Based in the heart of England, Birmingham is the UK’s second largest city (after London). With a population of 1.1 million, and a history dating back 1400 years, it’s one of the oldest inhabited places in the country.
The city draws a large number of tourists from around the world due to a wealth of attractions including museums, parks, a growing street art scene and expanding tech and creative hub. But also, most especially due to it’s rich heritage and global importance as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution – making Birmingham the first city on earth to enter the modern era.
Birmingham is currently seeing an influx in tourism thanks to the hit TV drama Peaky Blinders, based on the real-life gangsters that dominated the Gas Street Basin region in the early 20th Century.
Being a Brummie myself (the term for a Birmingham local), means I know the city like the back of my hand, so I know all the best spots here.
Scroll on to read The Top 10 Things To See & Do In Birmingham, UK (by a Local):
Table of Contents
Birmingham Interactive Map
Check out the interactive map below to see all the highlights of Birmingham, in red markers.
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1. The Custard Factory & Street Art Scene
The Custard Factory is home to a range of independent shops, cafes and bars as well as a variety of creative and digital businesses.
The site was originally a large factory complex built by Alfred Bird, the 19th century inventor of egg-free custard.
One of the best things you can do in the city is explore Digbeth – home to Birmingham’s growing street art scene – there are countless murals and wall art of all sizes all over the district: on old factory buildings, in the hidden alleyways, on the bridges and archways.
If you’re a fan of vibrant, impressive and politically-charged graffiti art like myself, this is a place well worth checking out.
Opening times: Mon – Fri: 8am til 5pm
How to get there: from Grand Central: 12 minute walk down to Digbeth. By bus – numbers 2, 3, 4A, 5, 6, 17, 60 and 97 stop in Digbeth (10 minutes journey)
2. Cadbury World
One of the UK’s most popular family attractions, Cadbury World the UK’s favourite chocolatier, is perfect for kids of all ages, and a must for anyone visiting the city.
Situated in the city’s southern district of Bournville, Cadbury World is one of the major tourist attractions in Birmingham, featuring an exciting self-guided exhibition tour of the origins of chocolate and the history of Cadbury, the world’s second-largest chocolate brand, which was the UK’s first established chocolate manufacturer when it was originally named Bournville.
Admission: Adult £18, child £13.25. Open year round. Buy your Cadbury World tickets here:
Opening Times: Mon – Fri: 10am til 3pm | Sat & Sun: 9:30am til 4pm
How to get there: from Grand Central, the train to Redditch stops at Bourneville station. Bus numbers 61, 63, 11A and 48 take 35 minutes and stop at Chapel Lane. By car – it’s 25 minutes.
3. The National SEA LIFE Centre
Head over to this underwater world of magical discoveries that holds over 2000 beautiful, fun and cheeky, sea animals.
One of the most fun things you can do in Birmingham is a trip to the SEA LIFE Centre. Includes a 4D cinema and the UK’s only 360 degree ocean tunnel – home to sharks, rays and giant sea turtles. A perfect day out for families and children, and one of the must-see attractions of Birmingham.
Admission: £13.95 (Order your tickets here:)
Opening times: Mon – Fri: 10am til 4pm | Sat: 10am til 6pm | Sun: 10am til 5pm
How to get there: from Grand Central, the metro takes you to Library in 14 minutes. On foot it’s 19 minutes, and by car is 11 minutes.
4. The Jewellery Quarter
One of the best things you can do in Birmingham is discover it’s rich past: The Jewellery Quarter – a former industrial district that’s home to over 100 retailers, diamond dealers, and workshops, as well as the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, and the Coffin Works.
An 18th Century church sits in the centre of St. Paul’s Square, and the surrounding area is rejuvenated with Indie stores, trendy bars, chic cafes and art galleries, along with modern Indian, Spanish and Italian eateries.
The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter
A perfectly preserved 18th century jewellery workshop that offers a unique glimpse into working life in the Jewellery Quarter. It’s an excellent place to get yourself a beautifully personalised, hand-crafted jewellery gift on request.
Admission: Museum (Factory and the galleries) – adult £7, child £3
Tue – Fri 10:30am til 5pm
The Coffin Works
A fully restored, Victorian coffin fittings workshop that’s also home to the Newman Brothers Museum. Costumed guides lead you around the factory where you will experience the sights, sounds and smells of factory life and hear the stories of workers, owners and trade.
Admission: Adult £7.50, child £4.50 (under 5s FREE), family (1 adult, 3 children) £12.50
Wed – Sun 10:45am til 3:15pm (closed Mon – Tue)
How to get there: From Grand Central, the metro stops at Jewellery Quarter (9 minutes). Bus 101 takes 12 minutes from Newhall Street. By car: 11 minutes.
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5. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Situated in the heart of the city next to the Town Hall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a large Victorian building with a domed, Round Room.
The Art Gallery has an extensive collection of Pre-Raphaelites paintings from the 14th Century onwards, and the Museum hosts huge exhibits of antiquities and artefacts from Ancient Egypt, Ancient India and Central Asia, the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, as well as the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.
