The Top 12 Free Things To Do In Birmingham
The capital of the West Midlands region and the largest city in the UK by population after London, Birmingham is not a city that's short of things to do. In fact, in a city this big, it's not difficult to find something to keep you entertained no matter what you're into, whether you're looking for the best restaurants in the region or for the best things to do in Birmingham with kids.
But despite its size and how much it offers visitors, Birmingham has often flown under the radar of travelers in the past. That's partly because the city has long been known as the industrial heart of England, a place where people go to work rather than to have fun. That's changing now, as Birmingham city centre has been redeveloped to make it a great location for shopping, dining, and having fun. Plus, the many Birmingham museums and the city's ample green space - Birmingham has more trees than Paris does! - combine to make this a great, if underrated, place to visit.
But visiting a new city can quickly get expensive. If you want to save some money, check out our list of free things to do in Birmingham. Taking advantage of some of the city's shopping centres, art galleries, Birmingham museums with free entry, and other free attractions will help your pennies go further as you explore the city.
And you'll go further too if you drop off your unneeded bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Birmingham. Traveling light makes it easy to navigate the city and enjoy all of the great free things to do in Birmingham.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Pride of place on this list has to go to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. This astonishing collection is the pride of the city, and it combines eclectic exhibits like a horde of Anglo-Saxon gold, Egyptian mummies, and the world's largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. This impressive museum is housed in a beautiful heritage building and has been part of the city's cultural landscape since 1885, and there are over 40 galleries displaying everything from natural history exhibits to artifacts telling the story of Birmingham's past as an industrial center. In fact, Birmingham Museum has so much to offer that even if you're not the biggest fan of museums, you're sure to find something interesting here.
Given the astonishing value of this collection, it's almost hard to believe that you can see it for free. But you can. Like many of the UK's leading museums, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is completely free for anyone to visit, making it the ideal rainy day activity. Located right in Birmingham city centre and a five-minute walk from New Street Station, the museum is easily one of the best free things to do in Birmingham. And since it occupies such a central location, it will be harder to avoid this museum than it is to visit it.
Cannon Hill Park
Birmingham City Council maintains nearly 600 parks in and around the city. So although Birmingham has a reputation as an industrial city above all, it's actually very blessed with ample green space. The parks in and around the city offer some of the best hiking in Birmingham, and they are endlessly popular with visitors and locals alike.
That's certainly true of Cannon Hill Park. The most popular park in the city, Cannon Hill Park offers almost endless green lawns where you can spread out and have a picnic. There are tennis courts and a minigolf course, both of which are free to visit. There's also a boating lake which is a great place to enjoy in the summer.
The park also contains the Midlands Arts Centre or MAC Birmingham, which has four different performance spaces including an outdoor arena where you might be lucky enough to catch a free show. Even if you don't, the park has more than enough to keep you busy on a sunny day and offers a great place to recharge your batteries in the heart of this big and cosmopolitan city.
Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary
If you're a lover of animals, you won't want to miss this one. Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary is an internationally recognized center for the rehabilitation of working animals and has been part of the city for 40 years.
It's not just the animals that benefit from this charity, either. The Sanctuary offers donkey-assisted therapy to children with special needs, and the approximately 18 donkeys that live here are a guaranteed hit with any children who get to meet them. There's a café and gift shop on-site where you can relax and spend a little money, but admission to the Sanctuary itself is completely free. Of course, as a charity, donations are more than welcome, and when you see the good work this organization does, you'll probably want to throw them at least a couple of pounds for their efforts. This is an especially great thing to do in Birmingham with kids, so if you're traveling with the family, don't miss this attraction.
Lapworth Museum of Geology
Birmingham is blessed with many great museums, and visitors are even more blessed by the fact that some of the city's top museums are completely free to visit. Just like the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Lapworth Museum of Geology is available to visit for no charge, making it one of the best free things to do in Birmingham for anyone with an interest in science.
Dating back to 1880, the Lapworth Museum of Geology is one of the oldest specialist geological museums in the UK. However, it has recently been redeveloped to make sure its collection stays up-to-date, and it offers some fascinating interactive exhibits that will explain everything from dinosaurs to volcanoes. It's an excellent place to visit with kids, but people of any age are likely to come away with a deeper appreciation of the wonders of our planet after a visit here.
Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Housed at Birmingham University, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts is recognized as one of the best small collections of fine art anywhere in Europe. The collection here holds masterpieces by some of the top names in art history, including van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, Rembrandt, and others. So while the collection may be small compared to what you'll find at the Birmingham Museum, the Barber Institute packs more treasures into its galleries than most other museums can dream of.
