29 Jul 19 / Birmingham
The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Birmingham
The UK's second biggest city is a fantastic cultural destination with great shopping, a thriving food scene and excellent nightlife. The list of things to do in Birmingham is never-ending, but we’ve rounded up our top ten to help you along the way.
WHERE TO STAY
The city centre has some excellent hotels. Malmaison Birmingham is not just a gorgeous boutique hotel but it also has a spa so you can relax after seeing the sights. Hotel du Vin Birmingham is in a stunning landmark Victorian building in the Jewellery Quarter. It's always worth checking the offers as they cover rooms, dining and drinks deals.
1. LIBRARY OF BIRMINGHAM
The Library Of Birmingham opened in 2013 and is an impressive building worth seeing from the outside and inside. The Dutch architects incorporated a subterranean amphitheatre, spiralling interior, indoor terraces, two outdoor garden terraces including a glass elevator to the 7th-floor 'secret garden' with panoramic views over the city.
Spread across ten levels, it is one of the largest libraries in the world. It showcases Birmingham's internationally important collections of archives, photography and rare books including Britain’s most important Shakespeare collection. It is also home to the BFI (British Film Institute) Mediatheque that provides free access to the National Film Archive.
2. BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has the largest collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings in the world including major works by Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. Open since 1885, the museum is in a Grade II* listed building and has over 40 permanent galleries.
The impressive collection showcases ancient treasures, applied arts, social history, archaeology and ethnography. You can see Anglo-Saxon gold, Indian bronze statues and European culture plus dinosaur exhibits and Egyptian mummies. The temporary exhibitions are worth checking out as are the Edwardian Tearooms for tea and cake.
3. CADBURY WORLD
A great choice for families, Cadbury World is based at the world-famous chocolate manufacturer's site in Bournville Village. You get to see one of the biggest chocolate factories in the world, and, of course, there are plenty of samples along the way. This idea is worth leaving the city centre for and, if you get the bus or train there, you can claim a 30% discount (more info).
Across 14 zones, the tour covers the history of Cadbury confectionery and the chocolate production process. And you can ride the Crunchie rollercoaster and dive into liquid Cadbury Dairy Milk in the 4D cinema experience. The cafe is great and the shop is huge plus there's an outdoor adventure play area too.
4. NATIONAL SEA LIFE CENTRE BIRMINGHAM
At National Sea Life Centre Birmingham you can have an underwater adventure with 60 displays of freshwater and marine life, featuring over 2000 creatures. Do take a walk through the UK's only 360° Ocean Tunnel to be super-close to Black Tip Reef sharks, giant rays and the Giant Green Sea Turtle called Molokai.
There are 15 zones including the rockpool where you can stroke a starfish and the Penguin Ice Adventure where you can watch a colony of Gentoo penguins. Seals in the City is new for 2019 where you can see a pair of rescued seals. Don't rush around as there is a lot to see. But will you find Nemo?
5. PEAKY BLINDERS TOUR
For fans of the TV series, Brum Tours offer a Peaky Blinders Tour. Discover the dark past of Birmingham in the 1880s and early 1900s when gangs roamed the streets. The tour includes tales of the real gangs that terrorised the racecourses of England in the 1920s and a stop off at the pub where the term "Peaky Blinder" was first penned. Do visit the Black Country Living Museum too as that's where the TV sets can be found.
6. BLACK COUNTRY LIVING MUSEUM
Black Country Living Museum is an award-winning open-air living museum that tells the story of one of the very first industrialised landscapes in Britain. There are rebuilt historic buildings from shops to houses plus industrial areas. You get to meet historic characters who tell you what it was like to live and work during the Industrial Revolution and beyond.
Located in nearby Dudley, this immersive experience offers daily live industrial demonstrations, rides on heritage vehicles and even films in their 1920s cinema. You can buy bread at the baker's, sweets from the sweet shop and there's a 1930s fish and chip shop too. It's going to get even biggers as a £23m museum expansion to create a 1940s-60s town has been given the go-ahead. The project will be completed in 2022.
7. BRINDLEYPLACE AND THE CANAL QUARTER
Brindleyplace and Birmingham's canal quarter is a city centre treat. There's often live music or food festivals, and there are lots of restaurants and bars here so you can relax all year round. This popular redevelopment is close to Arena Birmingham and home to the Symphony Hall. It's also a lovely area for a peaceful, canalside walk.
8. SYMPHONY HALL
The Symphony Hall concert hall is magnificent. It can seat over 2,000 people and, acoustically, is considered to be one of the world’s best. The horseshoe auditorium mimics the shape of the great 19th century halls yet there are many state-of-the-art innovations. The acoustic canopy can be lowered over the stage to focus the sound of a smaller ensemble, and the reverberation chamber is a void below that can be adjusted for the right level of echo.
You will find an excellent classical music programme performed here but there is also everything from jazz to rock, and stand-up comedy.
9. JEWELLERY QUARTER
Described by English Heritage as a national treasure, Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter has over 800 businesses, 100 specialist retailers and 50 contemporary designer-makers as it is still the UK's centre for jewellery.
But even if you are not shopping there are more than 200 listed buildings and over 250 years of history making this a fascinating destination. There are plenty of pubs, cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as art galleries and independent shops. The area has some quirky museums so do stop by the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, the Pen Museum and Newman Brothers Coffin Works.
10. SHOPPING AT BULLRING & GRAND CENTRAL
When you need some serious retail therapy, Bullring & Grand Central is Birmingham's premier shopping destination with over 200 stores including John Lewis and the architecturally-iconic Selfridge store. It's a contemporary, landmark mall with diverse high-street fashion, household shops, plus restaurants. There's always something happening from a pop-up summer beach to food-themed fun and Christmas entertainment.
If you’re planning a trip to the city, our guide on what to do in Birmingham will keep you right. If you haven’t yet decided where to stay during your trip, Malmaison Birmingham offers the perfect base to relax, work or play. We’re based right in the city centre and with stylish rooms, an inner-city spa and a fabulous contemporary restaurant, why not book your stay today?
Written by Laura Porter – Travel writer for Malmaison & Hotel du Vin