Last Updated on December 16, 2023 by Louise
Birmingham is the UK’s second city and a fantastic place to visit. It’s jam packed full of history, culture, innovation and green spaces. The best thing is many of Birmingham’s amazing attractions are free
From fascinating museums to beautiful parks, amazing views to stunning art, dinosaurs to Egyptian mummies – there is something for everybody and you won’t have to spend anything.
Read on for the best 21 free things to do in Birmingham.
1.) Discover the Secret Garden at Birmingham Library
Birmingham Library is a stunning building in Birmingham City Centre. It’s free and there’s lots to do. Visit the secret outdoor garden on the 7th floor which has some fantastic views. Then walk up the stairs or take a lift to the viewing gallery on the 9th floor of the library for even more amazing views of the city. Visit the Shakespeare room on level 9. It’s full of information on Shakespeare and is filled with his books. The room has been recreated from the original design in the 19th century. It’s very Harry Potteresque.
Birmingham residents can get a library card to borrow books. A library card also allows you to play table tennis in the basement.
Find out more at Birmingham Library
2.) See the Egyptian Mummies at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is located in the city centre and is free. Here you can admire over 3000 paintings. See the Staffordshire Hoard Gallery which is the biggest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.
Take a free family trail around the museum. Learn about the history of Egypt and see Egyptian mummies in the Ancient Egypt gallery.
Discover more about the history of Birmingham. Check out dressing up and other activities in the mini museum for the under 5s.
There are often family events and activities during weekends and school holidays (check the website for more information)
Find out more at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
3.) Admire the Stain Glass Windows at Birmingham Cathedral
Birmingham Cathedral is located on Colmore Row in Central Birmingham. It’s an exquisite example of Baroque style of architecture. It’s the 3rd smallest cathedral but well worth a visit if only to see the stunning stain glass windows.
Find out more at Birmingham Cathedral
4.) Picnic at Cannon Hill Park
Canon Hill park is a large green space a couple of miles from Birmingham city centre. There are formal gardens, woodlands and a conservation area. There’s also a playground for kids. Take a picnic on a sunny day and bring a ball or other outdoor game for a free and fun day out.
There are many other activities you can also partake in at Cannon Hill Park for a small charge. They include mini golf, fairground rides, swan boats and a land train.
Find out more at Cannon Hill Park.
5.) Learn All About Dinosaurs (and more) Lapworth Museum of Geology
Based at the University of Birmingham, the Lapworth Museum of Geology is free and you don’t need to book. This small museum captures the attention of all visitors with interesting collections on rocks, fossils, volcanoes, earthquakes and dinosaurs.
There are worksheets for kids. Family events and activities are sometimes held here.
The University campus is easy to get to from the city centre. Just take a 10 minute train from New Street to University. It’s a 5 minute walk from there.
Top Tip – the museum can be hard to find on the university campus. Download a brochure and map here to help you find it.
Find out more at the Lapworth Museum of Geology
6.) Take a Culture Trail at Birmingham University
Follow two free trails around Birmingham university. They are the sculpture trail and the blue plaque trail.
Find out more about the Culture Trails.
7.) Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Another free attraction based on Birmingham University campus is the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.
It’s a small but impressive collection of fine artwork from some famous artists including Monet, Van Gogh, Turner and Gainsborough. There’s also some beautiful sculptures, coins and prints.
Find out more at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.
8.) Enjoy the Interactive Activities at the Think Tank, Science Garden
Photo by Elliott Brown
Every day after 3pm you can enter the science garden at the Think Tank for free. This is a fun place to take children. There are lots of hands on, educational, interactive activities. Exhibits include a massive human sized hamster wheel that can spin at 30 revolutions per minute.
Find out more at the Think Tank
9.) See a Free Exhibition at the Ikon Gallery
The Ikon is an outstanding contemporary art gallery. It’s housed in a beautiful Victorian building that used to be a boarding school. There are often a range of exhibitions and events so it’s worth checking what’s on before you go.
Find out more at the Ikon Gallery
10.) Park Run (or just have a walk) at a Birmingham Park
Park run is a free 5K park run that takes place in parks all over the country and parks in Birmingham host them too. Park run takes place every Saturday morning at 9am.
There are park runs in many of Birmingham’s parks and open spaces including Cannon Hill Park, Cofton Park, Sutton Park, Woodgate Valley Country park and Edgbaston Reservoir. If you don’t want to park run, all these green spaces are fantastic to visit for a walk too.
Find out more at the Park Run website
11.) See the Animals Sheldon Country Park and Old Rectory Farm.
