9 best things to do in Durham

Steeped in a wealth of medieval heritage and magnificent architecture, Durham is a fascinating town to explore with a wealth of things to do. Situated in the northeast of England, this picturesque town is packed with a remarkable amount of history that can be felt in nearly every part of the town. Whether it’s the Romanesque Durham Cathedral, the tranquil River Wear, or the medieval Crook Hall, Durham is bound to leave its mark on you with an unforgettable trip. 

Durham Cathedral

A close up of Durham Cathedral

The centrepiece of the town, Durham Cathedral is the most breathtaking attraction to visit in Durham. Built in 1093, the cathedral is famous for its Romanesque architecture that sits staunchly in the heart of the town. The 12th-century Galilee Chapel is one of the highlights of the cathedral due to its medieval wall paintings, imposing sandstone pillars, and beautiful Rose Window in the Chapel of the Nine Altars. If you want to capture the best view of Durham then wander up the 325 steps in the central tower where your eyes will be treated to a sensation view of the city and the surrounding countryside. 

Address:Durham DH1 3EH
Hours: 10am-4pm Mon-Sat
12pm-4pm Sun
Website:Durham Cathedral

Beamish — The Living Museum of the North

a woman and a horse from the Beamish Museum, Durham, UK

One of the best things to do in Durham, the Beamish Museum celebrates life during the industrial revolution. Sprawled throughout 300 acres of gorgeous Durham countryside, the Beamish Museum takes you on a journey back to an important period in British history. To help capture a sense of this period and bring it to life people all around the museum are dressed up in costume. You can ride antique trams, visit a preserved 1900s town, buy items in a 1900s chemist, ride a puffing billy as well as touch, feel and experience exhibitions, artefacts and objects from this time.

Admission:See page for detailed information
Address:Regional Resource Centre,
Beamish DH9 0RG
Hours: 10am-4pm Wed-Sun

Durham University Botanic Garden

If you’re looking to escape to some beautiful woodlands and luscious greenery then Durham University Botanic Garden is the place for you. Situated on the outskirts of Durham City, the Botanic Garden has a variety of fascinating areas to explore. Some of the highlights of the vast park include the Alpine Garden, Winter Garden, Bamboo Grove, Woodland Garden and wildflower meadow. Transport yourself to far-off climates by wandering around the amazing glasshouses scattered around the gardens. From the arid climate of the desert to colourful tropical rainforests there are an array of plants to discover in the glasshouses as well as some insects, scorpions and even tarantulas!

Uncover the incredible history of Durham on a walking tour

Durham Market Place, Durham, UK

Get to know the sights, places, and people from the past that make Durham what it is today on a Durham Walking Tour. You’ll embark on an educational journey through time that dates back to the Ice Age. With the help of a friendly and knowledgeable guide, you can learn about Durham’s history as you visit the stunning sights the city has to offer and pass through its quaint streets. You’ll get the chance to see the breathtaking Durham Cathedral as well as learn about the city’s Roman roots.

Durham Castle

Durham Castle, Durham Cathedral, and River Wear on a sunny day.

At the heart of Durham’s Unesco World Heritage Site is the remarkable Durham Castle. Built in the 11th-century, the castle’s occupants have somewhat changed over the years. What was previously the residence of the Bishops of Durham is now home to the students of the prestigious Durham University. There are daily guided tours that explore the extensive history of the castle as well as the Castle collections. The Castle collections focus on three principal areas: Durham Castle itself, the Prince Bishops of Durham, and Durham University, with particular reference to University College. 

Durham Riverside Walk

River Wear, Durham, UK

For nature lovers and those seeking to soak in some tranquil scenery, a Durham Riverside Walk is not to be missed. A 3-mile circular walk that takes approximately 1-1.5 hours, this walk is one of the best things to do in Durham. You’ll pass by some of Durham’s most notable landmarks including Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle all the while absorbing the peaceful serenity of the River Wear. The walk is also punctuated by some lovely bridges and old ruins. What’s more, some excellent pubs, bars, and restaurants can be found along the riverfront if you’re keen to grab a drink or a bite to eat with the accompaniment of a pleasantly unforgettable view.

Palace Green

There aren’t many patches of grass as famous in Durham as Palace Green. Becoming part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, Palace Green is a stunning place to relax in surrounded by Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle. The Palace Green Library is home to the University’s special collections which date back centuries. Unique exhibitions and archives attract many visitors and allow you to discover the extensive history of Durham and beyond. In addition to Palace Green’s remarkable surrounding architecture, from the west, a passageway called 'Windy Gap' leads down to the beautiful banks of the River Wear between two buildings which are part of the University Music School.

Durham Distillery

whisky being poured into a glass

Over the last few years, the people at Durham Distillery have managed to create a place that isn’t just about promoting a brand but being a place to come and learn about craft spirits. Here, you can learn about the methods used to create their gin and the importance of their handmade, steam-powered copper pot still. Discover the engrossing process of how their gin is made from the hand-crushing of juniper berries at the beginning through to the gin’s finale coming out along the ‘Parrot Spout’. 

Visit their website to find out about The various events they have on throughout the year.

Address:2F-2G, Riverside Industrial Estate,
Langley Park, Durham DH7 9TT
Hours: 9am-3pm on weekdays
Website:Durham Distillery

Extra: Things to do with kids in Durham

Hall Hill Farm

a lamb looking up

This award-winning Farm Attraction is one of the best family activities to do in Durham with a whole range of things to do. You can see the well-cared-for farm animals, cuddle the rabbits, guinea pigs, and chicks, and ride donkeys, tractors and trailers! The crazy golf course makes for great entertainment while the Sheep Racing is arguably the pick of the best attraction to see here. There is also an indoor Soft Play Barn, a tearoom and a gift shop, meaning you won’t be bored for a moment when here.

Admission:£9.45 per adult, £8.50 per child
Address:Hall Hill Farm, Lanchester,
Durham DH7 0TA
Hours: See page for detailed information
Website:Hall Hill Farm