What is the World’s Most Underrated City?


You may be surprised to learn that many of the world’s most amazing cities fly under the radar and don’t get the attention they deserve. Birmingham, Alabama is one city that often gets overlooked but has so much to offer visitors. From its rich civil rights history to its diverse food scene, Birmingham is an underrated gem waiting to be discovered.

Birmingham’s Storied Past

Birmingham has a complex past, serving as a major center during the Civil Rights Movement. The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 was a turning point, but Birmingham has worked hard to acknowledge its past while moving towards a more just and equitable future.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a must-visit, featuring exhibits that chronicle the city’s role in the movement. You can also visit the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, which includes the A.G. Gaston Motel where Martin Luther King Jr planned protest strategies. The motel is now being restored as a part of the national park site.

No trip to Birmingham is complete without visiting the 16th Street Baptist Church, now both a historic site and active church. This is where the infamous bombing took place, killing four young girls. A commemorative statue has been erected outside the church in their honor.

Visiting these landmarks will provide important historical context to understand Birmingham’s past struggles and its efforts to heal. It’s a sobering yet inspiring part of the city’s story.

Diverse Food Scene

For such an underrated city, Birmingham boasts a remarkably diverse food scene. From classic southern BBQ to ethnic cuisine, foodies will find plenty to sample.

No visit is complete without trying traditional Alabama barbecue. Head to Dreamland Bar-B-Que to try smoked ribs, chicken and all the fixings like baked beans, coleslaw, and sweet teas. They’ve been smoking meats over hickory wood since 1958.

For a refined take on southern cuisine, make a reservation at Highlands Bar and Grill. This upscale restaurant features creative takes on classics like fried green tomatoes, chicken and dumplings, and decadent desserts. Chef Frank Stitt helped put Birmingham dining on the map when he opened Highlands in the 80s.

In Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood, you’ll find Saw’s BBQ serving up deliciously saucy ribs, chicken, and more. And Niki’s West is a beloved meat-and-three with homestyle southern cooking served cafeteria-style. Get there early for the freshest fried chicken, greens, and mac and cheese.

Beyond southern fare, Birmingham has a growing food truck scene. Shindigs Food Truck Lot is home to over 20 trucks dishing out tacos, pizza, Cuban sandwiches, and more. Stop by on the weekend when they host a market with local farms and artisans.

Birmingham’s Vietnamese and Korean cuisine offer a taste of the city’s cultural diversity. Saigon Noodle House and K&J’s Elegant Pastries are local favorites. And for late nights, head to Falafel Cafe for gyros, shawarma, and Mediterranean eats.

With such an array of downhome cooking, ethnic fare, and gourmet cuisine, Birmingham proves itself a delicious underrated food city that visitors will love exploring.

Unique Neighborhoods to Explore

In addition to its civil rights landmarks, Birmingham offers distinct neighborhoods to explore.

The Lakeview District appeals to families and young professionals with its walkable streets lined with restaurants, bars, and boutiques. There are often events like concert series and street festivals during warmer months. Be sure to check out Blue Monkey Arts Gallery spotlighting local artists or take the kids to Bare Hands Gallery for interactive art experiences.

Avondale is one of Birmingham’s trendiest areas, known for its farm-to-table restaurants, microbreweries, and quirky shops. Spend an afternoon browsing the shops on 41st Street and hit up Avondale Brewing Company for craft beers. Don’t miss the 2nd Friday ArtWalk when restaurants and galleries stay open late.

For history, head to Historic Five Points South where you can see beautiful 20th century architecture. There are also great restaurants, shops, and nightlife. Stop by Alabama Biscuit Company for a true southern breakfast. And music venues like The Nick, Saturn Birmingham, and the Lyric Theatre host concerts in Five Points South.

These unique neighborhoods offer plenty to see, eat, and do. Touring Birmingham by neighborhood gives you a sense of the communities that give the city its character and charm.

Birmingham’s Green Spaces

In between sightseeing and eating your way through town, enjoy Birmingham’s outdoor offerings.

Railroad Park is an urban green space built on what was once deteriorating industrial land. Today it features lovely walking paths, a lake, outdoor concerts, and more. It’s a beautiful spot for picnicking or taking the kids to play.

On the outskirts of town, Oak Mountain State Park sprawls across 9,940 acres. Here you’ll find great hiking trails, a beach, fishing areas, and mountain biking. Or rent a cabin and spend a weekend immersed in nature just minutes from the city.

Red Mountain Park offers scenic hiking trails with excellent views of the city. Explore the abandoned iron ore mines that date back to the Civil War era. The park also connects to Rotary Trail, a walking, running, and biking path that stretches through the city.

