When should we go
Being sent to Coventry takes on new meaning in 2021, as it celebrates its tenure as a city of culture. Long neglected due to the hustle and bustle of Birmingham, this Midland town has its time and there has never been a better time to visit.
Coventry was selected because of its rich creative history. For centuries it was a center of the textile industry, the birthplace of British cars and the birthplace of cycling. It also has a musical heritage, as the homeland of Two-Tone – further proof of the city’s cultural power.
Events at the Cité de la culture include theatrical productions, poetry performances and music festivals. The Assembly Festival Outdoor Gardens have opened in the center across from the Council House and feature two tents, bars and street food, and will be open until October.
Terry Hall, singer of local band The Specials is hosting his Home Sessions, a series of concerts in early August, including The Libertines and Tim Burgess. The Turner Prize will also be held at the Herbert Art Gallery in September, and the Coventry Biennale Art Festival will run from October to January 2022. Sound Systems will celebrate Coventry’s musical history this fall, while the Big Foodie Weekend has been postponed to June 2022. To learn more, visit coventry2021.co.uk and coventrycitycentre.co.uk.
Besides being the city of culture, Coventry has millennia of history to keep you entertained. Once one of the most influential towns in the country, its large medieval quarter demonstrates the wealth that once was here, and is home to a medieval Guild, the ruins of a 12th-century priory, and cozy pubs with Tudor beams. The surrounding new town is now home to a mix of Georgian, Brutalist, and 21st-century architecture, along with brand new murals and public art commissioned for this year. The small center is immensely accessible on foot, has been recently redeveloped with flower beds and water games, and is surrounded by a ring road which facilitates navigation,
Where to stay
The brand new Coventry Telegraph Hotel (1) opened in May in a former newspaper office, and its rooftop bar and restaurant are designed to reflect the building’s mid-century heritage. It has 88 rooms, including a split-level penthouse suite that was the private quarters of the former owner of the newspaper. B&B from £ 80, telegraph-hotel.com
The Coombe Abbey Hotel (2) dates from 1150 and is set in a 500-acre park designed by Capability Brown on the eastern outskirts of the city. Doubles from £ 99, coombeabbey.com/inspire-me-stay/
The Jacobean (3) is a 16th century farmhouse located a 10-minute drive from the center. B&B from £ 60, thejacobean.co.uk
How to get around
Coventry is in the heart of England and is easily accessible by public transport. The journey from Birmingham International Airport takes just 10 minutes by train, for £ 2.90. Coventry Station (4) is just outside the center and is a five-minute walk along a rainbow-lit path leading into the city.
The town is compact and within walking distance, but for bus timetables visit nxbus.co.uk/coventry. Fares are £ 2.20 for a one-way ticket or £ 4 for a day ticket.
Start the day
A great place for brunch is the Gourmet Food Kitchen (5) run by Tony Davies, a local chef who has worked in kitchens across Europe, from Dorchester in London to Öperakallaren in Sweden. He does everything from scratch and smokes his own bacon and salmon. A tasting menu at the chef’s table is also offered on Friday and Saturday evenings. Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. cuisinegastronomie.fr
Hit the stores
The Gourmet Food Kitchen is located in the creative district of Fargo Village, so you’ll be perfectly placed to explore its secrets. Built on a converted industrial space, the converted warehouses and shipping containers house artisans and creatives, from street artists to soap makers and screen printers, fargovillage.co.uk
Do not miss
No visit is complete without seeing the bombed-out 14th-century Coventry Cathedral (6, main image) and its adjacent post-war Modernist reincarnation by architect Sir Basil Spence. Coventry was targeted as it was a major production center for the war effort, and Hitler is said to have ordered the 11 a.m. raid on the city, in which 568 people died in one night in revenge for the RAF attack on Munich. Coventry became a symbol of the barbarism of the Nazi regime, but the New Cathedral also symbolized its rebirth and is home to specially commissioned works of art from the mid-century, including a tapestry by Graham Sutherland. Access to both cathedrals is free. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends, coventrycathedral.org.uk
Time for a drink
Coventry’s historic symbol is its three spiers, and centuries ago they could be seen for miles as travelers approached the Warwickshire countryside. Like the cathedral, Christ Church was also destroyed during the war, leaving only its 14th century spire. Today it is reborn as the stylish Dhillon’s Spire Bar (7), which was launched in April by a local micro-brewery and offers its own beer, cocktails and a daily changing street food menu, dhillonsspirebar .com
A favorite with local foodies is the Earlsdon Supper Club (8), which operates in a private house and garden on Fridays and Saturdays. Located in the city’s affluent Earlsdon area, it’s worth the 20-minute walk or take a taxi out of the center to experience a tasting menu inspired by chef Tobias Reutt’s time in Tuscany. Prices start at £ 55 per person, so be sure to book in advance. Earlsdonsupperclub.fr
The War Memorial Park (9) is a lovely place for an early morning stroll and it celebrates its centenary this month. Each tree was planted to commemorate a victim of WWI and WWII, and an 87-foot-tall Art Deco stone cenotaph marks the center. There is a playground and a soccer-golf course – it’s golf but played by kicking you and me – while a Japanese Peace Garden, built by students from five schools local primaries, opened in early July.
Sundays are synonymous with roasts, and at Golden Cross (10) they are among the best. The oldest pub in town was built around 1583 and its Tudor features alone are worth a visit. They serve traditional home-cooked British food, but everything on the menu is gluten-free, although you’d never notice it. Sunday lunch is served from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., thegoldencrosscoventry.co.uk
For a final coffee or cake, head to Playwright’s Café (11) in the canal basin just outside the city center, where you can grab a snack while watching the barges float against the backdrop of the historic warehouses. and resident fauna. facebook.com/PlaywrightsCafe
Get out of town
Coventry is perfectly situated for visiting nearby destinations such as Warwick, Leamington Spa or Birmingham, but the small town of Kenilworth is perfect for a change of pace and only 10 minutes away by train. Stroll through farmland to admire the 900-year-old castle from afar, and stop for lunch in historic Harringtons on the Hill. heritage-english.org.uk, harringtonsonthehill.com
Ask a local
Sally Johnson, host
“If the sun is shining, I love having lunch on University Square. It’s a great place for people watching and you get a great view of the old cathedral. Then take a stroll down Bayley Lane, right next to the Herbert Art Gallery. There is a piece of art that shows where the old houses were located before the city was bombed in WWII. You can see who lived there; I wonder what they would think of Coventry now.