As the UK’s second biggest city and, if you ask us, easily the best, Birmingham is jam-packed with excitement everywhere you turn. To many, the city is best known for its industrial past (Birmingham was once known as the City of a Thousand Trades), but it is also currently the youngest city in Europe – with numerous activities reflecting Brum’s youthful energy. So from historic locations to Michelin-star restaurants, cool cocktail bars and culture hotspots, there are so many things to do in Birmingham you’ve got to try at least once in your life.
They say that The Old Crown in Digbeth dates back to the 14th century and is as old as the Ming dynasty in China. Both were founded in 1368, but only one is still going strong. You’ll often find The Old Crown overflowing with merriment and full of friendly faces. (They also serve a range of local ales, which is a plus.) Adding to the community spirit, The Old Crown also throws regular events – from screenings of sporting events to massive disco parties, quiz nights and coffee clubs. There’s always something to bring the community of Digbeth together.
The Old Crown, High St, Deritend, Birmingham B12 0LD
2. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Cadbury World
The chocolate company that conquered the world began here in Birmingham. (The Cadbury family originally built Bournville for its employees.) Now discover how your favourite confectionary is made with a trip to Cadbury World – Birmingham’s very own Willy Wonka Factory.
Your journey might appear normal enough to begin with by making your own choc. But you’ll soon be on a chocolate-mad adventure to an Aztec Temple to discover the origins of the cocoa bean quickly enough. With its mix of multi-sensory cinema, interactive digital displays and demonstrations, Cadbury World has remained refreshingly bizarre over the decades. There’s enough chocolate here to send anyone doolally too.
Cadbury World, 69 Linden Rd, Birmingham B30 1JR
Birmingham is the place for foodies. It was recently called one of the most exciting food destinations in the country and, with more Michelin stars than anywhere else outside of London, we see why. There are six (six!) restaurants with Michelin stars in Brum now. All deserving of your consideration.
Grace & Savour in Solihull is the most recent to join this club with its immersive dining experience becoming increasingly popular since opening early in 2022. But no one should forget about the self-taught Brummie chef Brad Carter and his Carters of Moseley; Simpsons in the leafy suburbs of Edgbaston; the sleek and sophisticated Adam’s; Opheem, the only Indian restaurant in Birmingham with a Michelin star; and the legendary Purnell’s.
Grace & Savour, Hampton Manor, Shadowbrook Ln, Hampton in Arden, Solihull B92 0EN
Carters of Moseley, 2c St Mary’s Row, Wake Green Rd, Moseley, Birmingham B13 9EZ
Simpsons, 20 Highfield Rd, Birmingham B15 3DU
Adam’s, New Oxford House, 16 Waterloo St, Birmingham B2 5UG
Opheem, 65 Summer Row, Birmingham B3 1JJ
Purnell’s, 55 Cornwall St, Birmingham B3 2DH
There are many Brummie legends to be proud of (From Joe Lycett to Lenny Henry, Ozzy Osbourne to Julie Walters), but one we often forget about is JRR Tolkien. Often more associated with Oxford, the family is actually from Sarehole. At 12 years old, Tolkien went to live at The Oratory in Edgbaston and was educated at King Edward’s School. Both the natural environment of Birmingham and its giant industrial buildings would later inspire the world of Middle Earth.
There’s Sarehole Mill which inspired The Old Mill in The Hobbit, which Bilbo passes on his way to start the long journey to The Lonely Mountain. Then there’s Moseley Bog that inspired The Old Forest, where Frodo meets the mysterious Tom Bombadil in Fellowship of the Ring. Other inspirations include Edgbaston Waterworks tower on Minas Morgul and Perrott’s Folly on Orthanc. Take our Tolkien Tour here.
Sarehole Mill Museum, Cole Bank Rd, Birmingham B13 0BD
If you want to get to know a city quickly, the best option is to head out on a walking tour. This one around Birmingham City Centre offers a unique opportunity to explore the city’s history, gain insight into modern life in the city, and discover hidden gems along the way. Starting at Birmingham Cathedral – which is notably home to the most precious stained glass windows in the world – you’ll explore all the top attractions and some lesser-known hotspots across the 90-minute tour. To get your tickets to this Birmingham City Centre Walking Tour head here.
