Coined as England’s second city, Birmingham is a hotbed of rich and diverse culture, not to mention eclectic architecture, brimming with things to do around every corner. So, whether you’re heading to the midlands for work or pleasure, we’ve put together a guide on what you can do to fill your days while soaking up this beautiful city - and the best news is: it’s all free!
If delving into the past sounds right up your street then the city’s main museum and gallery is the place to start. You’ll find ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian artefacts, the Staffordshire Hoard, the world’s largest collection of pre-raphaelite art and loads more.
The museum also boasts beautiful Edwardian tea rooms where you can enjoy snacks, meals, and drinks in exquisite surroundings. Entry to the museum is free, although there are charges for the temporary exhibitions.
Cannon Hill Park
The Midlands Art Centre hosts two theatres, a cinema, a gallery and heaps more (including a bar and a cafe). Entry to the building is free, although there’s usually a charge if you want to watch one of the shows. The first-floor gallery doesn’t charge an entry fee and is open until 8pm Mon-Sat.
Throughout the year MAC hosts food markets on the last Sunday of the month and craft markets on the first Sunday of the month, both of which offer free entry. With hundreds of shows, exhibitions and workshops each month, head to their website to find out what else is on during your stay.
Aston Webb Building, University of Birmingham
Benefiting from a £2.7 million development in 2016, this gem is one of the oldest museums specialising in geology in the UK. You’ll find a great array of minerals and fossils, many of which were discovered in the local area - giving you a taste of the region millions of years ago.
There’s also a sabre-toothed tiger, giant ammonites, dinosaur fossils (including Roary the allosaurus), plus Dudley bug trilobites and the Coseley spider. After all that excitement, head upstairs and you’ll be treated to a breathtaking display of crystals.
This landmark is the oldest building in the city and a rare and beautiful display of elegant Baroque architecture which is grade one listed today. Spectacular both inside and out, it hosts intriguing treasures including its famous stained-glass windows created by the renowned Edward Burne-Jones.
The much-loved bells of St Philip’s resonate around the city and can be heard on Sundays and Mondays. If you’re interested in a guided tour the cathedral offers them regularly at no cost, just head to their website to find out if there’s one scheduled during your stay.
Fun fact: Birmingham boasts two cathedrals, the second being St. Chad’s which can be found on St. Chad’s Freeway on the edge of the jewellery quarter.
Millennium Point, Curzon Street
This £2.5 million science garden was opened in 2012 by Birmingham’s science museum, the ThinkTank. It’s one of only a handful of similar gardens worldwide and the first of its kind in the UK.
If you’re visiting with children, this one’s a must. It’s an outdoor discovery space that houses various devices and machines for children to explore, including a square wheeled wagon, mechanical theatre powered by solar panel or turbine, and an eight-meter high terminus.
While admission to the museum itself isn’t free, the garden is open to the public every day between 3pm and 5pm at no cost.
Royal Mail Street
Within the city’s popular restaurant and retail centre is the Mailbox and on level seven you’ll find BBC Birmingham being broadcast, and they open the doors to their visitor centre for free.
Within the centre, you can pose with a Tardis and Dalek, check out the original outfits from the popular series Peaky Blinders, swoon over Strictly Come Dancing dresses, and view live bulletins from their viewing area upstairs.
The world’s oldest soap opera, The Archers, has been recorded in Birmingham since it began and in tribute, you’ll find a special exhibition which includes games, some of the objects used to create sound effects, and a selfie station.
There’s no cost to explore the visitor’s centre but for a more in-depth experience you can pay for a 90-minute tour - under 12’s and Blue Peter badge holders go free but you’ll need to book ahead of your visit.
Birmingham’s £189 million library is so much more than just books. Across its 10 floors you’ll find something for all the family including craft workshops, photography exhibitions, poetry readings, performances, fun sessions for toddlers, coffee mornings and more.
Take your pick of two cafes, one on the ground floor and the Discovery Cafe on level three. The library is open Monday to Friday 11am-7pm, and Saturday 11am-5pm (it’s closed Sundays).
Situated in the city centre, Ikon Gallery is an internationally acclaimed art gallery and to be honest, we were pleasantly surprised to discover entry is free.
Across two floors the gallery hosts temporary exhibitions by artists from around the globe in a variety of mediums including film, sound, photography, sculpture, mixed-medium, painting, and installations - it’s not your traditional art gallery.
You’ll also find the city’s only specialist art bookshop inside, the Ikon Shop, offering everything from cards and gifts to artist’s limited editions. On top of all that, there’s also Yorks Cafe where you can grab a bite to eat (they serve Stonebaked pizza from 5pm), hot drinks or craft beer.
If you fancy heading outdoors to explore Birmingham’s riches there’s a whole host of free attractions to keep you busy, including:
After a busy day exploring this jewel in the Midlands you’ll need somewhere to put your feet up and get some sleep. Our Jurys Inn Birmingham hotel can offer you a large comfortable bed where you’ll get all the rest you need before another busy day. You’ll also find free WiFi, ensuite facilities, room service, and much more.
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