For water activities, head to Oak Mountain State Park Beach to swim, boat, and picnic by the lake. Or visit Birmingham Botanical Gardens which features over 67 acres of scenic gardens and greenhouses to wander through.

With so much lush nature right in the city, Birmingham offers plenty of ways to spend time outdoors between hitting up museums and restaurants.

Birmingham: Sports and Culture Hub

As if Birmingham’s food and neighborhoods weren’t enough, it’s also home to major sports franchises, museums, music and cultural attractions.

Football reigns supreme here, with the Alabama Crimson Tide commanding local loyalty. College football Saturdays mean heading to a bar or restaurant to take in the day’s games. And with no pro football team, locals are diehard Tide fans.

For pro sports, catch an NBA game downtown as the Birmingham Squadron takes on opponents at Legacy Arena. You can also see the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team play at Regions Field during baseball season.

Arts and culture abound as well. The Birmingham Museum of Art features over 27,000 paintings, sculptures and artifacts. See works ranging from ancient to modern, with a particular strength in Asian art. Admission is free too.

For performing arts, The Alabama Symphony Orchestra calls the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex home. You can enjoy concerts from classical to pops. And the historic Alabama Theatre located downtown hosts concerts, productions, and films in a lavish 1920s setting.

Between the sports, museums, music and more, Birmingham offers plenty to keep you entertained and engaged during your visit.

Affordability Adds to the Appeal

One more reason Birmingham should be on your radar? It’s affordable! Birmingham is one of the most budget-friendly destinations in the U.S.

Hotels are reasonable, with solid options like the Elyton Hotel or Hotel Highland available for under $200/night. And dining is a bargain – you can eat at top restaurants like Hero Doughnuts, Automatic Seafood, and Little Savannah for under $20/person.

Big-city attractions like museums, sports, and theater here offer great bang for your buck. Admission to the Birmingham Zoo is just $11, while the Barber Motorsports Museum costs only $15. Seeing the Birmingham Squadron or Barons play starts around $15/ticket.

You can enjoy an amazing urban getaway – with great food, culture, attractions and hospitality – without blowing your budget. Birmingham delivers big for an underrated, affordable destination.

Come See Birmingham for Yourself!

Birmingham may fly under the radar, but it’s time to give this city its due. World-class cuisine, poignant history, arts and culture, and affordability all combine to make Birmingham an ideal spot for your next getaway.

Whether you want to immerse yourself in the city’s civil rights significance, feast on southern cooking and diverse eateries, or enjoy urban parks and nature, Birmingham hits the spot. This underrated city offers the perfect blend of energy, attractions, and hospitality without the high cost or crowds of other destinations.

So next time you’re planning a trip, consider giving Birmingham a closer look. Come see first-hand why this southern city deserves more recognition among savvy travelers. Birmingham is ready to give you an amazing yet down-to-earth urban experience, full of history, flavor, culture, and fun. Don’t overlook this underrated gem – put Birmingham on your must-visit list!

Diving Deeper into Birmingham’s Food Scene

While we’ve highlighted some of Birmingham’s top restaurants, the city’s food scene goes much deeper. From street food to fine dining, there is so much culinary variety packed into this underrated city.

Birmingham has a growing food hall culture that brings talented chefs and innovative dining concepts together under one roof. At The Pizitz Food Hall, stroll through the stalls sampling ramen bowls, dumplings, tacos, baked goods and more. Fyft, located downtown, features a coffee bar along with globally inspired food stalls.

For BBQ fanatics, Saw’s Soul Kitchen serves up platters of smoked pork, chicken and sausages with all the fixings. The white BBQ sauce is a local specialty. And Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q is a family-run joint dishing out ribs, baked beans and banana pudding since 1957.

No meat? No problem. Head to Charlemagne Records, the hip record store/cafe with a fantastic vegan menu. Try the Reuben with plant-based corned beef or the Chik’n and Waffles made from seitan and chickpeas. Their coffee and baked goods are sublime too.

Those with a sweet tooth must visit Edgar’s Bakery, a beloved spot known for its pastries, cakes, pies and cookies. Try the lemon bars, chocolate cake by the slice, or seasonal cobblers. Just leave room for the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, a decadent local specialty.

For fine dining, Hot and Hot Fish Club serves up creative plates showcasing Gulf seafood, local produce, and southern flavors. James Beard Award winner Chris Hastings helms the kitchen. And GianMarco’s offers upscale Italian fare in a romantically lit dining room. The pasta dishes shine here.

With such an amazing array of eateries, food tours are a delicious way to sample the city’s culinary offerings. Companies like Birmingham Food Tour offer walking excursions that hit up restaurants and markets off-the-beaten path so you can experience the city through its cuisine.

