Generally considered the second largest city in the UK after London, Birmingham has undergone many transformations since it first came to prominence as a medium-sized market town in medieval times. A city that lays claim to inventing (amongst many other things) the photocopier, the ink pen, the smoke detector and the electric kettle, Birmingham, in the heart of England, is a place where visitor numbers now rise year by year; for good reason.
If you’re looking for a budget break this year, Birmingham has a lot to offer; whether you’re a culture vulture, a movie buff or someone who is partial to the great outdoors, this city has something for everyone! We’ve compiled a list of five of our favourite FREE (or nearly) things to do or see whilst you visit the land of Brum:
1Digbeth street art
An area of Birmingham formerly known mainly for its industrial past, Digbeth is now enjoying a new lease of life and nowhere is this better shown than with the incredible colours and vibrancy of its street art, which has been growing for over a decade. With stunning spray paint contributions from both local and visiting artists, the area around independent shopping and digital business area, the Custard Factory, is awash with colour and has become an attraction in its own right. Just a short (and free) stroll around the neighbourhood will give you dozens of Insta-worthy pics and a flavour of modern life and culture in this bustling area.
A Flickr group photograph of street art in Digbeth (Photo: Francesco Falciani)
2The Pen Museum
If you’re looking for something a little different to do when in Birmingham, a visit to the Pen Museum, close to the jewellery quarter, comes highly recommended by locals and visitors alike. Find out things you never expected about pens (and probably never thought you’d be interested in) at this independently run gem of an attraction. With a small entrance fee for adults (check latest prices here) and free entry for children under 16, the Pen Museum is a surprisingly entertaining visit for all the family. You get to make your own pen, try out some ancient calligraphy and learn about the history of writing and pen-making.
3The Donkey Sanctuary – Birmingham branch
For over 45 years, The Donkey Sanctuary has provided a safe haven in the UK for donkeys and mules and also works to provide donkey assisted therapy to children, as well as providing educational resources to local schools and donkey owners worldwide. The Birmingham branch of the sanctuary is based in Sutton Coldfield and it’s totally free to go and meet some of the beautiful donkeys and mules in their care, although donations to the charity are more than welcome. The perfect trip for animal lovers of all ages, you can also adopt one of the residents to support the work of the sanctuary across the UK and worldwide.
4 The Tolkien Trail
If you’re a fan of Tolkien’s books or the epic film adaptations, taking in some of the sights of the Tolkien Trail to enjoy the same surroundings that inspired Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is a must. The whole trail consists of ten locations across the region, so many people choose to visit just one or two of the picturesque areas, such as Moseley Bog and Joy’s Wood, to get a flavour of the famous ‘Shire’. This nature reserve is free to visit and has many woodland trails suitable for all the family to enjoy.
Image: Flickr, Elliot Brown
5Cannon Hill Park
Open to the public since 1873, Cannon Hill Park is a vast park, which includes 120 acres of woodland and conservation, as well as 80 acres of formal park and a number of family-friendly attractions. It’s the perfect place for a day out, especially when the sun is shining; but even if it isn’t, there is plenty to keep everyone happy. Bring your own picnic for a cheap day out in beautiful surroundings, or spend a few quid topping up a fun pass with credits, which give you access to the attractions. These include a huge mini golf course, a fun park with games, rides and activities designed for young children, the Land Train which tours the park, or choose a trip out on the lake in a swan pedal boat.
Visited Birmingham recently? What was your favourite thing to do or see during your stay? Or if you’re a Brummie, what hidden gems would you recommend to people on a budget? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter!
Note: All information correct at the time of writing in July 2017. Please check the latest attraction prices before you travel.