Birmingham in the West Midlands is the biggest city outside of London. It is full of activities and attracts tourists in its own right. Here are 17 great things to do in Birmingham. We’ll include world-class attractions, family friendly activities and venues that are open to the public for free so there is truly something for everyone.
Birmingham’s Symphony Hall is not only the best in Britain but one of the finest in the world. It has world class acoustics and hosts prestigious international orchestras. And it isn’t just for classical music lovers. Concerts here range from rock to jazz, and there are stand-up comedy shows held here, too.
The Mac is a local cultural hub. It is located in Cannon Hill Park. Admission to the building and its exhibitions is free. There are events held here year-round such as plays, talks, comedy, dance and films, though you may have to pay for admission to those. Craft and food markets are held here throughout the year, as well. There’s no admission fee for the markets, though you may end up spending quite a bit.
The Birmingham Hippodrome is a pantomime venue that holds events ranging from family pantomimes to operas, ballets, and comedy performances. The Hippodrome is family-friendly, offering booster seats for children, and it has its own restaurant.
The National Motorcycle Museum
The National Motorcycle Museum contains more than a thousand motorcycles restored to factory condition. The oldest motorcycle here dates back to 1898, though its collection covers the entire 20th century to modern super-bikes. This museum attracts more than a quarter of a million people a year.
One of the great things about the National Motorcycle Museum is how easily accessible it is. If you’re coming by air, there’s a taxi shuttle that will take you from Birmingham airport to the museum in less than 5 minutes. If you’re coming in by car, the museum is located straight in the middle of the country and is easily accessible if you’re coming from the north or south through London. And if you want to leave from Birmingham by air, you can find plenty of Birmingham airport parking options on birminghamparking.com that are convenient.
The Tolkien Trail
“Lord of the Rings” fans should stop by the Tolkien trail in Birmingham. Many parts of the city are tied to JRR Tolkien, since he grew up in the city. You can walk along the trail to see places where he lived and studied, and you’ll see the real-world places that influenced his writing like Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog.
Sarehole Mill has a visitor centre and gardens, which are free, and a mill house that charges admission to enter. Moseley Bog and Joy’s Wood are part of a local nature reserve. These sites were the basis of the “old forest” described in Tolkien’s books. The reserve is open to the public for free.
Sheldon Country Park
Sheldon Country Park contains 300 acres of open grasslands, wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows. It is a great place for walks. You could even walk on over to Old Rectory Farm which is a 17th century dairy farm that demonstrates traditional methods of farming. They keep animals like ponies, ducks, Jersey cattle, and pigs.
The Shakespeare Express
The Shakespeare Express is one of the few working steam railways left in England. This steam train gets its name for the route it runs from Birmingham to Stratford Upon Avon. It lets you see the industrial past of Birmingham and the countryside of Warwickshire. This relaxing train ride lets you see Shakespeare’s country, much of it still untouched. Depending on when you’re traveling, you could enjoy High Tea or a full English breakfast on the train.
The Thinktank is a science museum at Millennium Point. The museum’s outdoor Science Garden opened in 2012, the first of its kind in the UK and one of the few in the world. This outdoor discovery space is open to the public for free every afternoon. The museum itself does charge admission.
Lapworth Museum of Geology
The Lapworth Museum of Geology is one of the oldest specifically geological museums in England. It isn’t connected to the village of Lapworth but instead is named for local geologist Charles Lapworth. This museum is located in the University of Birmingham. The museum was renovated in 2016, and the updated facility features many fossils and minerals from the surrounding area. Admission is free and there are refreshments and items to buy in the gift shop.
Winterbourne House and Garden
Birmingham is full of picturesque houses and gardens, and Winterbourne House is one of the best. This Edwardian era home has been restored to its original splendour. You can walk through the house or stroll through the gardens, home to more than six thousand plant species from around the world. This is an inexpensive activity, and you can enjoy everything from a stroll through the woodlands to a 1930s style Japanese bridge.
Aston Hall sits in a public park on the north side of Birmingham. It is one of the most important buildings in the city. It is one of the last Jacobean houses built in the city, and it has survived the test of time. Aston Hall has display rooms that show the role the building played during the Civil War. One of the biggest attractions is Lady Holte’s garden.
Cadbury World is a museum and theme park combined, focused on Cadbury’s products. You can go on a variety of rides or learn about Cadbury chocolate. For example, you could go on a tour where an actor plays the role of John Cadbury, the man who opened the first Cadbury chocolate shop. Cadbury World also features the world’s biggest Cadbury shop.
The Jewellery Quarter is a unique piece of living history. The quarter itself dates back more than two hundred years. Unlike many historic sites, this is a living and breathing community and is home to more than 500 different jewellery businesses as well as many art galleries. This is why they make 40% of all jewellery made in the United Kingdom.
The area attracts thousands of tourists from around the world. Don’t forget to stop by the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter to visit a former factory. Or you could drop by the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery on Brook Street.
Birmingham’s Historic Churches
Birmingham is home to many historic churches, two of which are cathedrals. St. Chad’s Cathedral is located in the Jewellery Quarter while St. Philip’s Cathedral is in the city centre. These are must-sees if you want to appreciate medieval architecture and stained-glass windows.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery contains collections of art, ethnography and archaeology. The collections cover centuries of European history and culture as well as international cultures. The museum is noted for its hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold, the largest collection of Indian bronze sculptures and the world’s largest collection of pre-Raphaelite art. Or you could see its collection of Egyptian mummies. Dinosaur exhibits are also routinely displayed.
Birmingham is home to world-class museums, famous historic sites, and excellent gardens and greenspaces. It also attracts exhibits and shows that bring in visitors from around the world. While we don’t have the time to showcase everything this wonderful city has to offer, make sure that you visit at least one of these attractions next time you’re in town.