Fun things to do in Birmingham

  • The exterior of Selfridges Birmingham
    The exterior of Selfridges Birmingham
    by Andrew_W_K
  • Iron Man
    Iron Man
    by tim07
  • 'The Floosie in the Jacuzzi'
    'The Floosie in the Jacuzzi'
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Birmingham

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    The Tolkien Trail - Sarehole Mill

    by eddilowe Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Sarehole Mill was built in 1765 and at the time was one of about 50 watermills in Birmingham. Now only two remain.

    JRR Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit lived near Sarehole as a child and as such, a connection with the mill is strong. The rustic village of Sarehole is said to have been the inspiration for The Shire in Lord of the Rings.

    I haven't been here for years although for about 3 years I drove past it every day on my way to where I used to work. With the recent LOTR films it seems inevitable that the place will attract more people and I hope to visit there again soon.

    Free Admission. Open Easter to the end of October Tuesday to Sunday 11.30am to 4pm. Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays

    An interesting website on the Tolkien Discovery Trail is virtualbrum

    They always have a Tolkien weekend at Sarehole Mill every year which is a big affair. Not sure on dates but I'm sure an Internet search would help you.
    I learned a few things about my own city on this website!

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  • The Nature Centre

    by kate1985 Written Sep 6, 2010

    i wouldn't describe it as a farm or a zoo its more of a conservation centre for endanged animals such as the red panda and the Barn owl. its perfect for young families because there are alot of different animals to see and its very educational. its next to cannon Hill Park and you can catch the 45 or 47 bus from the city centre.

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    Steve McCurry Exhibition

    by lomi Written Jul 5, 2010

    Acclaimed photojournalist Steve McCurry, exhibits over eighty images that span a remarkable twenty year career, in the Gallery opposite the Museim. His most famous photo was the renowned portrait “Afghan Girl”.

    Steve McCurry is recognised as one of the world’s finest photographers. The iconic image of the young green-eyed girl appeared for the first time on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985, instantly becoming a symbol both of the Afghan conflict and of the refugee situation worldwide.

    Many of McCurry’s later photographs have also become modern icons, each with a story to tell. An extensive traveller, his work has encompassed Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Yemen, amongst others. Best known for his evocative colour images, his compelling photographs are unique street portraits that reveal the universality of the human condition, finding the beautiful in daily experiences. McCurry’s skill lies in blending in, waiting for the unguarded moment when he can capture stories of the human experience in its rawest form.

    For 17 years the identity of the Afghan girl remained a mystery, despite McCurry’s attempts to locate her. In January 2002, a National Geographic team travelled to Afghanistan and using biometric technology matched her iris patterns to those of the photograph. Her identity was revealed as Sharbat Gula, and the remarkable story was the subject of a television documentary, entitled Search for the Afghan Girl, to be released on DVD to coincide with the exhibition.

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    National Motorcycle Museum

    by Andrew_W_K Written Feb 18, 2010

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    Out near Birmingham Airport where the A46 crosses the M42 motorway is the National Motorcycle Museum. The museum is dedicated to British motorcycles (and a few cars made by motorcycle companies). Once Britain led the world in motorcycle production (BSA, Norton, Triumph, AJS, Matchless, Royal Enfield, the list is seemingly endless and all have sadly gone, driven out by faster, cheaper and more reliable bikes from abroad but they are all represented here in 5 halls displaying the best of British from a bygone era.
    As well as an excellent museum the site also hosts a conference centre, hotel, restaurant and shop.
    Admission is £6.95 for adults (as at Feb 2010) but you can purchase family tickets for £20 (2 adults and 2 children).
    Parking is free.

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    walking or cycling in Sutton Park

    by weekendboarder Updated Feb 9, 2010

    Sutton Park is the largest urban park in Europe & is situated just 7 miles (11 km) from the centre of Birmingham, the UK's second largest city. The park is some 2,400 acres (970 hectares) in area. There are seven pools, with associated streams and wetland areas.The park is now closed to through traffic, although there are entrances for vehicles with parking available nearby. The peaceful roads & off road tracks in the interior of the park are ideal for walking, cycling. There is a children's playground near Town Gate & a smaller one at Banners Gate. There is a good network of off road tracks & also tarmac road suitable for pushchair or wheelchair.
    Blackroot Bistro is a family run bistro, situated in Sutton Park by the car park at Blackroot Pool. It is an upmarket, licensed, café style bistro, serving Breakfast, Lunch, Afternoon tea and Early Dinner. There are plenty of tables inside & out.

    The Boat House at Bracebridge Pool is also a great location for lunch or dinner. On sunny days there is a terrace menu served overlooking Bracebridge Pool

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    Architecture - the good, the bad & the ugly

    by Andrew_W_K Updated Nov 7, 2009

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    Birmingham has an amazing and diverse range of architectural styles within the city centre although as the title to this tip will tell you not all of it is good.
    The city of Birmingham is a relatively new city compared to many others in England. In 1700 Birmingham's population was estimated at a mere 15,000 and only acheived city status in 1889. So Birmingham did not have a wealth of historical architecture that many cities in England have.
    Having said that there are some excellent examples of Victorian gothic revivalism, a beautiful baroque cathedral (the smallest English cathedral and originally a parish church) and some bold modern designs as well as some 1960's disasters.
    The best thing to do is just turn up with a street map and seek them out yourself. You will be surprised, delighted and disappointed but never bored.

