Things to do in Birmingham
Friday January 15, 2016
We’re often asked by guests for recommendations of things to do in Birmingham. Therefore, we always keep a sharp eye on what’s going in the city and keep up to date with what’s new. This is the UK’s second city and, as such, we’re blessed with a vibrant cultural scene. Here are seven things to do in Birmingham that we’d recommend whatever time of the year you’re visiting.
1) GET ARTY
Birmingham has an exciting art scene whether you are excited by cutting-edge contemporary art or more of a traditionalist at heart.
Did you know that Birmingham is home to the largest collection of pre-Raphaelite artwork in the world? You can see glorious paintings by Rosetti, Burne Jones, Millais and many more at BMAG, right in the heart of the city. BMAG is a real treasure trove (it has over half a million objects in its collection including the Staffordshire Hoard). It also hosts some exciting temporary exhibitions with work by artists such as Grayson Perry.
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts offers an outstanding collection of Old Masters alongside modern classics. See works by artists of the stature of Monet, Degas, Magritte and Rubens.
Ikon gallery exhibits the best international and British contemporary art and has been doing so successfully for over 50 years now. Grabbing a bite to eat at Café Opus, which is found in the Ikon building, is one of our favourite things to do in Birmingham after an afternoon of being cultured!
Digbeth’s Eastside Projects hosts experimental contemporary art practices and exhibitions. The gallery has featured works from artists such as Susan Collis and Heather & Ivan Morison, Liam Gillick and Lawrence Weiner. Staying in Digbeth, you can buy art direct at Birmingham’s funky Custard Factory, the city’s creative quarter.
2) EXPLORE THE CITY’S FOOD SCENE
Eating great food is definitely one of our favourite things to do in Birmingham. The fact that the city has more Michelin starred restaurants than any other UK city outside London speaks volumes. However, a great food scene is about much more than Michelin. Whatever type of food you love, Birmingham has it from funky street food vendors to amazing Asian food to brilliant British modern restaurants such as Nomad.
3) DO SOME SERIOUS SHOPPING
Love shopping, quaffing champagne and then shopping some more? If so, Birmingham is a great choice for you as there are lots of opportunities for glam in the city. The city has some superb high-end stores to check out, such as Harvey Nichols and Emporio Armani (both found at The Mailbox). Shopping in the city even has its own website, so you can check what’s on offer and ensure maximum enjoyment. The Shopping in Birmingham site is a great source of inspiration.
We’re blessed with five department stores in the city centre. In fact, we call the ultra-glam Selfridges Birmingham our ‘corner shop’ as we’re so close to it. You can most definitely live the high life here.
4) WATCH SPORTS
If you love to watch sports, then there’s an enormous choice of things to do in Birmingham. For cricket fans, Edgbaston Cricket Club plays host to Test matches, county championships, Natwest T20 Blasts and more. A shuttle bus is run by the cricket club on match days from the city centre. If you prefer athletics, then you can see la crème de la crème battling it out at the NIA and the Alexander Stadium. Olympians abound!
If racket sports are more your thing, Birmingham hosts the annual Aegon Classic tennis tournament (just five minutes from Birmingham city centre). The Aegon gives tennis fans the year’s first chance to watch truly world-class female tennis players playing on grass. Birmingham has also hosted the All England Badminton Championships for over a century.
The two biggest football clubs in Birmingham are Villa and City. Aston Villa Football Club was founded back in 1874. The club’s Villa Park stadium now hosts over 42,000 fans and stadium tours are available giving you the opportunity to see the pitch, changing rooms and sit on the manager’s bench. Villa’s fierce rivals, Birmingham City, came into being only a year after Villa and the club also offers stadium tours.
Villa was taken over by thousands of rugby fans in autumn 2015 as the stadium played host to the Rugby World Cup. Excellent national-level rugby is played here every season by The Bees (aka Birmingham and Solihull Rugby Club).
5) VISIT THE THEATRE
We’re proud that our city’s premiere theatre – the Birmingham Hippodrome - sells more tickets than any other theatre in the UK (yes, even those in London’s West End). The Hippodrome offers world-class musicals, opera, dance, drama and comedy. It’s a beautiful building and seeing a performance there feels like one of the most special things to do in Birmingham. The theatre hosts seasons by Welsh National Opera and Birmingham Royal Ballet.
6) LISTEN TO LIVE MUSIC
Enjoying live music is one of our favourite things to do in Birmingham. Whether you prefer a classical concert, an arena concert or an intimate gig there’ll be something on offer for you. For classical concerts, take a look at the programme at Symphony Hall, one of the finest concert halls in Europe. We are fans of Orchestra of the Swan who play there regularly.
Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena plays host to many megastars (the likes of Madonna, Prince and Taylor Swift), but you can also enjoy smaller-scale gigs in Birmingham at cool venues such as The Jam House (co-founded by Jools Holland).
thsh.co.uk (Symphony Hall)
7) ENJOY UNIQUE EXPERIENCES
Brummies are an entrepreneurial lot and you’ll still find plenty of thriving independent businesses in the city. The Custard Factory in Digbeth is a hub for creative, independent businesses and ideal for a mooch.
Great Western Arcade is a slice of historic gorgeousness and home to some of our favourite indies such as Anderson and Hill’s gorgeous deli, and Loki Wine (check out the Loki Lounge and their fab events). We can’t leave out Chouchoute Chocolaterie and its owner, Pierre Soualah, who has a passion for producing luxury French chocolates.
For centuries, Birmingham has been an important hub for crafts. The city’s historic Jewellery Quarter still produces 40% of all the jewellery made in the UK. It’s a fascinating area to explore with a unique atmosphere.
Taking a trip to the Coffin Works in the Jewellery Quarter is definitely one of the quirkiest things to do in Birmingham (or anywhere else for that matter). The Newman Brothers factory produced the fittings for the funerals of Joseph Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mum. The factory closed in 1998 but the interior remained untouched and it has now reopened as a fascinating museum.
The Electric cinema is the oldest working cinema in the UK and the perfect antidote to a multiplex. Is there another British cinema where you can enjoy an electric absinthe fountain? Excellent programming, imaginative events and very reasonable ticket prices should also put a smile on your face.
Accommodation in Birmingham
Keen to get started on things to do in Birmingham? Another unique experience is staying in one of our stylish serviced apartments at the Grade II listed Rotunda building in Birmingham. The apartments can be rented for as little as one night or for longer stays. Our apartments are beautifully designed, customer service is top notch and this is another experience that’s unique to the city. Prices start at £99 per night per apartment.
*** SPECIAL OFFER: Save 10% on bookings using the code BRUM10 at stayingcool.com ***Terms and conditions apply. New Year’s Eve plus Valentine's Weekends (Fri - Sun) excluded from offer.