A weekend break in Birmingham | A 2-day itinerary

Diverse, with a rich heritage, a host of tourist attractions and renowned for its dining scene, Birmingham is a fantastic holiday destination in the UK.

Victoria Square in Birmingham

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But that's not all. This industrial hub with a vibrant heart is all set to host the Commonwealth Games 2022! The games are set to begin on 28 July 2022 and continue through to 8 August 2022. Athletes from all over the Commonwealth will fight for the top spot in a variety of sports including athletics, cycling, swimming, netball, diving, cricket, boxing, basketball and more.

The city is also currently hosting the Birmingham 2022 Festival with hundreds of amazing events across Birmingham and the West Midlands making it the perfect time to visit the city.

Take a look at this weekend guide to Birmingham and start planning your own holiday to the city.


Day 1 in Birmingham


Birmingham Library


The Library of Birmingham is not just the largest public library in the UK but also a striking piece of modern architecture.

Opened in 2013, the 31,000-square feet library is spread over ten levels and looks somewhat like a large, square-tiered cake with intricate decorations both inside and outside. It draws in thousands of visitors every day and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Birmingham.

The Library of Birmingham

The library has an impressive collection of books including the Boulton and Watt archives, the Parker collection of children's books and the Railway and Canal Historical Society Library to name a few.

The Library of Birmingham

There is also a Memorial Room to Shakespeare that houses over 43,000 books including rare items such as a copy of the First Folio 1623.

Across all the floors, there are a number of areas with tables and chairs to sit down and read books.

Plus, there are two very beautiful roof gardens that provide a pleasant environment for reading and studying while being surrounded by plants and flowers. We were amazed to see the collection of plants in the roof gardens. There was raspberry, apple, some kind of gooseberry, poppy, lavender, wildflowers and lots of herbs - perfect for attracting wildlife. 

Roof garden at the Library of Birmingham

The roof gardens also provide lovely views of the city.

Additionally, the library has a cafe, children’s spaces, exhibition rooms, a tourist information service, a gift shop and free Wi-Fi throughout the premises.

It's a great place to visit - loads of books, some interesting artefacts and beautiful rooftop gardens. If you are a book lover, you can easily spend hours at the library, and even if you are not, do visit it to enjoy the architecture and the excellent views over Birmingham.

Library of Birmingham | Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2ND
Phone | 0121 242 4242


Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery


The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which first opened in 1885, is housed in a Grade II listed building and includes 40 different galleries covering fine art, archaeology, costume & jewellery, antique earthenware, social history and ethnography.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

When we visited, 5 out of the 40 galleries had re-opened (after being closed for infrastructure & maintenance works). A number of pop-up displays were on, specifically for the Commonwealth Games and Birmingham 2022 Festival. The museum has an Edwardian Tearoom and a gift shop both of which were open as well.

Entry is free but there may be a charge for some exhibitions or events.

To check the opening times, facilities on-site and the list of events taking place at the museum, visit www.birminghammuseums.org.uk

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery | Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, B3 3DH
Phone | 0121 348 8000


St Philip’s Cathedral


The Birmingham Cathedral was originally the St Philip's parish church. It was designed by Thomas Archer in the English Baroque style and was consecrated in 1715. Birmingham became a city in 1889 and subsequently, St Philip's Church became the Cathedral of Birmingham in 1905. It’s actually the third smallest cathedral in England!

St. Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham

The building is a Grade I listed building and is known for its stunning set of stained-glass windows by artist and designer, Edward Coley Burne-Jones.

Today, in addition to being a place of worship, the Cathedral also holds regular concerts, seminars and guided tours.

Birmingham Cathedral | Colmore Row, Birmingham B3 2QB
Phone | 0121 262 1840


Go Shopping


For those who enjoy shopping, Birmingham offers plenty of choices on where you can spend your money.

Bullring shopping centre - Birmingham

Bullring & Grand Central in the heart of Birmingham is the largest shopping destination in the city with top fashion brands, electronics, home stores, health & beauty brands all under one roof. From Kate Spade to Lacoste, Michael Kors to Joules and Omega to Selfridges, visitors can shop all the latest trends at Bullring & Grand Central. The shopping complex also offers a wide range of other services and facilities (cafes, takeaways, bars, restaurants) to ensure that visitors enjoy their shopping experience.

Bullring & Grand Central | Birmingham, B5 4BU

And if you are after some more retail therapy, head to the Great Western Arcade on Colmore Row. 