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    Shopaholics paradise

    by Andrew_W_K Updated Nov 7, 2009

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    I would make a bold statement and say that after London, Birmingham is the next best city for shopping in England but I'm sure Manchester and Bristol would have something to say about that.
    Birmingham has a glut of hi-tech shopping malls all within easy reach of each other. There's the Bullring, the Pallisades, the Pavilions and the Mailbox for starters. Then you have the more quirky Great Western Arcade and Priory Square. Then you have the big hitters like Louis Vuiton on Temple Tow, Harvey Nichols in the Mailbox and Armani both at the Mailbox and the Bullring.
    Add in stores like House of Fraser, Selfrdges and Debenhams and throw in all the usual high street chains, a few local independant shops and the jewelry quarter and you begin to get the idea.
    And as if that wasn't enough, during November and December Birmingham has the largest German market outside of Germany.

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    It's honestly not THAT expensive!!

    by SparklePop Written Oct 12, 2009

    The Mailbox falls into 2 categories - designer shopping and designer nightlife.

    In reality, yes, there are many designer shops. They have Armani, Hugo Boss, Harvey Nichols, Jaeger, Bang & Olufsen, to name a few.

    The nightlife... many are chains. They have HaHa, BarRoomBar, Zizzi, Pizza Express, Strada, Red Peppers, Bar Estilo, Cafe Rouge and a few others.

    They also have some independent bars and restuarants - The Oriental (Thai restuarant), PennyBlacks (wine bar overlooking the canal), Bar Epernay (champagne bar).

    The main point about The Mailbox? Don't feel intimidated. It's not full of footballers, celebrities or sauve boys and girls with more money than manners. It's just a collection of drinking establishments that remain a touch more classy than places like Broad Street.

    The bars and restaurants are worth coming to - just don't wear tracksuit bottoms or a ballgown (yes, I've seen both happen!)

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    Old Joint Stock Theatre & Pub

    by tim07 Updated Aug 16, 2009

    Built in 1864, this grade two listed building is situated opposite the cathedral. On entering through the huge front doors you are greeted by a magnificent room of restored Victorian splendour. Above the central bar is a glass domed ceiling.

    It became a 'Fuller' pub in 1997 and serves a selection of ales & pub food. I enjoyed one of its famous home made pies. Above the pub is a 80 seat theatre. This hosts plays as well as music and comedy nights.

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    brum...brum... the National Motorcycle museum

    by sourbugger Updated Jun 14, 2009

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    Located in Solihul near Birmingham International Airport the National Motorcycle museum occupies modern buildings just off the motorway junction to the NEC / BIA (National exhibition centre / Birmingham International airport).

    I visited the place recently, but only saw one of the conference rooms, from which the centre must derive most of it's income.

    The exhibition halls are packed to the rafters with motorbikes of all shapes and sizes. Unless you are a motorbike buff then this maybe not your cup of tea. If you are then this is your motorbike Graceland / Mecca / Nirvana all rolled into one. The museum suffered a major fire a few years back, but seems to have come back even stronger. A small exhibit in the entrance area explains this - along with some burnt out bikes that really show how major the restoration work was on those bikes that could not be saved from the flames.

    The entrance area must, in fact, feature about a hundred bikes. This would be a big enough collection for any museum by itself (and is FREE). But this is only the beginning - the entrance fee of seven pounds leads you onto many hundreds more.

    I must admit that I really didn't have the interest to stump up the cash - especially when the rather excellent transport museum in Coventry is just down the road.

    For those that love the smell of leather on tarmac, then this is a must.

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    St Laurence Church, Northfield

    by leffe3 Written May 21, 2009

    A Grade I listed building is indicative of the historic important of St Laurence. Of Norman origin (11th century) but it is likely that there was a church on the site long before. The church contains some of the finest Early English church work in the country (hence its listing status), with the north doorway dating from approximately 1170.

    It is located away from the busy shopping centre that is modern Northfield and originally formed, along with the pub next door (The Old Stone Inn), and the village green, the centre of the village of 'Norfeld'.

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    St Nicolas Church, King's Norton

    by leffe3 Written May 21, 2009

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    There has been a church on the site since the 11th century (it is unclear whether there was an earlier Anglo-Saxon church), although what is see today is primarily 15th century (spire), 17th century (southside) and 19th century (particularly the interior).

    Until the 1846, St Nicolas had been a chapel, part of the 'mother church' in Bromsgrove. In the early 13th century, Bromsgrove was the main local town to Norton (or North Town - a hint to the location of Norton in relation to Bromsgrove). It wasn't until 1846 that St Nicolas became a parish church.

    It's not the most glamourous of churches, but there's an enormous church graveyard, with headstones going back to the 18th century, and within its grounds is the Old Grammar School. And just outside the Lychgate is the Saracen's Head.

