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Birmingham tourist information + city guide

Birmingham skyline

My first visit to Birmingham, Alabama was completely unplanned. I had booked a spontaneous trip to Huntsville, a northern Alabama city just under two hours away, because of a last-minute United fare deal, but the airline canceled my return flight. With an extra day to explore, I made the short trip down to Birmingham for the first time, and let’s just say that every trip since has been a little more intentional. Over the last few years, I’ve found myself going back again and again to explore more of Birmingham, and each time I’ve uncovered new corners to love. In case you’re headed in that direction, I’ve compiled some Birmingham tourist information, as well as my picks for what to do, see and eat in the area, to create a city guide. Enjoy!

BIRMINGHAM TOURIST INFORMATION + CITY GUIDE

Woodlawn mural

WHEN TO VISIT BIRMINGHAM

Having now visited Birmingham in all four seasons, I can safely say that spring is my favorite. Summer and even fall can be extremely hot and humid, which isn’t ideal for exploring outdoors. But if you go early enough in the spring, you’ll catch more moderate temperatures, as well as a city in bloom. 

Downtown Birmingham building
Flowers

FUN THINGS TO DO IN BIRMINGHAM

HISTORICAL ATTRACTIONS

Vulcan Park & Museum – A giant statue of Vulcan—the Roman god of fire and forge—is the highlight of this park, which pays homage to the city’s history as an iron hub. The skyline views from the park are top-notch, and it just so happens to be my favorite place in the entire city.

Vulcan Park

Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark – Once the site of the world’s largest pig iron manufacturing operation, Sloss Furnaces is now a an arts and event space. You can take a self-guided tour of the site for plenty of local history. 

Sloss Furnaces
Sloss Furnaces

Civil Rights district – Birmingham was a battleground in the struggle for civil rights in the U.S., and many sites throughout the city commemorate the struggle for equality. Along with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, you can visit the 16th Street Baptist Church, site of a tragic bombing that killed four young girls, and the nearby Kelly Ingram Park, whose emotionally charged sculptures tell stories from the civil rights movement.

MLK statue
Kelly Ingram Park

Alabama Peanut Co. – The actual peanut business housed within this Morris Ave. depot has changed in recent years, but the storefront has not. Peanuts have been roasted at the site since 1907, and a trip there will take you back in time. Of course, you can also buy a bag of peanuts while you’re there.

Alabama Peanut Co.
Peanuts

OTHER THINGS TO DO 

Explore architecture downtown – There’s no shortage of beautiful buildings in downtown Birmingham, and every day more and more small businesses seem to move into them. Stroll around the heart of the city admiring the ornamentation, and check out this self-guided walking tour if you’d like to learn more about the buildings’ history!

Downtown Birmingham

Five Points South – This neighborhood, part of the National Register of Historic Places, was once one of the city’s first streetcar suburbs. Today, it’s a culinary center and lively neighborhood to explore within the city.

Shop hop in Woodlawn – If you’re looking for the city’s hippest neighborhood, this is it. Small businesses and street art mark the area, which features fun stores to pop into as you explore.

Woodlawn shop
Birmingham Barons – You may know the Birmingham Barons as the one-time baseball team of NBA superstar Michael Jordan, but they’re also a member of the AA Southern League and a farm team for the Chicago White Sox. Catch a game at the lovely Regions Field, which opened in 2013.
Regions Field

Railroad Park – 19 acres of green space constitute Railroad Park, which is home to a lake and more than 600 planted trees. It’s a great place to picnic, run, or just take a break from exploring the city.

Railroad Park

WHERE TO STAY IN BIRMINGHAM

Redmont Hotel – A member of Hilton’s Curio Collection, the Redmont hotel is the oldest hotel in Birmingham. Like many of the collection’s historical properties, it’s newly restored, featuring 120 rooms. Its downtown location will put you within easy walking distance of many of the city’s top attractions. Here’s a full review of my September stay!

Redmont Hotel
Redmont Hotel

The Elyton – Marriott’s answer to the Redmont is the Elyton, part of its Autograph Collection. Built in 1909, the building was once known as the Empire Building and enjoyed architectural notoriety throughout the South. The hotel’s name is a nod to Birmingham’s early days; it was called Elyton before it became the city that grew into the one we know today.

The Westin Birmingham – If you’re willing to trade some of the historical touches of the Redmont and Elyton for a bump-up in luxury—or if you want to stay close to Legacy Arena—check out the Westin. The highlight of the property, in my opinion? The rooftop pool, of course. 

For info on how to book these hotels for free using points, check out the 52 Cities free resource library. You can also register to join me on an upcoming masterclass!

