Birmingham was at the heart of the UK's industrial revolution, and its wealth was built upon the multitude of trades that were spawned. This led to a massive canal network, with more miles of canals than Venice or Amsterdam (though they're very different types of canal).
Much of the city centre was destroyed during the Second World War, and the replacement buildings added little to the city. However, since the 1990s, Birmingham has been undergoing a radical change and many of the post war buildings have been replaced. The majority of the city centre is now pedestrianized, and the canals cleaned up to make for attractive walkways. Locals credit the City Council for the recent transformation, as the city retains its industrial heritage while now appearing modern and forward looking.