Sightseeing doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend a fortune - and enjoying what Birmingham has to offer definitely doesn’t have to result in an empty wallet.
There are plenty of things to do in the city - or not too far away - where there is no ticket price or admission charge.
Yes, it is possible to do Brum on a budget.
And that's perfect when you have to find activities for weekends, bank holidays or school holidays.
So if you want to have a free family day out in and around Birmingham, here’s our guide to things to do and places to go.
Most them are available all year round.
Check out these free events that are happening this summer too.
1. Birmingham's Tolkien Trail
Many parts of Birmingham are connected to JRR Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. He grew up in the city and parts of it inspired the imaginary people and places in his epic fantasy tales.
Thousands of tourists visit the city each year to follow in Tolkien’s footsteps.
Birmingham has a Tolkien Trail and a leaflet is available from tourist information centres, attractions and community buildings. It includes places where he once lived, played and studied - some of which were influences on the books he later wrote.
These locations include Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog.
Sarehole Mill, in Cole Bank Road, is open between March and November, from Wednesday to Sunday (12pm to 4pm). The visitor centre, cafe and gardens are free, though there is an admission charge to get inside the millhouse.
Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust runs the local nature reserve of Moseley Bog and Joy's Wood - which Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien used as the basis for the ‘old forest’ in his books.
The reserve lies three miles from Birmingham city centre and is open at all times. Access is available at various points along Yardley Wood Road or the playing fields to the north (these both have car parks, although the Yardley Wood Road car park is not in use at present). There is also an entrance at the end of Pensby Close.
2. Lapworth Museum of Geology
One of the oldest specialist geological museums in the UK, this museum has no connections with the Warwickshire village of Lapworth. It takes its name from award-winning Birmingham geologist Charles Lapworth and is located at the University of Birmingham.
The museum reopened in June 2016 after a £2.7 million redevelopment and includes a vast array of fossils and minerals - many of them from the Midlands and showing what the region was like millions of years ago.
You can see Roary the young allosaurus, along with other dinosaur fossils, a sabre-tooth tiger, giant ammonites, the creepy Coseley Spider and some Dudley Bug trilobites. Upstairs you can admire some very colourful crystals as part of a display of local minerals.
Admission is free and there is a small refreshments area and gift shop, as well as toilets.
The museum is a bit tricky to find, as there are no local signs yet. Go on to the university campus using the eastern entrance by the Barber Institute, then turn left down the hill and, after that, get on the inner ring road.
3. The mac
The mac is in Cannon Hill Park and admission to the building and its exhibitions is free. But note that performance events for audiences such as films, plays, talks, dance and comedy do have a charge.
There are food and craft markets throughout the year - the Craft Market is on the first Sunday of the month, the Food Market is on the last Sunday of the month and there are Christmas Craft Markets in December. There is no entry charge into the markets.
Opening hours at the mac are 9am to 9.30pm through the week, though exhibition opening times may vary.
Refreshments are available at the Bridges Cafe (9am to 6pm) and Arena Bar (Mon-Fri from 6pm, and Sat-Sun from noon. It closes at 10pm or whenever the building closes, depending on events). Hot food is available from the bar until 8.15pm.
First floor gallery opening times are Tuesday to Saturday 12pm to 8pm, Sunday 11am to 4pm, Monday closed except Bank Holidays when the gallery is open 12pm – 8pm. The Arena and Terrace Galleries are open during normal opening hours.
4. Birmingham's historic churches
If place of worship are of interest to you with their stained glass windows and medieval architecture, take a trip to one or more of Birmingham’s historic churches.
5. The Jewellery Quarter
The Jewellery Quarter, in the Hockley area of Birmingham, contains Europe's largest concentration of jewellery businesses - together they make 40 per cent of all the jewellery manufactured in the UK.
It's also home to the world's largest Assay Office, which stamps hallmarks on around 12 million items of gold, silver and platinum every year to certify their quality, purity and authenticity.
The Jewellery Quarter has become a tourist attraction in its own right, attracting thousands of visitors each year from all over the world.
At the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, you can step back in time into a former jewellery factory and learn about jewellery production in the city over the past 200 years. The museum in Vyse Street was voted in the top three of European free attractions - note that although the café, shop and temporary exhibitions are free, there is a general admission charge of £6 for visitors aged 16 and over. Children get in free.
