Get us in your inbox

Photograph: Shutterstock

The 26 best things to do in Birmingham

From winding canal walks to some of the country’s finest restaurants, these are the best things to do in Birmingham

Written by
James Brennan
Kayleigh Watson
James March

Given how big and sprawling it is, it remains somewhat perplexing that Birmingham manages to maintain such a modest rep. Having long shed its neglected post-industrial image, England’s second city is now one of the country’s most exciting and diverse travel destinations. Among its miles of gorgeous canals and awesome greenery, you’ll find characterful pubs, fascinating museums and some of the best restaurants in the country.

Home to heavy metal music, a nationally adored chocolate company, the world’s biggest collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings, several high-flying football teams and around three million legendarily hospitable Brummies, Birmingham doesn’t just have a bit of everything – it has a lot of everything. Ready to get out there and explore? Here are the best things to do in Birmingham right now.

😋 The best restaurants in Birmingham
🍻 The most charming pubs in Birmingham
🛏 The best hotels in Birmingham

This guide was recently updated by James March, a travel writer from Birmingham. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines

Top things to do in Birmingham

Explore Brindleyplace and the canal quarter
Photograph: Nina Alizada /

1. Explore Brindleyplace and the canal quarter

What is it? Birmingham’s vibrant canal quarter is home to some of the city’s best bars and restaurants, the National Sea Life Centre and the Ikon Gallery.

Why go? The oft-quoted ‘more canals than Venice’ claim is a bit misleading – Birmingham is much, much bigger – but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on a walk around the canal quarter. It’s a real Cinderella part of town, having been hugely redeveloped and crammed full of restaurants and bars.

Don’t miss: Use the historic Roundhouse building as a base from which to explore by boat, bike or foot.

Mooch around the Jewellery Quarter
Photograph: Chris Lawrence Travel /

2. Mooch around the Jewellery Quarter

What is it? Pack a full day – and night – of fun in this increasingly popular part of town, where you’ll find everything from exhibitions to nightclubs.

Why go? With more than 200 listed buildings and more than 250 years of history, Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter should be on any Brum itinerary. According to English Heritage, Europe’s largest cluster of jewellery businesses is a ‘national treasure’. Museum nerds will love the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, the Pen Museum and Newman Brothers Coffin Works. And with all the pubs, restaurants, galleries and independent boutiques here, there’s something for everybody else too.

Don’t miss: If you’re making a night of it, check in to BLOC, close to the ever-popular JQ nightclub. Try Jam House, or if you have something even later and livelier in mind, Brum’s up-for-it generation descend upon the Actress & Bishop from about 1am, with no intention of making it a quiet one.


3. Soak up the views from Orelle

What is it? A French fusion restaurant with some extraordinary views across the UK’s Second City.

Why go? Perched on the 24th floor of the imposing 103 Colmore Row, Birmingham simply doesn’t have anywhere else like Orelle. Huge floor-to-ceiling windows mean the city fans out below in all directions, while at night its twinkling lights look even more evocative. The food isn’t cheap but it’s well made and beautifully presented, but really, you’ve come here for the views, so drink them in. 

Don’t miss: If you don’t want to eat, there are a few seats at the well-stocked bar available but bear in mind they’re first come first serve, and obviously busier at weekends. 

Find tropical plants, birds and butterflies at the Botanical Gardens
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Find tropical plants, birds and butterflies at the Botanical Gardens

What is it? Fifteen acres of ornamental gardens, glasshouses and exotic birds in indoor and outdoor aviaries.

Why go? The Botanical Gardens’ exotic world of tropical plantlife makes for an excellent family day out. The glasshouses are filled with all manner of strange flora, while the lawns and shrubbery outside are perfect for a stroll during the sunnier months.

Don’t miss: The butterfly house full of tropical insects from as far as the Philippines, Central America and tropical parts of Africa.

Discover city secrets on a walking tour
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Discover city secrets on a walking tour

What is it? If the weather holds out, there is no better way to see Birmingham than on foot.

Why go? There are some excellent guided walking tours, from Positively Birmingham’s Edward Burne-Jones pre-Raphaelite art tour to Get Your Guide’s Discovering Birmingham Walking tour through the historic Jewellery Quarter.

… or, for the energetic, a running tour
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. … or, for the energetic, a running tour

What is it? Founded by an air steward with a passion for running in cities all over the world, Run of a Kind offers those with a bit of energy a great alternative way to get to know the city.

Why go? With runs between 5km and 11km for beginners and those a bit more confident, the team sprint across Birmingham on a whistlestop tour of landmarks and hidden gems, including legendary LGBTQ+ venues, notable architecture and eye-popping street art.

  • Restaurants

What is it? Birmingham has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city outside the capital. 

Why go? Purnell’sSimpsonsAdam’sCartersOpheem and – if you’re prepared to head just outside the city – Peel’s, will all bamboozle you with their culinary delights. And with more high-end independents opening all the time, you could get in before the Michelin inspectors do. A quiet food revolution has been rumbling through Brum – now’s your time to sample it.

