10 free things to do in Birmingham

Whether you’re a student looking for fun things to do in Birmingham that won’t break the bank, or just after some inspiration for what to do in Birmingham this weekend, we’ve put together the ultimate list of the top 10 free days out and activities in and around the UK’s second city.

Two students in Cannon Hill park with colourful autumn leaves in the background

1. Explore the city with free tours from Roundhouse Birmingham

Roundhouse Birmingham is Grade II* listed building which has been revived as a hub for exploring the city's history. They offer free self-guided walking tours and audio tours. There's also a small visitor centre and lots of picnic benches where you can soak up the industrial architecture and history. It's a perfect pit stop for a walk along the canal from our City Centre campus. 

2. Take a stroll along the canals 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that Birmingham has more canals than Venice. Whilst ours might have slightly less of the romantic Italian charm, they still make for a great afternoon of ambling along the network discovering new perspectives of Birmingham, wondering yet again how the locks *actually* work (the only sensible explanation: magic), and admiring the street art.

3. Go to a Donkey Sanctuary

Did you know there was a Donkey Sanctuary in Sutton Park? If your dream is to meet some lovely donkeys or even adopt one, then this is the perfect place for you. Depending on what time you visit, you could see these furry critters being groomed, fed, playing with a ball or even get the chance to give them a scratch and have a chat with them face to snout if they’re feeling brave!

Free things to do in Birmingham donkey sanctuary

4. Check out Digbeth

Just over the road from BCU is the UK’s coolest neighbourhood – Digbeth. This flourishing area of Birmingham boasts the Custard Factory for quirky bars like Kilo Zero - the UK's first zero waste café bar and taproom - as well as Digbeth Dining Club and some great up-and-coming restaurants. But for a cost-free activity in this area, all you need to do is walk down the streets and check out the wealth of street art and graffiti on show, which is always changing and evolving.

5. Take the Tolkien Trail - here's a guide and map

Lord of the Rings fan? Why not retrace Tolkien’s steps and discover the inspiration behind his writing with this great trail around the city and further afield? It covers Sarehole Mill, Moseley Bog, King’s Heath, Edgbaston Waterworks Tower and the Oratory. Find out more about his life on this free trail and learn how his childhood memories around Birmingham shaped his imagination to create Middle Earth in his ever-popular books.

6. Discover the Jewellery Quarter

Just a 10-minute walk from Birmingham City Centre is the Jewellery Quarter; home, strangely enough, to a myriad of jewellery shops, as well as a burgeoning independent scene. Great pubs, a variety of tasty restaurants, a pen museum and the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter make this an area of endless possibilities. Throughout the year they also run Open Studio events where you can get a glimpse into local artists’ and makers’ workspaces – why not find the BCU School of Jewellery while you’re at it so you can admire our architecture? If you've got ten minutes to spare, grab a coffee to go and head to St Paul’s Square, which makes the perfect spot to watch the world (and many doggos) go by.

Free things to do in Birmingham jewellery quarter

7. Explore MAC and Cannon Hill Park 

Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) houses a theatre space, cinema screen, and gallery areas. They often put on activities and events, but it’s even worth just having a wander through on your way to Cannon Hill Park. Birmingham’s most popular park is ideal for a picnic or cheeky game of Frisbee, but for the more adventurous there’s also boating, mini golf or tennis (which you can play for free!). If you’re making a full day of it in the area, you can pop next door to the Wildlife Conservation Park to see the red pandas, otters, lemurs and so much more. Whilst not free, per se, they do offer student discounts.

8. Take in the sights at the Library of Birmingham

You’ll still hear Brummies debating about the ‘new’ library – some people think they shouldn’t have knocked the old Brutalist library down, others think it’s an architectural triumph, and some just think it looks a bit like a wedding cake. Whatever you think about it, it’s undeniable that it’s a must-see in Birmingham, and there’s plenty to do and see for free there. From the Shakespeare Memorial Room to the ‘secret’ rooftop garden where you can get an awesome view of the city, this landmark doesn’t disappoint.

9. Peruse some fossils at Lapworth Museum of Geology 

One of the oldest specialist geological museums in the UK, the Lapworth Museum of Geology rocks…(sorry not sorry). Now, you may think you encounter plenty of fossils in your lectures (chuckle) but this museum is on another level. Housed at our neighbouring institution and friendly rival, the University of Birmingham, there are more than 250,000 specimens to see there at zero cost to you, covering fossils, minerals and rocks, giving an invaluable insight into how the earth came to be.

Free things to do in Birmingham lapworth fossils

10. Soak up some culture at Ikon Gallery

If modern art is more your thing, look no further than the Ikon Gallery. Free to enter, you can discover a whole range of weird and wonderful contemporary artists. When you’re tired out from scratching your head and saying, ‘but what does it *mean*??’, you can fuel up at the excellent Yorks café on site and explore the gift shop that features fancy coffee table books and locally made items.

Have you discovered any other great places or activities for free in Birmingham? Take a look at our tips on life in Birmingham to get some more inspiration for what you can get up to!

Student life in Birmingham

Birmingham has everything: bars, restaurants, theatre, music, nightlife, street food. We're one of the most cost-effective cities for students in the UK and with five universities there's so much here to see and do. Find out why Birmingham has the UK's largest student population outside London!

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