Other free attractions in the Jewellery Quarter include the RBSA Gallery, an exhibition venue in Brook Street run by the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, plus the Grade I listed St Paul's Church, which was used by the city's pioneering industrialists including Matthew Boulton and James Watt.
Key Hill Cemetery is a green haven for flora and fauna - including 19 species of bird - and has its own catacombs. Influential figures such as Alfred Bird – the inventor of custard - are buried there.
Warstone Lane Cemetery, designed in Gothic style as a burial ground for members of the Anglican Church, also has catacombs. Famous people buried here include printer John Baskerville and lawn tennis founder Harry Gems. Both cemeteries are Grade II registered historic gardens.
6. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
It’s free to get into Birmingham’s main city centre museum and gallery.
Based in Chamberlain Square, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is open Monday to Thursday from 10am to 5pm, Friday 10.30am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm. The museum is also open on bank holidays except December 26.
Here you can find the Staffordshire Hoard as well as the world’s largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, local history collections, and art and relics spanning seven centuries of European and world history and culture (including Greek, Roman and Ancient Egyptian).
There are charges for temporary exhibitions within the museum but all other exhibitions, including the Staffordshire Hoard, are free of charge.
There are plenty of parks and other green spaces in and around Birmingham where you can enjoy a stroll and take in the fresh air, greenery and flowers.
Birmingham City Council looks after nearly 600 parks and public open spaces, plus over 200 play areas, so you should be able to find some near you.
In the summer, the parks are perfect for a picnic and in the autumn you can see the trees displaying the glorious colours of the changing seasons.
Within the city you can find Cannon Hill Park, Kings Heath Park, Lightvale Park, Pype Hayes Park and many others. Not far from Birmingham are Lickey Hills Country Park, Clent Hills, and Sandwell Valley Country Park.
Birmingham also has a number of lakes that make great places to visit, as well as reservoirs. Bartley Reservoir -a former haunt of TV naturalist Bill Oddie - is a popular place for sailing boats and birdwatchers, while Edgbaston Reservoir is surrounded by woodland and grassland and is a great spot for birdwatching, angling, rowing, sailing, canoeing and windsurfing.
8. Thinktank Science Garden
The Thinktank, Birmingham's science museum at Millennium Point, opened a £2.5 million Science Garden in 2012.
It's the first of its kind in the UK and one of only a few such gardens worldwide.
This outdoor discovery space, directly in front of the Thinktank, is FREE every day from 3pm to 5pm.
It houses various machines and devices that kids will love exploring - these include the 8-metre high Terminus, along with a mechanical theatre powered by turbine or solar panel, a square-wheeled wagon, a human hamster wheel and a giant weighing station.
Admission to the Thinktank itself is not free.
9. Martineau Gardens
Martineau Gardens is a community garden with two and a half acres of organically-managed landscape to explore.
The site includes an orchard, vegetable plot, herb beds and a woodland habitat that’s home to bats, badgers and birds as well as fungi.
There’s also a nature trail, formal garden with unusual trees and shrubs, children’s play area, sales area offering plants and preserves, hot house, wildflower meadows, bird hide, ponds, beehives and an earth oven.
Admission is free. There’s no cafe, but hot and cold drinks are served from the pavilion and visitors are welcome to bring a picnic. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. The gardens, at 27 Priory Road, Edgbaston, are open all year, from Monday to Saturday, between 10am and 4pm, except on public holidays.
10. BBC Birmingham at the Mailbox
In the Public Space at BBC Birmingham on Level 7 of the Mailbox, you can try presenting the news or weather, go on a 90-minute tour of the studios, watch presenters live on air, have a photo taken with the TARDIS or a Dalek, and take a touchscreen tour of the radio studio where The Archers is recorded.
Admission is free and the Public Space is open seven days a week - Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 5.30pm, Sundays 11am to 5pm. There's no need to book, you can just turn up.
11. Ikon Gallery
Located in Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, the Ikon Gallery is an internationally acclaimed art venue - and admission is free. Opening times are Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 6pm, it's closed Mondays except bank holidays.
The gallery features temporary exhibitions over two floors. Ikon shows work by artists from around the world including sound, film, mixed media, photography, painting, sculpture and installation.
There’s also the Ikon Shop, which is Birmingham’s only specialist art bookshop, stocking a range of books, cards, artists’ limited editions, magazines and gifts relating to art, design, photography, architecture and contemporary culture.
