Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 2022. Photo © Birmingham Museums Trust

The best things to do in Birmingham

What to see, do and eat in England's second city – you may well be surprised at how much there is on offer

The host city of the 2022 Commonwealth Games has waited patiently for its turn in the spotlight, but locals know something special has been happening in Birmingham for several years already. Pierced by gleaming new tramlines and picturesque canal sides, Birmingham has undergone intense change and offers a variety of fun things to do.

From exploring one of the UK’s best small art galleries to taking a boat along its myriad waterways to visiting a nearby beach, the day is wide open with possibilities while Birmingham’s exceptional gastro scene comes alive when night falls. Whether it’s sampling Michelin star restaurants in the city centre or bar hopping out in lively neighbourhoods like Moseley or Stirchley, activities in Birmingham are always first-class.

Is Birmingham a good city break?

Yes. We've named the second city one of the UK's best city breaks and for good reason. There are plenty of things to do in Birmingham, having evolved into a cultural and commercial hotspot, boasting a bustling street life made up of quirky shops and delicious restaurants. From promenading up and down Birmingham's revitalised canals to sampling craft beer at one of the city's booming breweries, this city is the perfect weekend getaway.

The 17 best things to do in Birmingham

Winterbourne House and Gardens, BirminghamPeter Lopeman / Alamy Stock Photo

1. Relax in Winterbourne House’s tranquil gardens

Built in 1903, Winterbourne House is a rare surviving example of an early 20th-century suburban villa and garden. And while the house itself is a quaint window into the life of the wealthy Nettlefold family, it’s the majestic gardens that are the standout feature here. From the shaded Nut Walk to the curious glasshouses, the gardens are a wonderfully serene spot to spend a balmy afternoon.

Address: 58 Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham B15 2RT
Price: £8.20

2. Taste Harborne’s neighbourhood cuisine

Birmingham’s neighbourhoods are increasingly where it’s at for quality independent cuisine and few do it better than Harborne. Sample delectable pasta dishes at Tropea, modern British tasting menus at Harborne Kitchen, expertly-cooked fish and chips at The Cods Scallops and fine-dining takeaway treats from Qbox. Harborne’s quality local options are a delight. Still hungry? See more of Birmingham's best restaurants.

Birmingham canalsGetty Images

3. Cruise the famous canals

The city’s snaking canals are perfect for a leisurely wander, but for a closer look, GoBoat offers a self-drive experience from their spot in Brindley Place. With their eco-friendly electric boats, the experience is relaxing and Route 2 – which heads down the Old Line towards the University of Birmingham – is particularly picturesque. Moor up for a picnic in Edgbaston and relax under the shade of weeping willows.

Address: The Water's Edge, Birmingham B1 2HL
Price: One hour is £95 - under £12 per person when seating eight

Attic Brew Co

4. Sample a growing craft beer scene

Craft beer fans are well-served (no pun intended) by Birmingham’s thriving taprooms and neighbourhood breweries. Attic Brew Co, Glasshouse and the Birmingham Brewing Company are all established in the city’s beer epicentre of Stirchley but don’t miss the outstanding breweries elsewhere. Burning Soul’s signature Ice Cream Pale is perfect for a summer day on their terrace in Hockley, while Digbrew pours Digbeth’s freshest beers.

Symphony HallPhil Broom / Alamy Stock Photo

5. Take in a show at the Symphony Hall

Considered to have some of the finest acoustics in the UK, the Symphony Hall in Centenary Square attracts some of the world’s biggest artists across several genres. Given a fresh new Scandi-style facelift that glimmers in the multi-coloured water fountains below, the hall also boasts a B:Eats, a laid-back cafe offering live music and sublime food (including the historic Brummie Bacon Cake).

Address: Symphony Hall, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2EA

6. Explore Digbeth

With its industrial landscape providing a perfect canvas for the city’s finest street artists, Digbeth is Birmingham’s most distinct neighbourhood and The Custard Factory offers a plethora of bars and activities. But don’t sleep in the pubs across the other side of the High Street either. The Anchor is a beautiful old Victorian watering hole, while The Spotted Dog serves arguably Birmingham’s finest drop of Guinness.

The Barber Institute at the University of BirminghamImages of Birmingham / Alamy Stock Photo

7. See some unknown masterpieces at the Barber Institute

The pleasant grounds of the University of Birmingham are an enjoyable afternoon stroll, but tucked away behind the School of Mathematics is the city’s best art gallery. Within the Barber Institute of Fine Art’s quiet Art Deco corridors is a splendid collection of lesser-heralded works from the likes of Van Gogh, Manet and Renoir. It’s free to enter and also offers revolving exhibitions.

Address: University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TS
Price: Free

The Electric CinemaThom Bartley

8. Watch a movie at the UK’s oldest working cinema

If you’re in the mood for a film on a rainy night, then skip the cookie-cutter multiplexes and head over to Station Street for a unique step back in time. The Art Deco exterior of the Electric Cinema dates back to 1909 and the red chairs lining its two auditoriums are evocative of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Order a beer or a wine from the hole-in-the-wall bar and sit back for a show in the UK’s oldest working cinema.

Address: 47-49 Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY
Price: £10 (for a standard ticket)

Birmingham Museum and Art GalleryBirmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 2022. Photo © Birmingham Museums Trust

9. Visit a pop-up exhibition at BMAG

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery have always been a focal point for visitors, especially for its extensive Pre-Raphaelite art collections and the elegant Victorian Tea Rooms. But following recent renovations, it’s the museum’s unique exhibitions that display the creativity and local passion of its curators. This is perhaps best displayed by In The Que, a retrospective celebration of the legendary Que Club nights featuring photographs, flyers, posters and a thirty-five-minute film.