Great Western Arcade in Birmingham

A testament to Victorian craftsmanship, the building with its lovely facade and elaborate structure within is home to an interesting mix of small shops and cafes. You will find a host of award-winning small retailers selling everything from the latest fashion & accessories to traditional sweets & candies.

Great Western Arcade | Colmore Row, Birmingham B2 5HU


Day 2 in Birmingham


Jewellery Quarter Tour


Dating back over 200 years and with more than 200 listed buildings, the Jewellery Quarter area in Birmingham is a must-visit.

From the late 1700s onward, for more than 200 years, gold and silversmiths have operated in the Jewellery Quarter. It is interesting to note that the button, buckle and other small metal object industry gave rise to the knowledge that is now used in jewellery making. When the business peaked in the early 1900s, there were about 70,000 local workers working in the Jewellery Quarter. 

The Birmingham Jewellery Quarter

The Jewellery Quarter was a closed community of wholesalers throughout the majority of its history. It was only when the economic crisis of the 1970s hit that the manufacturers started selling directly to the general public.

Today the Quarter accounts for more than 40% of UK jewellery production. The jewellers here produce exquisite custom jewellery by fusing the best of traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge designs and premium materials.

There are more than 100 independent specialist retailers and craftspeople in the Quarter today and whether you want to purchase a bespoke piece of jewellery or visit a jewellery workshop, this is the place to be.

Or you could enjoy a guided tour as we did. The Jewellery Quarter Walking tours will take you through the cobbled streets of the Quarter with your guide talking about the history of the place and the fascinating trades that are the reason for the Quarter's popularity. You will also get to visit working factories/workshops, see craftspeople at work and visit some interesting museums.

If you prefer to go on a self-guided walk, you can do that as well. Look out for the team from The Welcome People. They are easily identifiable in their 1920’s style 3-piece tweed suits, inspired by the look of the Peaky Blinders and are stationed at all key locations throughout the city. With their local knowledge they are best placed to recommend attractions and experiences, suggest walking trails, and help you with directions or ticket sales; basically helping to make your visit a memorable experience.

Below: The Welcome People team with the staff at Artfull Expressions.

The Welcome People - Birmingham

Visit the Pen Museum


Located on Frederick Street in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter is the Pen Museum. Housed in a former Victorian pen factory, that was built in 1863; the museum tells the story of Birmingham’s pen trade with the help of interactive exhibits and knowledgeable staff members.

The Pen Museum in Birmingham

During the Victorian times, making steel pen nibs was a huge industry in Birmingham with there being around 129 pen factories in the city. Around 75% of the workforce in these pen factories were women. And it is said that Birmingham produced nearly three-quarters of the world's pens at one time.

The Pen Museum is the only museum of its kind that throws light on the fascinating history of steel nib making.

There are lots of interesting activities for visitors to the museum ranging from using different typewriters, trying their hand at writing with quills, learning about graphology and even having a go at some of the traditional machines (with the help of the staff) to press a pen nib which they can then take home as a unique memento.

William Mitchell Pen Nibs at the Pen Museum in Birmingham

We loved visiting this small museum and learning about the history of pen nibs and the many pen companies of Birmingham. It's an experience not to be missed if you are visiting Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter.

Pen Museum | Argent Centre, 60 Frederick Street, Birmingham B1 3HS
Phone | 0121 236 9834

For opening times and ticket prices, visit www.penmuseum.org.uk

Birmingham Botanical Gardens


After the visit to the Jewellery Quarter and exploring other attractions in the city, if you are looking for a place where you can relax and connect with nature, then head to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses. Set in a 15-acre area, the gardens contain more than 7,000 different varieties of plants from around the world.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Although it is close to the city centre, the botanical garden is like an oasis, a tranquil setting that transports you to a different world. The botanical garden was set up in the 1830s and retains much of the original layout. The Tropical House was built in 1852 while the Subtropical House was built in 1871. In addition to being an important botanical and horticultural hub, the gardens also have hosted flower shows, music festivals and wedding receptions.

You can easily spend 2-3 hours in the botanical gardens exploring the various sections like the Alpine Yard, the Pinetum, the Rock Garden & Pool, the Scarecrow Garden, the Japanese & Bonsai Garden and the very popular glasshouses (Tropical, Subtropical, Mediterranean and Arid). 

There's also a Butterfly House where visitors can see colourful, tropical butterflies from Central America, parts of Africa and the Philippines. An aviary with some tropical birds seemed to be very popular with the younger visitors.

