Feeling skint? There is still so much to explore in Birmingham’s city centre. Brum is full to the brim with history which sits side by side with its more contemporary vibes. Keep your eyes peeled for street art and ears open for free events. Here’s our pick of our favourite things to do for free in Birmingham.
Get Inspired by Birmingham’s Creative District
A shopping centre like no other, The Custard Factory is at the heart of Birmingham’s creative quarter. It is jam-packed with galleries, alternative shops and vintage fairs. One of the many designers with a working studio at the Custard Factory is Adam Hussain. He specialises in hand-made glass artworks which you can watch him make at his studio. For craft beer lovers, a visit to Clink Beer is a must. This independent bottle shop and taproom has over 200 craft beers sourced from micro-breweries around the world.
Surrounding the Custard Factory, the creativity of various artists brings the streets of Digbeth to life. Buzzfeed has compiled a list of some of the best pieces of street art around Birmingham. Wander around this area and you’ll be sure to find something new that appeals to you.
Free Events: that’s Music to Our Ears
Birmingham Symphony Hall is internationally famous and considered to be one of the best concert halls in the world for its architecture and acoustics. Symphony Hall is host to a spectrum of events, from comedy to dance, and gigs to classical concerts. The best part is that some of their events that are free. Coming up is Sax in the City, a jazz concert performed by The Notebenders Big Band, a group of Brum musicians carrying on the legacy of their legendary founder, Andy Hamilton. Meanwhile, kids and parents should get excited about Babies’ Academy of Music!, an interactive concert for babies and their families.
“Is it a bird? Is it a plane?”… er yes it is!
Are you plane mad? Get up close to planes taking off and landing at Birmingham Airport’s viewing area. This area is great for taking snaps of your favourite planes as they zoom along the runway. Sheldon Country Park, with its designated viewing area, is another popular spot for gazing up at planes flying low overhead as they come in to land. The park is home to woodlands and plenty of cycle paths. For those seeking something fluffier, there is even a farm which keeps pigs, ponies, and other animals.
If plane spotting wasn’t enough, or if the weather is too bad to sit outside, the Royal Air Force Museum is less than an hour from the city centre. The Museum displays over 70 aircraft, as well as vintage motorbikes, cars and tanks. Admission to the displays is free but a few pounds will gain you entry to the flight simulator and 4D experience.
No Need to Fly to New Zealand
New Zealand is famous for being the landscape of The Lord of the Rings films. However, author JRR Tolkien was from Birmingham and was inspired by the people and landscapes of the city and countryside. The Birmingham Tolkien Trail highlights ten significant sites that are connected to Tolkien and his books. Some of these sites charge an admission fee but others are free.
The ‘old forest’ in Tolkien’s books is based on Moseley Bog and Joy’s Wood. Now a popular nature reserve, The Wildlife Trust is always seeking volunteers to help with conservation projects. Get involved with one of their volunteer days to help with projects such as habitat management and fruit tree planting.
The final location on the tour is the Library of Birmingham which holds a variety of original material related to Tolkien. The library has free admission and is an architectural splendour in itself. It hosts a range of excellent events, activities and exhibitions. You could probably get lost in here for a week if you’re not careful!
Calling all Magpies!
Are you a sucker for something sparkly? Five hundred businesses are still located in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. The area dates back to the 18th Century and forty percent of all jewellery produced in the UK is still created here. Tours and trails focus on a particular theme and have been created to give some structure to your visit. Choose one to follow or simply wander around window shopping.
Although there is an admission fee, The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is great for those with a passion for jewellery design or history. The museum is built around a preserved jewellery workshop and includes demonstrations of historical jewellery-making techniques.
Birmingham > Venice
There are over 100 miles of canals in the Birmingham Canal Navigation system: that’s more than in Venice! Gas Street Basin is the busiest spot along the canals as it’s where the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the Birmingham Canal mainline met. As well as being an excellent spot for boat-watching, this area is now a hub for cafes, bars and some of Birmingham’s best nightlife. If you’re looking for something more peaceful, there are plenty more miles of canal to explore. Some of these go right into the heart of the Black Country and many have cycle paths running alongside them.
Take a Day Out in Cannon Park
Thinking of entering the Wimbledon Championships 2018? Start practicing at Cannon Hill Park, where you can play tennis for free. The courts are right in the centre of the 80 acre parkland, perfect for picnicking after a tough match. Cannon Park is also home to the MAC, a specialist arts complex. The MAC showcases contemporary artwork in the form of theatre, dance, cinema, music, spoken word, exhibitions, comedy, and more. The first floor often hosts free exhibitions and there are plenty of free events to attend. Coming up is an afternoon of spoken word featuring Birmingham Young Poet Laureate Nyanda Foday. We’re also excited for Playback, an exhibition featuring 200 short films made by young filmmakers from around the country.
Get Friendly with Fossils
Who needs Jurassic Park? Birmingham’s recently reopened Lapworth Museum of Geology will bring you face to face with dinosaurs. The Paleontology Collection features fossils from up to 500 million years ago right through to the Ice Age. The Mineralogy Collection contains 12,00 minerals displaying stunning colours and crystal forms. The museum also hosts public lectures such as the upcoming talk on Microfossil and Climate Change.
Go Ghost Hunting
For something a little off the beaten track, visit Birmingham’s first cemetery at Key Hill. The cemetery is listed by Historic England as one of the country’s most important historic places. Key Hill is the resting place of Alfred Bird, the inventor of egg-free custard, and is home to 19 species of bird. It is a peaceful place with beautifully preserved gardens. But don’t stay out too late – there have been some ghost sightings here!
Giggle with Fellow Goons
Laugh out loud at the Blue Orange Theatre. On the third Monday of each month there is “Toadally Free Comedy!”. Expect the unexpected with plenty of improv at these live events. They guarantee laughs or your money back…
Now that you’ve saved loads of cash, why not splash out at one of Birmingham’s best bars or restaurants? Find somewhere new with KOMPAS, the free app that helps you discover the best places to eat, drink and discover.