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Al fresco Brum: city centre picnic spots for sunny days

Written by
Robin Valk

As summer gets closer, the idea of grabbing your lunch in the sunshine becomes increasingly appealing. While there are loads of brilliant spaces on the outskirts of town – and some great parks closer in, like Cannon Hill and King's Heath Park (celebrated by artist Laura Mvula in her single 'Green Garden') – a visitor may struggle to find the perfect spot in the city centre.

As the city changes, we've now got a few more open and welcoming spaces. If you seek, you shall find plenty of pleasant places to enjoy your snacks and some sunshine... 

St Philip's Square

St Phillip's SquareRobin Valk

Starting in the city centre, St Philip's Square has green spaces, lawns, shade and benches aplenty. But they're tearing bits of the paving up right now, so it could be noisy and dusty.

Foodie rating: Acceptable – city centre supermarket chains and food outlets in every direction. 

Church Street

Church Street gardenRobin Valk


Head north down Church Street, and, two blocks below Colmore Row, the pavement opens elegantly up, making room for benches, planters, open space and lots of texture.  

Foodie rating: Excellent – Urban Coffee Company is mere feet away.  

St Paul's Square

JQ green garden - St Paul's SquareRobin Valk

If you fancy more Georgian surroundings for your lunch break, head into the Jewellery Quarter and aim for St Paul's church. Here, St Paul's Square will welcome you with benches and shade under mature trees.

Foodie Rating: Outstanding – You're five minutes away from Peel and Stone on Water Street, who will happily supply you with brilliantly imaginative lunches and cake. Indie coffee house Brewsmiths are round the corner too. 

Cambrian Wharf

Cambrian WharfRobin Valk

If that won't do, duck along Charlotte Street and Newhall Street as far as the steps down to the canal towpath, and walk up the flight of locks.

Once you pass under Saturday Bridge, you'll find a wealth of benches heading up towards Cambrian Wharf, from which you can munch and watch canal boats struggling up and down the long Farmer's Bridge flight of locks.

Foodie rating: You're on your own – bring a packed lunch with you! 

City Centre Gardens

City Centre ParkRobin Valk

If more green space is to your taste, one of the lesser-known but prettiest small parks in town is close at hand.

Hop across Farmer's Bridge, stroll up the path towards the Library of Birmingham, and there you are, in City Centre Gardens on Cambridge Street. 

Foodie rating: You're on your own again – make sure you bring something to eat with you. 

Centenary Square

Centenary Square and the LoBRobin Valk

Want to do things the Italian way and enjoy a 'passeggiata', strolling past sculpture and impressive architecture? Then carry on past the International Convention Centre (ICC) into Centenary Square, where there plenty of places to sit to bask in the sun. 

Foodie rating: Unfortunately, you won't be able to match your continental experience with food – it's Starbucks and the ICC cafe one way, chain outlets the other.

The Library of Birmingham 

The LoB TerraceRobin Valk

Head indoors and ride up several flights of escalators for another choice daytime spot: The Library of Birmingham's balcony, which overlooks Centenary Square.

Here you can look over to the old Library building while it's still there, and you can pretend you're watching BBC1's 'The Game'.

The not so secret Secret GardenRobin Valk

Or, you could find your way even further up to discover the heavily signed Secret Garden at the back, which is even nicer.

Foodie rating: Fair – the Library has coffee and snack outlets. 

Canal Old Main Line and Brindleyplace

Canalside by the ICCRobin Valk

But if that doesn't take your fancy, and you have a yearning for Italian goodies, or a bento box, you can head through the ICC and stop by the canal.

BrindleyplaceRobin Valk

Or you can head over the canal and and into Brindleyplace, where you're spoilt for choice, and have plenty of space where you can settle down in the sunshine.

Foodie rating: Good – at least a dozen decent outlets just steps away. All chains, though – no indies.  

Victoria Square

Victoria Square and the FloozieRobin Valk


Finally, if that won't do, head back into town, and settle down for a snack and a chinwag on Victoria Square with the Floozie in the (currently dry) Jacuzzi.

Foodie rating: Good – plenty of decent (and not-so-decent) food outlets at the top of New Street. And a lot of pigeons and gulls ready to mug you for your sarnie. 

Need ideas for places to eat after work? Take a look at the the top five places to dine alone in Birmingham.  

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