The top 5 tourist attractions in Birmingham, England

The 14 most popular tourist attractions in Birmingham and Coventry

Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK, and its location in the West Midlands makes it a great place to start exploring the beautiful sdlovestoneK as well as the Malvern Hills area – especially by canal. Birmingham’s canals were a byproduct of the industrial revolution that saw the city boom, and today this vast network of canals (the city has more canals than Venice) is used mostly for boating. These days, the city is famous for its decorations and products, as well as for its many cultural events and festivals, such as Europe’s second-largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade .

Just 20 miles from Birmingham is Coventry, the center of the British auto industry. A mass bombing in 1940 destroyed most of the city, including the old Coventry Cathedral whose ruins were incorporated into the new cathedral. Today Coventry’s nice open squares, wide streets and pedestrian areas are well explored and offer many things to do, including great stores and restaurants.

See also: Where to Stay in Birmingham

1 Historic Downtown, Birmingham

Historic Downtown, Birmingham

The downtown Birmingham Town Hall was built in 1832 and is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture. Resembling a Roman temple, this impressive structure features 40 decorative Corinthian columns of Anglesey marble. It was the center of the city’s music scene, as Elijah Mendelssohn’s first performance was held in 1847. Today its impressive Symphony Hall, with its world-class acoustics and stunning auditorium, regularly features A-list performers and performers, and is the home of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Court acquisitions include two monuments, one to Queen Victoria and the other to inventor James Watt, while the Renaissance style Council House (1874), with its famous “Big Brum” clock (slang phrase for Birmingham). Other Old Town sites to visit include Chamberlain Square and the Central Library, home to the largest Shakespeare Collection outside the United States (50,000 volumes in 90 languages).

Address: Victoria Square, Birmingham

Official website: www.thsh.co.uk

2 Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, opened in 1885, is considered one of the best such museums outside London. Its artistic treasures include a collection of Pre-Raphaelite painters, as well as works of art from the 17th to 19th centuries and sculptures by Rodin and James Tower. There are also interesting displays related to the city’s history, including archaeological finds dating back to the Stone Age, as well as the impressive Pinto Collection, with its 6,000-plus toys and other wood objects.

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Also worth a visit and within walking distance of the Birmingham Back to Back attraction, a unique collection of small “back-to-back” houses equally prolific throughout the city. Built around a central courtyard in the mid-19th century, these houses provide a unique insight into working-class conditions and their important contributions to the city (guided entry only).

Address: Chamberlain Square, Birmingham

Official website: www.birminghammuseums.org.uk

3 Thinktank, Birmingham Museum of Science

Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum Bs0u10e0 / photo modified

Families traveling with budding young scientists won’t want to miss Thinktank, the Birmingham Museum of Science. This award-winning museum includes many fascinating science exhibits, many of them hands-on and interactive. Highlights include an impressive collection of steam engines, from locomotives to tractors, and industrial equipment, many of which relate to Birmingham’s important role as an industrial center for centuries. Other entertaining displays include a chocolate packaging machine; the Spitfire Gallery, with its authentic World War II-era aircraft (including one of 10,000 Spitfires made locally); the Science Garden, with its human-sized hamster wheel; and the Thinktank Planetarium, with its fascinating tour of the stars and planets.

Address: Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham

Official website: www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/thinktank

4 SEA LIFE National Centre, Birmingham

SEA LIFE National Centre, Birmingham Roland Turner / photo modified

One of Birmingham’s most visited tourist attractions, the SEA LIFE National Center is home to an impressive 60 exhibits related to marine life. Pride of place goes to the massive million-dollar aquarium tank with a unique underwater tunnel that allows visitors an unobstructed view of a variety of marine life, including everything from reef sharks to giant turtles. Everyone knows that about 2,000 critters call the aquarium home, including numerous rare seahorses, giant octopuses, lobsters, crabs, stingrays, and otters (check out Mango and Starsky!). The stars of attraction, however, are undoubtedly the penguins. Housed in the impressive Ice Adventure penguin habitat, these fascinating creatures are fun to watch as they frolic. A 4-D movie theater is also on-site and offers regular educational programming. Hot Tip : If time and budget allow, book one of the fun behind-the-scenes or penguins.

