8 places to visit in Birmingham (hidden gems)

Birmingham 8 Places Banner

Birmingham, England’s second largest city, played a key role in the Industrial Revolution and cherishes its industrial history. When you drive to Birmingham you will sense a thriving modern city ready to do business with the world. But within that city there are oases of peace and hidden gems to be discovered. Did you know, for instance, that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice?

1. Beautiful Shopping Arcades

One of the joys of the city is the gracious shopping arcades. The beauty of these is hidden inside. The most spacious of these is the Great Western Arcade (named after the railway). It runs between Colmore Row and Temple Row. It has many boutiques and beauty salons as well as interesting foods.


Shopping Birmingham

2. Secret Garden on the Roof of Birmingham Library

Birmingham’s huge public library on Centenary Square, Broad Street, is impressive in itself but also contains a hidden secret. Take the lift to the seventh floor and walk along the corridor to the exit. You will find yourself in a roof garden. The garden sometimes hosts events but can also be used by the public for picnics or a stroll. The views of the city are brilliant. The design has curving paths, seats and areas with plants like verbenas, hellebores and lavender. The bees like it too!

3. Edward Burne-Jones stained-glass windows, Birmingham Cathedral 

The museum and art gallery’s Pre-Raphaelite collection is one of the city’s chief joys so you cannot call it a hidden gem. Lovers of Pre-Raphaelite Art should not miss the stained-glass windows in the Cathedral on Colmore Row. Burne-Jones was born and grew up in Birmingham. He intended to go in for the ministry but became an artist instead. The windows represent The Ascension, The Nativity and The Crucifixion. Heaven and Earth are separated in each window. There is also a later window showing the Last Judgement. In all these windows the designs of Burne-Jones were completed by the company owned by William Morris, a fellow Pre-Raphaelite and friend. The windows were thought so valuable that they were removed to a place of safety during World War II.


Visit Birmingham

4. St Martin in the Bull Ring

The Bull Ring is best known as a shopping centre, but the area contains an interesting church, St. Martin’s. The outside is Victorian Gothic but because it was built on the site of earlier places of worship there are monuments inside dating back to the Middle Ages. The church suffered from bombing in World War II but one stained glass window by Burne Jones had been taken down for storage and so survived. It contains a nativity and other scenes and biblical figures. The colours are not as brilliant as those in the Cathedral windows, they are in earthy tones, but the whole effect is equally beautiful. The church also contains a window created after WWII. The window depicts healing and shows all Christ’s miracles. The church is very active in counselling in the local community.

5. The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter

The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is in 75 – 80 Vyse Street, B18 6HA. It is built around the perfectly preserved Smith and Pepper Factory. The museum tells its history and has occasional fun workshops where children over 8 can design their own bracelet or pendant and learn basic techniques such as hammering, stamping, enamelling and texturing metal. All the authentic hand tools and machines have been lovingly preserved.

6. The Pen Museum

The Pen Museum is also in the jewellery Quarter at the Argent Centre, 60 Frederick Street, Birmingham B1 3HS 0121. In the nineteenth century Birmingham was making 75 per cent of the world’s pens. At that time there were 8,000 workers, mostly women, fashioning steel pen nibs. The museum documents the history and offers workshops where you can study calligraphy or how to illuminate letters.

7. Birmingham’s Hidden Catacombs

The Jewellery Quarter is also home to one of Birmingham’s most unusual cemeteries in Warstone Lane. Part of the cemetery is arranged as a double-tiered semi-circle of catacombs which like a section of an amphitheatre. At one time the public could enter tunnels into these but now the entrances are sealed. They were built on an area where sand was quarried which explains the unusual architecture. You can still walk across the different levels. But do it with care. You wouldn’t want to fall in.

8. The Jam House

At the end of a busy day of sightseeing you might want to unwind in one of the city’s many bars or restaurants. If you are a music-lover, the Jam House founded by Jools Holland and designer Neil Hibbert is just the place for you. The Jam House is a fine Georgian building on St. Paul’s Square in the Jewellery Quarter. It is open-plan inside and you can dine while listening to great live music every night. The music is of many genres: jazz, Latin, Gospel, Soul, Rhythm and Blues… The list is endless. The Jam House also has a good track record in nurturing local talent.


See more articles

More from Europcar