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The 10 best attractions in Birmingham

Visiting the best attractions in Birmingham will take you to the Library of Birmingham, a paradise for book aficionados
Bullring in Birmingham
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As the UK’s second biggest city, Birmingham has emerged from its industrial past to become a thriving cultural beacon, with plenty of top-notch, must-see attactions. In Birmingham, there are plenty of things to do—from a stroll around the canals of Brindley place, a real Cinderella part of town, to endless shopping sprees in the gargantuan Bullring shopping centre—but it is an exploration of the town’s most renowned local attractions that truly gets to the heart of what it means to live in Brum (a nickname derived from the city's old name, Brummagem).

Back to the local attractions you should add to your bucket list: from the Library of Birmingham, basically a museum of books that gives you access to unrivalled panoramic views from its Skyline Viewpoint, to the Jewellery Quarter, an industry hub filled with bars, art galleries, restaurants and more, the city is home to the kind of cultural experiences that have put it on the map as a hot-bed of individualism and experimentation. 

Best attractions in Birmingham

1
Birmingham Symphony Hall
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Birmingham Symphony Hall

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Resplendent yet accessible, the Symphony Hall is the model of a perfect modern concert space—and it’s likely the 370,00 people who collectively attend around 320 events there each year agree. If you are only in Brum for the day, try to catch one of the CBSO’s relaxing lunchtime concerts or, for demonstrations and to gain backstage access, join one of the hall’s monthly tours, available through the THSH Box Office.

2
Bullring
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Shopping

The Bullring

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If retail therapy is not your idea of a good day out, the Bullring is probably best avoided. For everyone else, welcome to Brum’s frenetic shopping hub, which has been in its current bedazzling form since 2004. Names such as Michael Kors, Whistles and Kurt Geiger make happy bedfellows with Bullring behemoth Selfridges.

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3
Winterbourne House & Garden
Photograph: Courtesy TripAdvisor.com
Museums

Winterbourne House & Garden

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Just three miles from Brum’s fulcrum, the Edwardian splendour of Winterbourne House and gardens offers frazzled city dwellers a historic escape. Set within seven acres of botanical gardens—which include a woodland walk, over 6,000 species of plants and a Japanese bridge—the house is a treasure chest of trinkets and antiques. 

4
National Sea Life Centre
Attractions, Zoos and aquariums

National Sea Life Centre

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Birmingham is among the most landlocked cities in England—but it seems no one has told this to the National Sea Life Centre. If its million-litre underwater tank isn’t impressive enough, it also features more than a thousand creatures—including giant turtles, otters and seahorses—to keep you transfixed. And don’t forget the penguins. Who doesn’t love penguins? 

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5
Cadbury World
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Museums

Cadbury World

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For the best views of Brum’s very own chocolate factory, arrive by train (13 minutes from New Street) and take a deep breath. During our favourite part of the factory’s chocolate production cycle, a sweet haze envelopes the red-brick, old-world Bournville village. Designed and built for the workers of what was the centre of England’s chocolate empire, it is the main subject of Cadbury World. 

6
Library of Birmingham
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Art

Library of Birmingham

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Forget everything you thought you knew about municipal libraries. Well, not quite everything—you can expect a whole heap of books. But forget everything else. Once you’ve decided whether you are a lover or a hater of the Library of Birmingham’s angular exterior, dive in. Take the elevator straight up to the Skyline Viewpoint, which presides over the city from 51 metres above street level and offers those in the know unrivalled panoramic views (the very best of which are at dusk).

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7
Mailbox
Shopping, Shopping centres

Mailbox

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Since its major refurbishment just a few years back, Mailbox offers even more entertainment than ever before for those who like to shop, drink and play. On the retail side, Harvey Nichols is joined by Emporio Armani in a fashion strut-off of monumental proportions, and shoes and handbags abound at the Mailbox's flagship fashion icons. 

8
Jewellery Quarter
Museums

The Jewellery Quarter

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The Jewellery Quarter’s march toward greatness shows no signs of slowing down, and it’s well worth an afternoon sojourn or an evening spent experiencing its increasingly popular hospitality. By day, arrive at pretty St. Paul’s Square and take in the latest exhibition at the RBSA. Hit archway must-try Peel & Stone by way of refuel, then pick between a guided tour of the Museum of Jewellery or the creation of your own nib at the Pen Museum for your afternoon’s entertainment. 

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9
Villa Park
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Museums

Villa Park

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If you’re a sports nerd you’ll want to book tickets to see Aston Villa play a match at Villa Park. But even if you don’t visit during the football season, booking a tour of the stadium is a good option. Take the long walk through the tunnel and muddy your footwear on Aston Villa's hallowed turf, before trying out the manager’s pitch-side seat. 

10
Gas Street Basin
Museums

Gas Street Basin & Brindley Place

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Once a busy port, Gas Street Basin now attracts locals and tourists alike with its colourful canal boats, first-rate wandering territory and laid-back cafés and restaurants. Nothing tops a meandering stroll followed by a generous brunch at neighbourhood favourite JuJus. If you’ve made it as far as Gas Street Basin, you’re seconds from city stalwart Brindley Place. We defy any visitor to fail to find exactly what they fancy in the food department.

Worked up an appetite after all that exploring?

Restaurants

The 25 best restaurants in Birmingham

On any given night you can settle down to a meal in a superb Michelin-starred spot, get stuck into what’s probably the UK’s best Indian restaurant scene and taste food from some of the finest up-and-coming culinary stars in the business. 

More to explore

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