Birmingham can be found within the West Midlands, a county full of character. With a population of 1,101,360 residents as of 2014 it is the biggest city outside of London, and also the largest. Due to this it draws the attention of a wide number of travellers from around the world. The soul of this city really started with the Industrial Revolution, where it earned its place at the forefront of scientific developments. Now, it attracts the creative and the innovative, fuelling their minds with a wide variety of museums, parks and beautiful music halls. Read on to find out more about the adventures that you could have in Birmingham with our list of the 25 best things to do!
1. Symphony Hall
This concert hall really does reflect the sheer innovation and creativity that has gone into making Birmingham the city that it is today. Not only is it the UK’s finest concert hall, but it’s also well regarded to be one of the best in the world. With its picturesque auditorium and stunning, world class acoustics, it isn’t to be missed. Not only does it present some of the most prestigious international orchestras, it also houses a beautiful programme showcasing many different styles of music; everything from jazz to rock, and stand- up comedy! So there really is something for everyone with this beautiful building, and seen as it shows a show of some form or another almost every day of the year, it’s well worth having a look at what might be happening when you plan your trip.
Recommended tour: Birmingham: Victorian Canals to Today’s City Walking Tour
2. National Motorcycle Museum
Featuring more than 1000 motorcycles, all restored to the manufacturer’s original specifications, this Birmingham based museum attracts more than 250,000 visitors a year from around the world. The earliest machine within the 30 year old museum dates back from 1898, and stands out among the machines of a museum that also houses modern day superbikes. With more than 1000 motorcycles within the walls of the museum it is well worth a visit, showcasing the hard work of the family that put their efforts into creating the museum that they imagined more than 30 decades ago. This museum is well worth a visit for people who have a liking of beautiful machines.
3. National Sea Life Centre
As the most loved family day out in Birmingham, the National Sea Life Centre has really earned its place on this list. We all know just how hard it can be to keep children amused while travelling, with them getting bored at the drop of a pen, this place will surely capture their imaginations. With many events running throughout the year there is always something to do within the centre for children, involving everything from Dinosaur Detective events to events featuring their state of the art interactive rockpools. Within the giant tanks there are a wide variety of animals, from Jellyfish to Nurse Sharks, Octopi to Black Tip Reef Sharks, you can walk through a corridor with a glass top, running underneath an aquarium full of these creatures. But over the past several months, they’ve introduced an attraction that really will get many children excited, featuring the beauty of an Antarctic landscape…and Gentoo Penguins. You can stand and marvel and the cheekiness of these feathered friends. It should also be added that there are options to pay for VIP feeding experiences within the centre, but standard packages start at £12.50 per person, going up in price to add things such as collectables and photo packs.
4. Damascena Coffee House
Situated within the heart of Birmingham, this beautiful, little delicatessen is quickly building a pleasant reputation for it. While out shopping within the city centre it is well worth a visit, even if only for a quick drink. Step inside and you will immediately get a feel for the authentic Middle Eastern atmosphere that this coffee house presents. With pleasant waitresses who will more than happily make recommendations for you should you require them, they also cater for many specific dietary requirements. It’s well known that they’re also one of the most inexpensive places to eat at within the city, and if you’re just popping in for a warm drink you shouldn’t be spending more than £3 or £4.
5. Shakespeare Express
Steam trains form one of the great British institutions, with just a handful of working steam railways still running throughout England. This is one of the most well known ones, capturing tourists simply with its beauty. Running from the heart of Birmingham to Stratford Upon Avon it really gives you the chance to see the best of both worlds. From the fascinating industrial past of Birmingham to the beautiful countryside of Warwickshire, where large amounts of land still go untouched. You can sit back and relax while going past working farms, stylish villages, stations and waterways that make up Shakespeare’s county. Dependent upon the time of day, you also get served a delicious meal with your journey. From a full English breakfast to a freshly cooked Roast Dinner with all the trimmings. Or if you’re travelling in the afternoon, you can experience another great British institution, High Tea. A wide selection of wine, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages is also available. So if you’re looking for a beautiful day that allows you to sit back and relax, look no further!