Admission: Free (except some exhibitions)
Opening times: Mon – Sun: 10am til 5pm
How to get there: from Grand Central, the metro takes you to Town Hall in 6 minutes. Its 8 minutes walk up Stephenson Street and then Pinfold Street.
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Did you know: There are more canals in Birmingham than in Venice! For more fun facts, head over to 38 Interesting Facts about Birmingham
6. Canal Boat Trip
There’s no better way to experience Birmingham than by cruising the city’s canals and discovering the rich heritage of the city that sparked the Industrial Revolution more than 200 years ago.
Starting from Sherborne Wharf, take a trip on one of three luxury passenger narrowboats as it winds its way around the bustling heart of Birmingham.
Fans of the Peaky Blinders will get a chance to witness the old coal factories and cobbled streets around Gas Street Basin, that once brought the city alive with blazing fires, smoke and noise as seen in the hit TV series.
Admission: Adult £8, senior £7, child £6. Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children): £22
Times: Canal Boat trips depart from the International Convention Centre Quayside at 11:30am, 1pm, 2:30pm, and 4pm daily, from Easter to end of October. Trips run at weekends only throughout November, January, February and March.
How to get there: from Grand Central, bus numbers 9, 12, 13, 13A, 23, 24, 126, X8 and X10 stop at Crescent Theatre (15 mins)
7. Bullring Shopping Centre
Situated right in the heart of town, the Bullring is the UK’s largest city-based shopping centre and one of the best malls in the country.
It has a host of well-known high-street fashion stores and household shops, as well as popular restaurants and cafes. It’s convenient location makes it easy to drop by lunch or a quick coffee break while on your day tour, and there’s free wifi too.
Opening times: Mon – Fri 10am til 8pm, Sat 9am til 8pm, Sun 11am til 5pm
How to get there: from Grand Central, it’s right across the road, 2 minutes walk.
8. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens
One of the city’s most popular attractions, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens features four unique glasshouses as well as sprawling gardens.
Each glasshouse is either a tropical rainforest, a sub-tropics jungle, a Mediterranean zone, and an arid desert. There’s even a butterfly house.
And with a playground, a tearoom and gift shop, and some of the most beautiful gardens in the UK, there’s something for everyone here.
Admission: Adult £7.50, concession (children, seniors, students, disabled & helpers): £5.25
Opening times: Mon – Sun 10am til 5pm
How to get there: from Grand Central, buses 23 and 24 stop at the Botanical Gardens (23 mins). By car it takes 9 minutes.
9. The Electric Cinema
Why not catch a movie at the UK’s oldest working cinema?
Built in 1909, the historic Electric Cinema offers movie listings of all the latest releases including 3D showings. There’s optional upgrades to sofa seating at the front or right at the back, and there’s even a waiter text service during the film.
Admission: £11.50 (standard), £8.50 (concession), £12.80 per person (front row sofa), £15.20 per person (back sofa, minimum 2 persons)
Opening times: Mondays: 5:30pm til late, Tue-Sun: late morning til late evening
How to get there: from Grand Central, it’s just across the road (on Station Street).
Want free printable PDF maps and guides for travelling around Birmingham? check out this Tourism & Travel Guide (Free PDF Maps)
As one of the most diverse cities in the UK, Birmingham’s Chinatown is a sprawling melting pot of cultures and cuisines.
With everything from food markets, restaurants and cafes to bars, clubs, hotels, a casino, and entertainment venues, the Chinese Quarter is a gem in the heart of Birmingham and a must-visit.
Theatres like the The Alexandra, The Victoria and the Hippodrome host world-class musicals, operas, dance shows, stand-up comedy, and Birmingham’s favourite pantomime. Also in Chinatown is Birmingham Royal Ballet – the UK’s premier touring ballet company.
The food in Chinatown is naturally, the best food you’ll eat in Birmingham.
Aside from sprawling indoor food markets, there’s Chinese hand-made noodle bars and sizzling Korean hotpot restaurants, Cantonese all-you-can-eat buffets and many more – Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Plus there’s several cute Taiwanese Bubble Milk Tea cafes that are well worth checking out.
Admission: Free (charges apply for events at the Hippodrome and Alexandra theatres. Click here for more details).
Opening times: All hours
How to get there: Chinatown is located just 5 minutes walk from Grand Central and is adjacent to the Bullring.
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General Information about Birmingham
- Area: 267.8km squared
- Weather: 8C (winter), 24C (summer)
- Population: 1.1 million (2nd in UK)
- Founded: 600AD
- International Airport: Birmingham (BHX)
- Famous Residents: Ozzy Osbourne, Led Zeppelin, UB40, David Edgar (poet), Benjamin Zephaniah (writer)
Other Things to See & Do in Birmingham:
- The National Motorcycle Museum – for the motorbike fans, this museum holds an impressive collection of antique and modern motorcycles
- Birmingham Symphony Hall – enjoy live music at one of the world’s best concert halls
- Sutton Park – the sprawling national park is one of the biggest parks in Europe.
Commonly Asked Questions:
What can you do in Birmingham for free?