Birmingham Cathedral, Cathedral Square, Colmore Row, Birmingham B3 2QB
If there’s only one dish you try in Birmingham make sure it’s the Balti. So famous it has its own area named after it: between Stratford Road, Alcester Road and Wake Green Road, including the popular Ladypool Road and Stoney Lane. All types of South Asian and Indian food play an important role in Birmingham’s food landscape, but here the Balti is king.
Named after the vessel in which this Brummie curry was first cooked, it was invented in Birmingham back in the mid-70s. Unlike other curries, balti curries are cooked quickly over high heat, like a stir-fry. And are also usually served with large, family-sized naan breads. Adil’s on Stoney Lane, which sadly closed after 43 years in the Balti Triangle last year, is often credited with the dishes invention. But Shabab’s is probably the biggest, arguably the best, still going.
Shababs, 163-165 Ladypool Rd., Sparkbrook, Birmingham B12 8LQ
No, it’s not made of custard – nor does it make custard. (At least not anymore.) But there are plenty of other reasons to visit… Just across the river from The Bullring is The Custard Factory in Digbeth. Once the home of Bird’s Custard, it’s now a one-stop shop for all your (trendy) needs. From furniture flea markets to cool cocktail bars (like Passing Fancies), cinema experiences at The Mockingbird and fine dining at 670 Grams, there’s so much to do. Even if it’s just a quick haircut at Stag Digbeth or a quick bite at Baked In Brick pizzeria. There aren’t many reasons to leave!
The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, West Midlands, B9 4AA
8. Get in the Peaky Blinders spirit at this strange museum
The whole world has gone Peaky Blinders mad with everyone keen to follow the trials and tribulations of Birmingham’s most infamous gang. The city has become a tourist destination for many based on the TV show alone. Luckily there are plenty of Peaky Blinders-themed activities to get involved with, from escape rooms to walking tours, there’s a lot to do.
One of the best ways to feel like you’re reliving the show, however, is to head over to the Black Country Living Museum. Not only were some of the most dramatic moments of the show shot here. But you’ll also find 26 acres of reconstructed shops, pubs and houses to explore and historic characters to meet at this museum. They also run regular Peaky Blinders-themed evenings!
Black Country Living Museum, Discovery Way, Dudley DY1 4AL
It’s a fact every Brummie knows off by heart: Birmingham has more canals than Venice. But it’s not technically true. What our beloved Birmingham has is more miles of canal. 35 miles of it. Making it the capital of the country’s canal system and a great place to walk the beauty of English waterways. You won’t find any Venetian gondolas here (or Brummie ones either) but there are some other spectacular ways to cruise the canals… from boat parties to kayaks. Check out Birmingham’s best boat trips here.
10. Meet Brummie legend Ozzy… the Bull
Birmingham should be a pilgrimage for all If you’re a big fan of heavy metal fans. Two of the genre’s pioneering bands Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin – who along with Deep Purple make up the ‘unholy trinity’ – have ties to the city, as do grindcore legends Napalm Death. There are homages to Ozzy Osbourne everywhere, from murals to benches, but our favourite is Ozzy the Bull. Created for the Commonwealth Games, this 33ft mechanical bull stands proudly over New Street Station. What’s more metal than that?
New Street Station, Station St, Birmingham B2 4QA
11. Tap into Brum’s exciting street food scene
Birmingham might boast several Michelin stars, but on the other side of the price range, it has plenty of exciting cheap eats too. In particular, it’s the street food that steals the show on Birmingham’s hospitality scene. At the centre of this is Digbeth Dining Club (the team behind Hockley Social Club and Herbert’s Yard) who shine a spotlight on the very best local street food vendors. The likes of Low ‘n’ Slow and Yardbirds made their name on the circuit. But locals are still buzzing about vendors like Buddha Belly, Patty Freaks, Cleopatra’s Kitchen, West Midlands Jerk Centre and so much more.
Hockley Social Club, 60 Hampton St, Birmingham B19 3LU
Herbert’s Yard, 49 Austin Way, Longbridge, Birmingham B31 2QR
12. Catch a movie at the oldest known working cinema in the country
The Electric Cinema is just as charming as it was when it opened back in 1909. But it has had a tweak or two over the years. It now boasts luxury service to those with tickets to the rear sofas! As independent cinemas go, film buffs should make the trip on the history alone. But showing a mix of blockbusters, independent newbies and cult classics, it can easily entertain any visitor. It also hosts private bookings and weddings in its ancient walls!
