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Things to do in Coventry, West Midlands

Panorama of the city of Coventry
Panorama ©Shutterstock /Claudio Divizia

Coventry, dominated by its stunning state-of-the-art Cathedral, has wide pedestranised streets, modern architecture, good shopping facilities, fashionable restaurants, luxurious modern hotels, parks and gardens, theatres, and sports venues.

Coventry is a city of modern urban planning, yet its history stretches back to the eleventh century.

Coventry University Buildings at Night
Coventry University ©Shutterstock /Claudio Divizia

The first record of the tale of Lady Godiva, whose name is associated with Coventry, dates from 1235 with "peeping Tom" a later addition.

Visitors to Coventry can see the equestrian statue of Lady Godiva in Broadgate, overlooked by an effigy of peeping Tom in Cathedral Lanes Shopping Centre.

Coventry Cathedral in the centre of Coventry, West Midlands, England
Cathedral ©Shutterstock /Arena Photo UK

An updated version of her ride through Coventry is held annually in June, with live music, children’s theatre and an old time fayre.

Coventry’s early economy derived from cloth manufacturing and leather, later came metal, clock and watch making.

St Michael Cathedral, Coventry, England, UK
Cathedral ©Shutterstock /Claudio Divizia

Coventry developed into one of the four largest towns outside London.

During the Civil War Coventry took sides with the Parliamentarians against Charles I. Royalist prisoners were held in the town and it is thought the phrase, "sent to Coventry" originates from this time.

Modern Bridge Design Crossing Over The Coventry Canal UK
Bridge Over Coventry Canal ©Shutterstock /Equilibrium Photographers

The building of the Coventry canal in 1768-69, and the railway in 1838 improved communications, and brought a large increase in manufacturing and population.

Cash’s ribbon weaving and Singer sewing machines were founded in the city. James Starley produced the first "bone-shaker" in 1868. In 1896 the first motorcar was produced in the city, manufactured by Daimler.

Old brick building with a blue door. Coventry, West Midlands, England.
©Shutterstock /Tupungato

The ruins of Coventry Cathedral which was bombed in the Second World War
Cathedral Ruins ©Shutterstock /Claudio Divizia

Triumph motorcycles appeared soon after. Factories grew in size and diversity, and during the war years much of Britain’s armoured vehicles and munitions were mass produced in Coventry.

On 14th November 1940, Coventry was targeted by German Luftwaffe bombers, which devastated the city centre, destroying the Cathedral of St. Michael, leaving only the medieval tower and spire standing.

This is the reason why the city of Coventry with its ancient history, has few historic buildings, but has instead a well-planned post war city centre, with an inspirational Cathedral.

Aerial view of Coventry from the ruined cathedral
View from the Cathedral ©Shutterstock /Tupungato

Designed by Basil Spence, the new St Michael’s was built between 1956 and 1962, alongside the remains of the old Cathedral.

Some of Coventry's early buildings which survived, and are of historic interest include: Holy Trinity Church, Priory Cottages, 11 Priory Row, Ford Hospital, old Bablake School and Saint John the Baptist Church.

Take a walk along Spon Street, which is a living museum of the city's heritage.

St Michael Cathedral, Coventry, England, UK
Cathedral ©Shutterstock /Claudio Divizia

Visit the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, to see the sketch studies of Graham Sutherland’s famous tapestry in the Cathedral.

There is also an interactive display covering one thousand years of Coventry’s history. The Museum of British Road Transport, houses the largest collection of vehicles in the world, ranging from a Pennyfarthing to Thrust 2, former holder of the land speed record.

Lunt Roman Fort - a turf and timber Roman fort reconstruction
Lunt Roman Fort ©Shutterstock /Gail Johnson

The Belgrade Theatre, Criterion Theatre and the SkyDome are all situated in the city, while the Warwick Arts Centre, the largest arts complex outside London, at the University of Warwick is only a short drive from Coventry.

There are several clubs with live music, a choice of pubs traditional and new, café-bars, restaurants and brasseries, all within the city centre.

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