Sheldon Country Park is a 20 minute drive from Birmingham City Centre and it is bordered by Birmingham International Airport. It covers 300 acres of green space. It’s the perfect place to take young kids.
Visit the Old Rectory Farm which has free entry. See the cows, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens and ponies. Kids will love the playground. Walk to the border of the park (approximately a 1 mile walk from the farm). See the planes taking off and landing at Birmingham International Airport.
Find out more at Sheldon Country Park
12.) Get Up Close with The Farm Animals at Balsall Heath City Farm
Balsall heath city farm is also free. See goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, turkeys and sheep.
13.) Follow the Tolkien Trail
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. He’s one of the most famous and popular authors in the world. Follow the Tolkien trail around Birmingham and get familiar with many of Tolkien’s childhood haunts.
Discover his childhood home, his school and the places where he played including Sarehole Mill, Moseley bog and the Shire Country park.
These locations offered the inspiration for some of his literature. The trail also takes in Birmingham library and University. You can do all or part of the trail.
Find out more at here.
14.) Window shop in the Jewellery Quarter
Home to over 700 jewellers and independent retailers, the jewellery quarter is a 15 minute walk from the city centre. The jewellery businesses located here provide over 40% of the jewellery made in the UK.
As well as window shopping, there are some self guided activities which you can do. They include a slow looking trail which invites you to look at and learn about the history of 6 amazing buildings in the quarter.
There are also 2 pavement trails which are the Findings Trail and the Charm Bracelet trail.
Additionally there are many independent bars and eateries here as well as 2 museums to visit (the pen museum and the coffin museum – charges do apply for the museums).
Find out more at the Jewellery Quarter
15.) Check Out Trendy Digbeth
Digbeth is less than 10 minutes walk from Birmingham’s bullring and Grand Central.
It’s home to the Custard factory which is set in 15 acres of beautifully restored Victorian Factories.
The Custard Factory gave birth to instant custard but now the old Victorian is Birmingham’s creative and digital district. At the Custard factory you will also find independent shops, bars and eateries.
Digbeth is a well known spot for street art. In fact, you can follow a graffiti art trail that starts at the end of Moor street and is 3 miles long. You can follow all of it or some of it.
Find out more about Digbeth
16.) Meet the Donkeys at Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary
Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary is located in Sutton Park about 6 miles north of the city centre. See the donkeys up close. It’s open to the public on the first Sunday of every month, plus every Saturday. It’s essential to book a timed visit on the website before you go.
Book online at the Donkey Sanctuary Birmingham
17.) Enjoy a Nature Trail at Martineau Gardens
Martineau gardens is a community garden located about 2 miles from the city centre. Here you’ll find nature trails, a children’s playground, formal garden, wildflower meadows hot house, wildflower meadows, bird hide, ponds, beehives and an earth oven.
Bring a picnic. You can get hot or cold drinks from the pavilion but there is no cafe.
There are events that take place here, so it’s worth checking out the website to see what’s happening!
Find out more at Martineau Gardens
18.) Visit the Walled Garden at Aston Hall
You have to pay to visit Aston Hall, however the garden is free to enter during the Hall opening times. There’s a beautiful walled garden with symmetrical borders, a water feature and brightly coloured benches. You can have a picnic on the lawn in the Stables courtyard or visit the cafe.
Find out more at Aston Hall Gardens
19.) Enjoy a Walk Over Waseley Hills
Waseley Hills Country Park is on the outskirts of Birmingham (situated about 10 miles from Birmingham city centre). Enjoy an amazing walks with views out towards Birmingham and the surrounding countryside. There’s a lovely picnic area and playground for kids. The Windmill cafe also serves refreshments on site. There is a small charge for parking at the country park.
Find out more at Waseley Hills Country Park
20.) Admire the View at the Lickey Hills
The Lickey Hills is also situated about 10 miles south of the city centre. Visit the Beacon castle at the Lickey Hills and see some of the best views of Birmingham from the top. Kids will enjoy playing ball games in the green space by the small monument castle and walking round the woodland.
Find out more at Lickey Hills.
21.) Get Festive With Free Christmas Activities
If you’re in Birmingham in December, why not take advantage of some of the free Christmassy things you can do? Wander around the annual German market and soak up the festive atmosphere.
Or listen and sing along at a carol service at St. Philip’s Cathedral. There are various carol services throughout December 2023 including family and children’s services and the recording of BBC WM’s carol service on 19th December.
For more festive ideas (some free and some with a charge) check out 15 festive things to do in Birmingham this Christmas
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