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Address: The Waters Edge, 3 Brindleyplace, Birmingham

Official website: https://www2.visitsealife.com/Birmingham

5 Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham

Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham

The Jewelry Quarter is an area of Birmingham that is steeped in tradition. There are more than 200 jewelry shops and silversmiths concentrated here, mostly in the Clock Tower area at the corner of Vyse and Frederick Streets and around St. Paul’s Georgian Church. Be sure to visit the Jewelry Quarter Museum , an insider’s look at the trade, and the fascinating Smith and Pepper factory. It’s also worth checking out the nearby Memorial Hall across from the Baskerville House, erected in 1925 to commemorate the 14,000 city men who died in World War I.

If time permits, be sure to head over to the Pen Museum , This first-class museum, housed in an old stove factory in the jewelry district, showcases the city’s former role as a hotbed of pens as well as the history of writing instruments. A special treat is the opportunity to make your own steel nib using the same machines and techniques used in the 19th century. It’s also fun to reproduce the Victorian school, where guests can practice their writing using traditional pens.

Address: Vyse Street, Hockley, Birmingham

Official website: www.jewelleryquarter.net

6 St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham

St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham

Built in 1715, St Philip’s Cathedral (the third largest in England) began life as a parish church and was elevated to its current status in 1905. The cathedral was gutted during the 1940 bombing, but foresight saw its famous stained glass windows by Burne-Jones (1884) removed a few weeks earlier. Today, these significant treasures – returned to their rightful place when the cathedral was rebuilt in 1948 – are a highlight of any trip to Birmingham. Another religious structure worth visiting is St. Martin’s Church , dating back to the 13th century, it also has Burne-Jones windows.

Address: Colmore Row, Birmingham

Official website: www.birminghamcathedral.com

7 Barber Institute of the Arts, Birmingham

Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham Elliot Brown / photo modified

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Not far from the University of Birmingham, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts is home to an excellent collection of art from the Renaissance through the 20th century. Highlights include masterpieces by the likes of Botticelli, Bellini, Tintoretto, Rubens, Rembrandt, Watteau, Manet, Monet, Gainsborough, Constable and Degas. The building itself is also a must-see, especially for its beautiful statue of George I. If time permits, be sure to check out the institute’s schedule of classical lunchtime and evening concerts.

Location: University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Official website: http://barber.org.uk/

8 Cadbury World, Bournville

Cadbury World, Bournville Tony Hisgett / photo modified

Cadbury World is one of the region’s largest (and most popular) venues, with more than 500,000 visitors annually at the Cadbury Bournville production site, just a short drive from Birmingham. With an emphasis on entertainment, visitors will learn about the history of chocolate as well as the manufacturing process through a variety of great themed interactive exhibits. Along the way, guests will learn the story of the business of Cadbury, one of the world’s largest candy factories. Afterwards, be sure to spend some time exploring the perfect village of Bournville itself, built by the Cadbury family after 1860 specifically to house their large workforce.

Address: Linden Road, Bournville

Official website: https://www.cadburyworld.co.uk/

9 Black Country Museum, Dudley

The Black Country Living Museum, Dudley

In the town of Dudley, just 9 miles west of Birmingham, The Black Country Living Museum offers visitors a vivid view of mining history (hence “black”). You can explore the old mine and the reconstructed industrial community of the late last century, as well as the nearby network of canals (this part of the adventure takes place in an authentic narrow boat once used to transport coal). Other highlights include the opportunity to interact with costumed guides well-versed in local stories, lots of unique shopping opportunities, vintage buses and commercial vehicles, and a traditional English fun fair from the 19th century.

Address: Tipton Road, Dudley

Official website: www.bclm.co.uk

10 Broadgate, Coventry

Broadgate, Coventry Amanda Slater / photo modified

Broadgate, a spacious pedestrian-friendly square in the center of town, is known for its references to Lady Godiva, the city’s most famous resident. A statue of her stands in the middle of the square, and Broadgate House has a unique clock on which Lady Godiva appears at the turn of the hour, with Peeping Tom in the window above.

