Britain can be discovered on a budget and we want to show you how. We’ve already divulged the best free things to do in Manchester and now we head to buzzing Birmingham.
Alongside Birmingham’s picturesque canals, cultural attractions, fascinating museums and galleries is an explosion of cutting-edge restaurants, secret bars and popular nights out. But what if you’re on a budget? The city attracts millions of tourists every year and we’re here to tell you how to get the best out of Birmingham without breaking the bank. With free museums, historical trails and plenty of green places, the UK’s second city is great for anyone on a tight budget.
Read on to discover free things to do in Birmingham, as well as cheap eats and places to stay. Travel sustainably by train and take advantage of great prices when you book an Advance Ticket with CrossCountry.
Free things to do in Birmingham
- Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery - Housed inside a stunning Grade II listed building dating back to 1885, entry to this popular museum in the city centre is completely free. You’ll find regularly changing exhibitions, a kid’s activity room and a Victorian tearoom for when you need a break.
- Walk the Tolkien Trail - Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit author, J.R.R. Tolkien, grew up in Birmingham and many of his most popular books were inspired by areas he played in as a boy. Mosely Bog is regularly visited by fans wandering down the official Tolkien Trail. Diehard fans will want to visit in May when Sarehole Mill hosts the Middle Earth Festival.
- Explore the Canals - Did you know that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice? The heart of Birmingham’s canal network winds around restaurants, pubs and shopping outlets and welcomes hundreds of boats and barges daily. Enjoy the pretty scenery along the canal and pop into one of the 19th century pubs along the way.
- Admire the views from the Lickey Hills- Lickey Hills Country Park is one of Birmingham’s most treasured parks and offers one of the best views in the city from Beacon Hill. There are several marked walking trails to explore, including the sculpture trail and geology walking route. Wildlife fans might be able to spot grass snakes, lizards, rabbits and squirrels.
- Botanic Gardens - Birmingham’s Botanic Gardens cover 15 acres, and are full of blooming plants, trails and glasshouses. The Tropical House has a lily pool and lush vegetation. Palms, tree ferns and orchids are on display in the Sub-tropical House. Other highlights include the Rose Garden, Herb and Cottage Gardens, the Museum and children’s adventure playground.
- Thinktank Science Garden - The first of its kind in the UK and one of only a few such gardens worldwide, Birmingham’s Thinktank Science Garden is fun for all, and completely free to enter. It houses various machines and devices which are great to explore – have a go on the human hamster wheel and the giant weighing station, or admire the mechanical theatre powered by turbine or solar panel.
- The Donkey Sanctuary - As well as offering donkey-assisted therapy to children with additional needs, Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary is open to the general public - and admission is free. Get up close and personal with the donkeys and, if you’re lucky, you may be able to give them a scratch. You can even adopt a donkey, if visiting for the day just wasn’t enough.
- Library of Birmingham - The Library of Birmingham has a lot more on offer than just books. A visually appealing building inside and out, explore its ten floors of free fun. The Shakespeare memorial room is a particular favourite. Enjoy photography exhibitions, performances, craft workshops, poetry readings and other activities. In the summer, grab a coffee from one of the library’s cafés and head up to the popular seventh-floor secret garden terrace for panoramic views of the city.
Cheap Eats in Birmingham
You don’t have to spend a small fortune to eat well in Birmingham. In fact, some of our favourite spots are the city’s cheapest eats.
- Al Frash – You can’t visit Birmingham and not take a trip to the Balti Triangle. Al Frash’s fluffy naans are the perfect vessel for scooping up every single smear of sauce from your plate. This is a quality curry house where you can bring you own beer and eat like a king, all for a decent price.
- The Rose Villa Tavern - If you're looking to dine at one of the best pubs in Birmingham at a bargain price, head down to the Rose Villa Tavern. Perfect for a relaxed night, get yourself an inexpensive kilo of wings and, if you’re there on a Monday, make sure you join in on the pub quiz.
- Lucky Duck – Birmingham’s first bao bun restaurant, Lucky Duck serves tasty bao buns stuffed with a range of options, including sticky pork belly, aubergine, and crispy cod cheek. The sustainable restaurant also rewards customers for bringing their own Tupperware for takeaway, and you can BYOB for a small corkage charge.
- Ashiana – This is the home of Birmingham’s finest Persian food. Enjoy meze-style dips, kebabs and oven-fresh flatbreads, which are all homemade and delicious. The selection of starters means you have to be mindful of keeping space for mains, but the wafts from the kitchen and price will tempt you to order everything off the menu.
- Digbeth Dining Club at Spotlight – Open Thursday – Sunday, Digbeth Dining Club attracts the most popular street food vendors from across the country. From wings, dim sum and pizza, to waffles, crépes and cheesecake, you’ll find food from all over the world at a reasonable price, right in the middle of Birmingham.
Cheap places to stay in Birmingham
To complete your budget trip to Brum, you’ll need somewhere reasonably priced to rest your head. Pick from these budget options.
- Hatters Hostel – For those on a truly tight budget, Hatters Hostel located in the city’s bustling Jewellery Quarter is a great choice. Shared dorms are a popular low-priced choice but there are also private rooms and smaller shared rooms available. It’s a short walk or tram ride to the city centre and is surrounded by bars, restaurants and cafés.
- Bloc Hotel – For that upmarket hotel experience without the three-figure price tag, book your stay at the Bloc. Another budget hotel in the Jewellery Quarter, it’s just a stone’s throw away from the leafy St. Paul’s Square.
- Hotel Ibis Budget – Perfect for city centre exploring, Birmingham’s branch of Ibis Budget is ideally situated a short stroll from the city’s main attractions. The rooms are basic and clean – just what you need when you are spending most of your time out in the city.
- The Old Crown – One of city’s oldest pubs doubles up as one of the cheapest places to stay in Birmingham. Dating back to approximately 1368, this historic hotel offers room for around £30 a night and you won’t need to go far for a night cap.
There’s loads of free things to do in Birmingham, showing you can really explore Britain on a budget. Whenever you decide to visit, remember to buy an Advance ticket to Birmingham via our Train Tickets app.