There is no place quite like the city of Birmingham. With so many hidden gems and unexpected surprises, the city has so much to offer to those who explore its winding backstreets, hidden alleyways, and diverse neighborhoods. When visiting Birmingham, you may expect to find a rather industrial city with an abundance of old red brick factories, warehouses, mills, and chimney stacks.
And while this is certainly true in some parts of the city, there are so many other things waiting to be discovered by those that look closer. The beauty of Birmingham lies in its contrasts; a juxtaposition of new vs old, dark vs light, high vs low, and artificial vs natural. To discover these hidden gems you need to look no further than the 8 places listed below. These are must-visit locations for anyone who wants to take their experience of Birmingham beyond the usual tourist traps found in most cities.
There’s more to the canal than just a place for runners
Although the canal is now best known as a popular place for runners, walkers, and cyclists, it originally was built to transport heavy goods such as coal, limestone, iron, and other raw materials that were needed for industry. The Birmingham Canal Navigations system is one of the few navigable canals in the UK and offers a great way to explore the city by boat. If you’re looking at the canal on a map, you’ll notice there are a number of canals and aqueducts.
While the canals themselves are great to walk or cycle along, the aqueducts are often overlooked. The engineering that went into the building of the aqueducts is remarkable. The Dudley No. 1 aqueduct is one of the most famous in the UK as it is the world’s first iron aqueduct. The canal is also home to the Gas Street Basin, the only canal basin in the world to be powered by a coal-fired engine. The basin sits beside the soon-to-be-redeveloped New Street Station and is currently boarded up and awaiting redevelopment.
1. Brummies love their parks
Birmingham has over 60 parks and open spaces, with many being just a short walk from the city center. Some of the most popular include Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston Reservoir Park, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Priory Park, and Walsall Arboretum. Many of these parks have been awarded Green Flag Status for excellence in park management. The Green Flag Award Scheme is the world’s largest environmental assessment program and is used as an indicator of quality in parks and green spaces across the UK. All parks have something to offer, but Cannon Hill Park is definitely a hidden gem. This beautiful park contains a large lake stocked with fish, a boating lake, and a miniature railway that runs throughout the year. There is also a large children’s playground and an excellent modern art gallery. Cannon Hill is also home to a miniature steam railway that runs throughout the year.
2. Visit the Rotunda
The Rotunda is an architectural masterpiece that has been an integral part of Birmingham’s skyline for over 180 years. The Grade II listed building is situated in the heart of the city, just a short walk from the Bullring and is definitely worth a visit. The building was designed by James and Philip Charlesworth and was once the centerpiece of Birmingham’s many public gardens. Visitors can enjoy the architectural splendor of this Grade II listed building and learn about the history of Birmingham’s achievements and regeneration as well as see exhibitions on a wide range of topics relating to the city.
3. St Paul’s is a hidden gem
St. Paul’s Church is considered one of the most important and iconic buildings in the city. It is one of the few high-church gothic structures built in the city and is a grade II* listed building. Built-in the late 19th century, the building cost £12,000 and took a team of 40 men just six years to complete. Over the years, the church has been visited by the likes of Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Charles Chaplin. The church hosts a variety of events and activities throughout the year, including concerts, readings, and talks.
4. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is world-class
The Museum and Art Gallery is a world-class collection of art and artifacts, including works by Turner, Constable, and Gainsborough. The museum also has a large collection of archaeological and natural history specimens, including a dinosaur skeleton and an Egyptian mummy. While the main museum building is currently closed for renovation, the new Visitor Experience will be open later this year. There is also a satellite gallery in the Thinktank science museum that is open as normal. The museum is home to the famous Griffin of Edward II, the only surviving example of an architectural sculpture made in medieval times. This Griffin is more than 700 years old and was carved from a single block of stone.
5. Digb Music Festival brings life to the city
Birmingham is known as the home of Rag ‘N’ Roll and hosts one of the biggest celebrations of this culture: The Birmingham International Rag’n’Jazz Festival. This event spans the entire month of October and features some of the biggest stars in the Rag’n’Roll scene. The event culminates in a single-day festival featuring bands and dancers from around the world, with tens of thousands of people attending. The city is transformed by this event with the atmosphere in the city being truly electric. This festival is only one of the many examples of how the city is made magical by its culture.
6. Visit Bunningham Street Mosque
The Birmingham Central Mosque is the largest mosque in Europe and one of the five largest in the world. The mosque was designed by the British architect Sir Frederick Gibberd, who also designed Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral and the Sydney Opera House. The mosque is open to all faiths and welcomes more than 100,000 visitors every year. Visitors can experience the building’s architecture, learn about Islamic culture and the history of the mosque and try some delicious traditional food. The mosque is conveniently located in the city center and is easily accessible by car or public transport.
8. Birmingham will soon have a super-fast Hyperloop track, so bookmark this article
The city of Birmingham is currently designing a new transportation system called the Birmingham Hyperloop. It will be the first-ever passenger-ready Hyperloop track in the UK. The track will be approximately 3 kilometers long, linking the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Airport. The idea is to build a track with a low-friction surface that allows pods to travel at high speeds in a near-vacuum environment, moving passengers from Birmingham to London in just 15 minutes. Construction is due to begin in 2019, with the Hyperloop scheduled to be operational in 2021.