England’s second city has lots to offer, even if your wallet doesn’t.
From cutting edge galleries to secret parks, if you look hard enough you can even enjoy a night out on the house. They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but in Brum we beg to differ.
Here are 12 thrilling things you can do in Birmingham for free.
1. Admire art across the city
Modern art gallery Ikon offers cutting edge exhibitions in a beautifully converted old Victorian schoolhouse. If that isn’t your bag then you can go more traditional at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG), which houses one of the best Pre-Raphaelite collections in Europe. Also check out the monthly Digbeth First Friday with exhibitions and late night openings
2. Explore Birmingham’s hidden gems
#caughtgramming @emilymargo at the Pen Museum. Betcha didn't know that during the 19th century 75% of everything written in the world was with a Birmingham pen. Yep. If you're in Brum it's well worth a visit; passionate, well-informed and engaging volunteers, lots of fascinating stuff to see and you can even make your own nib using original machinery like they did back in the day 😀
If you want to continue the cultural theme them then the city’s Jewellery Quarter has some weird and wonderful options, including the Pen Museum and our favourite, the Coffin Works (and museum) – yes, really. Alternatively, you can just wander around jewellery studios and the beauteous St Paul’s Square marvelling over the Georgian architecture whilst munching on your homemade sarnies.
3. Go for the Midlands Art Centre (MAC) and Cannon Hill Park combo
As if a combination of a leading arts centre (with free exhibitions and events) and a stunning, expansive park isn’t enough, it’s now got a crazy golf course. This isn’t free but laughing at others’ failed attempts to get a hole in one is.
Cannon Hill Park, B12 9QH – macbirmingham.co.uk
4. Wander on a city centre canal walk
We won’t bore you with the old ‘did you know Brum has more canals that Venice?’ stat (oops, too late) but the canal network does offer some interesting walks. Head through leafy Edgbaston via the cafe and bar-laden Brindley Place and then towards the more urban and creative Digbeth.
5. See some stunning street art
The impressive street art in Digbeth is now extending into the city centre and beyond. The Geo Fox by Anna Garforth (on Lower Essex Street) is an all-time favourite but our current crush is Mssd Cnnctn – an urban artist with written pieces like ‘To the one who could have been everything, sorry I swiped left’.
6. Get schooled at the University of Birmingham
You don’t have to pay astronomical student fees to enjoy what the handsome red-brick campus has to offer. This leading uni hosts a programme of (often free) talks, tours, events and festivals and is also home to one of the city’s hidden gems – art gallery and concert hall, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.
University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT – birmingham.ac.uk/index
7. Marvel at the Library of Birmingham (when it’s open)
Sunrise on the Library of Birmingham. The library, designed by Mecanoo, is a key part of the city's renewal project. As one of the most visited public buildings in the UK, it seems to be a success. For those wondering why I've composed with the library partially obscured by plants, at the time, the library was still under construction. I used the plants to hide the construction barriers. #design #architecture #mecanoo #birmingham #contemporary #modern #travel #traveldeeper #uk #visitengland #england #urban
Arguably the building that has created the most debate in Brum ever – just Google anything about opening hours, council funding or architectural design perspectives and you’ll see what we mean. But love it or hate it, it’s free to wander around the impressive spaces at the modern Library of Birmingham and take in incredible city views from its landscaped balconies.
Library of Birmingham, Broad Street, B1 2ND – libraryofbirmingham.com
8. Savour a bit of sunshine in Sutton Park
Sutton Park is one of the biggest and best urban parks in Europe. Admittedly on the fringes of Brum – but well worth the trip to explore – there are over 2,000 acres of space to explore (complete with seven lakes) and the opportunity to enjoy walking, jogging, angling, orienteering, cycling, kid’s play areas and all things nature.
Sutton Park, Park Road, Sutton Coldfield, B73 6LH – birmingham.gov.uk/suttonpark
9. Listen to some top musicians of the past, present and future
Unbeknownst to many, the world-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra does some free performances, often in lunch or post-work slots. Its home venue, the Symphony Hall, also has regular free Jazzlines gigs, or why not catch up and coming performers at the Birmingham Conservatoire – did you know soul singer-songwriter Laura Mvulva is a former student?
10. Follow the Tolkien Trail
Wandering around Moseley Bog will certainly convince you that it was the inspiration behind the setting of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. And while you’re in the area, you can always try chatting up a local to gain access to the secret Moseley Park behind the high street – residents within the local area automatically get a free key.
Moseley Bog, Pensby Close, B13 9QJ
11. Share the photography love
We absolutely loved Saturday evening with @rossjukes on the #brummeetlongexposure instameet. Please do go and check out the hashtag to see more of the images from the event – there was some awesome photography skills from everyone who came along! Here are our 9 favourite shots from this Forward Photography Festival event! #igersuk #photooftheday #potd #capturinggreatbritain #visitbritain #visitbirmingham #igersoftheday #lovegreatbritain #birmingham #igersbirmingham #birminghamlife #thisisbham #birminghamuk #brum #onelifeonecity #igers #ukpotd #somecities #brummeetlongexposure #brummeetforward #capturebrum #capturingbirmingham
Love taking photographs and exploring the lesser-known aspects of Birmingham? Then join the Brum Instagrammers group, who meet regularly to capture the hidden beauty of Birmingham. Previous tours include a trip to Harborne’s derelict cinema and the Colmore business district.
12. Enjoy cracking comedy and fantastic films (for free)
One of our favourite spots for indulging in movie screenings is pub The Prince of Wales, which hosts regular free film nights where blankets are provided as standard. We also love The Mockingbird theatre and bar, which offers both free film and comedy nights. Plus, there’s a fab (and free) open mic night at The Actress and the Bishop on Wednesdays.
Like this? Try these:
Main image: Laura Smith