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Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
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The 11 best museums in Birmingham

From art and jewellery to pens and, er, coffins, basically all interests are covered in our guide to the best museums in Birmingham

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver
Rosemary Waugh

It may not be the simplest of cities to get around, what with all the major roads that criss-cross the centre. But the various attractions you’ll find dotted around Birmingham – not least its rich array of museums and art galleries – are well worth the (slight) hassle involved in getting from one to another.

Brum is known for doing things its own way, and the city’s excellent museums are clear proof of this. Sure, you can find history and art in abundance, but you can also marvel at beautiful pens, elaborate coffin designs and more. Whether you want to dive into centuries past or explore the distant future, this famously creative place has all sorts of cultural institutions that you should definitely check out while you’re in town. Want to feel that little bit more knowledgable? Our pick of the best museums in Birmingham will certainly deliver.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Birmingham

Best museums in Birmingham

Aston Hall
Photograph: kudrik /

1. Aston Hall

What is it? Breathtaking Jacobean mansion set in a lovely park. 

Why go? If you’re looking for a break from the Bullring, head to the north of the city for a day out at Aston Hall. This gorgeous red-brick mansion is one of the best examples of Jacobean housing around, a home fit for royalty that has survived attacks by cannonball. You can bone up on your Civil War history or swan around Lady Holte’s sublime gardens.

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter
Photograph: Chris Lawrence Travel /

2. Museum of the Jewellery Quarter

What is it? Birmingham’s glittering past is told in a historic jewellery-making workshop. 

Why go? Long before Accessorize provided high-street bling on a mass scale, Birmingham’s craftsmen were honing their skills by knocking out everything from beautiful bangles to engagement rings. Step inside the former premises of Smith & Pepper, and enjoy guided tours and live demonstrations.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

What is it? Birmingham’s centrepiece museum, placing modern Midlanders alongside ancient Greeks. 

Why go? Among art fans, the Grade II-listed Museum and Art Gallery is famous for its collection of Pre-Raphaelite works. But looks beyond the languid red-headed women, and the museum offers Egyptian artefacts, a child-friendly mini-museum and delightful Edwardian tearooms. In fact, it contains more treasures than the Staffordshire Hoard (oh, and the Hoard itself). Free entry, with some exhibitions charging.

Photograph: Amandachan1106 / Wikimedia Commons

4. Thinktank

What is it? Family-friendly science museum inspiring the next generation of Einsteins.

Why go? Pop down to the Millennium Point building and discover Birmingham’s brilliant hands-on science museum. It’s got a Planetarium, a Science Garden, a Marine World Gallery, a Spitfire Gallery and even a few dinosaurs. You’ll leave feeling like the next Nobel Prize is yours for the taking.

Pen Museum
Photograph: Wozzie /

5. Pen Museum

What is it? Britain’s premier museum dedicated to the history of making pens. 

Why go? Close your eyes and imagine a time before laptops. A time when the written word was a thing of beauty spun slowly from swirls of ink onto thick, creamy paper. Now open them and head to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, where you can discover the history of the steel pen-making trade. In the nineteenth century, Birmingham was behind 75 percent of all pens made anywhere in the world. Seventy-five percent!

National Motorcycle Museum
Photograph: Wozzie /

6. National Motorcycle Museum

What is it? The largest motorcycle museum in the world, displaying some incredibly mean (and incredibly sleek) two-wheeled machines.

Why go? Rev your engines and head out on the highway to the National Motorcycle Museum. Among their extensive collection of bikes are many made in Britain. A must-visit for anyone who lives for the smell of leather and grease.

Coffin Works
Photograph: Coffin Works

7. Coffin Works

What is it? An entire museum dedicated to the humble trade of constructing our final resting places.

Why go? ‘My boy builds coffins...’ once sung Florence Welch, making her one of few people to appreciate this gothicky trade. Another workshop-turned-museum, The Coffin Works shares the secrets of the Newman Brothers, the last company to build coffins in Birmingham. Dress like Morticia Addams and pay it a visit.

Sarehole Mill
Photograph: Sarehole Mill

8. Sarehole Mill

What is it? A working water mill set in the landscape that inspired Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’.

Why go? You might not spot a hobbit bumbling down the road here, but you will be able to admire the glorious countryside that inspired the author to invent his bucolic Middle Earth. Sarehole Mill is a still-functioning water mill making its own flour. Loaf around its exhibits, mill around its gardens... and resist the temptation to do a bad impression of Gollum.

Lapworth Museum of Geology
Photograph: Lee Allen

9. Lapworth Museum of Geology

What is it? A museum of geology that’s a treasure trove for fossil fiends. 

Why go? The Lapworth Museum is run by the University of Birmingham and contains an extensive collection of minerals, maps, fossils, rocks and more. All in all, it has more than 250,000 specimens, dating all the way back to 3.5 million years ago. The Lapworth is on the uni’s Edgbaston campus and is free.

Blakesley Hall
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Blakesley Hall

What is it? Tranquil, timber-framed Tudor home in Yardley.

Why go? Starch your best ruff and head six miles out of the city centre for a trip back to Tudor England. Blakesley Hall was built in 1590 by wealthy Birmingham merchant Richard Smalbroke. Visit it now for some quality R&R and wander its fragrant herb gardens before gulping down a hearty slab of cake. It’s what Henry VIII would have wanted.

Soho House
Photograph: Wehwalt / Wikimedia Commons

11. Soho House

What is it? A historic house just outside the city centre, with delectable Georgian interiors. 

Why go? In the eighteenth century, the illustrious Lunar Society would meet at Soho House each full moon to discuss their latest scientific findings. It’s not known if these get-togethers involved temporary extra hair growth, but make up your own mind with a trip to this perfectly preserved manor house that includes a fossilry.

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