including a private dining room, free on-site gym, games room and parking.


We hope this article helps you to understand the city guide of Birmingham for international students. Birmingham is for everyone – a city that’s not just about studying, but also about living it up.

It’s a place where every corner has something new, making your student life here not just a chapter in your education, but a whole adventure in itself.

Author’s Bio

Archit, Amber Students, is an avid writer who is keen to get his doctorate. When not writing, he can be found reading, taking the metro and then questioning this decision, and haunting local bookstores.


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