If you’re planning a visit to Birmingham, take a look at our pick of some of the best museums in Birmingham.
I may be biased, but I think that Birmingham is the perfect destination for a UK city break. There’s so much to see and do do, fantastic places to eat and drink, cute independent shops, and of course a wide selection of museums and art galleries to visit.
Whether you’re just visiting for the day or staying for a short break, these museums and art galleries are all easy to get to and full of interesting things to explore. And they’re a great way to pass some time on a rainy day in Birmingham as well.
So I’ve picked out a few of my favourite museums, which are perfect additions to your Birmingham city break itinerary. They’re all easy to get to on foot or by public transport, and you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.
So take a look through our pick of the best museums in Birmingham.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is closed throughout 2021 for refurbishment.
This is a real must-see when you’re visiting Birmingham!
The entrance to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is on Chamberlain Square, just around the corner from the city’s Council House and the ‘Floosie in the Jacuzzi’.
Inside you’ll find collections of art and artefacts covering everything from Ancient Egypt to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
In fact, the Birmingham Museum Trust has the world’s most important collection Pre-Raphaelite hart, including over 3000 paintings, drawings and other examples of Pre-Raphaelite art and design. You can see the highlights of the collection here in the BMAG.
And there’s also a gallery which explores local history and Birmingham’s growth throughout the centuries.
You can learn about Birmingham’s medieval beginnings, through the grandeur of Victorian Birmingham, right up to Birmingham’s regeneration and expansion in the 20th century.
Entry to BMAG is free, and whether this is your first visit or fiftieth visit to Birmingham, there’s plenty to see with seasonal exhibitions and events.
And don’t miss out on a visit to the museum’s Edwardian Tea Rooms, where you can enjoy a delicious breakfast or lunch. They even have a ‘Press for Champagne’ button on the tables!
Barber Institute of Fine Art
Another wonderful art gallery in Birmingham is the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which you’ll find on campus at the University of Birmingham.
The Institute is within one of Birmingham’s finest Art Deco buildings, which dates back to the 1930s. Inside, you’ll find works by artists including well known names like Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh. It is one of the finest small collections of European art in the UK.
The Barber Institute also has a collection of over 1000 pieces of work on paper, including drawings by Turner and Rembrandt. And the sculpture collection includes works by Degas and Rodin.
The Institute also hosts a regular programme of concerts, some of which are free to watch. You can see details of upcoming concerts and order tickets on their website.
The Barber Institute is on the University of Birmingham campus in Edgbaston. If you aren’t driving, you can take a train from New Street Station to the University station.
Update 17/05/2021: The Barber Institute will reopen to visitors on 18th May 2021. Pre-booking is necessary for all visits.
If you’re visiting Birmingham with kids, then a trip to Thinktank is sure to be popular. It’s Birmingham’s award-winning science museum, which is full of fun and education for the whole family.
There are plenty of hands-on exhibits that younger visitors will love to try out. And to be honest, the grown up visitors will probably love it just as much!
Thinktank explores Birmingham’s industrial heritage, including the Spitfire factory at Castle Bromwich and the steam engines which powered the Industrial Revolution. Or you can look into the future with exhibits featuring scientists’ predictions, or venture outside into the Science Garden.
Mini-Brum is Thinktank’s mini city specifically designed for under-8s, featuring well known landmarks like Selfridges, the Birmingham canals and the Joseph Chamberlain clock tower, affectionately known as Old Joe.
And the 4K Planetarium lets you examine the constellations in the night sky and journey through the solar system. It also has shows which venture into the oceans, explore the human body and immerse you in light and music. This is the only planetarium of its kind in the West Midlands, surrounding you with crystal clear images and crystal-clear images.
You’ll find Thinktank near the Eastside city park, just a short walk away from the Bullring shopping centre.
Update 17/05/2021: Thinktank is now open for prebooked visits – you can book your tickets on the website.
Museum of the Jewellery Quarter
Birmingham has a long history of jewellery making, which you can explore in this perfectly preserved jewellery workshop.
The owners of the Smith and Pepper firm retired in 1981, and when they closed the doors, they left their workshop exactly as it was on their last working day. This created a unique time capsule which now offers guided tours featuring demonstrations of traditional jeweller’s skills.
There are also two self-guided galleries that you can take in on your visit. ‘Story of the Jewellery Quarter’ looks at the history and development of the Jewellery Quarter while ‘Earth’s Riches’ is a display of jewellery made out of natural materials from around the world.
And the museum offers adult and family workshops throughout the year, so you can try your own hand at the skills of the jewellery trade.
The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is located on Vyse Street in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter. You’ll find plenty of places to shop for jewellery and great places to eat nearby!
Update 17/05/2021: The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is currently closed.
You may have already known about Birmingham’s association with the jewellery trade. But did you know that it was also a key player in the 19th century pen trade, and at one point manufactured 75% of the world’s pens?
The Birmingham Pen Museum is housed in a former pen factory which dates back to the 1860s and once produced gold pen nibs. It tells the story of Birmingham’s pen industry, and the contribution that it made to improving literacy around the world.
The museum’s three galleries contain over 5000 items related to the pen trade. And you’ll learn about the lives of manufacturers, factory owners and workers through video and interactive displays.
The museum also holds workshops and classes allowing you to try your hand at penmanship. They cover both classic and modern calligraphy, as well as other skills such as free lettering and Art Nouveau style lettering.
You’ll find the Pen Museum on Frederick Street in the Jewellery Quarter.
Update 17/05/2021: The Pen Museum is currently closed.