6. Escape Games
Strictly for adults, the Escape Games are quickly spreading throughout the UK. Taking the locked in a room style games just one step further. Up to a group of 6 people are locked into a room, where a specific event plays out, one of the most notorious involves playing the part of an undercover detective who is captured by triads, locked in a room, and given an hour to escape. Another, not for the faint of heart, involves a murder taking place within a haunted house. This will give even the best of travelling puzzle takers a challenge! Prices do fluctuate throughout the year, so it’s worth checking before you make your trip.
7. Winterbourne House and Garden
The beautiful thing about Birmingham has to be the amount of picturesque houses and gardens that it has to offer, and Winterbourne House is at the top of its league. Restored to its original Edwardian era arts and crafts splendour it really does prove itself to be a rather unique heritage attraction. You can look through the house and the intense number of beautiful antiques, or take a relaxing stroll through the beautiful botanic gardens, featuring more than 6000 plant species from around the world. Within the grounds you will find everything from a woodland walk, with numerous routes, to a 1930’s style Japanese bridge.
Book online: Winterbourne House and Garden Admission Ticket
8. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
For families travelling with children, do you often find that due to different tastes keeping your children entertained within museums can be quite a hard task? This museum might just be the one that wins them all over. Featuring beautiful collections of art, social history, archaeology and ethnography there really does seem to be something for everyone. It covers centuries of European history and culture, as well as being home to collections of international importance. Step through the doors and you can see everything from the most highly valued hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold, to the largest known collection of complete Indian bronze sculptures. For the little archaeologists among you, there is a whole collection of Egyptian mummies and coffins, we would suggest that you look at current exhibits before making your trip, throughout the year dinosaur exhibits will pop up!
9. Birmingham Hippodrome
Perfectly complementing the creative nature that Birmingham has to offer is the Hippodrome, as said by The Independent, ‘Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime, thank goodness, always one of the best in the land’. This famous pantomime venue features everything from ballet and opera, to family pantomimes and comedy. It is well worth looking at what might be coming up while you’re travelling, as they’ll even provide booster seats for small children who are sat behind tall guests. For the adults, pre-order interval drinks can be ordered at any of the bars, ready for you to collect from the foyer, so you won’t have to keep standing in a queue. If you arrive well before your show is to start, they also have their own independent restaurant with fantastic ratings that open two hours before each performance, but their menus are finalised a month before each show, so it’s worth looking on their website first!
10. Sheldon Country Park
If what you’re looking for is a beautiful walk, then look no further. Set in 300 acres of open grassland, wetlands, old hedgerows and some mature woodland, Sheldon Country Park is the perfect place for both short and long walks. Some walks are specifically designed, featuring 2km to 5km trails, although there are also some shorter ones. By the main entrance of the park, you can find the Old Rectory Farm, a 17th century dairy farm. The farm itself has been fully restored and operates as a demonstration farm, showing city dwellers traditional methods of farming. Animals kept there include Jersey cattle, pigs, goats, ponies, ducks and chickens. There are also plenty of lovely activities for young children there, especially in spring when the ducklings and chicks are around!
11. Grand Prix Karting
For both children and the big kids among us. The Grand Prix Karting venue within Birmingham is arguably one of the best within the UK, and one of the most famous outdoor go kart raceways. Situated just one mile outside Birmingham City Centre, it’s easily accessible by both the motorway, and public transport. Boasting state of the art race karts designed by professionals in the industry, it really isn’t an attraction to be missed!
12. Aston Hall
Situated within a public park on the north side of Birmingham, Aston Hall is one of the most important buildings within the city. As one of the last great Jacobean houses to be built, this seventeenth century red-brick mansion has stood the test of time, earning its place as a Grade I listed building. Perfect for adult travellers and families, this venue features a full programme of events, activities and trails that vary and change throughout each season. One of the most notable permanent features involves the display rooms that Aston Hall played during the Civil War, and throughout other notable moments of history. But one of the features that attracts the most tourists is Lady Holte’s garden, designed in breathtaking symmetrical patterns, and split into quarters with a water feature running in between each section before finally meeting in the middle, it was designed with the key intention of being both beautiful and peaceful.