The Aviary at Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Birmingham Botanical Gardens And Glasshouses 2


Other facilities on-site include a tea room, children’s playground and a gift shop that stocks a wide range of gardening gifts.

For information on opening times, admission prices, parking etc. visit www.birminghambotanicalgardens.org.uk

Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses | Westbourne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3TR
Phone | 0121 454 1860


Staying Longer?


Although a weekend stay in Birmingham gives you enough time to see all the main attractions, staying longer in the city would allow you to visit and explore some of the other popular attractions (as listed below).

National SEA LIFE Centre


Explore the world of penguins, sea otters, sharks, turtles and more at the National SEA LIFE Centre. Home to more than 2,000 creatures and boasting the UK’s only 360 ocean tunnel, the National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham is a fascinating experience, right in the city centre.

Sea Life Birmingham

There are a number of aquarium zones like the Rockpool where you can see an assortment of beautiful creatures like sea anemones, starfishes, crabs and more. If you head to the Tropical Aquarium, you can spot some majestic sharks like the Blacktip Reef Sharks and Nurse Shark. The aquarium also has the UK's only successful breeding pair of Blackchin Guitarfish.

There is a Penguin Ice Adventure zone where you can see a colony of Gentoo Penguins.
Most popular among visitors is the 360° Ocean Tunnel where you can take a journey into the underwater world and watch sharks, turtles, sting rays and more swimming underneath and overhead as you walk through the Ocean Tunnel.

In addition to the chance to see all these aquatic creatures, the SEA LIFE Centre also is a good place to learn about marine life, the different breeding programmes and conservation projects that the centre is part of.

National SEA LIFE Centre | The Waters Edge, Birmingham, B1 2HL
Phone | 0121 643 6777


Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum


Thinktank is an award-winning science museum spread over 4 floors and with more than 200 hands-on displays related to technology and science.

Highlights of the museum include MiniBrum (a child-sized world, aimed at the under 8s), the Planetarium, the Spitfire Gallery, the Marine Worlds Gallery, the Science Garden (an outdoor discovery space) and the Industrial Gallery featuring the Smethwick Engine (the oldest working steam engine).

The museum also holds seasonal exhibitions, tours & talks and child-friendly activities throughout the year.

Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum
| Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham, B4 7XG
Phone | 0121 348 8000


Where to stay in Birmingham


Whatever your budget or taste, you will surely find accommodation in Birmingham to suit you. There are different types of accommodations to choose from - B&Bs, serviced apartments, hostels, self-catering properties and a range of hotels.

If you are looking for something in the heart of the city, within walking distance of most of the popular attractions then Malmaison Birmingham is a great choice.

Malmaison


Malmaison Birmingham, located in the historic, former Royal Mail building, offers 193 beautifully designed rooms and suites with amenities and services that will make your stay comfortable and convenient.

Our room at the Malmaison was modern, spacious, clean and quiet even though it overlooked a busy road. It had all the mod cons needed for a short stay.

Malmaison Birmingham

Malmaison Birmingham

Breakfast was good; there was a small selection of continental items and an à la carte, cooked menu. And the staff happily catered to our dietary requirements.

Breakfast at Malmaison Birmingham

We would recommend Malmaison Birmingham because its location puts you right in the heart of the action. Popular attractions, shops, restaurants, bars; everything is within easy walking distance making it a great choice for both leisure and business travel.

Malmaison Birmingham | 1 Wharfside St, Birmingham B1 1RD
Phone | 01217943004
Check in from 3pm; check out by 11am


Where to eat and drink in Birmingham


Birmingham is foodie heaven! Whatever type of gastronomic experience you are after, the city will cater to your taste. From Michelin-starred restaurants to street food joints and from family-run cafés to cool & quirky bars, the city has a vibrant and happening food scene.

Albert’s Schloss

To enjoy Europe’s finest biers and a fantastic selection of cocktails make your way to Albert's Schloss on Chamberlain Square.

Albert's Schloss' first branch was opened in Manchester followed by the one in Birmingham. Set across 2 floors, the Birmingham venue serves the best of Munich lagers like Paulaner, Augustiner and Lowenbrau, the Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic and much more. The wonderful cocktail list is also a treat.

Drinks at Albert's Schloss in Birmingham

Drinks at Albert's Schloss in Birmingham

The place was quite busy when we visited, with a fun vibe all around. In addition to the drinks, Albert's Schloss also serves an Alpine-inspired menu with dishes like Alpine Cheese Fondue, Schweinshaxe, Coquille Pretzel Pie, Pan-Fried Schnitzel and more.