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    St Nicolas Place, King's Norton

    by leffe3 Written May 20, 2009

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    A couple of miles beyond Bournville is King's Norton (my home suburb). Pride of place is The Green - a large irregular triangle of shops, along with the 12th century parish Church of St Nicolas and the newly restored Saracens Head and Old Grammar School (collectively known as St Nicolas Place).

    To be found within the grounds of St Nicolas church (and among the gravestones), the school is a splendid example of a mid-fifteenth century (estimated at 1434) school, and is one of the oldest grammar schools in England. It was, from the 16th-19th century, a fully working school. It's most famous headmaster was the puritanical Thomas Hall, who, in his time, amassed a huge book collection which is now to be found in the Central Library. It stopped functioning as a school in the early 19th century, and fell into serious decay, in spite of restoration in 1910 and again in 1951. Such was the demise of the historic building (owned by the parish) that it was listed by English Heritage as a building at risk as late as 2004.

    But the conjoined effort of the Old Grammar School and Saracens Head renovation resulted in the victory in BBC2's Restoration program - a nationwide TV program where viewers vote for the 'most worthy' winner of money towards restoration.

    In addition to the Old Grammar School was the renovation of the Saracens Head, a 15th century timber-framed house facing the church itself (the most prestigious address in the village). Built by a wealthy merchant (Humphrey Rotsey), within a few years the house was extended, with a new wing built to face the village green.

    In 1643, during the Civil War, Queen Henrietta Maria (wife of Charles I) stayed overnight in the manor house, with an army of 5000 who camped behind the church. The Tudor Merchant's House was turned into an inn at the end of the 18th century (at least the newer wing facing the green was) and the first reference to the Saracen's Head Inn is recorded in 1806. The older wing facing the church became a shop and tearooms in the 1890s, with the whole building being presented to the church as a parish hall in 1930.

    Sporadically used, the Saracen's Head re-opened to the public in 2008 following the award of Heritage Lottery Funding and the spoils of victory in the BBC2 program.

    The buildings are open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, 10am-4pm (2.00gbp, 1.50 concessions). The (good) cafe is open 10am-4pm, Monday-Saturday.

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    Ikon Gallery

    by leffe3 Updated May 17, 2009

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    One of Birmingham's contemporary culture flagships, the Ikon Gallery is an internationally renowned contemporary art gallery and visual/multi media educational centre. And the development of Brindley Place has certainly brought in new audiences to this converted Victorian school.

    Ikon itself has been in existence for 40 years - it started off in a kiosk in the (old) Bull Ring, moved to a shop and more permanent residence before its current location. Always interesting, occasionally controversial, the building is stunning and the cafe is wonderful.

    Open Tuesday - Sunday, 11am - 6pm (plus Bank Holiday Mondays),
    Free entry

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    New Street

    by suvanki Updated May 15, 2009

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    Although named New Street, there is documented evidence of this modern day thoroughfare dating back to 1398, making it one of the cities oldest streets!

    During the 18th and 19th Centuries, this became one of the cities most important streets, being nick- named The Bond Street of Birmingham, due to its impressive buildings and shops.

    Today, it is a pleasant bustling street, that runs up from The Rotunda building and Bullring shopping centre to Victoria Square. Most of the street is pedestrianised, and is tree lined - this being especially attractive at night, with tiny blue lights strewn through their branches.(pic 2)
    Kiosks selling flowers and buskers performing add to the atmosphere.

    The upper end of New Street has retained many of its Victorian buildings and arcades, whilst the lower end suffered bomb damage during WW2 and one of its main buildings- King Edwards school was moved to Edgebaston, hence the more recent architecture.

    New Street hit the headlines on 21st November 1974, when 2 pubs - The Mulbury Bush - at the base of The Rotunda, and 'The Tavern in the Town' on New Street (now renamed 'The Yard of Ale' - opposite the Britannia Hotel) were targeted by the IRA during their mainland campaign. 21 lives were lost, and 182 were injured. A memorial plaque to these victims is laid in the grounds of St Philips Cathedral.

    Opposite the glass tourist information office, I wandered into Waterstone's bookshop (No 128) as I was curious to see the interior that I'd glimpsed from the street.

    This is the former grade II listed Midland Bank building, which was designed by Edward Holmes and built between 1867 and 1869 in a classical style, as the head office of the Midland Bank.

    The Midland Bank and Llloyds bank were both founded in Birmingham

    Much of the original interior detailing has been retained, along with with its galleries and domed, stained glass roof. (pic 4)
    There is also a Costa Coffee in this shop, so worth a visit.

    New Street station doesn't actually have an entrance onto the street of its name- instead access is through the Pallasades shopping centre off New Street.

    There is a £600 million scheme, to totally update the depressing New Street Station, with work due to start this year, on creating a 'Gateway' to Birmingham.

    Coming out of the station, and onto New Street, the building opposite is the former offices of the Birmingham Gazette (pic 3)They were built in the 1870's. The designer was one of Birminghams leading Victorian architects H R Yeoville Thomason. The building has been renovated and brought upto modern standards, though still retaining its original character, as have many similar properties throughout the city.

    This has been achieved by demolishing the old buildings, apart from their facades, and building an entirely new construction onto the frontage.

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