Birmingham has plenty of hidden gems and lesser-known attractions to explore, giving you a different take on this exciting city. The vibrant city of Birmingham is one of the United Kingdom’s most popular travel destinations. It has a range of famous and fascinating landmarks and attractions, such as Cadbury World, the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Library of Birmingham, all of which delight visitors and keep people coming back for more. 

    If you’re looking for some unique experiences and activities in Birmingham, you’re in luck. Take a look at 10 things to do in Birmingham off the beaten track to see what else this city has in store.

    1

    The Pen Museum

    75 percent of the world’s pens were manufactured in Birmingham

    • Families
    • Unusual

    The Pen Museum is a fascinating museum that chronicles the legacy of Birmingham’s 19th-century pen trade and its significance to literacy throughout the world. Housed within a former pen factory from 1863, the museum holds a collection of over 5,000 objects related to the pen trade in the city, including pens with reeds, feather quills and steel nibs. 

    The museum’s exhibits also use historic trails, videos and interactive displays to narrate the history and personal tales of the entrepreneurs, manufacturers and workers who helped Birmingham’s pen trade skyrocket. Some other highlights include factory presses for pen manufacturing, Braille machines and historic typewriters. Before you leave, be sure to visit the gift shop for writing-related souvenirs and gifts.

    Location: Unit 3, The Argent Centre, 60 Frederick St, Birmingham B1 3HS, United Kingdom

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm.

    Phone: +44 (0)121 236 9834

    Map

    photo by Oosoom (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    2

    Sarehole Mill Museum

    Inspiration for 'Lord of the Rings' author J.R.R. Tolkien

    • History
    • Unusual

    Built in 1765, the Sarehole Mill is a historic water mill and a museum that’s best known as the childhood haunt of J.R.R. Tolkien and the inspiration for Hobbiton in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s believed that Tolkien used the Sarehole Mill as the model for The Shire, the home of Bilbo Baggins, and the ‘great mill’ in The Hobbit. 

    In fact, the grounds nearby host an annual Tolkien Weekend celebrating the author. In addition to the connection to Tolkien, the mill has a strong history in the area and features 2 waterwheels. An on-site tea room offers coffee, tea, cakes and other desserts.

    Location: Cole Bank Rd, Birmingham B13 0BD, United Kingdom

    Open: Wednesday–Thursday from 11 am to 4 pm (closed Friday–Tuesday)

    Phone: +44 (0)121 348 8160

    Map

    photo by Oosoom (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    3

    Birmingham Back to Backs

    Birmingham’s last remaining back-to-back houses

    • History
    • Unusual

    Take a trip back in time to the immaculately restored 19th-century courtyard of working people’s homes with the Birmingham Back to Backs. The court is the last remaining example of back-to-back houses, which were a common type of housing in the 19th century. 

    Now, the houses are preserved as a historic house museum by the National Trust. The houses have been restored, but there are several aspects of the original homes remaining, such as a narrow tunnel entry, original staircases, a large bay window and a single chimney. You can see the houses with a guided tour, which features each house decorated and furnished in the style of the 1840s, 1870s, 1930s and 1970s.

    Location: 50-54, 55-63 Inge St, Hurst St, Birmingham B5 4TE, United Kingdom

    Open: Friday–Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm. Tuesday–Thursday from 1 pm to 3 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +44 (0)121 666 7671

    Map

    photo by Tony Hisgett (CC BY 2.0) modified

    4

    Peaky Blinders Tour

    Explore the world of Thomas Shelby on this unique tour of the city

    • Families
    • History
    • Unusual

    In the 1800s and 1900s, Birmingham was plagued with organised crime and street gangs that ruled with an iron fist. If you want to explore the mayhem and intrigue of Birmingham’s dark history, the Peaky Blinders Tour is the best option. 

    The tour is conducted by expert guides under the guidance of Professor Carl Chinn MBE, beginning at The Old Crowd and travelling through the real haunts and racecourses of the city’s real Peaky Blinder gangs. After the tour, you can relax with a drink and dinner at The Old Crown while the guide regales you with the bloody tales of the gang wars in the city.

    Location: 188 High St, Deritend, Birmingham B12 0LD, United Kingdom

    Open: Tours start at 7 pm

    Map

    photo by metrogogo (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    5

    The Diskery Birmingham

    One of the UK’s oldest record shops, having opened in 1952

    • Shoppers
    • History

    As one of the United Kingdom’s longest-standing record shops and a Birmingham institution, The Diskery is a must-visit on your trip. The legendary record shop is located in the centre of the city and has been in operation for 67 years, only changing owners and locations 1 time in all those decades. When it first opened, the shop held a vast collection of jazz, a passion of the shop’s owner, but it’s now home to a variety of musical genres. Throughout the years, the record shop has seen the start of modern jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, calypso, ska and many other musical movements and trends, acting as a time capsule for the cultural influences of the city. Be sure to stop in to peruse the collection and pick up a rare souvenir of this time-honoured business.

