For a long time off the radar of most visitors to the British Isles, Coventry finally received recognition in 2021 when it was named the UK City of Culture, and its reputation as a thriving urban centre continues to grow.
Whether in its industrial heritage or its more recent contributions to the UK’s cultural landscape, Coventry has always been a hotbed of innovation. Half-a-century ago, the city invented the hugely influential Theatre in Education movement while Warwick University was the country’s first seat of learning where you could study film. Today Coventry and its surroundings buzz with activity and are packed full of unique things to see and do. We’ve picked out 12 of the best.
Explore a stunning Elizabethan country house
Fans of gothic revivalist buildings have the perfect excuse to visit Coventry. Dating back to the 19th century, Arbury Hall in Nuneaton, a short drive out of Coventry, is arguably Britain’s finest example of this distinctive architectural style. Built on the site of a 12th-century Augustinian Priory, the beautiful Elizabethan house has been the seat of the Newdigate family for over 400 years and is the ancestral home of Viscount and Viscountess Daventry. However, visitors should plan their trip around infrequent opening dates, with entry only allowed on bank holiday Sunday and Mondays throughout the year.
Arbury Park, Nuneaton
Marvel at a magnificent cathedral
When we talk about old and new living side by side we don’t usually mean it as literally as is the case at Coventry Cathedral, one of the most cherished cathedrals in England. In 1918, the Church of St. Michael was built, rising high above the city centre. Sadly, it was largely destroyed along with many of Coventry’s buildings when bombs were dropped here during WWII. In the early 1960s, a new cathedral was built in its place, leaving only old ruins as a reminder of its history. Visitors can come and admire the church in its modern guise as well as see the still-standing remnants from its past. And be sure to spare time to visit the café in the cathedral’s basement where homemade cakes and pastries are served.
Priory Street, Coventry / Mon-Sat 10am-4pm Sun 12.30pm-3pm
Take a wander through a buzzing shopping village
The independent shopping village of FarGo offers unique food, amazing coffee and incredible art – all situated among artists’ studios, creative work spaces and shops. Since its creation, the village has brought a whole new dimension to the city, supporting new businesses by helping them set up and prosper. In essence, Fargo Village attempts to inject a dash of London’s Camden and Brick Lane into Coventry with its independent shopping vibe. It’s a space for everyone to enjoy – whether it’s with family and friends, for retail therapy or simply to hang out and soak up the atmosphere.
Far Gosford Street, Coventry / Mon-Sun 10am-6pm
Join a guided walking city tour
Coventry has an amazing history, not just the obvious things like Lady Godiva, the Blitz and the stories of not one, not two but three cathedrals, but things like: where the English Civil War really started; the time when Coventry was the capital of England; its’ place in the Gunpowder Plot; the 700 year old royal palace which still stands in the city centre; and how Coventry not only lead the globe in various different industries but also was a world pioneer in music, theatre and architecture. All of this history is brought to life using buildings and public art in two guided walks: Godiva’s Cathedral Quarter Walk and the Jigsaw of History Tour, which are run by Sky Blue City Walks, Coventry’s top-rated walking tour guide.
Check out a top class museum
Those from outside Coventry may be unaware that the city was the birthplace of the British motoring industry, with renowned automotive brands including Jaguar, Rover, Triumph, Riley and Healey all hailing from the city. Today this rich heritage is celebrated at the Coventry Transport Museum, which offers a fascinating window into the past with a vast array of vehicles of every type on display, while exhibits also tell the real-life stories of Coventry’s innovators and entrepreneurs in the field of transportation. There’s also a wide and diverse programme of exhibitions to enjoy. The museum is free to enter for GoCV cardholders.
Millennium Place, Hales Street, Coventry / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Coventry’s long and illustrious aviation history can be seen at its best at the Midland Air Museum, which houses an impressive collection of Coventry-produced aircraft and engines. The museum, which was inaugurated in 1967 by a small group of local aircraft enthusiasts as the Midland Aircraft Preservation Society, has grown dramatically over the years, having begun with a mere five aircrafts on display. Today it features iconic and historically significant models including the Vulcan bomber, the Argosy freighter, the MiG-21 and the CMC Leopard – all under an authentic World War II Robin Hangar.