If you visit in the evenings, you can even enjoy flamboyant performances from various artists.

To view the menu, show times, or to book a table, visit www.albertsschloss.co.uk

Albert’s Schloss | 1 Chamberlain Sq, Paradise, Birmingham B3 3AX
Phone | 0121 314 8858



Rudy’s Pizza


For the best pizza in Birmingham head to Rudy's Pizza on Bennett's Hill.

With an open-plan, industrial type of decor, the place serves delicious Neapolitan pizzas. Rudy's make their dough on-site and with just 4 ingredients: flour, salt, yeast and water. They double ferment it for a minimum of 20 hours at room temperature which makes their pizzas light and soft.

Their pizzas are 14", cooked for just 60 seconds and not crispy or deep pan. They currently have 14 different pizzas on their menu along with a small selection of starters & sharers and a good selection of drinks to enjoy with your pizza.

Rudy's Pizza Birmingham

We enjoyed the pizza we ordered (topped with vegan cheese). It was soft, light and delicious!

Rudy's Pizza | 9-10 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham B2 5RS
Phone | 0121 314 5880


Dishoom


If you want to try out delicious, comfort food from Mumbai then Dishoom is where you need to visit. With interiors reminiscent of the old Irani cafés from erstwhile Bombay, Dishoom manages to capture the essence of Bombay's life, commerce and markets. There are loads of decor items that have a connection to the Indian city and will make you nostalgic especially if you have lived in Bombay.

The menu is equally impressive with a selection of grills, small plates, biryanis, bread & rice, salads and side dishes. What immediately caught our attention though was the street food from Mumbai. We tried the Pav Bhaji, Vada Pav, Dishoom's House Chaat, Bhel and all the dishes had authentic flavours. It was excellent!

Indian Street Food at Dishoom Birmingham
Dishoom Birmingham - Indian Restaurant near New Street

We opted for non-alcoholic drinks - Kala Khatta Sharbat (Kokum fruit juice, chilli, citrus and black salt with ice) and Aflatoon's Colada (Pineapple and coconut-cream, a little coriander, chai syrup and lime juice. Garnished with coconut flakes). Both the drinks were refreshing and paired perfectly with the street food we had ordered.

The perfect way to wrap up the meal was with a Gulab Jamun that was topped with pistachio and served warm with citrus fruit ice cream. Delish!

The whole experience - ambience, the food and the service was faultless. Highly recommended.

To view the menu or make a reservation, visit www.dishoom.com

Dishoom Birmingham | One Chamberlain Square, Birmingham B3 3AX
Phone | 0121 809 5986


Chapter


Another place to enjoy a lovely meal in Birmingham is Chapter. It is an independent kitchen and bar that is the brainchild of restaurateurs Ann Tonks, Irene Allan and Ben Ternent. Chapter prides itself on its nature-led menu that uses quality British produce.

The menu list at Chapter is extensive. There is a Breakfast menu, a Lunch & Dinner menu, a Bar menu, a Tasting menu, a Children's menu and a Sunday Lunch menu. All the menus have been crafted with great thought and using local produce wherever possible.

The vegetarian starters that we tried were Goats Cheese Mousse (beetroot panna cotta, walnut biscuit, herbs & local beetroot) and Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli. Both were beautifully presented and amazing in quality and flavours. Vegetable Garden (fried polenta with marinated tofu, black garlic and local vegetables) which was our main course was also great. The desserts were also lovely with a special mention for the Salted Caramel Tart. 

Chapter, Birmingham

Desserts at Chapter Birmingham

Overall, the food was delicious and thoroughly enjoyable. The staff members were attentive without being obtrusive and overall the experience was great! If you are looking to experience quality local flavours in a relaxed atmosphere, head to Chapter.

Chapter | 5-6 Greenfield Crescent, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3BE
Phone | 0121 200 3020


The Coconut Tree


To experience authentic Sri Lankan flavours and warm hospitality, head over to The Coconut Tree restaurant on Gas Street.

The Coconut Tree has several branches in the southwest of the country (Cardiff, Cheltenham, Oxford, Bristol) and the Birmingham site is their first one in the Midlands. Founded by 5 Sri Lankan friends, the restaurant serves small, tapas-style Sri Lankan street food along with a selection of sweet and fiery 'Cocotails'.