13. Cadbury World
Cadbury really are the heart of British chocolate production, with many of us still mourning the loss of their older, discontinued chocolate products. Perfect for anyone who likes chocolate, this chocolate themed day out isn’t to be missed. Starting with a 4D cinema experience you’ll be diving into a bowl of liquid chocolate milk, riding a Crunchie rollercoaster and taking to the skies in a Cadbury creme egg airship piloted by the caramel bunny. All without even leaving your seat! Both informative and fun, you’ll be finding out the secrets to why Cadbury chocolate is so delicious, and exploring the Aztec jungles to discover the origins of the cocoa bean, amidst trees and waterfalls. You can also take part of the tour with a live actor, playing John Cadbury, the man who opened the original Cadbury shop back in 1824. But the most important part of the day trip involves the world’s biggest Cadbury shop, and the Cadbury World cafe! Good luck not buying too much on that heavenly day out!
14. Great Western Arcade
The Great Western Arcade is situated within the heart of the retail district of the city. As a Victorian shopping arcade it really has seen the test of time, suffering bomb damage in WWII that led to the rebuild of the original arched, glass roof to an apex construction. We would suggest visiting this arcade during the Winter months, when the Christmas decorations are simply stunning, giving a classic feel to this beautiful place. Featuring many independent retailers, spas and shops specialising in many different food areas it really is worth a visit on your trip, we’re sure you’ll find something that captures your fancy there!
15. Jewellery Quarter
The name of this beautiful quarter really does leave no room for mystery. Known as the gem of Birmingham it is steeped in history, and forms one of the most vibrant and lively locations. It dates back more than 250 years and still to this day is home to over 500 different jewellery businesses. Described by English Heritage as, ‘a unique historic environment in England – a national treasure’, which has a few, if any, parallels in Europe. Attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world, it is also frequented by journalists, keen to visit this historic, yet developing area. Art galleries can be seen on almost every corner.
Related tour: Discovering Birmingham Walking Tour
16. Two Cat’s Kitchen
Do you enjoy fine dining, or have an occasion coming up that requires a beautiful surrounding and nice food? If so, this really is the place for you, with fine dining and surprisingly generous portions it certainly stands up among other restaurants within Birmingham. You get a small menu at the start of each meal, and servers who provide just enough service, but not too much, as well as a full wine list. What most people tend to love about this place is the atmosphere, it’s pleasantly warm but the dining room echos ever so slightly, making it seem incredibly sociable.
17. Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park
Do you love animals? Well this small, family run conservation park might be just the thing to add the beauty to your holiday. Featuring a wide range of animals, as well as plenty that are on the endangered list you really can see the effort that they’re putting into conservation. They have everything from ocelots to meerkats, from utila island iguanas to yellow breasted capuchin monkeys. Although not the biggest of zoos, they do charge a humble admission price of £5.50 per person, meaning that they should certainly be on your list of places worth stopping at!
18. Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses
Are you looking for a place that is both stunning and has places for children to play safely? This is that place. Four stunning glasshouses are surrounded by a large lawn with a range of beds and shrubberies, inside the glasshouses you can find an exotic tropical house, a subtropical house, a mediterranean house and arid houses. Within the Victorian public park there are 15 acres of landscaped greenery, a beautiful bandstand and plenty of play areas, although near the main entrance there is also a playroom for children connected to the tearoom. Events run in the gardens throughout the year, with the most notable ones celebrating the Chinese New Year and Christmas. But due to stereotypical British weather, this is one of those places you’ll need to make weather plans for, we would advise carrying an umbrella! Just incase!
