The Staying Cool penthouse in the Rotunda, Birmingham, is the most central place you can stay in the city. And it’s probably one of the most fun too.
Birmingham, in the West Midlands of England, is not on most tourist itineraries of the UK. But it boasts a busy Gay Village, a thriving student population and great shopping.
An icon for Birmingham
The Rotunda is an icon for the city. During World War II, the Luftwaffe devastated Birmingham, as an important industrial city.
Inevitably, urban planners went wild during the post-war construction of the 1950s and 60s. Many of the buildings they put up were uninspired and, therefore, unloved.
The Rotunda is an exception. Built in 1965, the 81 meter (266ft) tall round tower is one of the best examples of architecture from this period. As a result, it enjoys the second highest building protection status in the UK.
The city has, however, given it a new lease of life. In 2008, it was converted from offices into apartments.
Staying Cool at the Rotunda
Unlike some serviced apartments, checking in to the Rotunda is easy – just like a hotel. The receptionists on the ground floor are happy to share advice and give directions, as well as to deal with any problems.
Staying Cool has a few different options, but we checked into the two double-bed penthouse apartment.
You get an instant ‘wow’ when you step through the door into the penthouse. It’s light, airy and modern. Two ensuite bedrooms are set on either side of a living area, with a good-sized kitchen. And, most of all, every room has a panoramic view of the city from floor-to-ceiling windows.
You can make the most of the view by stepping out onto the curved terrace. Make sure you grab a bottle of Prosecco or Champagne before you check in. You’ll want to sit out on the terrace and chink glasses while you watch the sunset over the city.
Inside, the kitchen has a great espresso and cappuccino machine, a cooker, microwave and dishwasher. Alongside coffee pods for the machine and milk, you’ll find complimentary cereals and oranges for the juicer.
The lounge area boasts a big flatscreen TV, loaded with Sky. Staying Cool also offers free fast wifi. The penthouse offers 1,100 square foot of floor space, including its terrace. So even if there are four of you staying, you’ll have plenty of room to spread out.
Both bedrooms are the same size. A combination of blackout curtains, king-sized beds and soft pillows will ensure you enjoy a great sleep.
Again, both rooms enjoy generous-sized bathrooms, with powerful showers, aromatherapy spa products and big, fluffy towels.
In the morning, you can order an organic, free-range breakfast. But equally, many of the city’s best cafés and restaurants are on your doorstep.
Around the Rotunda
The Rotunda is easy to find. It’s sandwiched between New Street, the city’s main train station, and The Bullring, it’s top shopping mall.
You can enjoy browsing the shops in The Bullring, including the leading fashion chains and a branch of Selfridges. You are also walking distance to The Mailbox, which has a branch of Harvey Nichols and boutique shops.
Beyond The Mailbox, you can take a pleasant walk along the canal, to the Gas Street Basin. This is one of the gems of British Industrial Revolution infrastructure. What was once a dirty but buzzing hub of the freight business is now a pleasant marina, with brightly painted narrowboats.
Meanwhile, in the Jewellery Quarter, you’ll still find the city’s famous artisans bringing bling into our lives. English Heritage rates the unique, charming district as a ‘national treasure’. And it’s still home to 800 businesses.
Birmingham’s LGBTI area, around Hurst Street, offers a friendly and fun night out. It’s also the heart of one of the UK’s best Pride events, Birmingham Pride (Gay Star News is a partner of the event).
While you are on Hurst Street, take a look at the National Trust’s ‘back-to-back’ houses. You can book a tour in advance, and learn about the bleak lives of Birmingham’s citizens as the city boomed during the Industrial Revolution. Afterwards, visit the traditional sweet shop, to remind yourself the past had its good side too.
Meanwhile, if you love art, you must not miss the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Its famous for the largest public collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings in the world, and many more treasures.
Stay like a VIP in Birmingham
You can find out more about the Staying Cool penthouse and other serviced apartments at the Rotunda, Birmingham here.