Downtown Birmingham has transformed over the past 20 years, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an Alabama native who isn’t surprised (and impressed!) by the area’s immense growth and change. These days, Downtown Birmingham hosts an ample collection of local restaurants and bars, museums, outdoor spaces, shopping, art galleries, and more. Here’s how to best take advantage of all Downtown Birmingham has to offer, including a few favorite historic places to stay!
Downtown Birmingham is home to a collection of historic boutique hotels worth booking a stay at. Built in 1914, The Tutwiler Hotel is a Magic City staple known as the city’s first modern hotel. It’s even said to be haunted by Colonel Tutwiler, for whom the hotel was named. Travel up to 5th avenue for a stay at The Redmont Hotel, which was built in 1925 and features a delicious, upscale restaurant and rooftop bar providing panoramic views of the city. If you’re looking for an exclusive, intimate experience, head to the John Hand Hotel and Club, a relatively unknown members-only affair with only six available rooms. And for luxury in the heart of Downtown Birmingham, book your stay at The Elyton Hotel. Known for its architectural splendor and chic, modern decor, The Elyton offers an authentic Downtown experience, complete with a rooftop bar and swanky dining.
EAT & DRINK
Get your day started at one of Downtown Birmingham’s inviting coffee shops. For a top-notch cortado and flaky pastry, head to June Coffee, which Alabama native Jimmy Truong recently opened. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, walk to Bandit Patisserie for an iced coffee and sweet (or savory!) pastry. We suggest the lemon meringue tart. And for a classic favorite serving up hearty breakfast dishes, add Frothy Monkey to your list.
If there’s one thing Downtown Birmingham has become known for, it’s the food. There is no shortage of dining options offering culinary favorites like Asian fusion, elevated farm-to-table, and classic Italian.
For lunch, we suggest Brick & Tin (the sesame chicken bowl is to-die-for!), Trattoria Zaza, or the Pizitz Food Hall, which hosts a rotating collection of local chefs and restaurants. For dinner, make a reservation at The Essential, Bar La Fête, Helen, Cafe Dupont, or Avine for fabulous wine and food you’ll be talking about for weeks. If you’re in the mood for Italian, go for Bocca or Bettola, and check out Pizza GRACE for upscale pizza, followed by authentic gelato at Cannella Gelato.
Asian fusion comes to life at EastWest, where the food is rivaled only by the jaw-dropping murals and atmosphere. El Barrio is THE spot for Mexican food — I’m speaking from experience here; it’s a must! Roots & Revelry, in the historic Thomas Jefferson Tower, is an excellent option for showing off the city to out-of-town guests. For something relaxed and casual, grab a seat at John’s City Diner, which offers elevated versions of your favorite diner bites, or Paramount, an arcade-style bar with go-to bar grub and an extensive beer list. (Did we mention Birmingham is known for its brewery scene?) Lastly, stop at Alabama Peanut Company for the Southern-crafted peanuts that have been a favorite of residents since 1907.
The fun doesn’t stop — Downtown Birmingham’s bar scene offers something for everyone! For tiki drinks and Cuban-inspired food, belly up to the Cayo Coco Rum Bar. Craft cocktails are done right at Collins Bar, Paper Doll, Carrigan’s, and Queen’s Park, each offering its unique vibe and selection. Snag a seat at Downtown’s speakeasy, Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar, an intimate-yet-casual hidden spot. And, if you’re in the mood to dance, head to Neon Moon for country classics and a light-up dance floor.
There is so much to explore throughout Downtown Birmingham, and Canary Gallery is a great place to start. It’s described as ‘good art for good people,’ and we couldn’t agree more. For shopping, walk through Mercantile on Morris, home to a handful of apparel and home stores. To soak up some history, walk through the theater district to visit the iconic Alabama Theater and Lyric Theater, stop by The Heaviest Corner on Earth at the intersection of 1st avenue and 20th street, walk along the Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail and visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, or spend the day at the Birmingham Museum of Art, McWane Science Center, Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, The Negro Southern League Museum, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, or Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
Spend the day outside at Railroad Park, Downtown Birmingham’s 19-acre green space surrounded by local restaurants, including Hero Doughnuts and Buns, local favorite Good People Brewing Co. and the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball stadium, Regions Field. Kelly Ingram Park and Linn Park are other city favorites, and Rotary Trail offers a unique way to walk through a bit of the city. Finally, don’t forget to take in a show at Iron City.
As Downtown Birmingham continues to boom, so does our love for the city. Enjoy!
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