Brimming with culture, industry and regional pride, Birmingham embodies some of the best characteristics of southern living. Nicknamed the “Magic City,” it is an economic and entertainment epicenter with more than a million residents in the metropolitan area.
Steel production catapulted Birmingham to regional prominence in the 19th and early 20th century. Many manufacturers are still based in the city, though banking and insurance have emerged as powerful sectors of the current economy. Healthcare and medical research have also exploded, thanks in large part to the School of Medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, which draws nearly 2,000 faculty members, students and residents. Samford University, the Birmingham School of Law and Birmingham-Southern College also have primary campuses in the region.
Birmingham sits on a hilly, 15-mile stretch of the Jones Valley below the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The topography helps define the dozens of suburbs that make up the metropolitan area. Red Mountain lies directly to the south, and beyond it some of the more affluent suburbs, including Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Hoover and Homewood. Bessemer and Fairfield are located in the limestone and iron ore districts of the valley to the west. And North Shelby, another popular residential area, encompasses Pelham, Alabaster and Helena southwest of downtown by Oak Mountain.
The city is a regional mecca for fine and performing arts, housing the Alabama Ballet, Birmingham Ballet, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and Opera Birmingham. The Birmingham Museum of Art boasts one of the finest collections in the southeast. The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame hosts performances around the city and at its Carver Theater. The food scene has risen to national prominence over the last several years. Hot and Hot Fish Club’s Chris Hastings was named Best Chef: South by the James Beard Foundation in 2012. Chef Chris Newsome of Ollie Irene was a finalist in the category, and Highlands Bar and Grill has been a finalist for the top prize of best restaurant.
Nearly 800 types of animals live at the Birmingham Zoo. Photo credit: Alby Headrick / Flickr
statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. outside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Photo credit: J. David Kim / Flickr