Heading to the City of a Thousand Trades and wondering what to do when you get there?
From Matthew Boulton, the English engineer and manufacturer who introduced James Watt’s steam engine after financing it, to Bird’s custard and Cadbury’s chocolate, the industrial history of Birmingham alone is rich enough to keep you occupied for a week or two. But there’s so much more to be enjoyed that detailed planning is a must before you go.
Birmingham is the second-largest city in England, and it’s jam-packed with fine art, haute cuisine, high culture, bars and breweries, historic buildings, museums and music. Whether it’s the metropolitan grit of the Peaky Blinders or the bucolic glory of Edgbaston, it will certainly have something to offer for intrepid travellers of all preferences.
Free Things To Do In Birmingham
Not everything worth doing costs money. There’s a host of great things to see and do in Birmingham that you won’t need to open your wallet for!
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery houses the biggest collections of pre-Raphaelite paintings on earth and is additionally one of the finest buildings in the city. You’ll be able to take in Contemporary & Modern Art, a Greek and Roman Gallery, and view the extraordinary The Sultanganj Buddha, one of the first objects ever given to the museum.
The Birmingham School of Art Gallery is a must-see, as is the Faith Gallery, and interesting talks occur frequently. Scour the schedule to see what you might be interested in and when it takes place.
Brindleyplace and the Canal Quarter
While there may not be more canals in Birmingham than in Venice, exploring the Canal Quarter is still highly recommended.
Due to its recent redevelopment, there’s a wonderful mix of different influences in this part of town. It’s crammed full of quirky bars and restaurants that beg to be sampled. You can take afternoon tea at Aria, explore the IKON Gallery, or spend an evening at the Pop World late-night bar.
The Jewellery Quarter
There’s never a wrong time to visit the Jewellery Quarter, where you can dive into 200+ listed buildings and 250+ years of history. If you’re not in the mood for diamonds or gold, check out the Museums and the Newman Brothers Coffin Works and take a peek at the various galleries and independent boutiques.
Fun Things To Do In Birmingham
If you’re in Birmingham for the day, make the most of it by seeing and doing as much as possible. Visiting a few of these places is sure to do the trick.
The Custard Factory
We have a Mr Alfred Bird of Birmingham to thank for custard powder. He invented it in 1837 and the old factory he worked in is now a thriving studio complex.
Home to artists, bars, galleries, independent stores, The Mockingbird Cinema and restaurants, the area is definitely worth more than a few hours of your time.
The Bartons Arms
Described by its loyal patrons as one of the greatest pubs in the world, The Bartons Arms is a grand Victorian bar that’s been going strong since it was built in 1901.
Still boasting original features like Minton tiles and a horseshoe bar filled with snob screens, it’s English authenticity at its best. Take in the fabulously ornate wrought iron staircase and imagine it being climbed by Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy back in the day while you sip on your pint.
Whisky Blending Workshop
The process of making and blending whisky is long and complicated, but this experience at The Birmingham Whisky Club will give anyone an introduction to the art! This is perfect for anyone who loves whisky and may be curious to know a bit more about the process.
The Whisky Lounge is located inside the luxurious hotel the Edgbaston, so you’ll be tasting of tipples from around the globe in the height of sophistication. Even if you’re not an aficionado, the interesting history of each bottle, its origins and distilling process is sure to fascinate you.
The Birmingham Royal Ballet
Acclaimed Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta is the artistic director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet company and is set to continue the organisation’s illustrious history. His ambitions to reflect the city as it is in the 21st century against the backdrop of classic revivals and progressive partnership will no doubt reveal great things.
An afternoon or evening at the ballet is not only loads of fun, it’s a wonderful cultural treat too.
A Peaky Blinders Tour
Fans of this television show will be thrilled to hear that they can roam the very same streets the original Blinders once did.
Take the Peaky Tour in Digbeth, visit the Steelhouse Lane police station lock-up where the original hoodlums were once incarcerated, and view the show’s sets at the Black Country Living Museum. It’s a gritty step back in time that gives you a glimpse into the history of the underbelly of the city.
Birmingham Microbrewery Tour
Embrace your inner brewmaster together! A brilliant, boozy way to get up close and personal with Birmingham’s breweries involves a tour that takes in three different venues.
Perfect for the couple that is enthusiasts about beer, this tour also includes a beer tasting masterclass complete with snacks to round it off.
Caribbean Cooking Course
Birmingham is a melting pot of flavours and cultures. A cooking course that teaches you all about Caribbean dishes is a great way to celebrate this.
Learn how to make authentic Caribbean dishes from a mother and daughter duo so you and your partner can wow your friends – or each other with your newfound culinary prowess.
Spa Day at Moor Hall Hotel
Everyone deserves to be treated like royalty, and a day at Moor Hall Hotel & Spa will certainly make you feel that way. Nestled in acres of peaceful parklands, this four-star country house hotel is within easy reach of Birmingham’s bustling city centre.
Treat yourself to a relaxing spa experience and get your partner to join you too. Take your pick from a hydrating facial or body wrap, delicate manicure, nourishing pedicure and a spot of lunch before relaxing in the spa relaxation room. You’ll leave feeling refreshed and revitalised, and ready to explore more of Birmingham together!