Here’s 14 free things to do in Birmingham:
- Explore the city’s vibrant street art scene in Digbeth
- Visit the one of Birmingham’s many free museums and galleries – including the Ikon Gallery, RBSA Gallery, and Lapworth Museum of Geology
- Stroll through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens
- Take a tour around the Birmingham Museum of Art
- Spend an afternoon at one of Birmingham’s expansive parks and trails, like Cannon Hill Park and Sutton Park
- Visit the Symphony Hall – one of the world’s best music venues
- Shop, eat and drink at the Bullring – one of Europe’s largest shopping centres
- Explore The Jewellery Quarter
- Go on a Tolkien walking trail and see the landmarks that inspired the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books
- Walk alongside the historic city canals
- Lose yourself in Birmingham City Library
- Watch a show/event at the MAC
- Take a trip to the Barber Insitute of Fine Arts
- Take a trip to the Thinktank Science Garden
Is Birmingham UK worth visiting?
Birmingham is often overlooked by most tourists visiting the UK, who head straight to London. Yet, the UK’s second-largest city is just 90 minutes away from London on the train. Birmingham is an underrated city, with its own wealth of history, melting pot of cultures, and packed plenty of exciting activities for couples, families, and solo travellers alike.
What can couples do in Birmingham?
Here’s 10 Date Ideas For Birmingham Couples:
- Explore Cadbury World – relive your childhood with a trip down memory lane at the Cadbury World chocolate factory, located in the leafy suburb of Bournville.
- Go aqua zorbing on the waterways – why not walk on water with you date? A fun day out that will guarantee laughs.
- Join a Peaky Blinders tour – for fans of the hit TV show, there’s no better choice than the Peaky Tours for a trip through Digbeth’s historic past that reveals the real secrets behind the infamous gang led by Tommy Selby.
- Play a game of mini golf at Cannon Hill Park – Golden Putter Mini Golf is a 36-hole course packed with obstacles and water hazards, which should keep you both on your toes..
- Go on a canal boat ride – with more miles of canals than Venice, this makes for the perfect romantic boat trip.
- Revel in outdoor activities at Ackers – indulge yourselves in anything from skiing and tobogganing to archery and canoeing at Ackers Outdoor Adventure Centre.
- Feed animals at Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park – also situated at Cannon Hill Park, this former Nature Centre is home to an array of animals such as wallabies, red pandas, lynx, goats, and otters.
- Wander on the Tolkien walking trails – Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit fans may be surprised to find that author J.R.R. Tolkien grew up in Birmingham and there are various walking trails around the south of the city which unravel the inspiration of the iconic books.
- Visit the National Sea Life Centre – treat your date to a trip around the UK’s largest aquariums of exotic marine life.
- Bounce around at a trampoline park – Birmingham’s newest indoor trampoline centre in King’s Norton isn’t just for kids to enjoy.
Why is Birmingham so popular?
Birmingham is famous for being the ‘first manufacturing town in the world’ and was hailed as the ‘City of a Thousand Trades’ after it achieved city status in 1889. This is due to the vast number of businesses from around the country and abroad, that chose to base themselves in the area, larger due to its vast water network.
What is Birmingham famous for?
Here’s a list of 10 things the historic city of Birmingham is famous for:
- More canals than Venice – this contributed to the city’s rapid growth and status as the first manufacturing town in the world.
- The Industrial Revolution – the groundbreaking modern era began right here in this city.
- Peaky Blinders – the iconic tv show is based in the city of Birmingham.
- Birmingham Bullring – one of the largest indoor shopping malls in Europe.
- Youngest city in Europe – thanks in part due to the city’s five impressive universities.
- Cadbury World – Britain’s favourite chocolate is manufactured here at the historic Bournville site.
- Music – as well as home to famous musicians and artists, the city also has world-class concert halls
- The Custard Factory – home of Birmingham’s Street Art scene, hipster cafes and a modern tech hub.
- Michelin Star dining – the city has the UK’s highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants outside of London
- World’s largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art can be found in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Book Your Trip to the UK: Budget Tips & Tricks
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Head over to my Travel Tools page for all my best travel tips & advice and everything you need for your trip.
Birmingham Day Trips and Activities on Get Your Guide:
A guided tour and sightseeing events are some of the best ways to experience Birmingham. Here’s some excellent deals for the most popular trips and activities around Birmingham. (Remember, you can cancel your bookings at anytime!)
Further Reading: UK Travel
- London Maps: Tourism & Travel Guide for all your free downloadable PDF Maps of London
- Learn how you can Visit Stonehenge for Free
- Here’s the 10 Best Things to See & Do in Bath, England
- And here’s my Traveller’s Guide to British Slang Words
UK Facts Posts
- Here’s 71 Fun Facts about England
- And here’s 52 Interesting Facts about Wales
- Stonehenge Facts & History is packed with weird and unknown facts about England’s most iconic landmark
- Head over to 45 Facts About London for the most curious and unknown facts about London
Thank you for reading my post: Top 10 Things To Do in Birmingham, UK (by a local)
I hope you’ll come and visit my hometown someday!