Birmingham is a cultural playground, offering superb collections of fine art, a vibrant performing arts scene of ballet, musicals and theatre, and fascinating museums that tell the story of a city that has played a major role in British history.
Birmingham Back to Backs is a museum that takes you back in time. It preserves some of the last surviving examples of the terraced houses built en masse in 19th century for the city’s swelling population of industrial workers. Book a Birmingham Back to Backs tour and discover the lives of a locksmith, watchmaker and more in an age gone by; you can even stay overnight in some of the houses, all surrounding a shared courtyard.
Birmingham is particularly celebrated for the quality of its performing arts. MAC Birmingham arts centre shows off a diverse roster that includes thrilling theatre and dance performances from around the world, as well as talks, comedy and shows for kids. Home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet and an opera venue, Birmingham Hippodrome also stages hit West End musicals on tour.
The Blue Orange Theatre stands out for productions that aim to bridge the gap between amateur and professional theatre. A run of Charles Dickens’s Ghost Stories might sit alongside Entertaining Mr Sloane and a free comedy night. Tickets are available on the door, so you could just turn up at the Blue Orange Theatre in the heart of the city’s Jewellery Quarter and enjoy the surprise. The Crescent Theatre Birmingham is another amateur venue, housing one of the city’s oldest theatrical companies. Local and visiting productions – both amateur and professional – at the Crescent Theatre Birmingham range from Macbeth to the barnstorming Broadway show Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is worth visiting not only for its notable collection of pre-Raphaelite artwork – the rebellious British art school that rejected conservative Victorian painting – but also for its breathtaking displays of Anglo-Saxon gold. Here you’ll find an engaging exhibition on the history of the people of Birmingham, from the medieval period to the industrial revolution right up until the present day.
The programme at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery, located near the city centre and historic Jewellery Quarter, includes open submission exhibitions, where any artist can enter their work for selection. Be prepared to see some raw native talent on show.
For another dose of culture, with cakes and coffee thrown in, head to the Custard Factory, an art and design centre in a former industrial building a mile from central Birmingham. Abounding with edgy, small-scale art galleries, alongside up-and-coming design boutiques, vintage shops and arty cafes, this is sure to fill an afternoon with both the modern and traditional culture that Birmingham has to offer.