Attractions & Things To Do In Birmingham
Ideally located, The Burlington makes the perfect base for getting out and about in the city and you’ll be amazed by how much Birmingham has to offer.
With world-class museums and galleries to explore, thriving theatres and concert venues to enjoy, an endless flow of heritage stories to discover, plus fabulous shopping options and a buoyant restaurant scene with cuisine from all over the globe to tempt you - including the area’s very own Balti Triangle – you’ll never be short of something to see and do.
The beauty of being so centrally located at the Burlington is your proximity to so many of the city’s historic areas and landmarks. A walking tour is a great way to get an overview and Positively Birmingham offers a selection of tours which include the canals and Victorians, the striking Birmingham University campus and its surrounds, the Jewellery Quarter and more. For a quirkier take on the city, try Birmingham Heritage Walking Tours with subjects including art deco, the catacombs and the secret history of Birmingham’s streets.
Alternatively, head out on your own with a map and in five minutes, you’ll be in one of the most exciting and developing areas of the city, beginning outside the Town Hall in Victoria Square which adjoins Chamberlain Square, home of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Both buildings are Grade 11 listed.
Head through ‘Paradise` to Centenary Square, where you’ll find the Repertory Theatre and the world-renowned Symphony Hall. Contemporary art fans can drop into the free Ikon Gallery nearby and those with culture on their agenda should make time to visit the fabulous Barber Institute of Fine Arts, situated within the University of Birmingham Campus. Described as one of the finest small art galleries in Europe and also home to a lovely concert hall, it’s just 20 minutes’ drive from the hotel.
On the other side of Centenary Square you’ll find the National SEA LIFE Centre, which makes a fantastic family outing, especially on a dull day when the array of stunning exhibits and activities will brighten things up no end. Check out the UK’s only 360 degrees sea tunnel; choose your favourite aquarium zone from Penguin Ice Adventures, Jelly Invaders, Mammal Rescue and more; and view sea otters, turtles, clownfish and sharks in action. Open seven days a week, you can book your tickets and timeslot in advance.
In & Around Birmingham
If your focus is keeping the kids entertained and you’re planning to visit Legoland Discovery Centre (Birmingham’s indoor Lego playground) – or the sensational Warwick Castle (under an hour by car and a wonderful day out for adults too), you can purchase a multi-attraction ticket.
It is said that Birmingham has more canals than Venice and although there’s more Brummie grit than Italian glamour around the network of atmospheric towpaths surrounding Gas Street Basin, they’re well worth exploring. Converted warehouses, renovated cottages and traditional long boats moored alongside old pubs enjoying a new lease of life make a colourful backdrop to what is now a hub for leisure and entertainment. It’s a great place for a pit-stop.
The elegant Birmingham Cathedral (the church of St Philip) is a five-minute walk from the hotel, up Temple Street and into the beautiful Cathedral Square. It’s both tranquil and lively, with lovely gardens framing the cathedral and the surrounding streets full of offices, bars and restaurants creating their own buzz.
The Bullring Shopping Centre, opened to great fanfare in 2003, needs no introduction, but the site has been used by retailers hundreds of years, beginning with the first market traders back in the 12th century. When in a man called John Cooper was given the right to bait bulls at a site opposite St Martins Church in the 16th century, the area became known as the Bull Ring. By the 19th century, the narrow streets congested with traders and stalls and been cleared and a spacious Market Hall with room for 600 units was erected. Damaged and rendered roofless by bombing during World War 11, a new escalator-lined, air-conditioned Bull Ring shopping centre was opened in 1964 – the biggest indoor shopping mall outside the USA.
Today’s Bullring stands against a dramatic skyline featuring St Martin’s Church – the original parish church of Birmingham, which was built in 1873, replacing its 13th century predecessor – and the nearby Rotunda, a symbol of Birmingham city centre redevelopment in the 1960s and now Grade 11 listed.
For those firmly set on a day of retail therapy, the Bullring Shopping Centre - one of the country’s largest contemporary shopping malls - is less than 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel which means your shopping-laden journey back to the hotel will be short and sweet.
The Custard Factory
For a very different shopping experience, make sure you fit in a trip to Custard Factory. From St Martin’s Church it’s a 10-minute walk to the cluster of converted factory buildings, now covered in artwork and fairy lights but originally built and busy between 1849 and 1922 – a time when mass factory production was beginning to take off in England.
These days, the Custard Factory is a creative hub and home to many independent shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, the Hummingbird Cinema and regular flea markets. And the name? This is where the eternally popular Birds Instant Custard, was first produced.
The Jewellery Quarter
Whether you’re lured by the opportunity to make a shiny purchase or attracted by the history of the area, a trip to the Jewellery Quarter is a must. Walk there in around 25 minutes from the hotel or take a tram or bus and you’ll be there in 15.
