Get us in your inbox

Search
Birmingham
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 23 best things to do in Birmingham right now

Bold buildings, splendid sport and mould-breaking music – our round-up of the best things to do in Birmingham has it all

Written by
Paula Akpan
,
James Brennan
&
Kayleigh Watson
Advertising

Give it a fair chance and you’ll find the city of Birmingham to be an irresistible cultural force, full of diversity. Whether it’s fine art or street art, impeccable dining or lip-smacking street food, mould-breaking bars, lively independent music venues or a whole lot of sport, there is no shortage of choice. From the Peaky Blinders’ urban grit to the glorious greenery of Edgbaston, there will always be something that floats your canal boat. Here’s our round-up of the best things to do in Birmingham.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

This article includes affiliate links. These links have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, click here.

Best things to do in Birmingham

See the inspiration for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ at Moseley Bog
Photograph: Courtesy TripAdvisor.com

1. See the inspiration for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ at Moseley Bog

What is it? A green idyll on the fringes of the city on the site of an old millpond. 

Why go? Wander around this nature reserve full of plants, animals and insects, gnarled old trees and gorgeous carpets of bluebells each spring. The site is also of great archeological interest, having two burnt mounds, the remains of an old mill dam and the foundations of Victorian greenhouses.

Don’t miss: Book a JRR Tolkien-themed tour at the recently-reopened Sarehole Mill, on the fringes of the bog:  the ‘The Lord of the Rings’ author grew up around Moseley Bog in the 1890s, and it’s said to be the inspiration for hobbit-hangout The Shire. 

What is it? Fifteen acres of ornamental gardens, glasshouses and exotic birds in indoor and outdoor aviaries.

Why go? The Botanical Gardens’ exotic world of tropical plantlife makes for an excellent family day out. The glasshouses are filled with all manner of strange flora, while the lawns and shrubbery outside are perfect for a stroll during the sunnier months.

Don’t miss: The butterfly house full of tropical insects from as far as the Philippines, Central America and tropical parts of Africa.

Advertising

What is it? Birmingham’s vibrant canal quarter is home to some of the city’s best bars and restaurants, as well as the National Sealife Centre and Ikon Gallery.

Why go? The oft-quoted ‘more canals than Venice’ claim is a bit iffy – Birmingham is so much bigger that it’s a daft comparison – but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on a walk around the canal quarter. It’s a real Cinderella part of town, having been hugely redeveloped and crammed full with restaurants and bars.

Don’t miss: Use the historic Roundhouse building as a base from which to explore by boat, bike or foot.

What is it? Pack in a full day – and night – of fun in this increasingly popular part of town, where you’ll find everything from exhibitions to nightclubs.

Why go? With more than 200 listed buildings and over 250 years of history, Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter should be on any Brum itinerary. According to English Heritage, Europe’s largest cluster of jewellery businesses is a ‘national treasure’. Museum nerds will love the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, the Pen Museum and Newman Brothers Coffin Works. And with all the pubs, restaurants, galleries and independent boutiques here, there’s something for everybody else too.

Don’t miss: If you’re making a night of it, check in to BLOC, close to the ever-popular JQ nightclub. Try Jam House, or if you have something even later and livelier in mind, Brum’s up-for-it generation descend upon the Actress & Bishop from about 1am, with no intention of making it a quiet one.

Advertising

What is it? Founded by an air steward with a passion for running in cities all over the world, Run of a Kind offers those with a bit of energy a great alternative way to get to know the city.

Why go? With runs between 5km and 11km for beginners and those a bit more confident, the team sprint across Birmingham for a pit-stop of landmarks and hidden gems including the gay scene, local architecture, street art and a bunch of trivia to boot.

Advertising
Sink a pint in grand Victorian pub The Bartons Arms
Photograph: Courtesy Flickr/Tony Hisgett

7. Sink a pint in grand Victorian pub The Bartons Arms

What is it? A grand Victorian pub with original stained glass, engraved mirrors and snob screens.

Why go? Surely one of the world’s greatest pubs, The Bartons Arms is a rare treasure among the mean streets of Newtown. Built in 1901 as a Victorian gin palace, it’s still beautifully ornate with original features such as Minton tiles, a grand horseshoe bar replete with snob screens and a stunning wrought iron staircase once climbed by the likes of Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin.

Don’t miss: Book a tour or choose a pint from its fine range of Oakham ales and something spicy from the Thai menu.

Fill up in style at the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants
  • Restaurants

What is it? Birmingham has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city outside the capital. 

Why go? Purnell’sSimpsonsAdam’sCarters, Opheem and – if you’re prepared to head just outside the city – Peel’s, will all bamboozle you with their culinary delights. And with more high-end independents opening all the time, you could well get in before the Michelin inspectors do. A quiet food revolution has been rumbling through Birmingham in recent times – now’s your time to sample it.

Advertising

What is it? While London and Manchester will always get more attention when it comes to music, Birmingham has its fair share of talent including UB40, Duran Duran or Black Sabbath – and it’s still bubbling up at the present with a thriving local music scene.

Why go? Whether it’s house at The Mill, indie at The Sunflower Lounge, the Night Owl’s northern soul, or jazz at The Jam Café, you’ll find something interesting within walking distance of the high street. 

Fill up on thalis at Raja Monkey
  • Restaurants
  • Indian

What is it? A South Indian restaurant with a canteen vibe. 

Why go? If you really want to dine like a Brummie, then a trip to a curry house is mandatory. The Balti Triangle – located south of the city centre – is famed for its long-established restaurants, but we suggest you head to Raja Monkey. This Hall Green spot serves thalis and street-food snacks like dosa and uttapam with cheerful informality. 