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Holy Trinity Church , in the northeast corner of Broadgate, is one of the city’s three famous spires, built in 1166 and 327 feet high. The church has beautiful windows, a stone pulpit from 1470 and interesting tapestries woven for the coronation of Elizabeth II. Also worth mentioning is a medieval painting from about 1430 called “Dum” (also known as “The Last Judgment”) and depicting Christ judging souls to be sent to heaven or hell. Twice lost after being covered in layers of washing and varnish, the fully restored artwork is on display again and is said to be one of the most important discoveries of medieval art in Europe.

11 Old Coventry Cathedral

Coventry Old Cathedral.

Built in 1373 and originally one of the largest parish churches in England, Old Coventry Cathedral was not erected into a cathedral statue until 1918.However, after a devastating blitz in 1940, only a few sections of the outer walls remain, along with a slender spire 303 feet high. At the east end of the old cathedral, the cross-shaped of two charred beams salvaged from the ruins is a poignant symbol and reminder of the destruction. (Interesting fact: the rituals were restored after the war with the help of young German volunteers.)

Address: Hill Top, Coventry

Official website: www.coventrycathedral.org.uk

Map of Coventry Cathedral

12 St Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry

St Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry

A high covered porch links the old ruins of the cathedral with the modern St Michael’s Cathedral, designed by Sir Basil Spence and opened in 1962. The walls of the 420-foot nave are built in a zigzag pattern, with offset concrete panels alternating with windows facing the altar. The most striking feature, however, is the huge glass screen at the west end of the building. Engraved with figures of angels, saints, and patriarchs, it creates a striking visual link to both the old ruins of the cathedral and the busy streets of the city. Another impressive feature is the baptistery with its font carved in stone from Bethlehem and the stained glass Window Sunburst .

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A nearby building, fortunate enough to have survived the bombing, was the 15th-century St. Mary’s Hall , headquarters of the Merchant’s Guild since 1342. The Great Hall (1394-1414) has impressive oak vaults and a tapestry depicting the visit of Henry VII in 1500.

Address: Hill Top, Coventry

Official website: http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/wpsite/

13 Greyfriars, Coventry

Greyfriars, Coventry Amanda Slater / photo modified

The most interesting of Coventry’s surviving half-timbered buildings are Ford’s Hospital in Greyfriars Lane, an almshouse for poor married couples founded in 1509. Near Greyfriars Monastery, destroyed in 1539, its surviving spire, now incorporated into Christ Church, is worth a visit. The dormitory and monastery of Whitefriars have since been completely restored and now have an interesting museum dealing with local history. The old Bablake School (1560) is also worth seeing, as is Bond’s Hospital, a semi-circular almshouse for the elderly founded in 1506.

14 Coventry Transportation Museum

Coventry Transportation Museum by Herry Lawford / photo modified

The Coventry Transportation Museum is a fascinating account of the history of automobile transportation in Great Britain. Be prepared to stay for a while, though, as this is one massive museum. Highlights include an impressive collection of more than 300 cycles, 120 motorcycles and more than 250 cars and commercial vehicles, many of which relate to Coventry’s rich past as the center of the British automotive industry. Notes to the collection include royal limousines; cars from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s; and numerous entertaining interactive educational displays.

Another first-class attraction in Coventry is the excellent Herbert Art Gallery and Museum , Often simply called the Herbert and named after one of the city’s most philanthropic industrialists, Alfred Herbert, the museum boasts many fine sculptures, paintings and clothes from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Address: Hales Street, Coventry

Official website: www.transport-museum.com

Where to stay in Birmingham for sightseeing

We recommend these centralized hotels in Birmingham, close to popular museums and the National Maritime Life Center:

    Hyatt Regency Birmingham: Luxury high-rise hotel, city views, modern decor, spa, indoor pool and Jacuzzi.

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