Perched in the heart of England, Birmingham is the country’s second largest city after London and one that’s great to explore… especially on a first time trip! With a handful of museums, country houses, parks and some incredible shopping spots, there really are so many amazing things to do in Birmingham.
Whilst growing up in rural Wales, Birmingham was often the biggest city to visit (about 3 hours away) and times I have such fond memories of! It’s a great city for exploring
That being said, a trip to a new city can be tough to plan, especially one that’s pretty large. That’s why I wanted to share some of my favourite things to do in Birmingham on your first ever visit.
1.) Visit St Philip’s Cathedral
St Philip’s Cathedral is an architectural wonder for it is one of the few English baroque style churches in addition to being one of the countries smallest cathedrals. It’s just a short distance from the Jewelry Quarter so when you finish buying what attracts you there you can stroll over to this attraction.
Inside you should look up to the ceiling and you will discover 2000 soul boats hanging from above. Remember to take your camera.
2.)The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is one of the best things to do in Birmingham, especially if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Once here, make sure to explore the rooms for Anglo-Saxon gold, Indian bronze statues and European culture while the big kids amongst us will enjoy the dinosaur exhibits and the Egyptian mummies in their coffins.
If you’re looking for a typical English brekkie in the city, pop over to the Grand Central Kitchen. It’s a no-frills kinda spot that really serves a hearty breakfast that’ll keep you full past lunch! It’s amazing.
3.) Explore Aston Hall
Exploring Aston Hall is possibly one of the best things to do in Birmingham and probably one of the most significant to see. As one of the final Jacobean houses to be built, it has a history that’s just so great to explore.
Once here, make sure to visit the display rooms (including one featuring the role the house played during the Civil War) and the symmetrical gardens that are perfect for a little stroll.
After all that exploring, pop into The Wilderness (on Warstone Lane). The whole experience of getting into the dining area to the food served is just incredible. Just make sure to book ahead, they’re nearly always full.
4.) Visit the Birmingham Symphony Hall
The Birmingham Symphony Hall is one of England’s finest concert halls with world-class acoustics in the stunning architecturally beautiful auditorium. In addition to listening to internationally renowned orchestras, you can also visit here to watch rock concerts, jazz musicians and even comedy shows. It really has something for everyone and productions are on a show almost every day throughout the year.
You should look at their website to see what is available when planning your trip. It’s a great way to end (or start) and evening in Birmingham.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat before heading over to Symphony Hall, pop into The Meat Shack (on Thorp Street) that serves up some tasty baskets of burgers, ribs and loads of loaded fries. It’s the kinda place where you tuck in with your hands without any judgement. I love it!
5.) See the National Motorcycle Museum
Now, heads up…if you’re not a motorcycle fan, you’ll probably hate this spot. But, if you are you’ll probably be itching to visit one of the UK’s larges motorcycle museums.
Featuring more than 1000 motorcycles from around the world that have all been restored to their original specifications. The oldest machine on display dates from 1898 and sits alongside some of the most powerful superbikes on the road today.
Just make sure you’ve got a passion for bikes before you visit!
6.) Spend the evening at the Gas Street Basin
The Gas Street Basin is the area of Birmingham that was at the centre of England’s canal system. You can take a walk alongside these canals that are just five minutes away from the city centre. Today, all of the industry has been replaced by some pretty cool bars and restaurants, making a perfect place for you to take a stroll.
For a taste of fine dining, pop into Carters of Moseley who serve up the best Orkney scallops and red mullet in all of Birmingham.
7.) Ride the Shakespeare Express
The Shakespeare Express is a steam train operating from Birmingham to Stratford upon Avon helping to keep alive one of Britain’s institutions. Now, currently, the trains have stopped for this year and the team are renewing their passenger license (which will hopefully be ready for next year).
Make sure to check their website to see once this has been approved – it really is one of the best things to do in Birmingham.
There are only a few steam trains still in operation in the country and they help to captivate tourists with this return to the past. You can join them when you visit Birmingham and take a relaxing trip through the Warwickshire countryside while being served a delicious meal.
8.) Wander around Winterbourne House
Winterbourne House and Gardens is located just a few miles from Birmingham and a great spot to experience a little history of this area.
Once here, make sure to stop off to see the art and crafts on display or wander through the house and observe the collection of antiques. When you have finished in the house take a stroll around the gardens with over 6000 plant species on display collected from all over the world. It really is one of the best things to do in Birmingham if you love beautiful gardens.
If all that exploring gets you hungry, pop into Adam’s on Waterloo Street. They serve up some of the best Michelin Star food in the city. Just make sure to book before heading over.
9.) Ramble through Sheldon Country Park
Sheldon Country Park is an ideal setting for some proper rambling in the countryside, there are several trails differing in length from 2 to 5km or you can combine some interconnecting trails to make a long walk. Close to the park entrance you will find the Old Rectory Farm, this dairy farm dates from the 17th century and has been fully restored.
Now, for any pane spotters our there, Sheldon Park is located right next to the Airport, which means there are ample opportunities to spot some planes landing and taking off.
10.) Shop at the Bullring
Now, the Bullring is the centre of Birmingham and always a hive of activity. Once here, make sure to visit the iconic Selfridges store (with all the bubble-esque architecture), wander through the shopping areas and explore St. Martin’s Square.
That being said, if you want a less shiny experience, pop over to the Bullring Rag Market that hosts hundreds of temporary stalls selling everything from fruit and veg to clothing.
If all that shopping gets you hungry, stop off at Viceroy Tandoori that conjures up some of the tastiest curries in the city.
11.) Gorge at the Great Western Arcade
Built within Victorian-era, the Great Western Arcade has a long history in Birmingham. Nowadays, the arcade is still a thrive of activity where you’ll get a few high-street brands mixed in with independent boutiques.
Once here, make sure to stop off at Sushi Passion for, you guessed it, sushi. Also, chocolate lovers unite at Chouchoute Chocolaterie where you can totally gorge! It’s one of the best spots and things to do in Birmingham… every chocolate lover will surely agree?
12.) Chillout at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens is one of the totally stunning things to do in Birmingham… especially if you love nature!
There are four glasshouses that are surrounded by large lawns and beds of flowers and shrubberies, whilst Inside the beautiful glasshouses are tropical plants from all over the world.
Depending on the season, the gardens also host a number of gigs and shows that you can book tickets for. Take a look at their website for the latest events.
Lloyd, Hand Luggage Only, https://handluggageonly.co.uk