You’ve arrived in Birmingham on your Megabus. You have £60 in your pocket. You’ve forgotten your bank card (lets forget that things like Apple Pay exist shall we?). So today you’re going to have to do Brum on a budget. Can you eat, drink and sightsee in Birmingham on 60 quid? Of course you can!
This post is in collaboration with Megabus to celebrate the launch of new buses in six cities across the UK, including Birmingham. Payment and a bus trip essentials goodie bag were received in lieu of a “Brum on a Budget” blog post.
First of all, you’re going to need breakfast. With only £60 to spend you’re going to have to plan eating and drinking wisely. Which is why I’d recommend the wonderful Cherry Reds, just a couple of minutes walk from the Megabus stop. Breakfasts are served all day, and you can get a full English and a cuppa for less than a tenner. There’s also vegetarian and vegan versions available. Or you can get a breakfast toasted sandwich for less than a fiver. I’m greedy, so I’d definitely go for the Hearty English with a mug of tea for £9.
Expenditure so far = £9
Take a stroll through Victoria Square, doffing your cap at the statue of the Queen herself. Useless fact klaxon: the square, previously known as Council House Square renamed it in her honour in 1901. 12 days later she dropped down dead. Brummies are also fond of their “Floozie in the Jacuzzi” statue. Even if she is no longer surrounded by water, and instead is luxuriating in an oasis of plants and flowers.
Coming to Brum on a Saturday? How about joining a free walking tour run by Real Birmingham? The starting point is at the Queen Victoria statue on Victoria Square. You can find more info and the schedule here.
It’s time to get your culture on at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery on Chamberlain Square – still accessible despite the ever-present construction work going on around it. You can find Pre-Raphaelite works, the Staffordshire Hoard and an impressive Ancient Egypt collection. And it’s totally free to enter.
Once you’ve finished being a culture vulture, head on through the newly constructed “Paradise” area to Centenary Square. Depending on the time of year, this could be filled with a shallow reflective pool with colourful jets. Or if it’s winter time, this is the site of a giant ferris wheel and ice rink. To get views over Birmingham, pop into the Library of Birmingham – yep, the blue and gold building that looks like a wonky wedding cake. Head up to the seventh floor for the (not-so-secret) Secret Garden, a wonderful green space to spy on the commotion and construction of the city below. Visit Birmingham on a number of occasions and the skyline will be ever-changing as new buildings pierce the sky.
Back to ground level and wander through the glass behemoth that is the International Convention Centre. When you emerge the other side, it’s like stepping into another world. A watery world, where buses and cars are replaced by canal boats. Arena Birmingham lies to the right; the bridge in front of takes you to the bustling food and drink hub Brindley Place. It’s time to splash a bit of cash and take a narrowboat trip around the city’s waterways with Sherbourne Wharf boat trips. It may not be as pretty as Venice, but the audio commentary will tell you lots about the city’s role in the Industrial Revolution, and how the canal network was crucial to the region.
Canal Boat Trip = £8
Expenditure so far = £16
After an hour’s cruise around the canals, it must surely be time for lunch. After a hearty breakfast, surely something light must be calling. Along the stretch of canal from Brindley Place to the Mailbox there are a myriad of bars and restaurants to explore. Of course, if you’re doing your trip on a budget then you can use the waterfront simply as a pleasant way of getting from one area of the city to another.
We’re back almost where we started, this time on Stephenson Street where there are three great options for a light lunch under a tenner. Top recommendation is Tiger Bites Pig, where you can get two fluffy bao for £10, or a rice bowl with pork, chicken or tofu for £8. This place is popular – and tiny! – so if it’s full, All Greek Street Food next door is another fab choice. For £5.50 you get gyros, souvlaki, pancetta or loukaniko (veggie and vegan options available too) wrapped in a pitta bread, or a classic platter for £7.50. Or Yorks Cafe has a selection of brunch dishes, small plates and flatbreads all under £10.
I’m a money-saver, and still full from my Cherry Red’s breakfast, so I’d opt for the All Greek’s Classic Greek and a soft drink = £7.50
Expenditure so far = £23.50
It’s time to walk off that lunch. If urban art’s your thing, take a tour around the streets of Digbeth, a rejuvenated area which mixes industry with bars, restaurants and entertainment. I recommend that you download this online walking tour which takes you from Moor Street Station in the city centre all the way down to the Custard Factory. You’ll be walking around industrial areas but it’s all pretty safe, and if you’re visiting on a weekend there’ll always be plenty of people around. The street art around here is awesome, and like the Birmingham skyline it’s ever-changing.
If you’ve got a few hours to spare before your Megabus home, how about catching a film at the Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen? It shows not only new releases but also a range of classics and one-off screenings of arthouse pics, all for a good deal cheaper than your local megaplex. Mr Fletche and I recently went to see The Joker here at just £4.95 a ticket. You couldn’t get popcorn and a drink for that elsewhere.
Cinema ticket = £4.95
Expenditure so far = £28.45
If you’re in Birmingham on a Thursday-Sunday evening, then it would be remiss of me not to recommend you get your final meal in Brum at Digbeth Dining Club. There’s a long rotating list of traders serving up some of the most amazing street food in the UK, from pan-asian to burgers to pizza to Brazilian to cheesecake to BBQ…You can see a full list of traders here. It’s £1 admission, but most dishes are under a tenner – you can easily get a main dish, a dessert and a drink at DDC for under £20. My top recommendations? Buddha Belly. Only Jerkin. Andy’s Low & Slow. Dicks Smokehouse. The English Indian. The Bournville Waffle Company. Urban Cheesecake. But not all at the same time. Unless you’re really hungry.
Expenditure so far = £48.45
You could walk the 1.5km back into the city centre. Which means you have £11.55 to spend on drinks in Brum’s oldest pub, the 651-year-old Old Crown. Or you could be lazy and get an Uber, which will probably set you back about £8. Depends on how much time you have before you catch your Megabus home. Technically, if you’re ordering an Uber, this means you’ll still have the cash in your pocket. So what the hell. Spend £11.55 on drinks and get an Uber. Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t treat yo’self.
So, can you visit Brum on a budget? Of course you can! Like most city centres a lot of your spending money can easily be blown on food and drink so it’s worth doing a bit of research before you go. Thank you to Megabus for asking me to share how I would spend a day in Birmingham for £60!
Want to know more about things to do in Birmingham? How about 50 (ish) Things to do in Birmingham City Centre?