The Coconut Tree Birmingham

We tried their Veggie Kothu (made with finely chopped roti with egg and vegetables), Sri-tato (roast potatoes spiced Sri Lankan style) and the Egg Hopper (a bowl-shaped coconut milk pancake served with coconut sambol, seeni sambol which are caramelised onions + cinnamon and lunu miris, Sri Lankan salsa). The food was delicious and went down a treat along with a Sri Lankan beer and a raspberry cooler.

Sri Lankan Street Food at The Coconut Tree in Birmingham

If you are new to Sri Lankan cuisine and are unable to decide what to try out, the staff will help you choose a few dishes along with their popular Hopper. A great way to try out the Sri Lankan flavours.

The Coconut Tree | 35 Gas St, Birmingham, B1 2JT
Phone | 0121 661 0111


Asha’s


Owned by Indian playback singer and entrepreneur Asha Bhosle, Asha's in Birmingham serves traditional North-Western Indian cuisine. The menu is inspired by the culinary traditions that Asha encountered on her travels through the various states of India over the years.

The menu is extensive with a good choice for vegetarians as well. We tried their Vegetarian Kebab Platter which included Paneer Ka Soola (Indian cottage cheese with green peppers and pineapple), Palak Dal Tikki (spinach stuffed with cheese), Vegetable Seekh Kebab (minced vegetable kebab) and Papdi Chaat (Indian street food) served with chutneys. The starters were perfectly cooked with delicious flavours, and it was quite filling too.

Vegetarian Kebab Platter at Ashas in Birmingham

We also tried their Vegetable Jalfarezi (sautéed vegetables with an array of spices) with Naan and Punjabi Kulcha (wheat flour bread stuffed with onions, potatoes, chillies and dry pomegranate powder) and it was good.

Vegetarian Curry at Asha's Birmingham

The desserts selection included Gulab Jamun, Rasmalai, a trio of Kulfis, Brownie and Chocolate Fudge Cake. We opted for the Indian classic, Gajar ka Halwa which was absolutely delicious.

We enjoyed our experience at Asha's and judging by the crowd at the restaurant when we visited; we can say that it is a popular destination for Indian cuisine.

The restaurant can get very busy, especially over the weekends, so booking ahead is recommended. Visit www.ashasbirmingham.co.uk to book a table.

Asha's | Edmund House, 12-22 Newhall Street, Birmingham B3 3LX
Phone | 0121 200 2767


How to get to Birmingham


Birmingham has very good road, rail, coach and air links, making it one of the UK's easiest cities to get to.

The city has 3 city-centre rail stations - Birmingham New Street Station, Birmingham Moor Street and Birmingham Snow Hill - each one with fast and frequent connections to local and national destinations.

The West Midlands Railway (WMR) operates more than 70 trains each day from London to Birmingham and their fastest journey to Birmingham takes 1 hour 59 minutes. WMR also operate trains from Worcester Shrub Hill, Kidderminster, Stourbridge, Hereford, Solihull, and Stratford-upon-Avon to Birmingham.

Avanti West Coast (AWC) also has direct trains from London to Birmingham New Street with the fastest journey taking 1 hour 22 minutes. AWC also has trains to Birmingham from Coventry, Rugby, Crewe, Milton Keynes and Sandwell & Dudley.

Birmingham New Street Railway Station

Birmingham's award-winning airport is just 10 km from the city centre. It is the country's fifth-largest airport and has hundreds of flights daily to national and international destinations. If you are planning to fly to Birmingham, you can quickly change from plane to train and arrive in the city centre in no time.


How to get around in Birmingham


Most of the tourist attractions listed in this post are within easy walking distance of each other, so you could arrive in Birmingham by train/car and then explore the city on foot. If you prefer not to walk, then the easiest way to get around Birmingham is by public transport (buses, trams and trains).

Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham


The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held from 28 July until 8 August 2022 and will host 19 sports and 9 para-sports with 72 nations and territories participating in the games. More than 4,000 athletes will be taking part in the Games and it is going to be a very interesting time for the city with some top-class sporting action.

Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham


If you are planning to travel to Birmingham to enjoy the Games, visit www.birmingham2022.com The site has all the information you need (competition schedule, venue details, ticket information etc.) to plan your day at the Games.

Whilst this guide/itinerary is by no means exhaustive, it will give you a good idea of what to see and do in Birmingham.

For more inspiration on what to see and do in Birmingham, check out www.visitbirmingham.com



Big thanks to the West Midlands Growth Company for organising our trip! As always, all opinions are our own.

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