WHERE TO EAT IN BIRMINGHAM

Highlands Bar & Grill – The star of the local dining scene is Highlands Bar & Grill, a white-tablecloth establishment without the pretentiousness that serves dishes highlighting local ingredients. In a word, the food here is excellent.

Highlands Bar & Grill
Highlands Bar & Grill

Big Bad Breakfast – This may be a chain across the South, but expect early-morning crowds reminiscent of a legendary hole-in-the-wall diner anyway. Visit for biscuits, eggs, skillets… you name it. If it’s a breakfast food, it’s here. The area boasts two locations of BBB, one in the city proper and one in suburban Homewood.

Big Bad Breakfast
Big Bad Breakfast

Real & Rosemary – Also in Homewood is Real & Rosemary, an adorable “real food”-focused restaurant replete with healthy options. The honey ricotta dip and fig and collard salad are personal favorites!

Real & Rosemary

Farm Bowl + Juice Company – Within just feet of Big Bad Breakfast and Real and Rosemary sits Farm Bowl + Juice Company, a go-to for acai bowls, oatmeal creations and the like. Like its latter neighbor, this whitewashed space is also full of health-conscious options. 

Farm Bowl + Juice Co.
Oatmeal bowl

Big Spoon Creamery – This is the local artisanal ice cream shop, and it delivers. This small-batch company prides itself on its use of seasonal flavors and local ingredients, resulting in a menu of rotating flavors that (at the time of writing) includes bourbon butterscotch, pumpkin gingersnap cheesecake and coffee almond toffee. Want proof it’s great? Look how happy my dad looks with his cone!

Big Spoon Creamery
Big Spoon Creamery

Honeycreeper Chocolate – It’s been a year and a half since I visited Honeycreeper, then just a pop-up shop within a clothing boutique, and I still think about it all the time. The bars I bought there were among the best—if not the best—I’ve ever had, and that’s a big statement from someone who consumes a lot of artisanal chocolate. The (relatively) new downtown location will be my first stop on my next trip to Birmingham!

Honeycreeper Chocolate

WHERE TO DRINK IN BIRMINGHAM

Urban Standard – This homey, inviting cafe has been a hit since it opened its doors in 2007. In doing so, it helped spur the boom of local businesses that’s currently happening in downtown Birmingham. Stop in for breakfast, lunch, coffee or a pastry during your downtown exploration.

Urban Standard

Woodlawn Cycle Cafe – This Insta-perfect cafe in Woodlawn screams hip, from its enviable interior design to its curated selection of items for sale. Visit for coffee, breakfast or lunch; before closing at 2 p.m. daily, the kitchen serves up selections such as corncakes and jam, venison boards and savory breakfast bowls. 

Woodlawn Cycle Cafe

The Roof at the Redmont Hotel – Thanks to its prime downtown location, the Redmont’s rooftop bar is the perfect place to take in the city. String lights create an inviting atmosphere for cocktails, and a television on one side caters to those who want to enjoy a drink while watching a game or event.

The Roof
The ROof drink

NEXT TIME

Birmingham Botanical Gardens – Birmingham Botanical Gardens counts more than 12,000 different plants within its 67.5 acres, along with more than 25 unique gardens and 30 original sculptures.

Pizitz Food Hall – I love food halls, and this one in downtown Birmingham is tops on my list for next time.

Shu Shop – A local slipped me this ramen recommendation on my last visit, but it was closed the only day I had time to go.

Cocktail bars – Birmingham has a handful of cocktail bars I’d love to check out, including Queen’s Park and The Atomic Bar & Lounge.

Magic City sign
Magic City sign

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN ALABAMA

Huntsville – Huntsville is home to both the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and to a list of colleges and universities that includes the University of Alabama in Huntsville. It’s a charming place to spend a couple of days, particularly in the spring.

Montgomery – Visit the Alabama State Capitol and a pair of acclaimed and moving civil rights memorials—the Southern Poverty Law Center’s black granite fountain and the newly opened National Memorial for Peace and Justice—on a trip to Alabama’s second-largest city.

Mobile – I haven’t yet personally visited Mobile, but I’ve heard that some of the whitest-sand beaches you’ll find sit nearby. It’s at the very top of my U.S. bucket list!

For more on Birmingham, check out my review of the Redmont Hotel.

Vulcan

Hope this Birmingham tourist information is helpful for you! What other questions do you have about visiting Alabama? Let me know in the comments! >>

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Birmingham tourist information
Birmingham tourist information
Birmingham tourist information

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Carly

November 18, 2019

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