Things to do in Birmingham: 34 activities to tick off your list

Where to eat, what to see and where to go in Birmingham

Updated on 23 August 2019 • Written By Kirsten Lee

Things to do in Birmingham: 34 activities to tick off your list

The bustling West Midlands city of Birmingham has lots going for it. The city is teeming with culture and history, as well as being home to those scenic winding canals and plenty of fabulous shopping and dining options. It's also among the top four most visited cities in Britain – not bad going. 

England’s Second City, being the second biggest city by population size, is fondly known as Brum and boasts green spaces, museums, galleries, culture, creativity and forward-thinking, as part of the city’s motto, no longer just adopting the past industrial city identity.

Stop by the ancient city centre for old world charm, or if culture is more of your thing, you can watch the Royal Ballet or stumble across one of the city's many art galleries. There's also a great music scene in Birmingham, while the barge boats that line the city's canals are picture perfect. 

Whether you’re just dropping by or you’re a Brummie through and through, get to know all Birmingham has to offer below.

Where to eat in Birmingham

Birmingham is filled with top-notch restaurants waiting to be enjoyed. In between all the retail therapy at the Mailbox and discovering the sites, stop by one of the best restaurants in Birmingham for some local flavours. Try one of the famous Brum dishes, including bacon cakes and Birmingham soup, or if you’re one for curry, you’re in for a treat with Brum’s Balti-Triangle, an internationally recognised home of curry.

Michelin-starred restaurants in Birmingham

With five Michelin starred restaurants in Birmingham, you don’t have far to look for a great meal.

Purnell’s

What: Michelin-starred Purnell’s is a must for Brum travellers with its quirky meals and unique twists on classic dishes. Devour Birmingham delicacies including the famous Brummie Soup with a modern spin, or try the Herefordshire beef and braised octopus carpaccio.  
Where: 55 Cornwall Street, B3 2DH

Simpsons

What: Another Michelin star for Birmingham can be found at the Greek-inspired Simpsons. Find this restaurant in a Georgian townhouse, which comes complete with boutique bedrooms. Tuck into modern European cuisine while sipping on a French wine.
Where: 20 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, B15 3DU

Peel’s

What: We gave Peel’s Restaurant at Hampton Manor one of our Silver Awards and with good reason. This Michelin-starred restaurant features a chef's table and regularly changing set menus of four or seven courses among a vast wine list, all at a pretty price. Enjoy the likes of mussels in Champagne and parsley sauce with a nest of crispy potato straws.
Where: Hampton Manor, Shadowbrook Lane, Hampton-in-Arden, B92 0EN

Family friendly restaurants in Birmingham

Child and family friendly restaurants around the city where your little ones can tuck in before being tucked in

The Distillery

What: A great spot for adults and children alike with a gin bar for the parents and a terrace for the children to enjoy the sunshine right by the canal. The Distillery serves British cuisine with other European influences. Grab a sourdough ham and mushroom pizza for the kiddies, then treat them with an ice-cream waffle cone.  
Where: The Distillery Birmingham 4 Sheepcote Street, B16 8AE

Harvey Nichols Brasserie

What: The French brasserie at Harvey Nichols serves a seasonal menu in a modern setting at the Mailbox. Enjoy a bottomless brunch menu while the children tuck into simple dishes including fish fingers, meatballs and cheesy pasta.
Where: 65 Wharfside Street, B1 1RE

Bar + Block

What: The North American style steakhouse serves up quality cuts of meat at an affordable price. The Bar + Block kids’ menu features activities and colouring in tasks to keep them busy before the mains, desserts and drinks arrives. Let them try the beef burger or the mini rump steak and frites. For grown-ups, the house Bloody Mary is a must.
Where: 3-6 Waterloo Street, B2 5PG

Affordable restaurants in Birmingham

On a budget? No need to worry, here are some of the top restaurants in the city for cheap eats

Gas Street Social

What: Find this fun and vibrant bar and restaurant in the Mailbox and be pleasantly surprised by the reasonable menu in this quirky space. Order the popular social plates to share for a varied meal or take advantage of the many Gas Street Social specials on offer, including 2-4-1 burgers on Mondays.
Where: 166-168 Wharfside Street, B1 1RL

The Loft Lounge

What: This sophisticated spot serves speciality spirit cocktails alongside homemade dishes. Pay The Loft Lounge a visit for a reasonable meal at any time of day or stay late for drinks at the bar. It’s also a dog-friendly restaurant, so bring along your furry pals.
Where: 143 Bromsgrove Street, B5 6RG

Milan Indian Cuisine

What: For a cheap Indian meal at one of Birmingham’s most trusted curry houses, head to Milan Indian Cuisine and feast upon traditional Indian dishes with plenty of vegetarian options too. This spot has been around for over 20 years and have perfected the family recipes for diners to enjoy.
Where: 93 Newhall Street, B3 1LH

Best bars and pubs in Birmingham

At the end of a busy day out, sometimes you just need a replenishing spot to stop by and fill up the tank. Find some of the oldest pubs around and chic bars where you can sip on well-crafted cocktails. Slurp on a cup of Brum-born Typhoo Tea, spicy apple punch called Lambswool or search for the infamous pint of mild. Whatever your choice of watering hole, be sure to order something with a squirt of lime as Birmingham’s earliest trade links included imports of the green citrus. 