The Electric Cinema, 47-49 Station St, Birmingham B5 4DY
When it comes to competitive socializing, Birmingham might be the best place to go in the UK. In the mood for bowling? Roxy Ballroom. Crazy golf? Golf Fang. Pinball? Tilt. If you can think of it, the odds are Birmingham has it. From board game cafes like Chance & Counters to arcade bars like NQ64, the city is brimming with ways to beat your mates. You’ll have to start up a league table to see who the very best among you truly is. That all these places also sell booze just increases the fun tenfold! To see the best activity bars in Birmingham head here.
Roxy Ballroom, 1 Victoria Square, Birmingham B1 1BD
Gold Fang, The Custard Factory, Gibb St, Deritend, Birmingham B9 4AA
Tilt, City Arcade, 2 Union St, Birmingham B2 4TX
Chance & Counters, Courtyard Studio 8 Scott House Custard Factory, Birmingham B9 4AA
NQ64, The Custard Factory, Gibb St, Deritend, Birmingham B9 4BG
14. Go on a shopping spree
Sure, you could go shopping in almost any city, but promise you Birmingham has something special to offer. The city’s largest shopping centre, Bullring & Grand Central, holds over 150 high-street shops, including one of only four including one of four Selfridges in the world! It’s a one-stop shop for all your shopping needs. But if you fancy some more luxury labels, check out the Mailbox. Did we also mention that Birmingham is home to the world’s largest Primark?
Bullring & Grand Central, Moor St, Birmingham B5 4BU
Mailbox Birmingham, Royal Mail St, Birmingham B1 1RS
15. Immerse yourself in the wild at this National Nature Reserve
Just a little north of Birmingham you’ll discover over 2000 acres of parkland. Sutton Park is considered to be one of the largest urban parks in Europe. It has a rich diversity of landscapes – including open heathland, woodlands, lakes, wetlands, and marshes – each with unique plants and wildlife. Discover a wild side of Birmingham that’s difficult to experience elsewhere in the concrete jungle. Sutton Park makes for the perfect day trip.
Sutton Park, Park Rd, The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield B74 2YT
The historic 116-year-old Moseley Road Baths opened way back in 1907 and has kept our city swimming for generations. Many of the original striking features remain today: including the 100ft Gothic renaissance terracotta façade ornate ceilings, an oak Edwardian ticket booth and the tiled 21m pool. From aqua aerobics to adults-only lanes, classes for toddlers and teenagers, and even a swim class for those learning to speak English, Moseley Road Baths is still just as important.
An adult swim costs £5, while a Junior swim (4 to 15 years old) is £2.80 and under-4s go free. If you’re a family of four, however, you can all go together for just £12. Of course, if you’re an avid swimmer, you’ll want to be taking advantage of these stunning swimming baths as much as possible. A monthly swim pass will cost you £28.50 for 30 days, while for students the same will cost you just £25.
Moseley Road Baths, 497 Moseley Rd, Balsall Heath, Birmingham B12 9BX
17. Catch a show at Birmingham Hippodrome
Birmingham Hippodrome is the busiest theatre in the UK. Not only is it home to the legendary Birmingham Royal Ballet, but you can catch anything from opera to pantomime, West End musicals and theatre drama. Want a bite to eat before you head in? The Circle Lounge is Birmingham Hippodrome’s pre-show restaurant, which opens 90 minutes before curtain up, and will leave pre-ordered drinks and sweet treats at your table during the intervals.
Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst St, Southside, Birmingham B5 4TB
We’re pretty blessed in Birmingham when it comes to cocktail bars, we have some of thebest in the country. From mad scientist’s serving up crazy concoctions to simple sophisticated classics in speakeasies, you’ll find some of the country’s best bars here. Picking just two, Couch in Stirchley is modern and refreshing while Fox & Chance offers a trip back in time with a more old-school offering. To see some of the best cocktail bars in Birmingham head here.
Couch, 1466 Pershore Rd, Stirchley, Birmingham B30 2NT
Fox & Chance, 45 Pinfold St, Birmingham B2 4AY
19. See the beauty of Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Designed by J.C. Loudon, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens are one of the most gorgeous sights in Birmingham. Across 15 acres of landscaped gardens, you’ll discover thousands of wonderful flowers and rare plants. As well as an aviary, a zoological collection, and 19th-century glasshouses among its other highlights.