Birmingham’s Surprisingly Hip Bar Scene

While often considered a quiet southern city, Birmingham has been growing an impressively hip bar scene. From speakeasies to craft breweries, cocktail lounges to dive bars, there’s no shortage of great spots for a night out.

For craft beer, don’t miss TrimTab Brewing. They serve up creative brews like raspberry Berliner Weisse and coffee vanilla stouts in a cool industrial setting. You can take brewery tours here as well.

Marty’s PM is a legendary dive bar known for cheap drinks, burgers and live music ranging from punk to alt-country. It’s gritty in the best possible way. Or check out The Collins Bar for artisanal cocktails in a chic 1920s style atmosphere.

Hidden bars and speakeasies add to the nightlife intrigue. Step inside the unassuming Marble Ring entrance to find a swanky prohibition-era style lounge. The Essential is another modern speakeasy located below an Italian restaurant in downtown.

Carrigan’s Public House offers craft beer and elevated pub fare in a trendy converted historic home. And Rojo serves up pan-Latin small plates and 400+ tequilas in a vibrant setting. Their sister bar Pale Eddies slings creative rum cocktails.

Whether you’re into dive bars or speakeasies, local brews or creative cocktails, Birmingham’s after-hours scene offers plenty of options. Don’t let this southern city’s underrated status fool you – the nightlife here is legit.

More Can’t Miss Attractions in Birmingham

Between the food and nightlife, don’t forget to leave time for attractions and activities around the city.

For an educational outing, visit McWane Science Center downtown where kids and adults alike will have a blast exploring the interactive exhibits on technology, biology and physics. See aquatic life up close in the aquariums or catch an IMAX movie on the five-story domed screen.

At Vulcan Park, you can take the elevator up Vulcan, the largest cast iron statue in the world, for panoramic views over the city. This iconic statue of the Roman god of metalwork overlooks Birmingham, a city that came to prosperity through steel and iron production.

For auto lovers, the **Barber Motorsports Museum ** houses over 1200 vehicles ranging from vintage motorcycles to classic sports cars. Take a ride on America’s only motorcycle “test track” located on the premises or explore exhibits highlighting racing history.

Nature lovers will want to spend time at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Stroll through the rose garden, Japanese garden, and camellia collection spread over 67 acres. It’s an urban oasis with floral beauty around every corner.

With loads of family-friendly science museums, parks, gardens, sports and quirky attractions, Birmingham offers plenty to do beyond its renowned food and history. Take time to hit some of these can’t miss spots for a well-rounded city experience.

Birmingham Shines Bright for Arts & Culture

While often overshadowed by nearby Atlanta or Nashville, Birmingham stands up as an underrated cultural hub in its own right. The city offers a thriving arts scene, music venues, galleries and performing arts that rival pricier cities.

The Birmingham Museum of Art houses an impressive collection spanning ancient artifacts to contemporary pieces. See works by Rodin, Botero, Warhol and O’Keeffe. Admission is always free to see the permanent exhibits.

For provocative contemporary art, venture to Space One Eleven, a non-profit gallery featuring rotating exhibitions and artist talks. The clever installations will get you thinking.

The historic Alabama Theatre hosts concerts, productions, and films in a lavishly ornate 1920s setting. From classical performances to rock concerts, this atmospheric venue spans all genres.

Saturn Birmingham is the spot for up-and-coming indie bands, while the Lyric Theatre brings big name acts downtown in an elegant restored vaudeville and movie house. Iron City offers more intimate shows in a converted iron works factory.

The Sidewalk Film Festival takes over downtown each August, screening over 200 indie films from edgy dramas to documentaries. It’s one of the largest indie fests in the southeast.

Clearly, creativity thrives in this southern city. Birmingham punches above its weight class when it comes to arts, culture, and entertainment. Make sure to immerse yourself in the local talent when visiting.

Where to Stay in Birmingham for Every Style

With cool neighborhoods and a surprisingly hip vibe, Birmingham offers a nice range of accommodations to suit different tastes and budgets. Here are some top options for places to stay:

Elyton Hotel – This luxe boutique hotel downtown features chic modern decor blended with historic charm. There’s a rooftop bar, local restaurant, and pool to enjoy. Walk to attractions.

Hotel Highland – Located in hip Five Points South, this stylish hotel melds Alabama heritage with contemporary elegance. The 1060 Restaurant dishes up refined southern cuisine.

Redmont Hotel – For old world charm, stay at this historic 1920s hotel downtown. The spacious, retro-styled rooms have a classic appeal. Budget friendly rates.

Homewood Suites – Families and extended stays will appreciate the suites with full kitchens. It’s in a quiet location yet close to shops and restaurants of Mountain Brook.

