Once home to HP sauce and as among the largest cities in the UK (second simply to London!), it’s clear that Birmingham is a big bright city with sufficient to offer every visitor. From a beautiful foodie scene to a fantastic choice of bizarre, and downright weird museums on offer, even the most picky of travellers are certain to find something they enjoy throughout their stay in The City of a Thousand Trades. Here’s your ultimate help guide to probably the most unusual things you can do, in addition to great finds and secret spots in Birmingham you won’t want to miss on any visit to the town!
Though this side street offers little by means of attractions, the name of the tiny Needless Alley alone provides lots of amusement for passersby. In the end, the small lane is located just off New Street, i.e. one of the main shopping streets which cuts its way through the city centre while offering all the chain stores you’d expect to find along such a road.
You’ll know when you’re in the right place along New Street whenever you spy the vintage looking sign proclaiming ‘Needless Alley’. And if you’re wondering just how the name came into existence, there are is a few theories as to why that's! Probably the most prominent is that the street used to be called ‘Needlers Alley’ thanks to needle makers in the area which the name was confused over time!
You might not exactly know this, but Birmingham hosts a number of covered shopping streets dating back several centuries. Similar to the covered passages of Paris, these arcades are the place to find a variety of businesses, and many of the passages are beautiful architecturally by themselves!
One of the most underrated from the Birmingham arcades is that of Piccadilly. Located close to Tim Horton’s, along with the beautifully appointed Apple Building (seriously, the shop’s ceiling is complete with a stunning 20th-century stained glass skylight!), the covered arcade’s ceiling is adorned with, as the shops themselves are predominantly independent and well worth a wander through.
Great Western Arcade
Truth find out, probably the most beautiful places to go to in Birmingham is that of Great Western Arcade. So-called thanks to its former ties towards the Great Western Railway company, today the covered shopping arcade is really a hotspot for independent shops and eateries.
Among the small stores, you’ll soon discover a Whisky Shop, a conventional sweet vendor, or even a macaron seller whose sweets have appeared in countless magazines an internet-based publications. Otherwise, to find the best photos from the place, be sure to go to the passage earlier within the day and mid-week if possible, so as to steer clear of the rest of the crowds!
Old Square Plaque
In times passed by, Old Square would have been among the points of interest of bustling and busy Birmingham city life. Now a junction of sorts where several major roads crossing through the city meet, the Plaque within the small pedestrian central square stretches for many metres and depicts the storyline of the city. All stone carving, the Plaque features several prominent city figures, as well as probably the most famous buildings in Birmingham.
Edward Burne-Jones Glass, Birmingham Cathedral
Fans of Pre-Raphaelite artwork will be happy to realize that there are several examples of the Victorian Burne-Jones stained glass windows are to be found within Birmingham Cathedral. All muted tones and focused on the beauty of the look, you can also see a quantity of Burne-Jones drawings and designs free of charge within the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Birmingham has no lack of brilliant bars serving an array of quirky cocktails and unusual beverages. Most of the best drinking establishments within the city are focused round the historic city centre, close by to Birmingham Cathedral (as well as for people who love plants, we particularly loved our drinks in the Botanist).
And therefore if you’re looking to go out with friends, or even on the romantic date night, then you’ll want to head to this district from the city! Hands down, one of the most unique places to spend a night time reaches the Flight Club, where games of all types are available in abundance (electronic games, dart boards with a twist, etc).
46 Gas Street
One of the more picturesque spots of modern-day Birmingham is alongside the Birmingham Canals close to the ICC, in which the water reflects the canal boats slowly making their way across the gently water. Around the opposite side of The Canal House bar and restaurant, there’s a tiny brick building that was once the company head offices of Worcester and Birmingham Canal Company.
The Floating Coffee Company
One of the very most unusual things to in Birmingham would be to actually enjoy your coffee while sitting in the canal boat! If you’re in a rush, there’s even a takeout window where one can order your hot beverage or snack to visit! Otherwise, head within the well-reviewed floating café to savor an array of foodstuffs (together with a fantastic breakfast) and drinks!
De Bermingham Coat of Arms, Birmingham Museum
Of course, the Birmingham Museum and Memorial is among the top attractions in the city and is in no way a ‘hidden gem’ by any stretch from the imagination. After all, it’s here where you’ll find treasures such as the Staffordshire Hoard (the largest discovery of Anglo-Saxon gold ever discovered) and also the Pre-Raphaelite galleries.
However, step inside the building during opening hours and you’ll soon discover that the architecture of the Museum itself is well worth a close look. For example, on the ground directly below where the Staffordshire Hoard collections are displayed, there’s some stunning stained glass windows depicting the early 15th-century City of Birmingham Coat of Arms.
The Coat of Arms is said up to now to the 1400s when the de Bermingham family were probably the most influential families in town. Meanwhile, the storyline goes that the Victorian window displaying the Arms were boarded up during WWII, simply to be forgotten. It wasn’t before the 1990s when the windows were rediscovered and unveiled towards the public to be admired!
Shop in a former Custard Factory!
Once upon a time, Birmingham was the biggest producer and exporter of custard in the world. Though the city no longer holds this title, probably the most unusual things to do in Birmingham now's to head to some former Custard Factory on the edges of town and search for quirky and vintage wares!