Birmingham is Britain’s second biggest city, and its position in the West Midlands makes it an excellent starting point for visiting the Cotswolds and Malvern Hills, particularly by canal.
Birmingham’s canals were a result of the city’s growth throughout the Industrial Revolution, and now this enormous canal network is primarily utilised for recreational boating.
In fact, Birmingham boasts more canals than Venice, and one of the best free things to do in Birmingham is to explore the famed Gas Street Basin’s protected canals and old buildings.
Nowadays, the city is well renowned for its jewellery and gastronomy, as well as its many cultural events and festivals. One of the greatest of these is one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day Parades in the world.
Coventry, the heart of the British automobile industry and a lovely day trip from Birmingham, is only 20 miles southeast of the city.
To make the most of your time in the England Midlands, be sure to check out our list of the top attractions and activities to do in Birmingham.
Birmingham’s heart centres on the pedestrian-friendly Victoria Square, which may be explored through the Birmingham City Centre Path. Along the way, you’ll come across the charming old Town Hall, which was completed in 1832 and is a marvel of Victorian design.
This remarkable edifice, like a Roman temple, contains 40 elegant Corinthian columns constructed of Anglesey marble.
It has been the heart of the city’s music culture since 1847, when it hosted the first performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Nowadays, its spectacular Symphony Hall, with its world-class acoustics and gorgeous auditorium, hosts A-list singers and entertainers on a regular basis, and it also serves as the home of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Two monuments, one to Queen Victoria and the other to inventor James Watt, adorn the forecourt. Close by is the Renaissance-style Council House (1874), with its famed “Big Brum” clock (a slang term for Birmingham).
Other historic buildings to see are Chamberlain Square, which is only accessible by foot, and the Central Library. The library houses the most extensive Shakespeare collection outside of the United States (50,000 volumes in 90 languages).
The Coffin Museum is a short walk northeast of the city centre. This intriguing site depicts the history and practises of coffin manufacture and funerals, and it is definitely worth visiting on your Birmingham itinerary. There are guided tours available.
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which established in 1885, is often regarded as one of the best such institutions outside of London. Its art riches include works by Pre-Raphaelite artists, paintings from the 17th through the 19th centuries, and sculptures by Rodin and James Tower.
There are other noteworthy exhibitions relating to the city’s past, such as archaeological artefacts going back to the Stone Age, as well as the magnificent Pinto Collection, which has over 6,000 wooden toys and other things.
There is a gift store on-site, and the magnificent Edwardian Tearooms is worth a visit if you want a nice high tea experience.
If you have time, make a visit to The Ikon Gallery, a modern art museum housed in a historic edifice worth investigating.
Birmingham’s address is Chamberlain Square.
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens is another fantastic tourist spot that should be on your West Midlands itinerary. These 19th-century gardens, spread across 15 acres in Edgbaston’s wealthy suburbs, are easily accessible from the city centre and home to a plethora of species.
The excellently restored Victorian-era glasshouses and other historical park elements make a visit seem like going back in time.
It’s famous for its bonsai tree collection, which includes one that’s almost 250 years old. In addition to over 7,000 plants from throughout the world, you’ll encounter a variety of fauna, including rare tropical birds and a butterfly house. Other on-site attractions include a gift store, a tearoom, and children’s playgrounds.
Birmingham’s address is Westbourne Road.
Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, is a must-see for families travelling with aspiring young scientists. This award-winning museum has a plethora of intriguing science-related exhibits, many of which are hands-on and interactive.
Highlights include an amazing collection of steam-powered machines, ranging from locomotives to tractors, as well as industrial machinery, many of which are tied to Birmingham’s historic position as an industrial powerhouse.
A chocolate packaging machine and the Spitfire Gallery, which has actual WWII-era aircraft, are among the other entertaining exhibits (including one of 10,000 Spitfires made locally).
Visit the Science Garden, which features a human-sized hamster wheel. Another excellent option for keeping the youngsters amused is the Thinktank Planetarium, which offers intriguing tours of the sky and planets.
Birmingham Millennium Point, Curzon Street
The National SEA LIFE Centre, one of Birmingham’s most popular tourist attractions, houses an astonishing 60-plus displays devoted to marine life.
The aquarium’s gigantic million-liter ocean tank, with its unique underwater tunnel, takes centre stage, providing visitors with an uninterrupted view of the various sea life on show, which includes everything from reef sharks to giant turtles.
The aquarium is home to about 2,000 animals, including several rare seahorses, enormous octopi, lobsters, crabs, and stingrays. The attraction’s main draw, though, are its lively otters (watch for Mango and Starsky), as well as its penguins.
These interesting critters, housed in the spectacular Penguin Ice Adventure habitat, are entertaining to watch as they frolic. A 4-D theatre is also on-site and presents educational programmes on a regular basis.
If time and money allow, book one of the entertaining behind-the-scenes or penguin-feeding tours.
Birmingham, The Water’s Edge, Brindley Place
Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter is a historically significant neighbourhood. More than 200 jewellers’ workshops and silversmiths are located here, primarily around the Clock Tower on the junction of Vyse and Frederick Streets and surrounding the Georgian church of St. Paul’s.
