Birmingham Bucket List
Susanna Day | 13 December 2018 |
Whether you’re a local or just passing through, you’ll find plenty to do in Birmingham.
The UK’s second-largest city is packed with shops, gardens, historic locations and vibrant culture. But how do you make the most of a big city?
Tick off these West Midlands must-sees, with the handpicked Birmingham Bucket List.
See stained glass in the city
If you’ve spent any time in town, you’ll have passed by Birmingham Cathedral.
In December, Cathedral Square is packed with festive stalls selling mulled wine and handmade gifts. In summer, it’s the one sunny green spot in the centre. But although the exterior is impressive, it’s not until you step inside that you see the true highlight for the visitor.
Renowned Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones was born right here in the city, and studied at the Birmingham School of Art. He created the grand stained glass windows for the cathedral in the late 1800s. Installed by William Morris and Co., they’re a superb example of an art form for which this city was once famous.
The cathedral is open every day. If you’d like a guided tour, they run most Mondays and Wednesdays, alongside a range of other events.
Do brunch at Kanteen
This Digbeth eatery is a treat for breakfast, brunch or lunch – plus the occasional evening pop-up. They serve up distinctive world street food with heart and soul: all locally sourced, with no additives, and a menu that focuses on nutrition and taste.
If that doesn’t sound guilt-free enough, for every Hot Box sold the kitchen will provide one meal for a vulnerable person.
Watch a classic at MAC
The Midlands Arts Centre might be tucked away in Edgbaston, but it’s worth the short trip from the centre. With two theatres, a cinema, community art and perfomance spaces and a fabulous cafe, there’s always something worth seeing.
In 2019, the MAC is offering up a season of cinema classics, newly restored into the ultra-high-quality 4K format. First up is David Lean’s sweeping epic Lawrence of Arabia. It stars Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, and some of the most breathtaking landscape photography ever committed to film.
Unsurprisingly, it won seven Oscars in 1963, and is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential films in cinema history. Expect pin-sharp visuals and a beautifully restored soundtrack in this Director’s Cut.
Take a Peaky Blinders tour
The BBC might have taken a beating locally for shifting filming to another city (Manchester? How dare they?!) – but Brummies still hold this 1920s gangster-led TV hit close to their hearts.
No surprise, when the term ‘Peaky Blinders’ was coined right here, in the Rainbow Pub. It’s just one of the highlights of the original Peaky Tours. Follow in the footsteps of the real gangsters on a 45-minute historical tour of the streets they roamed. Then retire to the The Old Crown (Birmingham’s oldest pub) for food, drink and some grisly tales.
If you’re more interested in the scenery than the grim stuff, the Black Country Living Museum was used as a key filming location during the first 3 series of the show. Even if you’re not a Peaky fan, you’ll love the live demonstrations and costumed performers who bring the museum to life.
Eat the world at Asia Asia
Birmingham’s vibrant Chinese Quarter has been filling local bellies for decades: dim sum from Chung Ying, Sichuan hotpot from Red N Hot, and Hong Kong custard tarts from Wah Kee.
For the adventurous foodie keen to explore even more variety, a trip to Asia Asia food hall is a must.
With a handy central location beside the Bullring and a rooftop bar opening next spring, Asia Asia offers a unique collection of pan-Asian flavours. Here you’ll find the Cantonese tastes familiar to Western palates, plus authentic Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Uyghur dishes. They’re all cooked fresh before your eyes in a relaxed, friendly space. Payment is via a simple card system: just top up when you arrive, then order.
Will you choose Da pan ji (chicken stew with wide hand-pulled noodles) from Afandim, Pad krapow from Phat Duck or matcha ice cream from Zoo?
Drink Turkish coffee at Damascena
If you like your coffee strong, aromatic, and served in surroundings that make you feel like you’ve travelled thousands of miles, choose Damascena. This Syrian coffee house will serve your Turkish coffee on an authentic ornate silverware, complete with a spot for a cube of Turkish Delight. For an extra treat on the side, choose from their huge range of baklava.
Their lunch and dinner menu is not to be dismissed, either. Enjoy fresh flatbreads, hummus, falafels, fattoush salad, shawarma, fuul (broad bean salads) and savoury hot stuffed fatayer (pastries).
It’s one of the most budget-friendly and delicious places to eat in the city, opposite the cathedral – or in two sister cafes in Moseley and Harborne.
Visit mini Birmingham
The real thing takes a little while to walk around!
Give your legs a rest, and take a tour of Miniland instead at the Lego Discovery Centre. Made up of over 1.5 million Lego bricks, this miniature landscape includes an amazing replica of Brum – including the University.
There’s also a 4D cinema, live rides, soft play for the little ones and some hands-on building activities. It’s a great family day out right in the city centre, opposite the National Sea Life Centre.