Birmingham Foodie Tour
You might not think of Birmingham as a foodie paradise, but you’d be wrong! A private foodie tour will show you another side of the city and take you and your partner on a gastronomic adventure.
Your tastebuds will be tantalised by artisanal patisseries, fusion street food and market delicacies and you’ll explore local eateries with a knowledgeable guide.
The Symphony Hall
To put a spring in your step and give your day in Birmingham a big of musical magic, head over to the Symphony Hall. The show you enjoy will depend on when you go and what’s happening at this acclaimed venue at the time.
The grandiose setting for your night out can hold 2 262 people and has delivered a rich programme of concerts and performances since it opened in 1991. The Symphony Hall was recently voted the seventh-best concert hall in terms of acoustics in the world and some of the biggest acts in the business have made a showing there.
Home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, there are roughly 270 events held here each year. Musical acts in different genres, like classical, folk, jazz, pop, rock, and world, as well as organ recitals, spoken word performances, dance recitals, and comedy shows are all featured. You may even be able to take in community and educational performances, depending on the schedule.
Things To Do In Birmingham With Kids
If you’re travelling with children that need to be entertained, Birmingham’s just the place to do it.
Sample products from the confectionary company’s catalogue in a walk-through attraction based on the renowned Bournville Village site. What’s not to love when there’s melted chocolate involved?
The Legoland Discovery Centre
Make sure you prebook your tickets for the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre to avoid disappointment and allow your kids to let loose. With three rides, 10 LEGO build and play zones, and a 4D cinema, everyone will have a blast.
Stir up young imaginations with a trip to the Moseley Bog, a local nature reserve where acclaimed author J. R. R. Tolkien grew up in the 1890s. It’s said to be the inspiration for his Shire from the Lord of the Rings, the land the hobbits called home. And just down the way in Edgbaston, there’s a Victorian waterworks rumoured to have inspired Barad-dûr, or the Dark Tower that Sauron called home.
The National Sea Life Centre
Situated in Brindleyplace in the centre of Birmingham, the National Sea Life Centre will amaze you and your kids. Check out the sharks, starfish, and turtles in the 60+ displays of freshwater and marine life.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
A trip to Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens, an exotic wonderland of tropical plant life hidden in Edgbaston, makes for a great morning’s meander, whether you’re alone or with a group. Explore the glasshouses teeming with strange flora and enjoy a leisurely stroll along perfectly kept lawns and shrubbery in the summer months.
Where to Eat & Drink In Birmingham
Breakfast at Bogues
Break your fast at Bogues, in Clairmont Avenue, a historic restaurant perfectly situated in a celebrated neighbourhood. It’s been going since 1938 and you can enjoy a great range of comfort foods that’ll keep you energised for your day of exploring. The sweet rolls are highly recommended, made from the original recipe passed down from the restaurant’s founder, Mildred Bogue.
Prosecco Tasting at Loki
Who doesn’t like a good glass of Prosecco? Loki Wine Merchant and Tasting House specialise in making wine a bit more fun rather than stuffy. In their sparkling wine experience, you’ll enjoy two hours of sampling seven glasses of the best Prosecco Loki has to offer. You will learn about what regions and classifications are best, so you’ll leave knowing how to choose your own. This along with the light and fun atmosphere will make for an unforgettable way to spend your time in Birmingham.
G&Ts at The Distillery
The finest tipples in Birmingham requires a stroll along the canal. Keep going until you reach The Distillery, the coolest gin palace for miles around. Not only are a variety of delicious gins available, but the kitchen also offers everything from woodfired pizza to robata food and rotisserie kitchen delicacies. If it’s sunny sit outside on the terrace and enjoy the sights and sounds from the canal as you savour your meal.
Michelin Star Cuisine at Purnell’s
Purnell’s is the perfect place for a date night dinner with your significant other. The Michelin-starred restaurant is known for it’s bold and innovative dishes as much as its decor. Housed in a red brick Victorian building, Purnell’s chic, contemporary dining room will play host to your treat of a gastronomic experience. It’s decorated with 1970s influences and has large windows to let in a lot of natural light.
Displaying his interesting techniques, Michelin starred chef Glen Purnell serves bold, innovative cooking with an array of dishes unlike any other. Purnell’s seasonal tasting menu pays homage to their best dishes, making use of the finest seasonal ingredients. This experience will give a couple a night to remember.
Romantic Dining at Tattu
Tattu provides the ultimate in romantic dinner theatre. This gorgeous restaurant is designed to reflect the principles of body art, tattooing and the way they connect people.
Dine under the iconic cherry blossom tree and enjoy a softer side of the city with your loved one.
Dinner at The Essential
You’re going to be eating your final meal of the day at The Essential, owned by Kristen Farmer Hall. Hall’s claim to fame is her knack for creating pretty perfect pastries and overall thoughtful cuisine that she conceptualises with Victor King, chef and business partner.
Hall’s story is an inspiration as she started her career by dropping bags of pastries off at her neighbours’ front doors. As time went on, The Essential opened up in Morris Avenue in 2018 after growing out of a previous eatery called Feast & Forest. Hall is now one of the top chefs in town, as well as one of the very few female restaurateurs in Birmingham.
With so much to see and do in Birmingham, booking a long-enough holiday to see everything it has to offer is your first order of business. What are you waiting for? The best time to visit is now!