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Free Things to Do in Birmingham

Thursday 16 May 2024

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Getting out and about to see all the wonderful towns and cities the UK has to offer doesn't have to be pricey. Britain can be discovered on a budget and we want to show you how.

Alongside Birmingham’s picturesque canals, cultural attractions, fascinating museums, and inspiring 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. There are plenty of fantastic things to do in Birmingham for free.

Read on to discover free things to do in Birmingham, as well as cheap eats and places to stay.
Best of all, you can take a whole variety of CrossCountry trains directly to Birmingham New Street train station from all over the UK. Explore routes here. In order to save more money, why not book your tickets in advance and check out our cheap tickets page?

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Housed inside a stunning Grade II listed building dating back to 1885, entry to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 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. The museum is currently partially closed for refurbishment, but you can visit for special exhibitions until the museum is back to being open in full.

Where: Birmingham city centre

When: Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm

The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a large regal building with a statue outside and is one of the best free things to do in Birmingham.

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.

Where: Around the city centre

When: Any time

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.

Where: Along the canals, through the city centre

When: Any time

Walking along the canals is a great free thing to do in Birmingham.

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.

Where: Lickey Hills, South West of the city

When: 7:30-21:45 daily

A main sitting on a bench in the Lickey Hills Country Park admiring the view from Beacon Hill.

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.

Where: Edgbaston

When: Changes seasonally - check opening times ahead of your visit

Pink flowers bloom in Birmingham’s Botanic Garden, a great free activity in Birmingham.

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.

Where: Birmingham City University, city centre

When: 10am-5pm daily

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 you fall in love too much to say goodbye.

Where: Sutton Park

When: Select weekend afternoons

Visiting the Donkey Sanctuary in Birmingham is a great free thing to do in Birmingham.

The 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.

Where: Centenary Square

When: 11am-5pm Weds-Sat, 11am-7pm Mon-Tues. Closed Sundays

Birmingham Library is a great free thing to do in Birmingham.

Affordable Places to Eat 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.

  • The Spice Merchant – You can’t visit Birmingham and not tuck into an Indian meal. The Spice Merchant’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 sit down after a long take of exploring and feel rejuvenated by spice.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Affordable 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.

  • 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.

If you’re planning a budget trip to Birmingham, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or the CrossCountry app. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

Written by Julia

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