Address: Chamberlain Square, Birmingham B3 3DH
Price: Free

Black Country Living Museum

10. Step back in time at the Black Country Living Museum

This region built its name and wealth on industrial might, and a stroll around the Black Country Living Museum brings a mesmerising 19th-century landscape back to life. Just 20 minutes from Birmingham, this immersive open-air museum of rebuilt historic buildings features gaslit streets flanked by over 50 shops and houses across a 26-acre village with costumed characters explaining the hardships of Victorian life. Keep an eye out for the actual canal yard used in the popular BBC crime drama Peaky Blinders.

Address: Tipton Road, Dudley DY1 4SQ
Price: £19.95

11. Soak in some luxurious views

103 Colmore Row’s sleek exterior climbs into the Birmingham sky, dwarfing all around it and showcases the city’s finest vistas. But the piece de resistance is that these views are experienced from the splendour of Orelle, a sublime French-inspired restaurant on the 24th floor with glorious floor-to-ceiling windows and a handsome navy colour scheme. While there’s more to see during the day, it’s best to visit at night when the city below is blanketed in shimmering lights.

Address: Orelle, 103 Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 3AG
Price: Mains from £21

Great Western ArcadeAlamy

12. Browse Birmingham’s historic arcades

While the bulbous Bullring dominates Birmingham’s shopping scene, a Victorian treasure is hidden away across from Snow Hill Station. Packed with everything from whisky stores to sushi joints, the ornate Great Western Arcade is an under-the-radar institution. Don’t miss the equally unique Piccadilly Arcade and its lavish ceiling fresco (also, the sloping floor dates from a former life as an Edwardian cinema).

Address: Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, Birmingham, B2 5HU

Jewellery QuarterAlamy

13. Hear stories from the city’s untold past

Walking tours are great for going beyond the surface of a city and Kevin Thomas’s Heritage Walking Tours delve into some quirky and, at times, macabre Birmingham stories unlikely to feature in any guidebook. From unusual graves in the Birmingham catacombs to a tour of the Jewellery Quarter’s stylish art deco architecture, Thomas uncovers new sides to Birmingham with humour, passion and curiosity.

Address: various locations
Price: £15

14. Dance to Moseley’s summertime vibes

There are few festivals in Britain – let alone Birmingham – as cool as the Mostly Jazz Funk & Soul Festival. Often bathed in July’s warm summer rays, Mostly Jazz is an eclectic three-day music festival held in the lush hillside setting of Moseley Park that’s been headlined in the past by the likes of Chic featuring Nile Rogers, Gregory Porter and The Specials. Soak up the sun and dance long into the night in Birmingham’s most bohemian neighbourhood.

Address: Moseley Park, 93B Alcester Rd, Birmingham B13 8DD
Price: Day tickets £61, three-day weekend ticket £156

Edgbaston cricket groundGetty Images

15. Feel the passion at Edgbaston

Often described as having the best atmosphere of any English cricket stadium, Edgbaston is the gregarious home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club and T20 team the Birmingham Bears. Though it truly comes alive during England test matches and you’ll have ticked off a Birmingham sporting bucket list activity if you manage to snag tickets. Even better, try and get a seat in the boisterous Eric Hollies stand, where you may be sat alongside all manner of costumed characters.

Address: Edgbaston Stadium, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B5 7QU
Price: Bears tickets start from £17

Sarehole MillAlamy

16. Hit the Tolkien trail

With his curiosity piqued by the city’s quirky architecture and mysterious woodlands, author JRR Tolkien lived in Birmingham during his formative years and took deep inspiration from local neighbourhoods like Hall Green and Moseley. Dating back to 1771, Sarehole Mill is an old watermill that fascinated Tolkien as a child and now acts as a unique suburban museum. It's from here that visitors can take a guided tour through the scenery that inspired him to write classics like The Lord of the Rings.

Address: Sarehole Mill Museum, Cole Bank Rd, Birmingham B13 0BD
Price: £10 per person

AtelierTom Bird

17. Order in some inventive cocktails

From luxurious creations at Digbeth’s Passing Fancies to the almost-intimidating 140-strong selection of gins at 40 St Paul’s, Birmingham’s independent cocktail scene has never been stronger, or more distinct. The Scandi-inspired cream interior at Atelier Birmingham looks like nowhere else in the city, while Couch’s laid-back neighbourhood environment is an urbane antidote to every ostentatious cocktail bar stereotype.

How can I spend a day in Birmingham?


Start with a canalside breakfast at easy-going Juju’s Cafe. The relaxed family-run atmosphere means a warm welcome, while their moreish Porky Hash will set you up for the rest of the day. Cross over the bridge and head to Roundhouse Birmingham, where you can get a window into the city’s industrial past followed by a kayak tour of Birmingham’s canal network.

Birmingham CanalGetty Images


Head back into the city and grab some generously-filled Japanese-style sandwiches for lunch at Gupshup, before perusing the quirky boutiques of the Victorian Great Western Arcade. Browse the unique and locally focused exhibitions at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery followed by a pint of cask ale at beer institution The Wellington.


Meander down vibrant Bennett’s Hill and sample Birmingham’s superb south Asian cuisine at The Indian Streatery. Share as much as possible, before wandering south to Digbeth’s smorgasbord of entertainment options. Pick your poison between neon putting at Golf Fang, shooting space invaders at NQ64 or sitting down to one of 500+ board games at Chance and Counters. But if all of that is too active, then either relax with organic wine at Wine Freedom or sit outside with a couple of obscure Belgian beers from Roberto's Bar and Tasting Club.