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Birmingham City Guide

With one of the youngest populations in Europe, Birmingham is a dynamic, creative city which is constantly evolving. As the UK’s natural meeting place, Birmingham is also a crossroads for culture and diverse cultural influences are easy to spot everywhere in the city.Birmingham boasts something for everyone – whether you’re a culture vulture, shopaholic, food enthusiast, party animal or sports fanatic, Birmingham is a destination of limitless opportunity, offering visitors an eclectic mix of things to do. With a compelling and varied arts scene, Birmingham is home to inspirational organisations and venues right across the cultural spectrum. Birmingham’s growing reputation as a foodie haven, critically acclaimed independent festivals and a year-round calendar of world-class sporting events offer a unique visitor experience.

Art Galleries in Birmingham

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is home to the largest collection of pre-Raphaelite artwork in the world, as well as collections of silver, sculpture, ceramics and ancient and social history galleries. The Gas Hall Gallery houses a constantly changing programme of exhibitions. Entrance is free except for certain exhibitions. One of Europe’s leading contemporary art galleries, Ikon is stylish, progressive and recognised for its individuality. The Ikon exhibits the best international and British art in a changing programme of exhibitions and events. Admission is free.

Birmingham’s unique Jewellery Quarter is home to Europe’s largest school of jewellery. There’s a number of galleries showcasing work including the UK’s second oldest independent art gallery; the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. St. Paul’s Gallery is also a must visit and is notable for being the world’s leading retailer of signed record covers. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts has an outstanding collection of Old Masters alongside and modern classics. You’ll see works by Rubens, Gainsborough, Rossetti, Monet, Degas and Magritte. Eastside Projects based in Digbeth is a new model for a gallery, one where space and programme are intertwined. Alongside experimental contemporary art practices and exhibitions, the gallery has featured long-term, permanent works from international artists such as Liam Gillick, Lawrence Weiner, Susan Collis and Heather & Ivan Morison.

Also in Digbeth – for those who like their art straight from the artist – there’s The Custard Factory: a vibrant, buzzing corner of Birmingham that’s home to a hive of young creative companies, galleries and fine artists. The newest development of the Custard Factory is the dazzling Zellig which provides an inspiring environment for 101 independent creative enterprises. The Art Lounge, the largest commercial gallery of contemporary art in the city centre is located in the Mailbox and in Brindleyplace you’ll find Number 9 the Gallery a must-visit for anyone interested in fine and modern arts.

Less than 20 minutes from the city centre you’ll find the gallery space at Solihull Arts Complex which exhibits a programme of exciting contemporary work by regional and national artists. The Gallery also commissions professional artists to create new works and run education activities.

Theatres in Birmingham

Half a million people agree; Birmingham’s flagship theatre is the nation’s favourite too. More seats are sold at the Birmingham Hippodrome than by any other British theatre each year including the West End. The dazzling 2,000-seat work of art regularly welcomes the cream of British musicals and the UK’s biggest, most spectacular pantos. The Birmingham Hippodrome also hosts stunning seasons from the Welsh National Opera and is the place to be enchanted by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Just down the road, The New Alexandra Theatre, is an exquisite Edwardian auditorium staging a rich mix of drama, musicals, concerts and comedy. One of the country’s favourite venues for touring companies.

Birmingham Repertory Theatre aims to provide culture and entertainment for everyone with its exciting and diverse programme. It creates entirely new plays, working with the writers, directors and actors to bring many world premieres to the stage. A registered charity, every year The REP’s programme includes something specifically for children and families, and also tours several shows that highlight Birmingham as a city of contemporary culture nationwide.

The Blue Orange Theatre is primarily a fringe-professional producing theatre and the majority of the plays performed are their own productions which include a mix of established work and new writing pieces. The theatre offers an intimate theatre with an emphasis on quality and accessibility. They also host and promote various other arts activities such as poetry, acoustic music, comedy etc. They provide drama training by offering a number of different classes including beginners, youth and performance combat. They also host local school and educational establishments who use our facilities to help educate their students in the skills of producing, directing and acting.

RoguePlay Theatre, Birmingham’s most innovative Circus Theatre Company, combines the spoken word with unsurpassable Physical Theatre and stunning Aerial Circus. Elsewhere in the city there is the charming Old Rep, The Crescent, The Drum, The Old Joint Stock Theatre, The Mixing Bowl Theatre, Stan’s Café, The Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and many others.