8. Sample sours and stouts on the Stirchley Beer Mile

What is it? A journey through the creative craft beer joints dotting the Stirchley neighbourhood.

Why go? Stirchley might look like ordinary suburbia at first glance, but it hides a plethora of taprooms serving an eyewatering amount of styles. Enjoy waterside pints at Glasshouse and Birmingham Brewing, while Attic Brew Co’s spacious site is good for large groups and Cork and Cage do a fine line in lambics and gueuzes. Newcomers Deadbeat bring a low-key dive bar vibe.

Don’t miss: If you’re hungry, then Eat Vietnam’s wonderfully rich noodles, curries and small plates are the perfect way to soak up all that beer.


9. Lend an ear to the city’s homegrown musical talent

What is it? While London and Manchester will always get more attention when it comes to music, Birmingham has given the world its fair share of talent, including UB40, Duran Duran and Black Sabbath – and it’s still bubbling up at the present with a thriving local music scene.

Why go? Whether it’s house at The Mill, indie at The Sunflower Lounge, the Night Owl’s northern soul or jazz at The Jam House, you’ll find something interesting within walking distance of the high street. 

See the inspiration for ‘Lord of the Rings’ at Moseley Bog
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. See the inspiration for ‘Lord of the Rings’ at Moseley Bog

What is it? A green idyll on the fringes of the city on the site of an old millpond. 

Why go? Wander around this nature reserve full of plants, animals and insects, gnarled old trees and gorgeous carpets of bluebells each spring. The site is also of great archaeological interest, having two burnt mounds, the remains of an old mill dam and the foundations of Victorian greenhouses.

Don’t miss: Book a JRR Tolkien-themed tour at Sarehole Mill, on the fringes of the bog: the ‘Lord of the Rings’ author grew up around Moseley Bog in the 1890s, and it’s said to be the inspiration for hobbit hangout The Shire. 


What is it? England’s number-one chocolate-focused attraction. 

Why go? For the best views of Brum’s chocolate factory, arrive by train (13 minutes from New Street) and take a deep breath – a sweet haze envelopes the red-brick, olde-worlde Bournville village, which was designed and built for the workers of England’s flagship chocolate brand. Cadbury World is the public bit of the factory: tours include a deep dive into the history of cocoa, a 4D cinema and a ride in the self-styled ‘Beanmobile’.

Don’t miss: Have your Wonka experience in the demonstration area (yes, molten chocolate is involved; yes, you get to drink it). The world’s biggest Cadbury store also awaits, boasting concoctions unavailable anywhere else.

Tour the hallowed grounds of Villa Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Tour the hallowed grounds of Villa Park

What is it? Take a tour of Aston Villa’s hallowed ground, or even catch a game. 

Why go? There aren’t many football grounds in the world like Villa Park. The 42,000-capacity stadium has been home to the Villa since 1897, and it has an aura that few sporting institutions can match, especially when the Holte End is packed out and chanting along. Sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour or catch the boys in claret and blue play a Premier League game. 

Don’t miss: Fancy a real treat? You can watch the match in comfort at Eighty Two, the plush centre of football hospitality at Villa Park. 

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces

What is it? A restored Victorian factory, now a hub for creatives and independent businesses. 

Why go? Alfred Bird invented custard powder in Birmingham in 1837, but these days, the old Custard Factory is a studio complex at the heart of Birmingham’s creative community. It’s home to many artists and is full of galleries, independent shops, cafés, restaurants, bars and the Mockingbird Cinema. With its graffiti-strewn walls and regular arts events, the whole area is well worth a few hours of mooching.

Don’t miss: Look out for regular open studio events to meet the designer-makers who make this place so special. 

  • Museums
  • Sport

What is it? The home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club, plus numerous England fixtures. 

Why go? There’s nothing as quintessentially English as a game of cricket, and Birmingham boasts one of the very best places to watch one. Edgbaston is renowned as one of the country’s most atmospheric international test grounds. 

Don’t miss: Take a tour of the stadium to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Warwickshire and England changing room, the field, the media centre and more. 

Sink a pint in grand Victorian pub The Bartons Arms
Photograph: Courtesy Flickr/Tony Hisgett

15. Sink a pint in grand Victorian pub The Bartons Arms

What is it? A grand Victorian pub with original stained glass, engraved mirrors and snob screens.

Why go? The Bartons Arms is a rare treasure among the mean streets of Newtown. Established in 1901 as a Victorian gin palace, it’s still beautifully ornate with original features such as Minton tiles, a grand horseshoe bar and a stunning wrought iron staircase climbed by the likes of Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin.

Don’t miss: Book a tour or choose a pint from its fine range of Oakham ales and something spicy from the Thai menu.

16. Time travel at the Birmingham Back to Backs

What is it? A quirky window into the living conditions of ordinary Brummies over the last 200 years.

Why go? Flanked by the colourful Hippodrome Theatre on one side and the lively LGBTQ+ bars of Hurst Street on the other, the Birmingham Back to Backs are in an unlikely location for a heritage site. But this communal courtyard with back-to-back houses is where ordinary folk once lived and guided tours take visitors on a journey from 1840 to 1970, to see how homelife evolved long before Nextflix and smartphones.

