1. Library of Birmingham
The Library of Birmingham is a bit like Marmite it seems. Those who love it (like us) see it as a point of pride, its intricate detail and colourful design pleasing yet unique among Brum’s iconic skyline. Others seem to think: “This looks like a piece of junk and spoils the area completely.”
Another reviewer called it a “Barbed Wire Box” and said it’s “A very expensive building for what is essentially a tourist attraction of views of the city and a coffee shop.” But one of the best worst reviews we said: “In a few years time it will look like a pile of rusty bicycle wheels screwed to a grey box! But what else do expect from a group of people who sanction covering a building with silver dustbin lids!!!!!”
We know that Birmingham is a literary city, but we’re not sure we’d ever call any part of it a “Kafkaesque nightmare.” One visitor to the Bullring said: “Filled with human detritus, slaves to consumer culture, the Bullring is a really sad place, a vile beacon of the decline of our society, a hideous edifice in a hideous city, run by a hideous cartel of greed.” Right…
3. Old Joe
Old Joe is the world’s tallest freestanding clock tower, but as one reviewer pointed out: “if you visit it you’ll be standing really close, so how can you tell? Everything looks big when you are right next to it, even a modest sized rhododendron bush. You will end up confused.” Seems someone needs a lesson from Father Ted about perspective. Other complaints seemed to be that Old Joe is “Not that old”, while a more positive review said: “Great place but had a bad memory so 1 star.” Thinking about them today!
4. The Custard Factory
When you call yourself The Custard Factory, you’re bound to set some visitors up for disappointment, as many of the reviews attest. “where is the custard?” one asked. Another had made a devastating trip fro Australia only to find: “Not a SINGLE custard product in sight. This wasn’t some Willy Wonka style factory for custard but a bunch of pretentious little tech businesses.” Someone did manage to find the real custard factory, however, they just “got stuck in the custard machine”.
Greggs is basically already a Brummie attraction anyway, but we don’t think the iconic Iron:Man should be placed in the same category. Others said: “It reminds me of a rusty hulk of a ship”, “It’s a bit of iron roughly in the shape of a man. Whoop, whoop!” and “At first glance you’re not sure what it is, a piece of artwork, a hurriedly made protest symbol, some promotion…. I don’t know.”
6. BT Tower
Okay, we’ll admit it: The BT Tower isn’t the most attractive building in Birmingham, but it’s still an iconic part of the city’s skyline. But even that’s not enough for some: “Some people tend to assume that just because a building has been here for a while it deserves iconic and protective status. I disagree. Each building should be judged on its individual merits and, quite simply, this has none. You can have cladding on the outside and paint it in different colours. You could wrap it in Christmas paper and put a fairy on top – and it would still be a concrete carbuncle.”
It does have some uses, however, as one reviewer points out: “I only use it to orientate myself when i need to go around St. Paul.”
7. The Ramp
To outsiders, The Ramp might not seem like much, but to Brummies, it’s an icon. Not a terrible review, but a glowing write-up of this place that means so much to so many, so we had to include it. The image above doesn’t include all of the write-up either. So we’re going to paste it here for you to read in all its glory:
Going to Birmingham? You have to visit The Ramp!
Paris has the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, London has the Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, New York has the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building but they all pale in comparison to Birmingham’s: The Ramp. A cultural icon that to the people of Birmingham cannot be understated.
Constructed in the Brutalist style in the late 1960’s to serve the sole purpose of moving shoppers and workers from New Street into the freshly built shopping extravaganza that was The Pallasades and onward to New Street Station itself, city planners could never have imagined the impact the thoroughfare would have to the everyday lives of Brummies.
Early days saw the arrival of icons of The Ramp such as the Birmingham Mail man bellowing as passers by to purchase the late edition and the roast chestnut and jacket potato guys on hand to add sustenance to weary travelers.
The addition of a McDonald’s restaurant in the late 70’s was the real turning point for The Ramp. In the days before mobile phones your word was your honour and the restaurant became the go to meeting point for weekend shopping trips and booze fueled evenings. The phrase “i’ll meet you on The Ramp by Mackies” was born and it has been part of the Brummie language ever since.
A one way system was added in the 80’s such was the popularity of the pathway. This was surely the inspiration of the copycat systems we saw put in place during the covid pandemic. Again proving The Ramp is always ahead of the game.
With pending listed status no doubt at the back of the minds of planners, The Ramp remained in place following the construction of The Pallasades replacement; Grand Central.
The Ramp is still going strong after in excess of 50 years and dutifully carrying out its role in everyday Birmingham life. Get down there, get a selfie. You will not leave disappointing!
We only feel sorry for the poor tourists who end up here looking for something more… At least another helpful reviewer has gone out of the way to say: “It is functional and serves its purpose but not a major tourist attraction.”