Gold and silversmiths have been working in this area since the late 1700’s onwards and the industry reached its peak in the early 1900’s, with the quality of jewellery exceptionally high and stamped with its own hallmark. For most of its former lifetime, the Jewellery Quarter was a closed community of wholesalers until the economic downturn of the 1970’s led manufacturers to open their doors and sell directly to consumers. More recently, the creative industries and independent businesses have moved into the area, establishing a vibrant new community alongside modern-day jewellery makers. The Jewellery Quarter is still said to house the highest concentration of dedicated jewellers in Europe.
You can explore the Jewellery Quarter by following its heritage trail or joining a walking tour, but it’s also a great place to spend an afternoon pottering, with galleries, exhibitions and activities to check out and the highly rated Museum of the Jewellery Quarter offering more in-depth background to this unique area. You’ll also find the Pen Museum here, testament to the fact that the city was the centre of the world’s dip pen trade in the 19th century, with steel nib making continuing to thrive in Birmingham until the mid-20th century.
If you want a different historical perspective, it’s just an 8 minute walk from the hotel to the Birmingham Back to Backs – the only surviving back-to-back houses in the city. Managed by the National Trust, they give an intriguing insight into working-class life in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with a shared washhouse and toilets a feature of the shared courtyard.
Cadbury World is situated in Bourneville village, the location chosen by George and Richard Cadbury for their family cocoa and chocolate factory when the Birmingham-based business needed to expand and relocate from the centre. The rural area - well served by the canals and railway required for production and transport - was named Bournville after the River Bourn. The factory treated its loyal workers with respect, offering relatively high wages and good working conditions. In 1893, George Cadbury bought 120 acres of land close to the works and planned, at his own expense, a model village, whose designs became a blueprint for many other model village estates around Britain.
The iconic, purple-wrapped Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate is still made in Bournville.
A visit to Cadbury World is a chocoholic’s dream come true and you can reach it by car or train in around 30 minutes. Once there, simply immerse yourself in the history, production, sights, sounds and of course, the taste, of the world-famous chocolate. There’s a lot of interactive fun to be had, whether you head for the Aztec jungle to discover the history of the cocoa bean or try your hand at piping chocolate, and there’s also a trail that takes in the wider Bournville village. With so much to see and all-important chocolate pit-stops to plan, booking in advance is essential.
Black Country Living Museum
Avid viewers of ‘Peaky Blinders` will love the history of Birmingham and the chance to glimpse areas of the city and surrounding areas that evoke the gritty landscape of the Shelby brothers’ drama. The award-winning Black Country Living Museum was actually used as a set for some scenes in the TV series but better than that, most of the buildings you see there were relocated from their original sites in the area known as the Black Country – carefully reconstructed shops, houses and industrial areas that represent its story, with characters re-enacting 300 years of history, focusing on 1850–1950.
It's a fascinating visual and sensory experience which encapsulates the steamy, noisy, revolutionary period of the Industrial Revolution and beyond and at just 35 minutes by car from the hotel, it makes a fantastic day trip for the whole family.
In complete contrast, a drive to the ethereally lovely Malvern Hills officially takes you into an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, well worth the journey of just over an hour. If you're looking for exhilarating climbs with fantastic views or a gentle stroll through pretty meadows, the Malvern Hills and Commons have all options on offer.
Once you’ve enjoyed the great outdoors, the spa town of Malvern itself – birthplace of Edward Elgar – is a charming place to explore at your leisure with the streets full of great architecture, independent arts and craft shops, galleries, boutiques and cafes.
For a taste of nature a little closer to home - less than 15 minutes’ drive - the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in Edgbaston makes a great family day out. There are four glasshouses to discover - Tropical, Subtropical, Mediterranean and Arid - and family activity backpacks to hire that are packed with creative resources, as well as lots of fun trails to follow. The Japanese Garden houses the national bonsai collection and each month, there’s different walk through the gardens featuring highlights of the season.
Much of the landscape in JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings was inspired by real life –striking images or countryside scenes which became significant backdrops in his fiction. A childhood spent in Birmingham gave Tolkien plenty of material and his imagination was sparked by memories of Moseley Bog, near his home, the model for the wild and ancient ‘Old Forest` in his books. The real-life Bog sits under a canopy of centuries-old trees, like the peculiar, twisted specimens described in the ‘Old Forest`, and it’s an atmospheric environment which kids will love.
Now preserved as a nature reserve by the Birmingham & Black Country Wildlife Trust, it supports a huge range of plants, animals and insects, plus the famous gnarled old trees, with various archaeological remains adding to the site’s interest. With a number of walking paths and a wooden walkway making access easier through woodland and fen vegetation, Moseley Bogs is a great location for a fascinating walk through ancient natural history – just 20 minutes by car from the hotel.