Solihull Arts Complex, just twenty minutes in the other direction, showcases a mix of professional touring shows and musicals in its 336-seater theatre. The gallery space there also houses a regular programme of local and regional contemporary art exhibitions.

Music in Birmingham

Symphony Hall is widely regarded as the finest concert hall in Europe and the nearby Town Hall provides a majestic location. Over at the National Indoor Arena (NIA) and sister venue the LG Arena, just ten minutes out of the city centre, a constant stream of world famous rock and pop acts take to the stage night after night. The Bramall Music Building is a purpose build music venue on the University of Birmingham Campus and at the Birmingham Hippodrome, theWelsh National Opera, countless West End Musicals and the world famous Birmingham Royal Ballet offer real choice. Together with many smaller venues that range from the O2 Academy to the Jam House to theatres staging all sorts of concerts or gigs, all kinds of music have a home in Birmingham.

Pop and Rock

Alongside the recording artists, packing thousands into our arenas, places like Scruffy Murphy’s, Hare and Hounds, the Custard Factory, MAC (Midlands Arts Centre), Island Bar, Jam House and Eddie’s Rock Club are showcasing an exciting new generation of musicians.


With its world class acoustics and stunning 2,262 seat auditorium, Symphony Hall hosts some of the great names in classical music. It is home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and offers a varied classical programme welcoming many of the finest orchestras and virtuosos performing today. Along with sister venue, the historic Town Hall, Birmingham has two outstanding venues where the classics can be truly enjoyed.


Home grown Birmingham Opera Company is not what you expect from opera. Creating and staging opera in unpredictable and unusual places close to the streets of the city, they are committed to sharing great art with great people. Welsh National Opera performs its repertoire at The Birmingham Hippodrome theatre. As the Company’s Midlands base, the theatre welcomes them three times a year in the spring, summer and autumn. WNO are Europe’s busiest touring opera company and the largest provider of touring opera in the UK.

Jazz, Folk and Blues

Many local venues and clubs support busy jazz and folk scenes. From the world class Symphony Hall to a range of local clubs, you can enjoy the many touring greats who bring their unique sounds to Birmingham. What’s more, Birmingham hosts both jazz and folk festivals in the summer months. For Rhythm and Blues fans there’s always a treat in store at The Jam House in the Jewellery Quarter. The musical director is non-other than Jools Holland and the joint is always jumping. The Yardbird Jazz Club is a must for jazz and funk fans. This bar and live music venue has made a name for itself in the city by hosting the best of local, national and international jazz, funk, soul and acoustic/folk artists around.


You simply can’t visit Birmingham without enjoying Bhangra. Beginning as an energetic form of lively folk music and dance performed at harvests in the Punjab, Bhangra now integrates folk songs and musical instruments with Western music. It is an important part of mainstream music and the UK’s arts industry and Birmingham is without doubt the hub of the UK Bhangra and home to some of the most influential bands and promoters of the music.

Canals in Birmingham

With more miles of canal than Venice, there are plenty of beautiful views, stunning modern developments like the Cube and restored industrial heritage buildings to enjoy during a peaceful boat journey in Birmingham.

Sherborne Wharf

From Sherborne Wharf your tour will take you from the International Convention Centre (ICC) mooring, through the Oozells Street and Icknield Port loops, past the National Indoor Arena, National SEA LIFE Centre and Brindleyplace to Gas Street Basin and back to the ICC. The tour shows visitors both the heritage of the canal system as well as the new developments alongside them. The trip has a commentary and lasts approximately one hour.


Away2Canal offer both a one hour trip called the “Country in the City” cruise as well as shorter half-hour city centre cruises, depending on the time of year. The longer cruise takes visitors through the Gas Street Basin and along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. The canal passes through the picturesque suburb of Edgbaston, home to the University of Birmingham. The half-hour cruise takes visitors through the city centre between the Mailbox and National Indoor Arena. All trips have commentaries.

Dudley Canal Trust

Don’t miss the Canal Trust in Dudley for a memorable tour of the waterways. At the Canal Trust you can experience over 420 million years of history in 45 minutes on a canal trip into Dudley’s limestone caverns. Marvel at the impressive limestone caverns carved by men to access raw material to power the industrial revolution.

And you can actually run, cycle or walk from Birmingham to the Black Country along the canals, starting from Gas Street in the centre of the city and on to Dudley and Wolverhampton though Galton Valley.

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