These days, the city is famous for its jewelry and foods as well as its numerous cultural activities and festivals, such as Europe's second-largest St. Just 20 miles away from Birmingham is Coventry, the center of Britain's motor industry.A massive bombing raid in 1940 destroyed much of the city, including old Coventry Cathedral, the ruins of which were incorporated into the new cathedral.Also worth checking out is the nearby Hall of Memory opposite Baskerville House, erected in 1925 to commemorate the 14,000 city men who lost their lives in WWI.If time permits, be sure to pop over to the Pen Museum.Other old-city sites to visit include pedestrians-only Chamberlain Square and the Central Library, home of the largest Shakespeare collection outside the United States (50,000 volumes in 90 languages).The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, opened in 1885, is considered one of the finest such museums outside London.Today, these significant treasures - returned to their rightful place when the cathedral was rebuilt in 1948 - are a highlight of any trip to Birmingham. Close to Birmingham University, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts houses an excellent collection of art from the Renaissance to the 20th century.
If time permits be sure to check out the institute's schedule of classical lunchtime and evening concerts.Also fun is the reproduction Victorian schoolroom, where guests can practice their penmanship using traditional quills. Philip's Cathedral (the third smallest in England) began life as a parish church and was elevated to its present status in 1905.The cathedral was gutted during a bombing raid in 1940, but foresight saw its famous stained glass windows by Burne-Jones (1884) removed a few weeks prior. Dating from the 13th century, it also features windows by Burne-Jones.Also worth visiting and within easy walking distance is the Birmingham Back to Backs attraction, a unique collection of the small "back-to-back" homes once so prolific throughout the city.Built around a central courtyard in the mid-19th century, these homes offer a unique insight into the conditions of the working classes and their important contribution to city life (admission by guided tour only).