As England's second city, Birmingham merits a visit if you're in the area. It is located 95 mi/150 km northwest of London, and Birmingham's redevelopment has made it a shopping center and a vibrant cultural center of the Midlands.

Among Birmingham's attractions are trips on the downtown canal system (more extensive than that of Venice), a steam railway museum with Sunday excursions on the Shakespeare Express to Stratford-upon-Avon, the jewelry quarter, 17th-century Aston Hall, 18th-century Soho House, the IKON Gallery of contemporary art and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (wonderful collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings). There are individual walking guides and group tours with a Blue Badge Guide, including a ghost and graveyard walk as well as a J.R.R. Tolkien tour (he grew up in Birmingham).

Just outside the city in Bournville is Cadbury World, a chocoholic attraction attached to the Cadbury factory, which offers tours and an opportunity to make, sample and learn about chocolate. Also in the vicinity are Bromsgrove (open-air Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings), Wolverhampton (Arts and Crafts masterpiece Wightwick Manor) and Stourbridge (famous for its glass-making). Those traveling with children may want to make the hour drive to Alton Towers theme park or the Monkey Forest in Staffordshire.

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