Must-Visit Attractions in Birmingham, UK

Birmingham City Council House in Victoria Square is just one of many architectural landmarks in the city
Birmingham City Council House in Victoria Square is just one of many architectural landmarks in the city | © paul weston / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Richard Franks
Freelance Travel & Music Writer11 September 2020

Home to countless museums, arts venues, heritage sites and family attractions, the UK’s “second city” has way more to offer than a good balti. Read on to plan your perfect weekend in Birmingham.

Winterbourne House and Garden

Historical Landmark
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Winterbourne House Edgbaston Birmingham West Midlands England UK
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A unique Edwardian-era site, Winterbourne House and Garden is situated in Edgbaston near to the University of Birmingham campus. Events there include art exhibits, theatre, craft workshops and live music – something for everyone. The main building was built in the Arts and Crafts style for John and Margaret Nettlefold in 1903, and has its own rustic outbuildings, large gardens and even a selection of 19th-century printing presses.

Birmingham Back to Backs

Historical Landmark
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The Birmingham Back to Backs are one of the must unique attractions to the city. Situated near the Arcadian, this 19th-century courtyard of working-people’s houses was painstakingly restored by the National Trust to offer an atmospheric and educational experience to visitors. Guided tours show how Birmingham residents in bygone years lived and worked, before a visit to the classic 1930s sweet shop on the way out.

The Coffin Works

Museum
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Have you ever wanted to visit the firm that produced the coffin furniture for the funerals of Joseph Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother? Now you can! The Coffin Works, home to the Newman Brothers Museum, is situated in Bimingham’s picturesque Jewellery Quarter. Visitors can enter this time capsule, preserved by the Birmingham Conservation Trust, and see how the factory was in its 1960s heyday, complete with the music of the period.

Library of Birmingham

Library
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Library of Birmingham
© Jon Lewis / Alamy Stock Photo
Europe’s largest public library, the Library of Birmingham can be found in the centre of the city, in the impressive Centenary Square. As well as a huge collection of books, the library also houses the British Film Institute National Archive, an international photography collection and historical archives and collections. Visitors can take guided tours of the library using the Dozens and Trails app, and see all of architect Francine Houben’s ‘eople’s palace’.

Brindleyplace

Bar, Cafe, Restaurant, British
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Home to a range of restuarants, cafes and bars, the Brindleyplace estate showcases the regions canals in all their glory. Enjoy a bowl of ramen while you watch the narrowboats glide past, or sip a hand-crafted cocktail in the cool breeze coming off the water. Home to events such as an open-air film festival, Birmingham Chilli festival and the BP Dragonboat Race, there’s always something to see or do.

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter

Museum
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Another attraction based in the Jewellery Quarter, this museum displays collections of locally crafted jewellery and has a full programme of adult and family workshops all year round. The story of the historic Jewellery Quarter is told in a fully interactive exhibit, where visitors can learn how the area came to have its own assay office.

The Pen Museum

Museum
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England,West Midlands,Birmingham,The Jewellery Quarter,The Pen Museum,Display of Historical Fountain Pens
© Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter was once home to over 100 factories manufacturing the Birmingham pen – now it’s home to this museum that tells the tale. Housing over 5,000 objects, visitors can learn how Birmingham’s steel pen trade supplied 75 percent of the world’s pens during the 19th century. The museum also runs a range of calligraphy classes in the Callicreative Room, designed for both beginners and more experienced calligraphers.

mac theatre

Theater
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The mac theatre sits on the edge of the picturesque Cannon Hill Park, and is home to two theatres, a cinema, a gallery, various studios and rehearsal spaces, a community learning area and its own bar and cafe. There are numerous performances, workshops, exhibits and screenings to take in every day. Visitors can also sign up for courses in visual and performance arts, health and wellbeing, or digital media skills, and there are sessions for families and young people, too.

Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Art Gallery
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Woman looking at paintings in the Barber Institute Of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham UK
© Peter Lopeman / Alamy Stock Photo
Sitting on the edge of the University of Birmingham campus in Edgbaston is the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. An ever-changing range of exhibits alongside the museum’s permanent collections always offers a fascinating afternoon out to visitors, including the museum’s historic coin collection and regular free lunchtime tours and talks.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Art Gallery, Museum, Building
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The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is the centrepiece of Birmingham’s famous Chamberlain Square, and houses over 40 galleries of art and historic artefacts. The world-class collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings offers visitors the chance to take in works by Rossetti, Millais and Hunt up close, before enjoying afternoon tea in the stunning Edwardian Tea Rooms.

