Must-visit museums in Birmingham

Whether you’re looking for Monets and Manets, modernist masterpieces or money from Anglo-Saxon times, Birmingham’s museums offer so much to admire and marvel at<o:p></o:p>

Birmingham has a long, varied past. In the beginning it was a humble 7th Century Anglo-Saxon hamlet, which then encountered an industrial boom in the 19th Century. And now it holds the status of being the UK’s second city. With such transformation comes enough history and culture to fill many museums many times over, so it’s no surprise that the city boasts some of the most fascinating museums and galleries in the country. Here are some of the finest to visit during your stay in Birmingham.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

The jewel in Birmingham’s crown, the BMAG offers an expansive and eclectic collection of art and artefacts, most of which are free to view. Its prized possession is its extensive collection of pre-Raphaelite art, which, with 3000 painting, prints and sketches in total, is the biggest in the world.

The BMAG also contains fascinating exhibits from various stages in Birmingham’s past, including the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest haul of Anglo-Saxon gold to ever be found. There’s an entire floor dedicated to a tour through the history of the city and its people, a collection dedicated to faith through the ages, and concerts are held regularly in the stunning Round Room. Be sure to take time to stop and appreciate the gold statue of Lucifer at its centre too. The gallery also boasts a newly refurbished Edwardian tea room, excellent for a pit stop during a lengthy visit.

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Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum

There’s no better way to kick-start a love for science, technology and innovation than a trip to Thinktank. The highlights run from the distant past (like the Ichthyosaur in the Marine Worlds Gallery, for example) to the more recent (such as steam engines from the Industrial Revolution and a full-size WWII Spitfire), and then to the present and future of Birmingham, as well as the world at large. No visit is complete without a visit to the museum’s planetarium too – it’s guaranteed to please even the most reluctant science fans.

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Ikon Gallery

Ikon is the beating heart of Birmingham’s contemporary art scene, striving to break down barriers surrounding modern art, and encourage education and engagement between art, artists and the general public. Now housed in a neo-Gothic former school building in central Birmingham, it began life as a stall in the Bullring Shopping Centre and has grown exponentially to become an internationally admired gallery. Exhibits change regularly, showcasing artists from around the world working in music, film, sculpture, painting, and photography.

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Barber Institute of Fine Arts

The Barber Institute is home to one of the most outstanding art collections in the UK. Works by some of the greatest artists, such as Manet, Degas, Turner, Rubens, Renoir, van Gogh and Monet, hang on the walls of this revered Grade II Listed art deco gallery on the campus of Birmingham University. It’s one of only five galleries outside of London to get five stars in Penguin’s Britain's Best Museums and Galleries and boasts one of the world’s largest coin collections. Classical musical concerts are regularly held at the institute showcasing talent from overseas along with students from Birmingham University

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National Motorcycle Museum

Fans of two-wheeled speed machines will find much to love at the National Motorcycle Museum. It boasts the world’s biggest collection of British motorbikes from 170 different marques, taking in the earliest examples from the late 19th Century right up to the superbikes of today. It’s perfect for everyone from casual bike fans to motorcycle aficionados looking for inspiration for restoration projects.

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