Things to do in Birmingham
As England’s second-largest city, Birmingham is full to the brim with things to do, sights to see and experiences to remember. With major redevelopments having taken place over the last few decades, this Midlands destination is also home to many iconic buildings and attractions. Even travel by train into the city centre makes for a unique experience. If you depart at Birmingham Grand Central, you’ll be met with an abundance of shops, boutiques and restaurants before you even step outside to admire the striking facade of this development.
Whether you’re travelling for the day, a weekend or an extended trip, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding what to do first. Plus, it's extremely easy to get to, with regular direct trains to Birmingham available from all over the UK, including London Euston.
Once you’ve got your rail tickets sorted, our handy guide and day itinerary is here to help you narrow down your list of top things to do in Birmingham on a day trip.
Shop ‘til you drop
When thinking about Birmingham, one of the first things that springs to mind is shopping. And it’s no surprise really, with the Birmingham Bullring shopping centre having become somewhat of a landmark in recent times. With over 200 shops including both chain favourites and independent stores, plus a huge selection of restaurants and coffee shops to rest your weary feet, there is truly something for everyone.
You can’t really miss the Bullring when you get into Birmingham city centre, no matter which direction you’re headed from. Grand Central Station takes you directly into the shopping centre and onwards to Selfridges department store without you even needing to step outside. If you’ve come into the city via other means, simply look out for the huge bull outside the shopping centre just up from the high street.
Take a selfie with the famous bull
Speaking of the bull, once you’re done shopping, why not take a moment to grab a photo with the iconic bull? Installed in 2003, just weeks before the opening of the shopping centre, the bronze bull has become an icon itself with hundreds of people stopping to take photographs with the statue every day.
The six-tonne sculpture is twice the size of a real bull and has been rated one of the world’s top ten pieces of public art. Even if you’re not in the city for shopping, it’s worth wandering up to the Bullring just to marvel at the bull.
Visit the Canal Quarter
Birmingham’s “canal quarter”, otherwise known as Brindleyplace, is the ideal location for a meal or relaxing drink after a busy morning of shopping. Having undergone extensive renovations in recent times, there are plenty of quirky canalside bars and eateries to choose from as you relax and watch the narrow boats sail past.
During the industrial revolution, the Birmingham canal network played an important role in transporting coal, iron and other heavy goods. Today, the canals make for a unique landscape in the heart of industrious Birmingham and are ideally located for drinks and food before concerts at Arena Birmingham or the International Convention Centre.
Check out the Birmingham Symphony Hall
While you’re mooching around Brindleyplace, it’s a great opportunity to head over to Centenary Square and visit Birmingham Symphony Hall. This music venue hosts over 250 events every year and is home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. It’s also a stunning piece of architecture to look at, even if you haven’t booked tickets to a concert or show.
Sea Life Centre
Brindleyplace is also home to Birmingham’s Sea Life Centre. First opened in 1996, this aquarium comprises over 60 animal displays as well as the UK’s only 360-degree ocean tunnel featuring sharks, rays, tropical fish and a giant turtle. You can also meet the resident gentoo penguins and learn more about conservation and the important work that the Sea Life Centre is doing around the world.
Explore city centre architecture
While Birmingham was bombed extensively throughout the Second World War, the city came back fighting, rebuilding and renovating over the years to become the home of many fascinating and incredible pieces of architecture. In Centenary Square, you can visit the award-winning Library of Birmingham - one of the most modern and stand-out pieces of architecture in the city.
From Centenary Square, head across to Victoria Square to see Birmingham Town Hall. First built in 1834, the building offers a completely different viewing experience to that of the library, with striking beams and a temple-like structure.
For more modern architecture, Selfridges is not a building you can miss, with its blue curved facade covered with 15,000 aluminium discs. Similarly, Birmingham Grand Central Station is a modern marvel and new icon, offering an almost other-worldly design following its £750m refurbishment.
Explore culture and history
If Birmingham museums are on your to-do list, the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is definitely worth a visit. Located in Chamberlain Square, just across from Birmingham Town Hall, this city centre museum and art gallery offers everything from fine art and jewellery to natural history, archaeology and local history. The museum also runs regular events and pop-up exhibitions, so it’s always worth checking out what’s on before you visit.
Street food at Digbeth Dining Club
All the exploring you’re doing around Birmingham will definitely call for food at some point. Luckily, the Brummies know how to put on some good grub! We love Digbeth Dining Club venues for a street food experience right in the heart of Birmingham.
Founded in 2012, Digbeth Dining Club operates two permanent street food venues in Birmingham - one at Hockley Social Club near the Jewellery Quarter, and the other at Herbert’s Yard in Longbridge. Each venue brings together the best street food vendors from across the city into one open dining hall, as well as live music, regular events and a nighttime hangout if you’re staying in Birmingham a little longer.