19. Museum of the Jewellery Quarter
Do you like jewellery? Are you perhaps fascinated by the thought of how jewellery was once made? The building features a guided tour around a real jewellery factory where very little has changed since the early part of the last century. You can see demonstrations of jewellery making techniques at the jeweller’s bench, where you might be taught a handy trick or two. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the factory is the ‘Earth’s Riches’ showcase gallery, where you can see jewellery made from materials found in the natural world. From whale tooth and coral, to diamond and platinum. Original jewellery from local designers can also be bought within the museum shop. Entrance is just £7 for visitors aged 16 and above, including the guided tour, but anyone under 16 can get in for free!
20. Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Both a home for lovers of art, and lovers of architecture. This is one of Birmingham’s finest Art Deco buildings, purpose built and opened by Queen Mary in 1939. Designed by Robert Atkinson, one of Britain’s leading architects, you’ll walk through the doors and meet a central music auditorium, surrounded by corridors leading to separate parts of the gallery. Housing many world class painters it’s a gallery not to be missed. Including exhibits from artists such as Claude Monet and Frans Hals, you can find some of the most well known artists within each room. They also cater exhibits on other forms of art, including Ancient Roman coins, and Treasures of Ancient Egypt.
21. Gas Street Basin
If you find yourself in Birmingham, looking to rest and break up your day, you should consider a stunning walk in the heart of Britain’s canal network. Days gone by it was alive with the sound of cargoes as diverse as chocolate crumb, glass and coal getting loaded and unloaded. Today surrounding the basin are modern bars and restaurants, providing a unique experience where industrial heritage meets modern, cosmopolitan living. It’s a great stop on your way to the heart of Birmingham’s shopping centres, as it’s just a five minute walk away from the shops that surround New Street Station.
22. Baddesley Clinton
Baddesley Clinton is an intimate estate set in the heart of the Forest of Arden, with over 500 years of fascinating history and unexpected sources. As a National Trust venue, it provides both a calm experience, and a learning experience. Over centuries it has protected those seeking to escape the outside world, and over the course of 2016 it focuses on the story of the Tudors and the Catholic priests, who lived there during a time when their faith, could have meant there life. Go from learning to strolling through the tranquility of the beautiful countryside, away from the centre of the city, life really is different, everything seems slower. It would be worth experiencing both sides of that coin on your trip.
23. St. Philip’s Cathedral
An architectural splendour, this is one of the few churches built in the English baroque style which on its own sets it alone. But add to this that it’s one of the smallest cathedrals in England, cathedrals in general are ginormous buildings, almost touching the sky, this one is incredibly different. Situated just a short way off of the Jewellery Quarter, it is worth having a stroll to see if you’re within the area. If you do venture inside the cathedral, you’ll see the beautiful art installation of 2000 soul boats that now hang from the ceiling. Certainly a part of your trip that you’ll want to have your camera to hand for.
24. Cannon Hill Park
Cannon Hill Park has something that a lot of recreational parks don’t, which makes it an incredibly tourist decorations for thousands of tourists over the summer months. Unlike most large parks, it was built specifically for the recreation of the people of Birmingham, leaving it a beautifully structured feel over the 80 acres of formal parkland, but alongside that lay 120 acres of conservation and woodland plantation. If you have children, we would suggest taking them to look for the animals that live within the woods there, you could see anything from frogs to hedgehogs. We would also suggest going with young children on a sunny weekend, as there’s a mini fair that is weather permitting, and pedalo boats operate on the lake during the Summer. If you do find yourselves caught in a summer shower, then there are plenty of tea rooms where you can take refuge until it decides to stop.
25. Hen and Chickens PH
While you’re travelling, it can be really easy to judge a book by its cover, we all do it. But this is one of those situations where you should completely ignore what it looks like outside, it was derelict for quite some time and the outside still looks tired. But upon stepping inside you will completely forget what the outside looks like. Providing a perfect atmosphere, and friendly service, you’ll quickly feel comfortable within the bar/grill. They serve a pleasant mixture of both English and Asian food, with something to satisfy your tastebuds. Generally it costs around £10 to £15 per person, not including your drinks, but if you ask the chefs there really nicely, they can also make you food that isn’t on the menu. It’s also situated just off of the Jewellery Quarter, where you can find a wide range of nice pubs, so if a night out is what you’re looking for, it’s a great starting point.