    Location: 99 Bromsgrove St, Birmingham B5 6QB, United Kingdom

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 9.30 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)121 622 2219

    Map

    photo by Elliott Brown (CC BY 2.0) modified

    6

    Jewellery Quarter

    Head to the old Jewellery Quarter for bespoke bling

    • Shoppers
    • Luxury

    Located in central Birmingham, the Jewellery Quarter is home to a massive concentration of jewellery businesses. The city has been central to the jewellery trade in England for centuries, with big factories in the quarter producing large numbers of gold seals, watch chains, brooches, silver buckles and combs. Though the industry experienced a decline in the mid-20th century, the area is recognised as a heritage site and a hub of creative businesses. 

    The quarter is home to around 700 jewellery-related businesses selling all manner of unique gifts and novelties, as well as art galleries and restaurants. You'll find a lot to see and do in the quarter, such as the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, which chronicles the history of the trade, and a branch of the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

    Map

    photo by Brian Clift (CC BY 2.0) modified

    7

    Coffin Works

    Coffins for famous people like Churchill!

    • History
    • Unusual

    Located at the edge of the Jewellery Quarter, Coffin Works is a heritage attraction that chronicles the history of Newman Brothers, the city’s last coffin-furniture factory in the city. The factory operated for over a century and closed in 1998, when all the workers stopped abruptly and walked out, leaving all their belongings behind. 

    The factory is not only a vital part of the city’s industrial legacy, but it’s also an odd and unique story. With a guided tour of the museum, you can learn about the history of Newman Brothers, including stories about the workers, trade and famous clients, including Winston Churchill. You’ll also see a collection of artefacts on the tour, such as trade catalogues, coffin furniture and shrouds.

    Location: 13-15 Fleet St, Birmingham B3 1JP, United Kingdom

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from 10.45 am 3.15 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)121 233 4790

    Map

    photo by Erebus555 (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    8

    Custard Factory

    Birmingham’s creative quarter where artists and designers hang out

    • Couples
    • Shoppers

    Spanning 6 hectares in the restored Victorian Factories near the Bullring, the Custard Factory is a bustling creative and digital hub with independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. For years, the district has had its finger on the pulse of what’s hot in the city, from dessert innovations to the digital revolution. Over the years, many notable businesses had shops in the district, including North One Television, Punch Records, the Gadget Show, ASOS.com. Codemasters, Powershop and Rhubarb Radio. In addition to the diverse shopping, the Custard Factory also has unique sculptures and artwork, such as the Green Man sculpture of stone and greenery, and dance music events featuring prominent musicians, DJs and rappers.

    Location: Gibb St, Deritend, Birmingham B9 4AA, United Kingdom

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm

    Map

    photo by Tony Hisgett (CC BY 2.0) modified

    9

    Birmingham’s Hidden Spaces

    Uncover Birmingham’s heritage with a series of events and campaigns

    • History

    Hosted by Association Architects, Birmingham Post and the Royal Institute of British Architects, Birmingham’s Hidden Spaces is an ambitious project that’s designed to reveal the secrets behind the city’s most iconic architecture. Using a collection of videos, photography and articles, Hidden Spaces showcases the city’s rich architectural heritage and history. Hidden Spaces hosts plenty of events as well, such as drawing workshops, torchlit tours, lectures, historic pubs tours, Tolkien-themed tours and more. If you want to get in touch with the history, culture and art of Birmingham, Hidden Spaces illuminates some of the city’s most important sites, such as Big Brum, Perrott’s Folly, Assay Office, Ravenhurst Cottages, the Curzon Street Station and Anchor Exchange.

    10

    Balti Triangle

    Home to what’s internationally recognised as Birmingham’s native curry

    • Shoppers
    • Food

    No visit to Birmingham is complete without a trip to the Balti Triangle to sample the aromatic flavours of the area’s unique restaurants. The Balti Triangle is an area of Balti houses near the city centre that’s rumoured to be the birthplace of Balti curry, a type of lamb meat or goat meat curry served in a pressed-steel wok known as a Balti bowl. 

    Throughout the Balti Triangle, you’ll find everything from high-end, award-winning restaurants to authentic eateries, giving you plenty of options for how to try this Birmingham staple for a memorable experience on your trip.

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