The Institute also features a concert hall where local and international artists perform, though there is usually an additional charge for these performances. Still, the art alone makes the Institute worth the journey out to Edgbaston to see some of the best paintings in the world.
Birmingham was once one of the world's top manufacturing districts for all kinds of goods. In Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, factories produced exquisite jewelry for sale around the world. And although Birmingham's manufacturing base has declined over the years, the Jewellery Quarter, located just outside Birmingham city centre, is still an important center for jewelry production. In fact, this relatively small area still produces 40% of all jewelry manufactured in the UK.
But the factories of this district have found a new life as tourist attractions. One of the city's top historic districts is also home to some fascinating museums explaining the rise and fall of the area. It's also a great place to visit just to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the historic architecture.
Birmingham is actually home to two cathedrals, St Chad's and St Philip's Cathedral. St Philip's dates back to 1715 and is the Cathedral of the Church of England denomination. St Chad's is younger, built in 1839 to serve the Roman Catholic population of the growing city. Both cathedrals are close together, and both can be visited absolutely free.
Soak up the tranquility in the light that pours through the stained-glass windows and enjoy the impressive architecture of two of Birmingham's most important buildings. You don't need to be a believer to be impressed by the intricacy and beauty of these buildings, and you don't need to spend a penny to see them for yourself.
Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery
Birmingham certainly isn't short of art galleries. But for a more contemporary spin on what's new and exciting in the world of art, check out the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery. One of only a few galleries in the country completely owned by artists themselves, the gallery explores all facets of art through exhibitions and workshops. The Society is a charity devoted to supporting art in the community, and the exhibits are forever changing to reflect the dynamic nature of West Midlands art.
The gallery is free to visit and offers an exciting way to encounter contemporary art in the city. But if you feel like supporting this worthy charity, donations are gratefully accepted.
Eastside City Park
Another of Birmingham's great city parks, Eastside City Park is notable for being next to Birmingham's Science Museum, Thinktank. Thinktank charges admission, and therefore doesn't get a spot on this list of free things to do in Birmingham. But Eastside City Park contains the Thinktank science garden, which features 30 hands-on exhibits covering many facets of science including math, engineering, and transportation. This outdoor discovery area is a great place to bring the kids and will challenge their minds as well as their bodies as they explore. And this unusual science garden is completely free to visit.
A visit to the library may not sound like a classic vacation activity. But Birmingham Library, opened in 2013, is just a short walk from the Bullring and Birmingham City Centre, which makes it an easy visit while you're in town. Head up through the building past the Shakespeare memorial room and you'll find a beautiful roof terrace where you can enjoy a great view of the city and curl up with a book absolutely free. Birmingham Library is Europe's largest public library, and as well as the impressive terrace, it often features changing exhibitions that you can also visit for free. Well-known to locals in the city, this is something of a hidden gem as far as tourists are concerned but is well worth a visit.
Birmingham's industrial past has left the city with a legacy of grand Victorian buildings in various states of repair. Roundhouse is one of Birmingham's most picturesque industrial heritage sites thanks to heritage funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which has helped restore the historic buildings to their former glory.
Located along one of Birmingham's many canals, you can explore on a walking tour or paddle a kayak along the water. But if you want to enjoy the area without spending anything, just taking a stroll through this waterside neighborhood will give you a better understanding of the city's past and help you gain an appreciation for the often overlooked beauty of these industrial relics.
Located close to the city center, this internationally acclaimed art venue is another of Birmingham's impressive free museums and art galleries. Ikon Gallery is devoted to contemporary art and features work by artists from around the world, allowing you to see the cutting edge of art in the heart of Birmingham.
Located in a former boarding school, Ikon Gallery hosts regular programs and workshops that will help you understand more about modern art and contextualize what you see in the impressive galleries. For art lovers, this is a must-visit, and the fact it's another of the many great free things to do in Birmingham only makes it even more tempting to go.
Birmingham has so much to offer visitors that it's difficult to fit it all into a single trip. And with so much to see and do here, no matter what your tastes are, you'll find it easy to stay entertained as you explore the UK's second city.
By taking advantage of some of the great free things to do in Birmingham, you'll be able to save your pounds for more activities, getting a deeper sense of what the city has to offer. And by dropping off your belongings at a Bounce luggage storage, you'll be unencumbered and free to enjoy all the great free things to do in Birmingham without carrying more than you need to.