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15 things you’ve probably never done in Birmingham but really should

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We all know we have more canals than Venice and more green spaces than any other European city, but do we really appreciate Birmingham enough?

Living in a city, we often overlook what’s on our doorstep and forget about some of the things that a tourist would do.

Have you ever visited the Hoard exhibition, grabbed a dirty burger at Digbeth Dining Club or watched a film at the UK’s oldest cinema?

Maybe you have forgotten about some of the city’s gems, because we’re not that good about shouting about ourselves.

So here are some things you probably haven’t done in Birmingham but really should.

1. Take a picnic to the Library of Birmingham Garden

The view from the Library of Birmingham

Your sarnies and pork pies will taste even better with this pretty amazing view.

The outlook from Birmingham Library figured highly in the UK’s Window With A View competition.

So buy a picnic and take it up to one of two outside terraces, on the third and seventh floors. The higher one is called The Secret Garden, a lovely bit of greenery in the heart of the city.

2. Then head to the Shakespeare Room

The Shakespeare Memorial Room at the Library of Birmingham.
The Shakespeare Memorial Room

After your picnic, make sure you visit a part of the library often overlooked – the Shakespeare Memorial Room right at the top. Created in 1882, it has been rebuilt and re-sited several times but survives with its beautiful carved woodwork and stencilled ceiling.

3. Walk across Lovers’ Bridge – and leave a padlock

A visitor to Lovers' Bridge in Birmingham takes a picture of the padlocks

You can leave your mark on Birmingham and declare your love for that special someone on Lovers’ Bridge.

The bridge behind The Cube has more than 1,200 padlocks. It’s based on the Love Lock Bridge in Paris at Pont des Arts, where couples attached a padlock marked with their names or initials and then threw the key into the River Seine.

That attracted more than a million locks and part of the railings collapsed under the weight. That shouldn’t trouble the Birmingham version.

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Things to do in Birmingham

4. See the Staffordshire Hoard

We all got very excited about the hoard when it was first discovered in 2009 and when it first went on display in Birmingham – in fact we queued up to see it.

The Staffordshire Hoard at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Now the fuss has long died down but many of the treasures are still on display at a new gallery at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and now you don’t have to queue to see them or pay any money.

It is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found, with more than 3,500 items from the seventh and eighth centuries including swords, helmets and jewellery with exquisite craftmanship. It’s amazing to try to imagine who wore them, and how they have lain undiscovered in a field near Lichfield for 1,400 years.

5. Take the Big Brum Buz Tour

All aboard The Big Brum Buz on Colmore Row
(Image: Graham Young)

How much do you really know about the history of Birmingham? Even if you’ve lived here all your life, you’re bound to learn something if you take the Big Brum Buz Tour.

The normal weekend sightseeing tour, which starts in Waterloo Street and takes you around the city centre and out to Edgbaston, runs from April until September.

It’s a great way to get the best views of Brum on the open air top deck. Tickets cost £13, £5 for children and under fives go free.

There are special tours which run through the winter, like the Ghost Bus and Christmas Lights tours.

If there’s a lot of you, you can hire the bus all year round for a special sightseeing party.

6. Eat in one of Brum’s hidden gems

The city has loads of great eating opportunities, some of which are much more obvious than others.

So why not try seeking out these restaurants – they’re not exactly hidden, but they are harder to find than most, which means you can feel like you’ve stumbled across a secret treasure when you eat there.

Zurek w chlebku (rye soup with smoked sausage, potato and boiled egg) at Digbeth's Karczma Polish restaurant
Zurek w chlebku (rye soup with smoked sausage, potato and boiled egg) at Digbeth’s Karczma Polish restaurant

Food critic Jay Rayner raves about Polish…


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