In the shadow of its larger and flashier neighbors, Coventry might be the city that time forgot. Once the beating heart of the English textile industry and home to some of England’s oldest cotton mills (that were once among the largest wooden structures in Europe), by the 1980s, much of this old-world charm had been lost.
Today though, Coventry is enjoying something of a renaissance as it welcomes a new generation, ready to revive its rich past and promising future. Coventry has always been at its best when it’s been able to look beyond negative perceptions. The city is home to a number of hidden gems that are definitely worth seeking out. So if you think you know everything there is to know about Coventry, think again! Here are 9 places you probably didn’t know existed in Coventry:
1. Earlsdon Conservation Area
The Earlsdon Conservation Area is a great example of how Coventry is rebuilding and preserving its rich architectural heritage. Once an industrial and commercial heartland, Earlsdon became a place to watch out for once the city’s major employers closed down. The area is now re-inventing itself as a place to live, work, eat and drink with a selection of independently owned shops, cafes, and bars. It’s here that you’ll find one of the city’s hidden treasures the Earlsdon Walled Gardens. These magical gardens were once part of the Earlsdon Manor. Now they’re a tranquil place to visit and explore.
2. Coventry Central Library
There’s nothing quite like visiting a library to get you in the mood for a day of adventure and discovery. Coventry Central Library is one of the city’s most loved and visited landmarks. It’s also one of its most historic buildings, having been designed by the famous architect Sir Basil Spence, who also designed Coventry Cathedral. The library is also known for being one of the greenest libraries in the country, with a large garden that is perfect for reading or even hosting special events. In addition to its many delights, the library is also well known as the place where the original copy of the First World War poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ was discovered.
3. Herbert Art Gallery & Museum
You might not be expecting to find an art gallery in the city’s most famous shopping district but the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum is a great place to visit, whatever your taste in art. The gallery boasts an impressive collection of Pre-Raphaelite art and hosts a range of exhibitions throughout the year, along with offering talks and workshops. The Herbert Gallery is located in a stunning Grade II listed building that was built in the late-18th century and originally served as an Anglican theological college. It was bought by the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum Trust in 1992 and has been serving the city of Coventry ever since.
4. Co-op Street: An Inspiring Street art Exhibition
Coventry’s history as the home of the world’s first co-operative movement is celebrated at Co-op Street. This pedestrianized street has been transformed into a unique exhibition that celebrates street art and the city’s rich history. A collaboration between the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum and the Co-operative Group, Co-op Street is the first public-private partnership of its kind in the UK. It’s definitely worth visiting the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum to see this exhibition, even if you don’t stay long to explore the rest of the gallery.
5. Coventry Carol Service
When was the last time you visited a carol service? If you’ve never experienced a traditional carol service, then you need to visit Coventry during December. The city’s world-famous carol service takes place at the end of every year, attracting visitors from all around the world. The service is held in the spectacular Cathedral of St. Michael and All Angels, which is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of post-war British architecture. The cathedral is home to some of the city’s most cherished memories and welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each year.
6. St. Mary’s Ruins
St. Mary’s Church Ruins is another one of Coventry’s hidden treasures. This amazing Grade I listed church was built in the 13th century and is one of the oldest surviving examples of medieval architecture in the country. It was even visited and praised by Charles Dickens during his lifetime. Unfortunately, St. Mary’s was destroyed during a German air raid in 1940, along with the rest of the city’s historic church. The ruins of the church offer an insight into the city’s past and are definitely worth visiting for anyone interested in architecture or history. St. Mary’s is a short walk from the city center and is open during daylight hours.
7. Warwick Arts Centre
If you appreciate art and culture, then you might already know about the Warwick Arts Centre. This is another one of Coventry’s hidden gems that have already made a name for itself and received many awards for its excellence. The center hosts a variety of exhibitions, talks, and workshops that are sure to please all visitors, no matter their interests or tastes. The art center is located in a wonderfully unique building that was originally built in the 1950s as a car factory. It’s now a thriving art and community venue that welcomes more than 250,000 visitors a year.
8. The Rotary Centennial Walkway
When was the last time you were walking and came across something that made you stop in your tracks? Well, if you find yourself in Coventry and you come across the Rotary Centennial Walkway, then you’ll be fortunate enough to experience this for yourself. This unique walkway is made up of themed sculptures and leads you along the River Avon. There’s also a rotating “flower walk” with a different plant on the show each month of the year. The walkway is free to visit and is open 24 hours a day, so it’s worth visiting at any time of day or night.
9. Wolseley Barracks Visitor Centre
If you’re interested in military architecture, then you’ll definitely want to visit the Wolseley Barracks Visitor Centre. This impressive building is the only surviving example of a Victorian fortress in the UK. It’s also a great example of how to re-purpose and re-invent a building. The visitor center is open all year round and is a great place to start an exploration of Coventry and its rich history. The fortress is also home to the city’s Military Heritage Centre. Here you’ll find a fascinating collection of rare and historic military artifacts, including the original machine gun that was fired at the crowd gathered outside Buckingham Palace on the day King George V was crowned.
Coventry might be the city that time forgot but it’s definitely the city that time is ready to rediscover. From its rich past to a promising future, there’s so much to discover and explore in this charming English city. From its thriving arts and culture scene to its quirky and creative architecture, there are plenty of hidden gems to discover in Coventry. Whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure, there’s no better place to visit than this charming English city.