Birmingham’s New Street Station has been welcoming people to the city since 1854. If you came to Birmingham City University from outside the area, you likely got your first glimpses of our City Centre Campus moments before you pulled into the station.
For a long time, it was just a very busy transport hub (the busiest outside of London), but in 2015 it became the second biggest shopping destination in the city centre when the Grand Central extension was opened. The £150m centre is gigantic, and packed with a unique combination of fashion outlets, craft stores and food places, including one of the biggest John Lewis department stores in the country.
For our guide to shopping in Grand Central and New Street station we asked a few members of our team for their recommendations and insider knowledge.
I work in marketing and go to as many Birmingham events as is humanly possible!
Head to Oliver Bonas if you have always wanted to create that Pinterest-like bedroom or chic minimalist wardrobe. You will leave with a bag full of bits and bobs and a head full of inspiration both for yourself and your home or student room. Selling everything from women’s clothes, furniture, jewellery, homeware and bags you will be sure to find yourself a treat or the perfect gift for any celebratory occasion.
It is super exciting to have a John Lewis flagship store right on our doorstep too – apparently their biggest store outside of London. From its bright and vibrant interior, the store includes a great beauty section and extensive fashion and accessory ranges. It truly is the perfect place to spend a good few hours adding to your ever-growing wish list - especially ahead of Christmas! Make sure you stop at the restaurant, Place to Eat, on the top floor and enjoy a view of the city with a slice of something yummy.
I'm a Marketing student who spends far too much money on stationery!
Grand Central may not be the first place that springs to mind when it comes to stationery or homeware, but surprisingly there are a few gems within the station!
The first of these is my personal favourite: a stylish variety store from Copenhagen called Tiger. This store sells everything you could possibly want, from stationery and crafts to home decor and candles – all at student-friendly prices! You can find Tiger on the upper floor of the station, near the Stephenson Place exit.
Another variety store worth visiting is Hema, situated on the ground floor of the station. This store is like a tiny IKEA and will supply you with all your flat essentials – however, unlike IKEA, you won’t have to travel out of the city to find it! Hema’s variety of stationery, cosmetics and party essentials makes it a must for university students - just don’t forget to grab some of their Netherlands-style snacks to take home with you!
Lastly, no stationery store guide would be complete without Paperchase – the UK’s number 1 spot for innovative, design-led stationery. This store will provide you will all your revision essentials, as well as cards and gift-wrap for any last-minute presents! You can find Paperchase on the upper floor, opposite the food court.
I'm a web guy in the marketing team and I love all the food options on offer in Birmingham!
Whereas the Bullring doubles down on the usual suspects for its food choices (Pizza Hut, Burger King, Nandos etc.), Grand Central thinks outside the box, which is hugely welcome. As it's half shopping centre, half train station, it has a great mix of on-the-go food (you get the impression these outlets would hate to be called “takeaway” places) and sit-down restaurants.
Most of its eating options are gathered together in a central area, overlooking the main concourse of New Street. Commuters in a rush can either go savoury with Tortilla, a Subway-style burrito place that balances speed and taste really well, or sweet with Crepe Affaire and the in-vogue Bubble Waffle stand.
If you have more time on your hands, Grand Central is essentially a world buffet. Tapas Revolution, Giraffe and YO! Sushi offer ridiculous variety, but it's Pho that is the real stand out. A Vietnamese street food diner, it offers unique dishes I haven’t come across anywhere else in the city, with great choice for everyone, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diners.
Lastly, Grand Central is home to the Kitty Café. What better way to spend an afternoon than sharing a cup of tea and a slice of cake with a feline friend. And it just goes to show just how varied Grand Central is!
Got any other recommendations? Let us know!