Grand Central opened on 24th September 2015 at a cost of £750 million. This forms part of the city of Birmingham’s 21st-century makeover and replaced the old 1960s-style shopping centre that had stood on the site, which won the 2003 ugliest building in Britain award.
The design is contemporary, with a white interior made up of wavy architectural lines, mirrored panels on the exterior of the building and a large glass atrium that lets natural light into the centre.
The centre is home to 43 shops and 23 places to eat. There is also a small reflections room for quiet prayer. There are two floors and a floor space of 500,000 sq ft, although the large John Lewis store occupies four floors. The centre has conveniences suitable for babies, children, families and disabled people.
What’s unique about Grand Central is that it is built around and directly linked into one of the city’s major train stations, New Street Station. Taking the inspiration for its name from the famous terminal in the Big Apple, Birmingham wants you to make like a New Yorker by stepping off the train and straight into the mall.
Many of the shops located at Grand Central are new to Birmingham city centre, including Cath Kidston, Kiehls and Giraffe and John Lewis. Many of the brands are also only found on high streets in the capital of the UK, London, making this their debut in the West Midlands region.
There is a variety of places to eat at Grand Central, ranging from light lunchtime meals and snacks to afternoon tea and evening dining.
There is a range of food available from across the world. For example, there is the American diner Ed’s Easy Diner, Spanish tapas from Tapas Revolution and Italian all-day dining at Carluccio’s. Tortilla specialises in Californian-style tacos and burritos and there is the Japanese noodle and bento bar Yakinori. Giraffe World Kitchen serves up food from all around the globe.
The coffee shops here include Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Muffin Break. It’s also possible to purchase wine and prosecco from Frizzenti, juices from Joe and the Juice and fresh fruit smoothies and juices from Fuel Juice Bars.
Many shoppers are drawn to the eye-catching Italian patisserie Caffé Concerto situated in the middle of the first floor with its wide array of cakes on view.
Tesco is Grand Central’s only small supermarket, offering the usual selection of lunchtime food and other foodstuffs.
There are no food markets held within the shopping centre but these can be found elsewhere in the city centre.
There are no entertainment venues within the shopping centre.
Events held by the individual shops are advertised regularly on the Grand Central Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/grandcentralbirmingham/)
Many of the shops offer experiences for customers, some of which are complimentary. For example, Monsoon offers a free personal shopper service, Kiehl’s offers a complimentary touch facial and Jo Malone London offers a complimentary hand and arm massage. Check with the store for availability.
John Lewis is the jewel in the crown of Grand Central. This is the brand’s flagship store in the West Midlands region. It occupies four floors of the building and sells over 350,000 products.
The centre attracts people looking to spend on a mid-range budget. The shops are aimed at a middle ground with a mixture of premium and high street fashion, pampering products and other store specialities.
Grand Central is home to several fashion brands, including the British stores Fat Face, Hobbs, Jacques Vert and Monsoon. Speciality shops include Sonique, which sells prom, evening wear and bridal dresses, Cath Kidson, which is easily recognised from its vintage prints and the upmarket menswear brand Steel & Jelly.
This is the only Whittard shop in the West Midlands to stock all 100 of the brand’s tea varieties.
Children will particularly like the sweet shop Gobstoppers, which stocks over 2,000 products.
Shops that sell particular products include Tiger from Copenhagen, Kiehl’s, an American retailer that creates premium skin, hair and body care products and Pylones, which sells quirky items with a French twist.
The shopping centre is attached to Birmingham New Street Station, which is the second busiest train station outside of London and a major commuter hub. Therefore, the ground floor gets particularly busy at peak commuter times (7-9am and 5-7pm) on weekdays. Weekends are also busy throughout the day because of the centre’s central location.
The shops are open 9am to 8pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 5pm on Sundays. Most of the restaurants remain open to 11pm.
50 million people are expected to visit Grand Central each year, including commuters and shoppers.
All of the public facilities are situated on the lower mall close to Carluccio’s and Muffin Break.
For parents and babies there are baby changing facilities and a parent and baby room available.
For disabled customers, there are accessible toilets, plus an accessible changing facility. The key for this can be located at the customer information desk or by calling 0121 654 1000. There are also 23 parking spaces for use on each Level of the Hill Street car park.
For the public, the centre provides free public WiFi at Grand Central _Guest. There is a no smoking policy in operation throughout the building.
- For children, children’s toilets and wash basins are available. There are no child play facilities. The centre runs a Child Safe Scheme. This means that parents and separated children can speak to shop assistants and security guards or call the helpline number 08702 116 999. This number is also located on window stickers throughout the building.
For families, 13 parking spaces are reserved for the use of families with children.
The car park is open 24 hours a day, but provides access to the centre only between 6am - 11.30pm.
There are over 450 car parking spaces, including provision for the disabled, parents and children and customer collections.
Parking cost £2.50 per hour
If using a satnav, the postcode is B2 4BW.
If you arrive by bike, there are two cycle parks at Southside Steps (outside John Lewis) and Moor Street link (on Stephenson Street).
It is easy to access Grand Central via public transport. It is within a 5-10 minute walk of all the city centre bus stops, or there is a Midland Metro tram stop located outside the station. It is also possible to get the train directly into New Street Station, which is where the centre is based.
The shopping centre is located in the middle of Birmingham city centre, at one of its main railway stations, and is surrounded by other shopping locations and eateries on the high street that are all within walking distance.
Birmingham provides an immersive and diverse shopping experience. As well as shops up and down the high street, there are other shopping centres and hubs all across the city centre.
Birmingham is now the only city outside of London to be home to all five of the UK’s main department stores: Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Debenhams, House of Fraser and John Lewis.
The Bullring shopping centre, which is within walking distance, is four times the size of Grand Central with 160 shops, ranging from budget to designer brands. The Selfridges food hall is always particularly popular with shoppers.
Other shopping centres include The Great Western Arcade, which continues the ornate style of Birmingham’s Victorian heritage and is home to independent boutiques and specialist retailers. The Custard Factory is located in Birmingham’s artistic and cultural hub, Digbeth, and specialises in vintage clothing and a programme of events and festivals.
Avoid the morning and evening rush-hour because the shopping centre is built around a busy train station and there are lots of commuters.
The centre is busy almost all of the time, but it’s possible to avoid the crowds by taking an escalator directly into John Lewis from the ground floor, rather than access the shop via the first floor.