Rowley Road, Coventry / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
One of the many important industries that have called Coventry “home” over the past few centuries is watch manufacturing. First recorded in the city in the 1680s, over the ensuing 200 years Coventry went on to become the national heartland of watchmaking. Indeed, in 1874 some 130 watch companies were listed as being in operation in the city. Proudly celebrating this rich horological heritage is the Coventry Watch Museum, located inside three derelict cottages and housing an impressive collection of clocks, watches (including pocket watches), artefacts, tools of the watchmaking trade, family history records and much more. Look out for the museum’s pride and joy – a working Congreve clock.
Spon Street, Coventry / Sat & Tues 11am-3pm Closed Sun-Mon & Weds-Fri
Catch a theatre show
At the heart of Coventry’s vibrant theatre scene is the Albany Theatre, an art deco, proscenium arch stage theatre supported by volunteers and serving the local community. Formerly Coventry’s City College building, it was opened in 1935, with Art Deco interiors and a 620-seat theatre. After the threat of closure in 2009, the theatre was saved and re-opened in 2013, re-named as the Albany Theatre, and run by The Albany Theatre Trust. The venue’s over-arching vision is ‘Arts for Life’, a programme of events and performances to promote wellbeing, community cohesion and active citizenship.
Albany Road, Coventry / Mon-Sat 10.30am-1.30pm Sun Closed
Emerging from the rubble of the Second World War, during which Coventry was blitzed by German bombing raids, was an almost entirely new physical topography for the city. Amid the reconstruction the Belgrade Theatre was born, named in recognition of a gift of timber from the Serbian capital city of Belgrade that was used in the construction of the theatre’s auditorium. Today the venue has grown to become one of the city’s foremost institutions for the performing arts, highly respected for its ground-breaking community and educational initiatives, and presenting a varied programme of performances in its two auditoria.
Belgrade Square, Corporation Street, Coventry
Attend a fun-packed festival
Coventry may not be renowned for its festival scene, but each year the vast green expanse of War Memorial Park in the city’s southern borders plays host to Godiva Festival, an action-packed, three-day celebration of music. Named after the city’s famous former resident, Lady Godiva, the event routinely draws tens of thousands of revellers to the park to enjoy great live music, family entertainment, international food and drink, a craft village, a children’s fun fair and plenty more besides. Notable names from the music world to have performed here include Kasabian, The Charlatans, The Boomtown Rats, Embrace, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Buzzcocks, and Happy Mondays.
War Memorial Park, Coventry / September each year
Discover an immersive arts & history venue
The perfect place to delve into Coventry’s history and engage with art and culture, the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum is an acclaimed cultural venue in the heart of the city. Visitors can investigate the natural world, modern art, and the Old Masters; wander through dazzling interactive displays and enjoy the latest exhibitions while admiring the building’s unique architecture. As well as the art gallery’s ever-changing displays which are often created in partnership with national museums, the Herbert offers a wide range of detailed talks, fantastic events and inventive workshops for adults and families, all designed to encourage creativity, exploration, and fun.
Jordan Wl, Coventry / Mon-Sat 10am-4pm Sun 12pm-4pm
Take a trip to a medieval guildhall
A trip to St Mary’s Hall invites visitors to explore more than six centuries of history surrounding one of the finest medieval guildhalls in the country. Nestled in Coventry’s Cathedral Quarter, the building has led a charmed life, having survived the German bombing raids during the Second World War that decimated so much of the city. Today it stands as testament to the power and wealth of medieval Coventry, boasting majestic interiors, collections of armour, ancient furniture, artworks and internationally significant tapestries. Notable inhabitants have included such luminaries as Mary, Queen of Scot, who spent time in prison in its confines, and Shakespeare, who held theatre productions here.
Bayley Lane, Coventry