Bohemian Homestead – This charming cottage can be rented on Airbnb, putting you in the heart of hip Avondale. Full of character and local art, it sleeps two to four guests.

With boutique hotels, international chains, and vacation rentals, Birmingham has accommodation options to fit any budget and taste. Book a place that reflects your travel style and enjoy Southern hospitality at its finest.

Four Day Itinerary to Experience Birmingham’s Best

Planning a long weekend in Birmingham? Here’s a suggested four day itinerary to help you experience the very best of the city:

Day 1

Morning: Walk along historic Civil Rights Trail downtown seeing Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, A.G. Gaston Motel and more.

Afternoon: Lunch at Niki’s West followed by exploring exhibits at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Evening: Dinner at Hot and Hot Fish Club then cocktails at speakeasy Marble Ring.

Day 2

Morning: See Vulcan Park and Museum followed by the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Afternoon: Walk around hip neighborhoods like Lakeview District and Avondale, stopping for lunch at Saw’s Soul Kitchen.

Evening: Take in the shops and restaurants in Five Points South. Catch live music at the Nick.

Day 3

Morning: Visit the Birmingham Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

Afternoon: Shop local boutiques and art galleries around downtown and Pepper Place.

Evening: Dinner at the Pizitz Food Hall. Catch a show at Saturn Birmingham.

Day 4

Morning: Rent bikes and ride along Rotary Trail.

Afternoon: Tour Barber Motorsports Museum then relax at Railroad Park.

Evening: Dine at the trendy Elyton Hotel rooftop followed by cocktails at Collins Bar.

With history, food, music, nature, sports and more, you’ll get a perfect taste of Magic City over a long weekend. This itinerary hits the highlights so you can experience Birmingham’s best.

Expanding Your Taste of Alabama Through Weekend Trips

Once you’ve spent time exploring Birmingham’s fantastic local scene, consider taking some weekend trips to see more of what Alabama has to offer. Some destinations close by for day trips or weekend overnights include:

  • Huntsville – Also known as “Rocket City”, Huntsville is home to the US Space and Rocket Center. See space shuttles and historic rockets, catch an IMAX movie, or sign up for Space Camp.
  • Muscle Shoals – This northwest Alabama town boasts an impressive musical heritage. Explore the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and take a listen at Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
  • Gulf Shores/Orange Beach – Head south for 32 miles of beautiful Gulf Coast beaches. Swim, boat, fish or just relax and enjoy fresh seafood.
  • Mobile – Explore historic downtown Mobile with lovely oak-lined streets, antebellum mansions, and charming districts like Dauphin Street.
  • Montgomery – Alabama’s state capital has a deep civil rights history. Visit museums like the Legacy Museum or take a civil rights bus tour highlighting landmarks.
  • Talladega Superspeedway – If you’re visiting during a race weekend, make the quick drive over to see NASCAR racing at one of its biggest and fastest tracks.

With Birmingham as your home base, you have quick access to unique Alabama destinations for day trips or overnight excursions. Make the most of your visit by venturing further to soak up more local culture.

Why Birmingham Should Be Your Next Underrated Destination

We’ve only scratched the surface of what makes Birmingham so special. This unassuming southern city delivers an incredible variety of attractions, culture, food and nightlife without the big crowds or prices of other hotspots.

Here’s a recap of why Birmingham should be on your travel radar:

  • Poignant civil rights history and cultural attractions like the Civil Rights Institute
  • Amazing food scene ranging from classic BBQ joints to upscale southern cuisine to ethnic eateries and food halls
  • Surprisingly hip bar scene with trendy breweries, speakeasies and cocktail lounges
  • Cool neighborhoods like Avondale, Lakeview and Five Points South packed with shops, restaurants and nightlife
  • Spectacular parks and green spaces like Oak Mountain State Park and Red Mountain Park
  • Major sports franchises like the Alabama Crimson Tide and Birmingham Squadron
  • World-class museums, music venues and artistic talent
  • Southern charm, hospitality and affordability

This underrated city delivers big. Foodies, arts lovers, history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike will find plenty to love in Birmingham’s vibrant downtown neighborhoods and natural surroundings. Come experience this southern gem for yourself and see why it belongs on your travel short list!


Birmingham often flies under the radar, but it’s time to give this city its due. With poignant history, an explosive food and arts scene, cool neighborhoods, lush parks, and southern hospitality, Birmingham offers the perfect blend of energy, attractions, and affordability without the high cost or crowds of other destinations. So next time you’re planning a trip, consider giving this underrated southern gem a closer look. Come experience Birmingham for yourself and see why it’s waiting to be discovered by savvy travelers seeking culture, cuisine and inspiration. This Magic City has plenty of magic waiting to be unveiled.

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