The experience is only improved by lending its backdrop to some unforgettable Candlelight concerts. These open-air concerts see a talented string quartet take to the outdoor stage, surrounded by nature, and perform masterpieces composed by the likes of Vivaldi, Hans Zimmer, ABBA and more. A truly unique experience in this breathtaking setting bathed in the glow of hundreds of flickering candles.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Westbourne Rd, Birmingham B15 3TR
Built in 1876-1877, the Great Western Arcade boasts a beautiful balcony, intricately crafted archways, ornate chandeliers and lamps, tiled floors and an unbelievable apexed roof. But it’s the incredible array of independent businesses that makes it worth the visit. For colourful, eye-popping sweet treats, head to Miss Macaroon, while Anderson & Hill will meet your cheese and cured meat needs. It also houses the fine dining vegetarian restaurant LAND, plus artisan bakery the Bread Collection. Learn more here.
Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, Birmingham B2 5HU
21. Take a trip to the past at Birmingham Back to Backs
Birmingham has a thing for keeping the past alive and well in the present. Nowhere is this better exemplified than at Birmingham Back to Backs. The National Trust site is one of the best things to do in Birmingham with kids, as it lets you experience the lives of working people from 200 years ago. Moving from the 1840s through to the 1970s, you’ll discover how these small houses operated. Plus, see Mr Levi’s bedroom-turned-workshop, Mrs Oldfield’s mealtime kitchen and peek inside George Saunders’ tailor’s shop. You can also visit the second-hand bookshop on the site.
Birmingham Back to Backs, 50-54, 55-63 Inge St, Hurst St, Birmingham B5 4TE
While Balti Triangle gets all the headlines when it comes to Birmingham’s diverse food culture, the Chinese Quarter should be equally celebrated. For one, Lunar New Year is a massive event in the area each year that has parades, funfair rides and fireworks. But when it’s not on, however, endless dumplings to crispy duck should be enough to entice you here. (Plus, it’s very pretty to wander around at night.) The oldest Chinese restaurant in the city, Chung Ying Cantonese, sits on the corner of Wrottesley Street and to many is still considered Birmingham’s best.
Chung Ying Cantonese, China Quarter, 16-18 Wrottesley St, Birmingham B5 4RT
23. Get artsy at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery
To say Ikon Gallery is iconic would be an understatement: It’s Ikon-ic. The internationally acclaimed contemporary art venue shows work by artists from around the world and a variety of media is represented, including sound, film, mixed media, photography, painting, sculpture and installation. In the spring months, it’s also a great spot for catching the cherry blossom in Birmingham.
Ikon Gallery, Brindleyplace, 1 Brindley Pl, Oozells Sq, Birmingham B1 2HS
24. Lose yourself in The Library of Birmingham
If you don’t recognise this building, then you’ve never truly been to Brum. The Library of Birmingham is the largest public library in the United Kingdom. So you could easily (and happily) get lost in here. There are ten levels to explore, plus two outdoor garden terraces, children’s spaces, a panoramic viewing gallery, an outdoor amphitheatre and a studio theatre. So whether you just need to get some quiet work done, or you want to check out the Library of Birmingham’s many events, you’ll likely stick around for longer than you bargained for!
The Library of Birmingham, 1 Centenary Sq, Birmingham B1 2EA
25. Visit the unique museums of the Jewellery Quarter
What was once the most highly concentrated area of jewellery businesses involved in Europe, the Jewellery Quarter has grown into an exciting and creative neighbourhood. Beyond some brilliant bars, restaurants and shops, JQ is also home to some interesting museums – all within a short walk of each other!
The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter was built around the perfectly preserved Smith & Pepper jewellery factory. Newman Brothers’ Coffin Works brings another Brummie back from the dead, which once produced coffin furniture for the funerals of Joseph Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother. Lastly, The Pen Museum celebrates Birmingham’s past as the capital of the world’s pen trade – when 100 factories made 75% of all pens worldwide.
Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, 75-80 Vyse St, Birmingham B18 6HA
Newman Brothers’ Coffin Works, 13-15 Fleet Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B3 1JP
The Pen Museum, The Argent Centre, 60 Frederick St, Birmingham B1 3HS
As you can see, Birmingham is absolutely brimming with exciting things to do. Whether you’re after a bit of interesting history, incredible activities or delicious food, you can hardly put a foot wrong in this city. Even still, we barely feel like we’ve scratched the surface, but hopefully, this list will set you on your way. Just head into Birmingham and you’re bound to discover something we even don’t know about!