Don’t miss: Try the £10-ish thalis for a taste of what's on offer.

Advertising

What is it? A Grade II listed Victorian hotel in the city centre undergoing a modern transformation.

Why go? The legendary Grand Hotel re-opens in the summer of 2020 following an 18-year closure and a painstaking multi-million-pound restoration. The Grade II-listed building has hosted a plethora of historical figures, from Winston Churchill to Malcolm X, and now you can explore its striking Victorian and Art Deco interiors, including the jaw-dropping Grosvenor Ballroom and a new rooftop garden terrace.

Don’t miss: The brand new outdoor terrace in the central courtyard. Perfect for Covid-safe drinks. 

Fill your bags at one of the city’s iconic shopping destinations
Rob Greig

12. Fill your bags at one of the city’s iconic shopping destinations

What is it? A marketplace since the twelfth century, Birmingham is still a city for shoppers. 

Why go? The Bullring is now a giant mall incorporating the iconic Selfridges building (it looks like it’s part-amorphous blob, part-crash-landed UFO). Across town, the Mailbox is a classier joint with the likes of Harvey Nichols and Emporio Armani.

Don’t miss: Most interesting are the independents, which you’ll find scattered all over town and in places like the splendid Great Western Arcade.

Advertising

What is it? England’s number one chocolate-focused attraction. 

Why go? For the best views of Brum’s chocolate factory, arrive by train (13 minutes from New Street), and take a deep breath – a sweet haze envelopes the red-brick, olde worlde Bournville village, which was designed and built for the workers of England’s flagship chocolate brand. Cadbury World is the public bit of the factory: tours include a deep dive into the history of cocoa, a 4D cinema and a ride in the self-styled ‘Beanmobile’.

Don’t miss: Have your Willy Wonka experience in the demonstration area (yes molten chocolate is involved; yes you get to drink it). The world’s biggest Cadbury store also awaits, boasting concoctions unavailable anywhere else.

What is it? BMAG is full of treasures – from Anglo-Saxon gold to more contemporary pieces. 

Why go? Housing the largest collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings in the world and occupying one of the city’s finest buildings, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is not to be missed. Head up to the third level for a detailed, hands-on history of Birmingham and its people. 

Don’t miss: The domed Round Room is often the location for free musical performances. Plus, make time for a slice of cake at the refurbished Edwardian Tea Room.

Advertising

What is it? Stalk the very same streets as the real Peaky Blinders on these dedicated tours.

Why go? Because you love the show and now want to follow in the footsteps of Birmingham’s most infamous criminal gang. Take a Peaky Tour in Digbeth, and visit the lock-up at Steelhouse Lane police station where some of the gang were incarcerated.

Don’t miss: Further afield, at the wonderful open-air Black Country Living Museum, you can see the TV show’s sets for yourself.  

Meet the city’s creatives at the Custard Factory
  • Things to do
  • Event spaces

What is it? A restored Victorian factory, now a hub for creatives and independent businesses. 

Why go? Alfred Bird invented custard powder in Birmingham in 1837. These days, it’s a studio complex at the heart of Birmingham’s creative community. It’s home to many artists, and also full of galleries, independent shops, cafés, restaurants, bars and the Mockingbird Cinema. With its graffiti-strewn walls and regular arts events, the whole area is well worth a few hours of mooching.

Don’t miss: Look out for regular open studio events to meet the designer-makers who make this place so special. 

Advertising

What is it? Take a tour of Aston Villa’s hallowed grounds, or even catch a game. 

Why go? There aren’t many football grounds in the world like Villa Park. The 42,000-capacity stadium has been home to Aston Villa since 1897, and it has an aura that few sporting institutions can match, especially when full and on song. Sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour or catch the boys in claret and blue play a Premier League game. 

Don’t miss: Try Villa's highly acclaimed but surprisingly affordable restaurant, VMF (that's Villa Midlands Food to you and me). 

  • Museums
  • Sport

What is it? The home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club, plus numerous England fixtures. 

Why go? There’s nothing as quintessentially English as a game of cricket, and Birmingham boasts one of the very best places to watch one. Edgbaston is renowned as one of the country’s most atmospheric international test grounds. 

Don’t miss: Take a tour of the stadium to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Warwickshire and England changing room, the field, the media centre and more. 

Advertising
  • Music

What is it? Opulent concert hall that’s home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. 

Why go? This grandiose venue was opened in 1991 and has delivered a rich programme of gigs and concerts ever since. Fun fact: it was recently voted as having the seventh-best concert-hall acoustics in the entire world. 

Don’t miss: If you don’t know your Schubert from your Haydn, ease yourself in by visiting during the festive December programme. The Hall looks even better for candlelit carols.

What is it? The world's largest collection of British motorcycles.

Why go? A must-see for all petrolheads, this Bickenhill museum has more than 1,000 different motorcycles, dating all the way back to an 1898 Beeston Humber Tricycle. There are also plenty of pretty serious modern superbikes.

Don’t miss: Book a guided highlights tour with an experienced guide to get a behind-the-scenes look. 

Advertising
  • Theatre

What is it? The Rep is the jewel in the crown of Brum’s theatre scene, a lively production theatre with an emphasis on diverse programming.

Why go? A production house for well over a century, it’s got more decades under its belt than either the National Theatre in London or West Midlands neighbours the RSC. And with major league director Sean Foley recently having taken over, it shows no sign of slowing down.

Don’t miss: While there’s edgier programming the rest of the year, its annual production of The Snowman is a delightful seasonal cuddle.

Looking for somewhere amazing to stay?

WTTDBirmingham

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising