1. Cadbury World
Cadbury World traces the origin of chocolate in the Aztec rainforests through to the birth of Cadbury in Victorian England, audio visual presentations telling how Cadbury grew from a small shop to a giant company while The Bournville Experience details the philanthropic thinking that led to the creation of the Bournville workers village. It even has the original pestle and mortar John Cadbury used to create Cadbury drinking chocolate in 1824.
2. Barber Institute
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is housed in one of Birmingham’s finest Art Deco buildings, purpose-built and opened by Queen Mary in 1939. Monet, Manet, and Magritte; Renoir, Rubens, Rossetti and Rodin; Degas, Delacroix and van Dyck, not to mention Turner, Gainsborough, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Kokoschka – you can see major works by all these great artists.
3. St Paul’s Gallery
For music fans this is one of the treasures of Birmingham. St Paul’s Gallery hosts the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of signed, high-end album artwork. You can see examples of work created for bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Who, Black Sabbath, Eric Clapton and Paul Weller to name but a few – and you can sometimes catch some of the more famous names in rock wandering round the gallery.
4. Cannon Hill Park
Awarded Green Flag status, Cannon Hill is one the city’s five premier parks, with many different habitats including, lakes, pools and a wonderful collection of trees. An ideal afternoon out for families, the Ranger Service organises a year-round programme of events and activities while nearby is the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park with its meerkats, lemurs, red pandas and otters.
Birmingham is home to the historic Bullring – site of a market for more than 800 years. The Bullring brings 26 football pitches worth of shops, boutiques and restaurants to the city. It also attracts around 20 million customers a year and was voted the third most photogenic British landmark, behind the London Eye and Big Ben.
6. Soho House
Soho House was once a regular meeting place for some of the greatest minds of the 18th century. It was in the dining room of this elegant house that Matthew Boulton, one of the country’s first industrialists, entertained the leading scientists and inventors of the industrial age at The Lunar Society.
7. Custard Factory
The Custard Factory is the focal point of Birmingham’s arts and media quarter, providing a home to artists, designers, media businesses, charities, musicians and many others, along with a range of shops, bars and galleries. The five-acre sprawl of riverside factories was built over 100 years ago by Sir Alfred Bird, the inventor of custard (yes it really was a custard factory), and is home to a dynamic community of artists and small creative enterprises.
8. Jewellery Quarter
The Jewellery Quarter is not only a great place to shop for jewellery, with 100 independent specialist retailers, but a great place to take the family. The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is well worth a visit with free tours bringing the history of jewellery-making alive.
9. National Sea Life Centre
The National Sea Life Centre is a tropical paradise in the heart of the buzzing city. Take a marine voyage beneath the waves and explore over 60 spectacular displays. From the touch pool to the one million-litre ocean tunnel, you’ll encounter everything from starfish to seahorses, sharks and rays. The latest residents are a collection of sea stars from around the world.
10. The Library of Birmingham
Opened in 2013, sited next to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the £189 million development is not just the largest public library in the United Kingdom, it is the largest public cultural space and largest regional library in Europe. Housing one million books and with a wild flower meadow on its roof garden, the striking gold and silver design saw it named West Midlands building of the year at the 2014 RIBA West Midlands Awards.
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A guide to arts and culture in Birmingham and the Black Country