As Alabama's largest city, Birmingham has it all: acclaimed museums, historic landmarks, lush parks, award-winning restaurants, and walkable neighborhoods offering everything from vintage shops to local breweries.
And only by wandering these neighborhoods will you truly get a sense of the breadth of the city's culture and history. From the shady, tree-lined streets and eclectic shops of Forest Park, to historical sites in the Civil Rights District, to the brews and barbecue in Avondale, we've put together a list of Birmingham's top neighborhoods to help you get acquainted with the city.
This historic neighborhood is home to some of the city's most notable landmarks, restaurants, and live music venues. Head to Railroad Park, a 19-acre urban green space, for a lakeside picnic or bike ride through the park's walking trails. Take in a minor league baseball game at the adjacent Regions Field or drink local beers at Good People Brewing Co. next door. Later, visit the iconic Vulcan Park and Museum, which includes an interactive museum dedicated to Birmingham history, an observation tower offering panoramic views of the city, and a 10-acre green space.
The neighborhood's Five Points South district is home to some of the city's best restaurants and bars, including Highlands Bar & Grill from James Beard award-winning chef/owner Frank Stitt and Hot and Hot Fish Club, which serves Gulf-inspired seafood and Cajun fare. For a more casual meal, opt for the Five Points South outpost of Dreamland BBQ for hickory-smoked pork ribs doused in the restaurant's signature vinegar sauce. Or enjoy live music, a round of billiards, and pub fare at Marty's PM.
For some of the city's best shopping and eating, head to the historic neighborhood of Forest Park, located on the northern crest of the city's Red Mountain. Peek into the eclectic boutiques that dot Clairmont Avenue, enjoy the verdant streets lined with stately homes, or stroll through one of the neighborhood's lush parks. Forest Park's must-visits include SHOPPE, a garden center and greenhouse located inside a 1920s bungalow, and its sister home goods store, GENERAL. If you work up an appetite while browsing, stop into the Rougraroux for Cajun cuisine like gumbo, boudin, po'boys, and daiquiris.
Once home to the city's first zoo, Avondale is now a lively neighborhood known for its artsy vibe and notable shops, bars, restaurants, and breweries. More than 100 local creatives call MAKEbhm home, and visitors can arrange a tour to see woodworkers and ceramicists at work or purchase their wares. Score a vintage graphic tee and other retro finds at the funky Manitou Supply, a husband-and-wife-owned boutique located in the MAKEbhm building. Or, shop for thrifted and new handmade goods, clothing, jewelry, and more at the 18,000-square-foot Sozo Trading Co.
Enjoy Alabama-style barbecue and other Southern classics at Saw's Soul Kitchen before heading next door to Avondale Brewery, open for tours and tastings of its signature brews; try the Spring Street Saison, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale named for the neighborhood's main thoroughfare, now known as 41st Street.
A former industrial area wedged between Southside and Avondale, Lakeview is home to several restaurants, breweries, pubs, and music venues. It's where you'll find one of the city's best restaurants—the coastal-inspired Automatic Seafood and Oysters—as well as more laid-back local haunts like Slice Pizza & Brew and classic diner Bogue's.
The real draw here is the nightlife. Head to Al's on Seventh for regular drag nights and late night dancing; Sidebar for its pool tables, patio, and huge dance floor; and Tin Roof for live music of all genres. Even Trim Tab Brewing Company and Ghost Train Brewing Company offer regular live music, ranging from jazz brunches to local DJs.
Civil Rights District
Designated a national monument by former president Barak Obama, this six-block area east of downtown is dedicated to its pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement. The district includes several historic sites, including the 16th Street Baptist Church, the Fourth Avenue Business District, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, and the Carver Theatre. You'll also find Kelly Ingram Park, the location of many protests and demonstrations in the Civil Rights era; it now features stark and poignant sculptures commemorating the movement.
After a walking tour of these landmarks, visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a Smithsonian affiliate which offers guided tours, oral histories, and permanent and rotating exhibits dedicated to significant events and figures in the city’s history. Museum highlights include photographs, multi-media displays, and the bars of the cell where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
Originally one of the city's first suburbs, wooded Highland Park is located 2 miles south of the central business district along the foothills of Red Mountain. Comprised of five National Historic Districts, the neighborhood is known for its wide sidewalks, tree-lined streets, and public parks such as Caldwell, Rushton, and Rhodes. Additional highlights include some of the city's best recreational facilities (Highland Park Golf Club and Highland Park Tennis Center) and several historic churches. The Virginia Samford Theatre—which presents local dance, theatre, and musical productions—is here as well.
After strolling the neighborhood's shady streets, head to the neighborhood's outpost of O'Henry's Coffees for a quick caffeine pick-me-up and pastry. If you're craving something more filling, check out Rojo for Latin and American fare like fish tacos and paella.
For unique antique shops, galleries, and boutiques, visit this affluent suburb just south of the city. Less than a mile long, Eighteenth Street South is the town's primary shopping district. Here you can buy local pottery, gourmet food, and candles at Alabama Goods; mid-century modern furniture and abstract art at Soho Retro; or luxurious linens and sleepwear at Three Sheets.
More of the outdoorsy type? The neighborhood is also home to Red Mountain Park, which offers 15 miles of challenging hiking and mountain biking trails, zip-lining and aerial adventure tours, and rock climbing.