Take a stadium tour of Birmingham City FC
For football fans, a day out in Birmingham wouldn’t be complete without stopping off at the city’s own football ground. St. Andrew’s stadium tours last for around 90 minutes and enable you to check out the dressing rooms, press lounge, dugouts, pitchside views and of course take a walk through the player’s tunnel. If you’re already in the city centre, you can walk to the stadium in around 20 minutes from Grand Central or hop on a train to Bordesley station, which is just 0.6 miles from the ground.
If sport is on the agenda but you’re not the biggest football fanatic, Edgbaston cricket ground is also an excellent way to spend an afternoon. Whether you manage to catch a game in the summer or embark on a stadium tour any other time of year, it’s a great place to visit. On a stadium tour, you’ll get to see behind the scenes at one of England’s most famed cricket grounds; from the changing rooms and media centre to the indoor school and hospitality suites regularly frequented by celebrities.
There are no train stations in the immediate vicinity of Edgbaston, but there are regular shuttle buses from central train stations on match days and a reliable bus network that will help you get to and from the stadium. The ground is located just under two miles from Grand Central station, so if you’re a keen walker, it’s within a manageable walking distance.
Get your chocolate fix at Cadbury World
It doesn’t matter whether you're embarking on your tour of Birmingham as a solo traveller, with friends or family, a stop at world-famous Cadbury World is a must-do for any age! This self-guided exhibition tour of one of the world’s most famous chocolatier’s will take you on a journey through the history of chocolate and the Cadbury business, as well as show you how your favourite chocolate bars are made. Plus you’ll be treated to a warm pot of melted Cadbury’s dairy milk - what’s not to love!
Cadbury World is located in Bournville, so you can easily catch a train to Bournville station before taking a short 15-minute stroll to the attraction. It’s well signposted from the station, so you’ll be able to find it with no trouble. If in doubt, just follow your nose!
Be bedazzled at Jewellery Quarter
Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter is an area of the city that’s worth visiting for anyone with an interest in jewellery, architecture and history. This industry hub comprises over 700 jewellery retailers and independent businesses, including diamond dealers and jewellery workshops, with many having been set up here for decades.
This bustling part of Birmingham is also home to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter which opens for special events and allows you to take a peek inside the history of one of the city’s most well-known exports. If you’re keen to visit Birmingham museums, this one should be on your list, but be sure to check it’s open when you plan to travel.
Explore The Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses
While the UK’s second city is predominantly known as an industrial hub, it’s also home to a few hidden gems when it comes to the outdoors. If you’re hoping to visit one of Birmingham’s most beautiful green spaces, we’d recommend The Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses. Founded in 1829, the gardens have become a major attraction for both locals and out-of-towners looking to see some spectacular plants from all over the world.
The Gardens are located just slightly out of the city centre, but are easily reachable via public transport. You can hop in a taxi from anywhere in the city centre and arrive at the attraction in around 20 minutes, or catch a train to Five Ways Station before walking a further 20 minutes.
Best Birmingham lunch spots
While a day in Birmingham is all about exploring and unearthing some of the city’s best attractions, it goes without saying that a food pit-stop or two should be on the agenda. Luckily, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Birmingham lunch spots, whether you’re visiting the city centre or the outskirts.
In the city centre, head to the Bullring or Grand Central for your favourite chain restaurants including Bill’s, Mowgli, Nando’s and Five Guys. For a variety of fine dining and independent choices, take a stroll towards the Cathedral and check out Gaucho, Tattu, Land Restaurant or Chaopraya. Of course, if you’re really looking to push the boat out, The Ivy on Temple Row is an excellent choice for lunch.
No matter where you are, great Birmingham lunch spots are in abundance. From street vendors and market stalls to grab-and-go eateries, regular restaurants and fine dining establishments, you’re really spoilt for choice.
With so much to see and do in Birmingham, you’ll be hard pressed to fit it all in one day. Thankfully, travel to Birmingham is easy and convenient from almost anywhere in the UK, so you can always come back another day or perhaps prolong your trip to include some of Birmingham’s nightlife too.
Additionally, Birmingham's central location puts you close to other Midlands destinations that are worth considering for day trips; whether you head west to explore the stunning Malvern Hills, travel to Stratford-upon-Avon and see the birthplace of Shakespeare or continue with the theme of industrialism at the Black Country Museum or Ironbridge in Telford. You're also close to The Cotswolds and Warwick Castle for a more relaxing end to your trip.
Don’t forget, you can save on your rail travel to Brum by booking in advance with Avanti West Coast, so be sure to book your tickets early!