Visiting the UK’s second city on a budget? Here are the top free activities to do on your next trip to Birmingham – including visiting BBC Birmingham and street art-spotting in Digbeth.
Birmingham has shaken off its gloomy industrial past and is now looking forward to the future. A visit to Brum doesn’t have to cost the earth – and with the world-class St Philip’s Cathedral, the Tolkien-themed Moseley Bog, acres of green space and oodles of street art, why should it? Here are the best free things to do in Birmingham.
At the beating heart of St Philip’s Cathedral Grounds – or Pigeon Park, as known by the locals – stands one of the city’s three cathedrals; this one is its star. This rare example of English baroque architecture is one of Birmingham’s oldest buildings. Its famous Pre-Raphaelite stained-glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones date back to the 1880s and are believed to be his finest work.
Using the arts and independent complex Custard Factory as your base, saunter the streets as you find your bearings around Digbeth. On the high street, you’ll pass the Old Crown (Birmingham’s oldest inn dating back to 1368) and the JFK Memorial. If you go a little off-piste, you’ll meander under the famous Duddeston Viaduct; it’s the gritty industrial buildings juxtaposed with the modern street art for which the area is famed.
Ever wanted to get involved with the BBC? Well, you’re in luck. BBC Birmingham broadcasts from popular city centre retail and restaurant outlet the Mailbox. The visitor centre is free to enter, and here, you can check out the original outfits from the TV series Peaky Blinders, pose with a Tardis and watch live news bulletins from the upstairs viewing area. Full studio tours do incur an admission fee, but if kids have Blue Peter badges, they can get in free with a full paying adult.
Yes, it’s true: Birmingham does have more miles of canal than Venice. The heart of the city’s canal network passes through a midst of restaurants and shopping outlets, with its intricate, winding towpaths welcoming hundreds of boats and barges daily. The city’s best pit stops are found around Gas Street Basin, including the delightful Canalside Cafe and the recently renovated Canal House pub. Tired legs? Catch the waterbus back.
There’s nothing better than free live music, and Brum has plenty of it. Birmingham’s Symphony Hall regularly hosts free music performances and workshops in the cafe bar, though some events do land further afield at the Jam House in the Jewellery Quarter. Thanks to the Jazzlines initiative, the venue, along with a number of local promoters, continues to push jazz to the forefront of the city’s music scene.
Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels near the University of Birmingham with Culture Trip.
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