Lapworth Museum of Geology

Museum
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Hidden away inside the historic Aston Webb Building on the University of Birmingham campus, the Lapworth Museum of Geology underwent a huge £2.7m redevelopment in 2017 and was subsequently shortlisted for an Art Fund Museum of the Year Award. Allowing students, researchers and the general public an opportunity to examine 250,000 geological specimens, the Lapworth Museum encourages visitors to consider how the Earth formed and changed through time, and how life on earth has developed and evolved since then.

Cannon Hill Park

Park
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Autumn leaves in Cannon Hill park in Birmingham, UK
© Andrew Fox / Alamy Stock Photo
Home to the mac theatre and the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Centre, Cannon Hill Park is made up of 32.4ha (80 acres) of formal parkland and 48.5ha (120 acres) of conservation and woodland plantation. Visitors can fish, rent a pedalo or enjoy a game of tennis or minigolf; and there are two children’s play areas on-site, as well as a mini funfair on weekends. In summer, Cannon Hill Park hosts the annual Foodies Festival, as well as a host of other family events.

Birmingham Science Museum

Museum
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A short walk from Moor Street Station, Thinktank is an award-winning science museum full of exhibits for the whole family. The Spitfire Gallery tells the story of the famous plane’s role in World War II and its legacy in Birmingham, and the Marine Worlds Gallery houses an Icthyosaur displayed in full for the first time. Visitors can also take in a show in the on-site Planetarium, with shows that take you from our night sky to the very edges of the universe.

National SEA LIFE Centre

Aquarium
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The National SEA LIFE Centre, situated on the edge of Brindleyplace, offers a unique aquarium experience. Home to sharks, penguins, sea turtles and more, visitors can learn about the organisation’s conservation projects and explore the new octopus hideout. For a really special experience, it’s possible to feed the residents, take a behind-the-scenes tour, or even book a sea life sleepover.

Cadbury World

Building, Museum, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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Cadbury World Bournville Birmingham UK
© domonabikeUK / Alamy Stock Photo
For many, Birmingham means chocolate. The famous Cadbury World experience in historic Bournville allows chocoholics to take a self-guided tour behind the scenes of their favourite treat. Featuring exhibits on the history of chocolate, the story of the Cadbury Family and the science of chocolate making; and there is even a 4D Chocolate Adventure. Don’t forget to pick up some treats in the world’s biggest Cadbury shop.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Botanical Garden
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A view of the famous Lawn Aviary at Birmingham Botanical Gardens ENgland UK
© John James / Alamy Stock Photo
Birmingham Botanical Gardens features four glasshouses each with its own climate: tropical, subtropical, Mediterranean and arid. Set in 6ha (15 acres) of landscaped greenery, the gardens host a range of events including plays, educational courses, live music and even a water slide.

Victoria Square

Architectural Landmark
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Home to the famous River statue – more commonly known as ‘the Floozie in the Jacuzzi’ – Victoria Square in the city centre features an impressive collection of public art. Its namesake, Queen Victoria, is portrayed in an imposing bronze statue, and the square is flanked by the two ‘Guardians’ – sandstone sculptures by Dhruva Mistry. The square is also home to Antony Gormley’s Iron: Man.

St Paul's Church

Church
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St Paul's Church, Birmingham.
© domonabikeUK / Alamy Stock Photo

On the edge of Birmingham’s picturesque Jewellery Quarter, St Paul’s Church is a Grade I listed church in Birmingham’s only remaining 18th-century square. It was built in 1779, and in 2000 had a new stained-glass window fitted, the design of which represents the local jewellery trade. Visitors can enjoy the architecture alongside live music events and guided tours.

The Custard Factory

Art Gallery
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Situated in trendy Digbeth just five minutes’ walk from the Bullring, the old Bird’s custard factory is now home to over 500 businesses. Take in a film at the Mockingbird Cinema, grab a craft beer at Clink, or even invest in some new body art from Holly and Rob at House of Thieves Tattoo Parlour. The Custard Factory also acts as a venue for a number of events, including Birmingham Coffee Festival, the Mockingbird’s outdoor cinema and The Gin To My Tonic Christmas Festival.

Ikon Gallery

Art Gallery
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Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK | © Bjanka Kadic / Alamy Stock Photo
Visitors can enjoy two floors of contemporary art exhibits at the Ikon Gallery in Brindleyplace. Current exhibits feature the spray paint portraits of Sidney Nolan and the metalwork of Sheela Gowda. With print workshops, parent and toddler mornings, teacher retreats and family Saturdays, the Ikon Gallery offers events for all ages and abilities.
These recommendations were updated on September 11, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.