12. Library of Birmingham
The city’s £189million Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square has plenty on offer - and much more than just books.
There are ten floors, and you can find photography exhibitions, performances, craft workshops, poetry readings, coffee mornings, fun sessions for toddlers, and other activities.
There’s no charge to go in and opening hours are Mondays and Tuesdays 11am to 7pm, Wednesdays to Saturdays 11am to 5pm. The library is closed on Sundays and on Bank Holiday Monday. There’s a ground-floor cafe and also a Discovery Cafe and terrace on Level 3.
13. Weoley Castle
These ruins in Alwold Road, Birmingham, can be seen for free from a viewing platform which is open every day.
Direct access to the ruins and the new community education centre is available on event days or for groups and schools by a pre-booked guided tour.
The Weoley Castle ruins are over 700 years old and are the remains of the moated medieval manor house. The site was inhabited from the 12th century and is a scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance.
14. Dudley Museum at the Archives
The old Dudley Museum and Art Gallery in St James’s Road, Dudley, was closed by Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council.
All the exhibits were moved to a new museum at the council's Archives and Local History Centre, Tipton Road, Dudley DY1 4SQ
The new museum - also free admission - opened in the autumn of 2017 and has free parking.
Open: 10am until 4pm, Monday to Saturday.
15. Saltwells Local Nature Reserve
Also in Dudley, you can find Saltwells Local Nature Reserve, one of the largest urban reserves in the UK.
There is no entry fee to the reserve, which is a habitat for many woodland flowers and birds (such as the great spotted woodpecker).
It also has an old claypit colonised by hundreds of wild orchids, a large reedswamp, and Daphne Pool - home to 16 species of dragonfly.
Saltwells Nature Reserve is two miles south of Dudley. To get there, take the A4036, then turn left at the Merry Hill traffic lights (signposted) and continue for half a mile along Coppice Lane. Turn left at the sign for Saltwells Inn.
16. Wren’s Nest National Nature Reserve
Never mind Jurassic World, if you visit Wren’s Nest National Nature Reserve in Dudley you can go back in time even earlier to the Silurian era of 400 million years ago, when the Dudley area was covered by coral reefs and tropical seas.
More than 700 different fossils have been found at the reserve, 186 of which were first discovered here.
Eighty-six of the fossilised creatures are unique to this special site, where you can even see where ripples of sand on ancient seashores have been turned into stone. The most common fossil is the trilobite - the Victorians found so many that they called the creature the Dudley Bug or Dudley Locust. Why not pop along and go on a hunt for your own bug or other fossil to take home? It's not too far from Dudley Museum, so you could do both in the same day.
The reserve is open 24 hours and there’s no entry fee. The car park for the reserve is ln Wrens Hill Road and is open from 9.30 am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. There are no toilets, cafe or visitor centre at the site. You can book a guided walk for groups and school visits.
17. The Custard Factory
There are, of course, no entry fees to any of the city’s shopping centres (such as Grand Central, Bullring, Pallasades or Fort Shopping Park) but it’s worth going off the beaten track of the main commercial centres to explore the Custard Factory in Gibb Street, Digbeth.
Birmingham’s creative quarter and digital district at the Custard Factory is packed with independent and alternative shops plus galleries, the Yumm cafe and a theatre as well as the studios of Maverick TV (How to Look Good Naked, Embarrassing Bodies) and North One TV (The Gadget Show).
The complex is open from 8.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 5pm Saturday. The shops open at 10.30am. Free events within the complex include markets and vintage fairs.
The city centre's Grand Central shopping centre above the transformed New Street station, with its flagship John Lewis store, is also worth a visit.
18. The Barber Institute
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is based on the campus of the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston.
Admission to all galleries and exhibitions is free. Opening times are Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm.
Exhibitions include photography, sculpture, paintings, portrait miniatures and coins.
19. Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary
As well as offering donkey-assisted therapy to children with additional needs, Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary is open to the general public - and admission is free.
The centre currently has 18 donkeys who are either out in the paddocks or in the yards, depending on the weather.
There's a cafe, gift shop and on-site parking. Opening times are 3pm to 5pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and 10am to 3pm at weekends and bank holidays - but closed on the first Saturday of the month and on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Easter Sunday.
Any more ideas? Any free places or events we've missed? Give them a mention in the comments section below.