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BIRMINGHAM
BIRMINGHAM

The 11 best museums in Birmingham

From big-hitting art insitutions to luscious manor houses, here’s our pick of the best museums in Birmingham

By Rosemary Waugh
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In the mood for some iconic 19th-century art? Got some questions about the production of pens? Into your coffin design? Whatever sort of museum you’re after, Birmingham has it down. Britain’s second city boasts all manner of brilliant attractions and things to do, and art and history museums are its forte. Luscious manor houses, too, are dotted all over the city and its surroundings. Ready to get out there? Here’s our pick of the best museums in Birmingham right now.

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

Best museums in Birmingham

Photograph: David Rowan

1. 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: Jon Stroud

2. Thinktank

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

Why go? Pop down to the Millenium 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.

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Coffin Works

3. 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.

National Motorcycle Museum

4. 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 originally made in Britain. A must-visit for anyone who lives for the smell of leather and grease.

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Photograph: Lee Allen

5. 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, 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 it’s totally free.

Sarehole Mill

6. 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.

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Photograph: Jack Spicer Adams

7. Museum of the Jewellery Quarter

What is it? Birmingham’s glittering past 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 knocking out everything from beautiful bangles to engagement rings. Step inside the former premises of Smith & Pepper, and enjoy guided tours and live demonstrations.

Pen Museum

8. 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 on to 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 19th century, Birmingham was behind 75 percent of all pens made anywhere in the world. Seventy-five percent!

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Aston Hall

9. 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’s survived attacks by cannonball. You can bone up on your Civil War history or swan around Lady Holte’s sublime gardens.

Blakesley Hall

10. Blakesley Hall

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

Why go? Starch your best ruff and head six miles out 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.

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Soho House

11. Soho House

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

Why go? In the 18th 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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