I would say that, of all the Malls in England, Bullring is the most striking and instantly recognisable. This is due mostly to the unmistakable Smartie-studded Future Systems Selfridges building, and the famous Bull outside one of the entrances, which is dressed according to the season and is beloved by many a smartphone photographer. Bullring has become iconic and has won countless architectural awards since opening in 2003. It is truly at the heart of the futuristic development of the Birmingham city centre.
The history of the site goes back a long while – the first market began in 1154 and has been trading, in some form, up to this day. In 1964, no doubt influenced by the father of the modern Mall Victor Gruen and what he was doing in America a few years earlier, the Bullring was developed into a mixture of Mall and outdoor shopping areas. The original Mall was razed in 2000 and development of the new Centre followed shortly thereafter.
The Centre's unmistakable structure has come to define the Birmingham skyline
The Mall is accessible from various entrances. There are two main entrances because the Mall is cut in half by one of Birmingham's main shopping streets, lined mainly with restaurants around the two sides of the Centre. It's interesting that as you enter either side of the Mall, you are already on the top level and there are 3 others down below. This is because the street level is actually raised and you need to go down a large flight of stairs to get to the beautiful St. Martin Church, the outdoor produce market and the covered flea-market.
As you enter you are treated to a huge space, with an airy glass and steel structure overhead. There are brushed steel pillars propping the Mall up and the bannisters are a lovely natural wood – the Centre is beautifully finished and has a seriously high-quality feel. On the Selfridges side, the Mall begins to take on an organic form - the edges smooth out and it begins to look as if you have just entered an ivory spaceship. This is in contrast to the Debenhams side, where the design is more geometric, with sharp and clean lines.
The stores are a great mix – there are massive fashion stores such as Armani Exchange, Next, Fcuk and Topshop, chocolatiers, tech stores such as Bose, multiple jewellers including a huge Goldsmiths, a sizeable Entertainer toy store and a fantastic HMV packed full of CDs and movies. There are even a couple of Game videogame stores. Until quite recently there was also an Apple Store in the Mall, but for whatever reason they left the site for a Grade II listed, and way larger, building on Birmingham's high street. While missed, it is by no stretch of the imagination a deal-breaker.
The Debenhams anchoring the one side is a great Department Store, but the real crowning jewel in Bullring is the Selfridges anchoring the other side. It is one of only 4 in the UK and it alone is worth a trip to this Mall. As you enter you are treated to the food area, with a plethora of interesting eateries, an international food market and other bits and pieces. You go up to get to the fashion, accessories, jewellery and other lovely things over which you can drool. Unlike the rest of the Mall, it is at all times an oasis of calm, save maybe the Krispy Kreme, which understandably draws quite a crowd when the 'hot donut' sign illuminates!
Which brings us onto a bad point (or very good point if you're the Mall's owners!) - if you come to the Mall in the afternoon on a weekend, prepare yourself. This has to be the busiest Mall I have ever encountered when it is at its peak. On one of our first visits, the Management even had bank-queue-like cordons around the escalators as a way to ease some of the crowding. It is unbelievable. We highly recommend Mondays to Fridays if you want the best experience; and if you want to come on the weekend, get here early and be out by 2pm. Also, I would imagine the complete lack of seating is due to the fact that anything affecting the flow of traffic would just make things worse. You have been warned!
The beautiful organic shapes of the Selfridges side
Laurence Broderick's beloved Bullring Bull, dressed for any occasion!
At night the area around the Mall comes alive with restaurants and bars. The area is beautifully lit, it is spotlessly clean and this creates a wonderful mood as you have some Thai or Japanese food, sip cocktails and people-watch. While there is no food court per se, there are so many eateries in and around Bullring. You are never far from a high quality food source – on this occasion we had the ramen at Tonkotsu in Selfridges and it was undoubtedly the tastiest tonkotsu outside of Fukuoka, with probably the best chilli oil I have ever tasted! This was pleasingly washed down with a delicious bubble tea from the adorable Mee-cha just outside the Department Store.
You have multiple options to get yourself to the Mall. There is a bank of bus stops and a train station (Moor Street) about 2 minutes from one of the Bullring's side entrances. If you are coming by car there are three parking areas, all with around 1000 spaces.
We have been to Bullring on many occasions and the experience just keeps getting better; we continue to be drawn to this Mall and if I am in England around Christmas, this is my place of choice for seasonal gift shopping. They really go all-out around the Holidays. There is no sense at all of any tiredness – the Centre feels new every time we visit. The location is also excellent, with New Street and it's spectacular new train station just a few steps away, as well as the aforementioned outdoor and flea markets. One glaring omission unfortunately is a Cinema. There is a rather dated Odeon nearby, but Bullring needs a Cinema worthy of its stature. That being said, if you are anywhere near Birmingham, get yourself to Bullring, you will have a fantastic time. Bronze award!
Address: Birmingham, B5 4BU
Contact: 0121 632 1526
Number of Stores: 160
Number of Levels: 4
Opening Times: Monday - Friday 10h00 to 20h00, Saturday 09h00 to 20h00, Sunday 11h00 to 17h00