Founded in 1871 and following an industry and population explosion, Birmingham became know as “The Magic City” and soon grew to be Alabama’s largest.
Since their tragic history, the people of Birmingham now embrace the diversity within their communities and celebrate it with their incredible food and music, which has the locals collaborating over southern style BBQs and the amongst their diverse music scene.
Making yourself at home
Finding a place to live and work in Birmingham for a month is manageable, but do consider your transport needs. You don’t want to be away from the sites and amenities and needing to commute daily.
A budget option is the Sun Suites of Birmingham, just 7 miles from the CBD, whose rooms have kitchenettes and living areas, with on-site coin-operated laundry for $1500 per month.
A budget Extended Stay America apartment with 1 queen & 1 sofa bed, a fully equipped kitchen, work space, Wi-Fi, kitchenette, coin operated laundry, and weekly cleaning, 7 miles from the CBD is $1860 per month.
The mid-range Candlewood Suites with 1 queen & 1 sofa bed, fully equipped kitchen with dishwasher, stove-top and full-sized refrigerator, work space, Wi-Fi, lending locker with extra kitchen appliances, free laundry room, on-site gym, pet friendly - 10 miles from CBD - $2160 per month
Eating Southern Style
Alabama has its roots in BBQ and grits, with enough of these culinary joints to sate the appetite of the hungriest or travellers. With $4.30 being the average price for a cappuccino or a beer, and $36 for a dinner for two in a neighborhood pub, the price of eating out is average in comparison to the rest of the state.
For under $10, join in on the brunch buzz at Trattoria Centrale with a salmon cream cheese bagel, fried eggs and polenta, or French toast, washed down with a free refilled Octane coffee.
Try lunch at Urban Standard café where people gather for delicious sandwiches, local brews, and mouthwatering cupcakes, as their eyes wander across the magazine covers and artwork adorning the walls. Under $20 for lunch including a beer or local coffee.
Spoil yourself with French fare at Chez Fonfon’s restaurant with classic offerings of croquet madame ($11.95) and coconut cake ($8.25). Under $35 for a 2 course meal and a glass of wine.
Pepper Place Farmers’ Market is where you’ll find Alabama grown produce to cook yourself. Don’t miss Jones Family Urban Farms’ stall, where produce from a not-for-profit that turned a vacant urban property into a garden, sell their produce.
4 carts of groceries (1 litre of milk, loaf of bread, 1 kg bag of rice, 12 eggs, 1kg cheese, 1 kg chicken breast, 1 kg of apples, 1 kg of oranges, 1 kg of tomatoes, 1 kg of potatoes, 1 head of lettuce, and a bottle of wine): $215 per month
The cost of getting around Birmingham
Renting a car may be an economical choice with the advantage of when the awards program that the American Automobile Association (AAA) offers, with discounts at restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues. Consider the average price of gasoline at .86c per liter and a standard month’s car hire from $1400 per month.
A 5 mile taxi ride, on a basic tariff, will cost from $13, and a monthly public transport ticket $38.
Entertaining yourself in Birmingham
Some truly beautiful scenery that changes with the season surrounds Birmingham, and one of the best parks to witness this is Oak Mountain.
Birmingham is obsessed with sport. You’ll be cheering on a baseball game at Region’s Field or caught between long-held football rivalries at the University of Alabama’s Legian Field.
Music thrives in Birmingham and some of the locals’ favorite establishments are Workplay and the Bottletree Café. Here you’ll find bands delivering soulful music from the south and modern indie rock from further afield.
Motorsports enthusiasts must not miss the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, twenty minutes from town. The museum houses 1,200 vintage and modern motorbikes. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for children 4-12, and children under 3 are free.
A somber visit to the Civil Rights Institute and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church must not be missed. The Civil Rights Institute displays some moving exhibits that will challenge your beliefs as to how far the city has grown from its troubled past. The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is the site of were four girls died in 1963 from a racially motivated bombing. Adults $12, children grades 4-12 $3, grade 3 and younger are free.
Other entertainment costs: 2 tickets to the movies $20, or 2 tickets for the best available seats at the theatre $128, 1 cocktail in a downtown club $8
Studying Abroad in Birmingham
The 7 universities and colleges in the area offer exceptional residence halls with apartment styled accommodation available. Yet for those living off campus, the market is less desirable and it may take a while to find the right fit for you. A campus room and board at the University of Alabama starts at $1,100 per month.
Birmingham is bursting with new and exciting fervor yet respectfully acknowledges its troubled past, with this magic city still enchanting all who visit, study or work here.