Unique bars

Brum is filled with weird and wonderful places to sip slow, check them out below

Tilt

What: This fun bar isn’t just a spot to stop for a pint of craft beer, but to play pinball too. During the day, enjoy good quality coffee or one of the five hot chocolates, while at night, let the drinks flow and get competitive with friends on any of the pinball machines.
Where: 2 City Arcade, B2 4TX

The Sky Bar Birmingham

What: Enjoy sky-high views from the top of Birmingham’s Resorts World entertainment complex at The Sky Bar Birmingham. Tuck into Asian-inspired dishes while sipping on Japanese whisky and unique cocktails in this classy bar which overlooks the city.
Where: Resorts World Birmingham, B40 1NT

Siamais

What: This refreshingly different venue houses two contrasting entertainment areas: one for dining on East-Asian dishes and the other, a trendy bar. At Siamais bar, find swings, Siamese warrior décor and hanging lanterns while overlooking the cherry blossom-lined Oozells Square.
Where: Six Brindleyplace, 7 Oozells Street, B1 2HS

Happy hour bars in Birmingham

Let’s not be shy, we all love a good Happy Hour special

Lost and Found

What: This playful bar and restaurant gives off a bohemian feel with its botanical library, bell jars, birdcages and a whimsical cocktail menu to choose from. Not only does the Lost and Found offer quality drinks at an accessible price, but they also have bottomless brunches and £5 selected cocktails from 5-8pm.
Where: 8 Bennetts Hill, B2 5RS

Be at One

What: If you’re looking for a wide range of cocktails at a good price, head to Be at One. Wherever you enjoy your concoction, you can take advantage of the 2-4-1 cocktail offer from Monday to Thursday in the evenings. Visit on Saturday from 2-6pm for more 2-4-1 cocktail classics.
Where: Piccadilly Arcade, B2 4BJ

Bar Opus

What: If you’ve stopped by the swanky Opus restaurant before, you know you’re in for a treat. Visit Bar Opus on Snow Hill for 2-4-1 cocktails every Monday to Friday from 5.30-6.30pm. Sip on the likes of Summer Collins or Plum Tart with Campari, lime, plum and vanilla liqueur, and egg white.
Where: 1 Snow Hill Queensway, Birmingham B4 6GH

Pubs in Birmingham

Keep thigns traditional and visit one of these old-time boozers where you're guaranteed to have a good time

The Old Crown 

What: You can’t come to Birmingham without visiting the city’s oldest pub. This quaint space has been around since the 1300s but has retained its architectural features. For a trip back in time, sip on a pint at the Old Crown.
Where: 188 High Street, Deritend, B12 0LD

Tap and Spile

What: Enjoy a lager at this historic waterside pub while you overlook the Gas Street canal basin. The pub has been around since the 19th century and still serves a British pub fare menu which also caters for kiddies. Sip on £6.50 cocktails while you tuck into the Sunday roast.
Where: 10-16 Gas Street, B1 2JT

The Wellington

What: Pop by the Wellington if you’re looking for a watering hole without the fuss of food. Sample any of the 27 beers on tap at this specialist real ale pub, who aim to serve up as many different types of ale as possible. For the peckish few, you can bring your own food or munch on pork scratchings and crisps.  
Where: 37 Bennetts Hill, B2 5SN

Must see attractions in Birmingham

Of course you can’t visit Birmingham without seeing some of the major attractions. Tick some of these off the bucket list and save a few for later, because you won’t want to miss out. Other great choices include the views of the city from Lickey Hills Country Park, a tour of BBC Birmingham at the Mailbox shopping destination to see behind the scenes of Peaky Blinders, and St. Philip’s Cathedral.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

What: The free-to-enter Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a must for visitors. Inside this Grade-I listed building, find artworks from Pinto and the Pre-Raphaelite period as well as archaeological finds from the Stone Age and an impressive wooden toy collection.  
Where: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Chamberlain Square, B3 3DH

Library of Birmingham

What: Don’t get put off by the idea of visiting a library, the Library of Birmingham pulls all the stops. Start by admiring the magnificent architectural exterior and then curl up with a book in one of the TEN levels. Contemplate a sonnet in the Shakespeare Memorial Room, join a craft workshop session or ride the lift to the seventh floor and enjoy the secret garden terrace while taking in panoramic views of Birmingham. 
Where: Centenary Square, Broad Street, B1 2ND

Walk along the canals


What: Birmingham is known for its exquisite canal network with more miles to it than Venice. Walk along the towpaths and stop by the shops and markets nearby or have a meal aboard a barge and then take a leisurely waterbus ride on Ariel the Narrowboat through the major canal hotspots.
Where: Gas Street Basin, B1 2JT

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

What: The stunning Birmingham Botanical Gardens boasts ample flora with fifteen acres of gardens and Victorian greenhouses. Have a picnic on the lawn before visiting the new butterfly house, woodland walk, tropical house, and cactus gardens.
Where: Westbourne Road, Edgbaston, B15 3TR

Family friendly things to do in Birmingham

If you’re looking for something to do with the kids while in the city, you’ll be spoilt for choice with gardens to play, child-friendly museums and other fun things for both parents and children to enjoy while on family days out.

