Birmingham, Alabama has been known for many things over the years. In its early days, it was known for the steel industry. In the 1960s, it was known for important events in the Civil Rights Movement.
And today, it’s at a crossroads between the past and present. Steel mills have been repurposed into new spaces and young people have brought in a thriving music scene along with award-winning bars, restaurants, and breweries.
There are also large suburban areas like Mountain Brook and Homewood worth exploring. The city hosts events like the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, and Magic City Brewfest.
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What to Do
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum– Even if cars and motorcycles aren’t your thing, the massive museum is worth the stop. The collection spans thousands of square feet with motorized bicycles, collector’s motorcycles, and even experimental bikes. The museum overlooks the Porsche test track and the park hosts races and events. 6030 Barber Motorsports Parkway, Leeds
Birmingham Zoo– The kids will enjoy a trip to the zoo, where they have over 800 animals, including elephants, cassowaries, and orangutan. Take in the exhibits and visit during events like their Pokemon Go day. The facility now emphasizes conservation over entertainment. 2630 Cahaba Road
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute– Perhaps the most important place to visit, this museum focuses on the city’s role in the movement, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s stay in the nearby jail, the Children’s Crusade that was met with fire hoses and attack dogs, and the nearby bus boycotts. Give yourself at least two hours here and on Sundays, tours are by donation. 520 16th Street North
16th Street Baptist Church– Located right across the street, this still-functional church is remembered for being the site where four girls were killed when a KKK member set off a bomb before Sunday school during the Civil Rights Movement. Today, there’s a small museum and tours of the building. 1530 6th Avenue North
Vulcan Park and Museum– The best views of the city are from this hilltop park devoted to the steel industry. Head up to the observation deck of the famous statue for a 360-degree view and take time to explore the museum. You can even visit at night. Get your Vulcan Park and Museum in Birmingham with Observation Deck entry before you go. 1701 Valley View Drive
Negro Southern League Museum– Opposite the park is this small, but excellent, museum devoted to the leagues of African-American baseball players, including those from Birmingham. Exhibits include uniforms, memorabilia, and interactive displays. 120 16th Street South
Railroad Park– A former rail line has been transformed into a beloved local park complete with trails and views of the skyline. It’s a popular place for events and has a few public art projects, specifically a lit tunnel on the western side. 1600 1st Avenue South
The Market at Pepper Place– Every Saturday, rain or shine, the former Dr. Pepper plant hosts a farmer’s market, live music, and cooking demonstrations. Vendors come to sell their pastries, coffee, and fresh produce. 2829 2nd Avenue South
Red Mountain State Park– This park offers 15 miles of hiking trails, zip lines, adventure towers, and even accommodations. The area is named for the iron ore that sits beneath the mountain. 2011 Frankfurt Drive
Sloss Furnaces– Similar in history to Red Mountain, the National Historic Landmark dates back to the 1800s. It’s the perfect spot for urban exploration and I recommend going with an organized tour to get the most out of your visit. 20 32nd Street North
Birmingham Museum of Art– The extensive and diverse collection includes paintings, Asian sculpture, photography, and a large gallery of Wedgewood. Admission is free. 2000 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr Boulevard
Birmingham Civil Rights Tour– Visit the important landmarks and learn about the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the city. This tour includes entry into the attractions as well as stops at lesser-known locations.
Best of Birmingham Food and Drink Tour– Visit the best of the Magic City’s restaurants and bars through this guided tour. It includes all food and drink samples and transportation.
Where to Eat
Paramount Bar– Another bar with great food, Paramount also has an arcade that’s a favorite of both kids and the late night crowd. Enjoy craft cocktails and beer alongside sandwiches, burgers, and bites. 200 20th Street North, (205) 320-2824
Over Easy– You’ll find breakfast all day at this suburban restaurant. Look for stone-ground grits, locally made sausage, and egg dishes. They also serve sandwiches with their homemade pimento cheese. 358 Hollywood Boulevard, (205) 639-1910
the J. Clyde– Part beer bar, part restaurant, both make this Five Points spot a local favorite. Share some plates among friends like beer cheese or pizzas. And, of course, ask your server about their beer selections. 1312 Cobb Lane, (205) 939-1312
Garage Cafe– Setting is everything at the Garage Cafe, which has a small indoor space and a large garden terrace covered with green plants and rusting furniture. The cash-only spot has a respectable bar menu and sandwiches. 2304 10th Terrace South, (205) 322-3220
Post Office Pies– Located in the Avondale neighborhood, the former post office operates as a pizzeria on the back end of a brewery. Brick oven pizza is the main draw, but they also have meatballs and other Italian options. 209 41st Street South, (205) 599-9900
Bottega Italian Restaurant– Well-known chef Frank Stitt’s trattoria includes a fine dining option as well as a casual cafe. Both menus include dishes like pasta, seafood, and veal along with European wines. 2240 Highland Avenue, (205) 939-1000
Saw’s Soul Kitchen– Saw’s has three different but unique locations and this one has a line out the door at lunchtime. You’ll find Southern favorites like fried chicken alongside Alabama-style barbecue. 215 41st St South, (205) 591-1409
Hot & Hot Fish Club– One of the city’s top restaurants, Chris Hastings and his team blend influences from France, California and the South. The menu emphasizes farm-to-table products in dishes like chicken with Carolina Gold rice grits and short rib tamales. 2180 11th Court South, (205) 933-5474
Where to Stay
The Redmont Hotel Birmingham– The remodeled historic property taken over by Hilton’s Curio brand has an in-house restaurant and rooftop bar. Rooms are stylishly furnished with details from their past. Read our review here. 2101 5th Avenue North
Hampton Inn & Suites Birmingham Downtown – The Tutwiler– While it’s a part of the chain, this hotel is located in another historic building. It boasts 149 guest rooms and suites with views of the city. Read our review here. 2021 Park Place
Cobb Lane Bed and Breakfast– Stay in a 1800s mansion in the heart of downtown with rooms furnished with antiques-inspired decor. Breakfast is served daily. 1309 19th Street South
Elyton Hotel– The Autograph Collection property downtown calls itself a “sanctuary in the city” with a four-diamond award. Located in the 1909 Empire Building, this hotel has 111 rooms and 6 suites with Malin & Goetz toiletries and plush bathrobes. 1928 1st Avenue North
Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook– The Kessler Collection hotel is known for its art collection, cozy rooms and suites, in-house eateries, a spa, and a cooking school. 2655 Lane Park Road
Rentals- If you’re looking for a different option, Airbnb is well-serviced in the city and surrounds, which will give you the opportunity to experience the cool neighborhoods rather than just downtown. FlipKey also has options in Birmingham.
Camping- Campgrounds are also available at Oak Mountain State Park with both cabins and campsites.
My stay in Birmingham was assisted by Birmingham Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and The Redmont Hotel. This website contains affiliate links that help keep the site running.