Visit the area’s most popular attraction, the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, which provides an insider’s look at the trade at the intriguing Smith & Pepper Factory.
The neighbouring Hall of Memory opposite Baskerville House, established in 1925 to honour the 14,000 city men who died in WWI, and St. Paul’s Square with its magnificent church are well worth seeing.
If you have time, pay a visit to the Pen Museum. This first-rate museum, located in the historic pen factory in the Jewellery Quarter, highlights the city’s previous role as a hotspot of pen manufacture as well as the history of writing tools.
The ability to produce your own steel nib using the same technology and procedures utilised in the nineteenth century is a rare delight. The recreated Victorian schoolroom, where guests may practise their calligraphy with antique quills, is very entertaining.
Vyse Street, Hockley, Birmingham.
St. Philip’s Cathedral (the third smallest in England) was built in 1715 as a parish church and was upgraded to its current status in 1905. The cathedral was bombed in 1940, but the famed stained-glass windows by Burne-Jones (1884) were removed a few weeks before.
These historic artefacts, which were restored to their original location after the cathedral was renovated in 1948, are now a highlight of every journey to Birmingham. Check the cathedral’s website before of time for information about speeches, seminars, exhibits, and performances.
St. Martin’s Church is another religious edifice worth seeing. It dates from the 13th century and has windows by Burne-Jones.
Birmingham’s address is Colmore Row.
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, located near Birmingham University, offers a remarkable collection of art from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. Masterworks by Botticelli, Bellini, Tintoretto, Rubens, Rembrandt, Watteau, Manet, Monet, Gainsborough, Constable, and Degas are among the highlights.
The building itself should be examined as well, particularly for the fine statue of George I.
If you have time, check out the institute’s classical lunchtime and evening music programme. There are guided tours available, as well as a shop and café on-site.
Edgbaston, Birmingham is the location of the University of Birmingham.
The Birmingham Back to Backs attraction, located within easy walking distance of the city centre, is a one-of-a-kind collection of the little back-to-back dwellings that were originally common across the city.
Built in the mid-nineteenth century around a central courtyard — in this case, Court 15 — these dwellings provide a unique glimpse into the frequently terrible conditions in which the working classes lived.
Interesting exhibits also give an idea of how vital these employees are to city life. Other features include a classic 1930s candy store and a souvenir shop, as well as engaging in one of the many enjoyable workshops given here on a regular basis.
Consider reserving one of the attraction’s two cottages for an overnight stay for a first-rate visitor experience. Only guided tours are permitted.
Birmingham’s address is 50-54 Inge Street.
The Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park is another animal-focused destination that is well worth seeing if you are travelling with children.
This entertaining city-run attraction on the outskirts of Cannon Hill Park is a tiny zoo that houses a variety of creatures such as red pandas, lemurs, and meerkats.
The zoo, which was founded in 1964, has also grown in importance due to its research and breeding initiatives.
There are a range of interesting events available for youngsters, including those that provide unique hands-on experiences centred on the care and management of many gentler species. At the very least, check the zoo’s website for information on feeding times, when you may frequently witness these adorable critters at their most animated.
Pershore Road, Birmingham is the address.
Cadbury World is one of the area’s largest (and most popular) attractions, located in Cadbury’s Bournville production complex, just a short drive from Birmingham.
It receives almost 500,000 visitors each year. Visitors may learn about the history of chocolate as well as the manufacturing process through a variety of good themed interactive displays.
Along the journey, tourists learn about the Cadbury business, one of the world’s largest confectioneries, and get the opportunity to experience family-friendly theme-park activities. Exploring the Bull Street attraction, with its reproduction stores from the 1820s, is a highlight.
Make your own confectionery and do some buying at the world’s largest Cadbury’s sweet store while you’re there. Around that, spend some time touring Bournville, a picture-perfect village established by the Cadbury family after 1860 primarily to accommodate its vast workers.
Linden Road, Bournville is the address.
The Black Country Living Museum comprises a 26-acre property in Dudley, only nine miles west of Birmingham, and provides visitors with a dramatic glimpse into mining history (hence the “black”).
There is an ancient mine shaft and a restored turn-of-the-century industrial hamlet with 50 real structures, many of which were disassembled and rebuilt on the property, that may be explored.
It’s also enjoyable to explore the nearby network of canals, which is part of the trip that takes place aboard a historic narrow boat that was formerly used to transport coal.
Other features of this unique open-air museum include the opportunity to engage with costumed advisors who are well-versed in the local people’s histories.
There are also lots of one-of-a-kind retail possibilities, historic trams, buses, and commercial vehicles, as well as a genuine 19th-century English amusement fair.
Sarehole Mill Museum, located between Birmingham and Coventry, is a historic water mill dating back to the mid 1500s. It’s a nice detour if you can get here, located on the River Cole in Hall Green, and features intriguing displays on its history, as well as one on J.R.R. Tolkien, who lived only a few hundred yards away as a boy.
Tipton Road, Dudley is the address.