Cadbury World

What: Who doesn’t like chocolate? The kiddies will love learning about the history of their favourite treat through the themed interactive exhibits at Cadbury World. Say hi to the drumming gorilla, make and munch on chocolate before embarking on a 4D Chocolate Adventure while flying a Crème Egg aeroplane and nosediving into a bowl of liquid milk chocolate.
Where: Cadbury World, Linden Road, Bournville, B30 1JR

Thinktank Science Museum

What: The Thinktank Science Museum features some of the most mind-boggling facts to pique the interest of curious youngsters. Look out for the planetarium, the 200 million-year-old sea monster, and plenty Birmingham artefacts showing off the city’s industrial and steam engine history. Stop by the Science Gardens for immersive science exhibits outdoors and hop on the human hamster wheel.
Where: Millennium Point, Curzon Street, B4 7XG

Cannon Hill Park

What: The free Cannon Hill Park boasts over 80 acres of parkland and even more woodland. Pack a picnic lunch and have a go at tennis. If you want to splash out, hire the paddle boats or play a round of mini golf, visit the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park and say hi to a panda, or enjoy the weekend funfair. Visit MAC in the park for films, theatre, and food and craft markets.
Where: Cannon Hill Park, B13 8RD

National Sea Life Centre

What: There’s a good reason why this attraction is the most visited in Birmingham. The fun-filled National Sea Life Centre features turtles, stingrays, sharks, jelly fish and more through a million-litre tank and underwater tunnel. Pop by the Octopus Hideout to see its resident eight-armed friend, Beverley or the Gentoo penguins at the Penguin Ice Adventure. 
Where: The Water's Edge, Brindleyplace, B1 2HL

Free things to do in Birmingham

Luckily for those on a budget, Brum has a wide range of things you can do and see for free while out for the day with family or playing Terry Tourist. Try the markets, canals, parks, museums and art galleries dotted round the city.

Lapworth Museum of Geology

What: The magnificent Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham is one of the oldest in the UK. It features fossils, rocks and ancient dinosaur finds with a quarter of a million specimens. See the sabre-tooth tiger or the colourful crystals on display.
Where: Aston Webb Building, University of Birmingham, B15 2TT

Ikon Gallery

What: Inside the gothic Oozells Street Board School, find the Ikon Gallery of contemporary art. See internationally acclaimed works while listening to talks, seminars, tours and workshops. Discover pieces using film, photography, sculpture and mixed media.
Where: 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, B1 2HS

Symphony Hall

What: See one of the biggest live music venues in Brum with its incredible acoustics and a massive auditorium. Although Symphony Hall isn’t always free, this well-known music venue does host free jazz performances every now and then. Keep an eye out while you admire the Big Brum clock nearby.
Where: 8 Centenary Square, B1 2EA

Date ideas in Birmingham

If you’re roaming around Brum with your significant other, be sure to put on your trainers and get walking, because these beautiful city spots demand some leg work. Worth it for the romance though. 

Aston Hall Gardens 

What: The Aston Hall Gardens are a beautiful tranquil spot to relax with your partner. See the Great stairs with cannon ball markings from the Civil War in the restored 17th century Aston Hall mansion before moving onto tea in the café.
Where: Trinity Road, Aston, B6 6JD

The Jewellery Quarter


Image: Birmingham Museums Trust

What: Pay a visit to the UK’s jewellery trade hub, where almost 40% of British jewellery is made. The Jewellery Quarter also houses museums, exhibitions and market stalls to pull at the purse strings. Plus, for literature lovers, the Pen Museum is worth exploring.
Where: 115 Vyse Street, Hockley, B18 6LP

Walk the Tolkien Trail at Moseley Bog and Sarehole Mill

What: For the Lord of the Rings fans, Birmingham is where Tolkien grew up and is filled with spots that influenced the books. Take a trail through the Moseley Bog to see what inspired the books’ old forest and stop by the Sarehole Mill (pictured) in warm months to see displays about JRR’s childhood.
Where: Moseley Bog and Nature Reserve, B13 9YF and Sarehole Mill, Cole Bank Road, B13 0BD

See street art in Digbeth

What: While in the creative centre of the city, don’t miss out on striking street art flanking the roads around the Custard Factory. Walk up Gibb, Fazeley, Floodgate, and Bordesley Streets as well as Heath Mill Lane for some impressive artwork.
Where: Custard Factory, Gibb Street, B9 4AA

If you’re keen to start your Birmingham adventures on a good note, why not tuck into a bottomless brunch and let the booze flow?