From striking medieval architecture to experimental theatre, Coventry offers an unexpected taste of Britain’s culture and history in the heart of the West Midlands. Known as the birthplace of the two-tone music genre which exploded onto radios in the 1980s, it is also home to breath-taking stained glass displays in one of its three cathedrals and is just a stone’s throw from some of the West Midland’s most glorious countryside. The official UK City of Culture for 2021, this year Coventry also promises a packed programme of events, including Random String light festival and the renowned Turner Prize art exhibition.
Coventry is a city packed with cultural icons, including an independent theatre and creative spaces hosting world-class art and exhibitions. One example is the newly renovated Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, whose contemporary visual arts, local history, and natural history exhibitions are all free to enjoy.
If you’re longing for a theatre fix, you can dream of visiting the Belgrade Theatre, with tempting programmes including shows hailing from London’s West End, as well as family-friendly performances and cult classic sing-along screenings. Alternatively, the world of boundary-pushing plays can be experienced at Theatre Absolute, an independent company showcasing a host of radical and experimental works.
More of Coventry’s creative flare can be found at Fargo Village, an artistic space that champions all things local. As well as foodie festivals and vibrant pop-ups, there are a host of unique local shops, eateries and artistic studios in the Fargo Marketplace, which is set within a former industrial site. After perusing the wares, you can get a taste of Coventry with a refreshing pint of local craft beer at Twisted Barrel Brewery. To coincide with the start of the City of Culture celebrations, Fargo is also set to open a brand new all-day food hall, Factory, in May 2021.
As the birthplace of two-tone music, which brought together Jamaican Ska and punk in 1970s and 1980s Britain, Coventry’s musical heritage is undeniable. Genre-defining bands such as The Specials, Madness and The Selecter have strong links to the city, all of which are celebrated at 2-Tone Village. This site also houses the Coventry Music Museum and the city’s Music Wall of Fame, alongside quirky fashion and record shops.
The Tin at the Coal Vaults is also known for hosting both international and home-grown talent. Based in the creative hub of Coventry’s canal basin, this stylish venue started life as an 18th century coal storage building, giving its programme of music and creative events an atmospheric and authentic backdrop.
Coventry’s architecture also has a story to tell, as much of the city was rebuilt following the Second World War. One notable transformation is Coventry Cathedral, voted one of Britain’s most popular 20th century buildings in a poll by English Heritage and Channel 4, which rubs shoulders with the original gothic ruins from the 14th century. Home to a show-stopping 25-metre stained glass window, the interior is flooded with brightly coloured light, giving the modern space an ethereal feel. Once the venue re-opens, you can climb 180 steps up to the top of the cathedral tower for sweeping views across the city.
Staying in Coventry’s stunning Cathedral Quarter, you can imagine roaming St Mary’s Guildhall, one of the finest medieval buildings of its kind in England. Having stood proudly for almost 700 years, it once acted as a jail for Mary Queen of Scots and provided inspiration for novelist George Eliot. The grand building is complete with stone carvings, wooden ceiling and a 30-foot religious tapestry dating back to the 1500s. Although it is currently undergoing a transformative restoration project, St Mary’s is due to partially reopen in spring 2021 and to fully reopen in December 2021, when it will unveil a new visitor experience.
You can look forward to continuing your journey through medieval Coventry at the famous timbered pubs, cafés and shops of Spon Street, Bayley Lane and Lychgate Cottages. Alternatively, the Holy Trinity Church is home to spectacular examples of medieval Doom paintings, which can be viewed as part of this 360 virtual tour.
If you’re a motor enthusiast, don’t forget Coventry’s Transport Museum, which houses the world’s largest publicly owned collection of British road vehicles and record-breaking fast cars.
If you’re keen to explore the West Midland’s great outdoors, you can make a note to visit Coombe Abbey Park, found less than five miles from the city centre. Full of picturesque picnic spots, this expansive 500-acre site was designed by England’s most famous landscape designer, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. You can discover the rich woodland and tranquil fishing lakes, or even embark on an adrenaline-inducing trip to GoApe outdoor activity centre, complete with treetop challenges, dual zip wires and an exhilarating Tarzan swing.
A stroll along Canal Basin will also provide a glimpse into Coventry’s industrial past. Once a buzzing centre for the coal industry, it is now laden with colourful narrowboats, rejuvenated warehouses full of quirky crafts and an art trail.
Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. You are encouraged to always check individual attraction websites for the latest information, as events and details are subject to change