Even though it was my place of birth, I don’t go back very often and I am always surprised by how the things to do in Birmingham change for each time I visit. There are some things however, that are the mainstay of England’s second city’s attractions. In my lifetime, I have seen it change from a smelly, heavily-industrialized, dreary place to a location that wears its culture most definitely on its sleeve. It is vibrant and exciting and very culturally diverse. It might not be my home (I left when I was but 5 years old), but I am still a “Brummie” and proud of the things to do in Birmingham and the welcome it offers visitors.
1 Cadbury World
Whether you’ve got kids or not, this is the place of all places to go in Birmingham. You take a walk around the factory, sample chocolates, see how it is packaged and advertised, and there is even a ride. You can learn about the Cadbury story, and stuff your face full of lovely, wonderful, creamy chocolate on the way. Oh, and you can stop off at the world’s largest Cadbury shop, that’s if you can stomach anymore chocolate!
2 Winterbourne House and Gardens
Fancy something a little slower, a little more peaceful? Why not check out the Winterbourne House and the seven acres of stunning gardens. The house was built in the English Edwardian era and is a fine piece of architecture. Stroll around the gardens on a hot summer’s day, and enjoy looking at the wonderful plant collections. This house is a real treasure and a must for anyone who appreciates the beauty of gardens and plant life.
3 The Jewellery Quarter
Many of the UK’s largest cities had gold and silversmithing among their main trades for centuries. The tradition is still going strong in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. The whole of a small part of the city is given over to the glorious art of jewelry making and associated skills and crafts. Whether you want to commission a bespoke piece of jewelry or marvel in the history of the art at the fascinating museum, a visit to the Jewellery Quarter is one of the best things to do in Birmingham.
4 The Pen Room
As a writer, this is one of my favorite attractions of Birmingham. The Pen Room in Hockley is a fascinating look into the city’s history. This unique museum has a huge range of things to do, all related to the art of writing and penmanship, and visitors can take part in calligraphy classes, learn how to make a pen nib, and write their own name with a Braille machine. And the best thing – it’s all free of charge.
5 Broad Street and beyond
It wasn’t so many years ago that the canals of Birmingham were a home for abandoned supermarket trolleys, old mattresses and a dumping ground for industrial waste. Then some clever development took place. Today the area around Broad Street is Birmingham’s “Little Venice”. Enjoy a trip along the water, a stroll on the tow path, or take a seat in a waterside café or restaurant. It’s hard to describe how magical this transformation is because you really need to have seen its former self.
6 Victoria Square
As a great city, of course, Birmingham has to have a focal point. This is Victoria Square. A huge open space and the meeting point of the city center’s major thoroughfares, it is anchored by the Victorian Gothic and most impressive Council House. Its other striking feature is The River, a central water feature. In the center of the pool is a statue that is known locally as the “Floozie in the Jacuzzi” and naturally, there is a statue of Queen Victoria, after whom the square is named. The whole area around the square is architecturally rich and makes for an interesting walk which can include St. Philip’s Cathedral, the Town Hall, Colmore Row, Chamberlain Square and Brindley Place which are all among the top attractions of Birmingham.
7 The Bullring
No, it’s nothing to do with matadors! It is in fact one of the UK’s busiest shopping centers (3rd largest in turnover, busiest in terms of footfall). The Bullring and the streets around it are a shopper’s paradise. The futuristic design of Selfridges is eye-popping and for traditionalists there is the market. From tiny specialist shops to huge department stores and all in a compact area, shopping is definitely one of the top things to do in Birmingham.
This short list is just a small selection of the places to go in Birmingham. I haven’t told you about the Barber Institute, the Nature House, the Lickey Hills, the RAF Museum, The Hippodrome, the Thinktank, the two universities, the botanical gardens, the Sea Life Center, the Digbeth Institute, the… well maybe I’ll stop there. Fancy a trip?