Don’t miss Not only does Court 15 Books have some fine second hand books for sales, there’s also regular free exhibitions upstairs.


What is it? A marketplace since the twelfth century, Birmingham is still a city for shoppers. 

Why go? The Bullring is now a giant mall incorporating the iconic Selfridges building (looking like a part-amorphous blob, part-crash-landed UFO). Across town, the Mailbox is a classier joint with the likes of Harvey Nichols and Emporio Armani.

Don’t miss: Most interesting are the independents, which you’ll find scattered all over town and in places like the splendid Great Western Arcade.

Wine and dine at the Grand Hotel
Photograph: Geograph / John M

18. Wine and dine at the Grand Hotel

What is it? A Grade II-listed Victorian hotel in the city centre

Why go? The legendary Grand Hotel reopened in the summer of 2020 following an 18-year closure and a painstaking multi-million-pound restoration. The building has hosted a plethora of historical figures, from Winston Churchill to Malcolm X, and now you can explore its striking Victorian and art deco interiors, including the jaw-dropping Grosvenor Ballroom and a new rooftop garden terrace.

Don’t miss: The brand new outdoor terrace in the central courtyard. 

Discover the treasures of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Photograph: Shutterstock

19. Discover the treasures of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Note: This venue is temporarily closed and will reopen in 2024. Check back for updates!

What is it? BMAG is full of treasures – from Anglo-Saxon gold to more contemporary pieces. 

Why go? Housing the largest collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings in the world and occupying one of the city’s finest buildings, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is not to be missed. Head up to the third level for a detailed, hands-on history of Birmingham and its people. 

Don’t miss: The domed Round Room is often the location for free musical performances. Make time for a slice of cake at the refurbished Edwardian Tea Room.

  • Theatre

What is it? The Rep is the jewel in the crown of Brum’s theatre scene; it’s a lively venue with an emphasis on diverse programming.

Why go? A production house for well over a century, it’s got more decades under its belt than the National Theatre in London or its West Midlands neighbours the RSC. And with major-league director Sean Foley in charge, it shows no sign of slowing down.

Don’t miss: While there’s edgier programming the rest of the year, its annual production of ‘The Snowman’ is a delightful seasonal cuddle.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian

What is it? A South Indian restaurant with a canteen vibe. 

Why go? If you really want to dine like a Brummie, then a trip to a curry house is mandatory. The Balti Triangle – located south of the city centre – is famed for its long-established restaurants, but we suggest you head to Raja Monkey. This Hall Green spot serves thalis and street-food snacks like dosa and uttapam with cheerful informality. 

Don’t miss: Try the thalis for a taste of what's on offer.

Marvel at the Birmingham Royal Ballet
Photograph: Flickr / Guy Evans / Bill Cooper

22. Marvel at the Birmingham Royal Ballet

What is it? One of the five major ballet companies in the UK producing jaw-dropping shows. 

Why go? The tenure of Carlos Acosta as artistic director is a major coup for Birmingham Royal Ballet. The company has an illustrious history, but the celebrated Cuban dancer has implemented bold plans to re-energise it. Expect plenty of risks and surprises, plus a mix of classic revivals and ambitious partnerships.

Don’t miss: A single second of the action. No, seriously.  

  • Music

What is it? Opulent concert hall that is home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Why go? This grandiose venue was opened in 1991 and has delivered a rich programme of gigs and concerts ever since. Fun fact: it was recently voted as having the seventh-best concert-hall acoustics in the entire world. 

Don’t miss: If you don’t know your Schubert from your Haydn, ease yourself in by visiting during the festive December programme. The Hall looks even better for candlelit carols.

See the largest collection of British motorcycles at the National Motorcycle Museum
Photograph: Flickr / Steve Watkins

24. See the largest collection of British motorcycles at the National Motorcycle Museum

What is it? The world’s largest collection of British motorcycles.

Why go? A must-see for all petrolheads, this Bickenhill museum has more than 1,000 different motorcycles, dating back to an 1898 Beeston Humber Tricycle. There are also plenty of pretty serious modern superbikes.

Don’t miss: Book a guided highlights tour with an experienced guide to get a behind-the-scenes look. 

Follow in the footsteps of Birmingham’s baddest gang on the ‘Peaky Blinders’ tour
Photograph: Courtesy Tripadvisor/Dabblings

25. Follow in the footsteps of Birmingham’s baddest gang on the ‘Peaky Blinders’ tour

What is it? Stalk the very same streets as the real Peaky Blinders on these dedicated tours.

Why go? Because you love the show and now want to follow in the footsteps of Birmingham’s most infamous criminal gang. Take a Peaky Tour in Digbeth and visit the lock-up at Steelhouse Lane police station where some of the gang were incarcerated.

Don’t miss: Further afield at the wonderful open-air Black Country Living Museum, you can see the TV show’s sets for yourself.  

    You may also like
    You may also like