20 Best things to do in Durham
6 min

20 Best things to do in Durham

6 min
Uploaded on
Dec 10, 2022
Last updated on
Mar 9, 2023
Uploaded on
Dec 10, 2022
Last updated on
Mar 9, 2023
20 Things to do in Durham
When In Druham do things the local way!

When you think of the United Kingdom, what comes to mind? The first things that come to mind are royalty, castles, cathedrals, ancient history, tea, and dreary weather. Well, only one place can provide you with the whole British experience, and the best guess here is the City of Durham. Yes! There are so many things to do in Durham. Even though prominent cities such as London, Manchester, and Birmingham are on the map of famous sites in the UK, Durham is one of England's most underrated wonders. A visit to Durham will allow you to see British culture and history differently.

Castles in Durham

Visiting Castles is one of the most recommended things to do in Durham. Since centuries ago, Durham has been preserving its royalty and heritage through its picturesque and beautiful castles. These castles have been a testament to changing history, brutal wars, and incredible stories of bravery. Even today, Durham has opened its doors to millions of visitors to witness and experience these fairytale-like castles' spectacular views and magnificent architecture. 

1. Durham Castle

If you are in Durham! One of the best things to do in Durham is visit the Durham castle! The Durham Castle has a passing history of 950 years and was built under the reign of William the Conqueror. The castle was erected to prevent threats from foreign invasions and safeguard the bishop from enemies. Today, the castle serves as the campus of the world-renowned University of Durham, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, It still retains its Norman motte layout and bailey castle layout, the centuries-old Noman chapel and the great hall filled with medieval art and portraits.

2. Auckland Castle

The Auckland Castle has served as home for the Bishops of Durham and the Northern England kings for over 750 years. A visit to Auckland Castle, also known as the best-preserved bishop palaces, would be the best things to do in Durham if you are intrigued about the lifestyle and history of the bishops. Some of the major highlights of this place include the stunning interiors in the throne room & Jacob and his twelve son's paintings which symbolize religious freedom, tolerance, and hope. While strolling inside the castle, each wall will give you the tale and history of the building, taking you on a trip down the medieval lane. The castle also houses one of Europe's largest private chapels, which is still active in its prayer and service activities.

3. Raby Castle

Raby Castle is one of the finest English castles in the world, making it to the list of best-visited places and things to do in Durham. Built-in the 14th century by John Neville, the castle has a history that has passed down thousands of years and is still significant in modern times. The castle's exceptionally well-preserved beautiful interior and exterior medieval architecture still shines in its glory. Inside the castle, you might come across different artefacts with historical and cultural symbolism dating back to the 17th century. Furthermore, there are different arts and crafts by great artists like Sir Anthony Van Dyck and Jacopo Amigoni. If you plan to visit the castle, don't forget to check out the famous artefact "Greek Slave", a marble statue that tells you the story of being superior to suffering and raised above degradation by inward purity and forced character. 

4. Scargill Castle

Did you always want to stay in a castle and live your fairytale dream? It looks like you can tick that off your bucket list of things to do in Durham because Scargill Castle has that for you. You can book a night at this gorgeous castle which has now become a holiday home, and experience the life of royalty. The accommodation has an entrance hall, functioning kitchen, lavish bathroom, decked dining halls, living rooms, and bedrooms. Even though there is very little information about the history and origins of the castle, it is believed that the castle has been long since the 12th century and was used as a manor home. 

Museums in Durham

With so many things to do in Durham, museums account for the majority of attraction and people. Durham comprises castles, cathedrals, and palaces, but the museums are equally impressive in telling Durham's history. With around 41 museums around this historic city, we recommend the best museums across Durham.

1. Oriental Museum 

Durham's Oriental Museum is dedicated to bringing Asian and North African arts and culture. This museum contains about 23,000 historic objects stretching from the ancient Egyptian civilization to the wonders of China, Japan, India, and Korea. Each artifact is discussed in detail, with commentary and movies to make it more appealing and engaging. If you want to learn more about world history, this museum ultimately becomes one of the things to do in Durham. Apart from this, the museum is always on the trail of conducting events like Egyptian exhibitions, Silk road guardians, etc., to help increase knowledge as long as the entry fee is free and accessible to everyone.

2. Beamish Museum 

Usually, when you think of a museum, you might think about artefacts locked up in glass cases, with a small description underneath, with hundreds of them lined and organized across the room. But no longer. The Beamish Museum takes it further up the notch by becoming one of the most recommended places and  things to do in Durham. It is the first open-air 35-acre museum in the UK that allows visitors to experience the scene of 1820s, 1900s, 1940s, and 1950s England. The museum has made efforts to help people travel back in time by building replicas of old trams, bakeries, town stables, department stores, newspaper houses, banks, railway stations, etc. It has reenactors who create an atmosphere of a particular period making it more real and exciting for the visitors. To add more, you can also gobble up traditional English food and hop on old trams and trains to experience the good ole days. 

3. Museum of Archeology

Durham has a deep-rooted rich history, and the Museum of Archeology proves it further by the array of displays it has on its shelves. The Museum of Archeology is an old museum founded in 1833 and is known for its stunning prehistoric to post-medieval artifacts. The collections in the museum include rare and beautiful stone tools, cups, ring stones, pottery, vessels, etc., that span 250,000 years, like the Prehistoric, Roman, Greek, Medieval, and Post-medieval periods. The museum's highlights are the Bronze Age metalwork and Roman riches recovered from a murky stream.

4. Durham Museum 

Another museum that helps you relive and understand Durham's past is the Durham Museum. This museum is known for presenting the wonders of medieval and 20th-century Durham. By looking around the museum, you can understand the gradual growth of Durham as a city. Many fascinating objects cover people's social, domestic, and commercial life at various periods. The museum is strategically divided into Early Durham, Gregorian Durham, Victorian Durham, and Modern Durham to help people know about the transformations it has undergone for centuries. This museum is a must-visit if you want to deeply connect with the city and know it from its roots.

Beaches in Durham

Surprisingly! In Durham, you can also catch waves. This city has a relatively long stretch of coastline, making it a perfect location for beaches on a hot, humid summer day. With their magnificent and clear atmosphere, beaches make for an excellent hotspot and are one of the top things to do in Durham.

1. Seaham Beach 

Seaham Beach is a coastal beauty famously known as a glass beach. Years back, there used to be an old bottle works company that would use the sea as a dumping ground for its glass waste. This waste was slowly smoothed and polished by the sea, making them look like pebble-like stones. There are many colorful pebbles in blues, greens, reds, and yellow. On a low-tide day, many locals travel to the beach to try their hand at sea-glass hunting, making it a popular pastime and one of the favorite things to do in Durham. Apart from this, the beach is also known for its clean atmosphere and lovely ocean view. If you are hungry after a long beach day, there are many cafes and restaurants to help you.

2. Crimdon Beach

A lovely walk at Crimdon beach is therapeutic and breathtaking while stretching on the North Sea. Crimdon Beach is a 5km long sandy beach area with the cleanest crystal clear water, dunes and a natural reserve, making it a perfect place for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. You can spot birds like Little Tern on the beach or try activities like horse riding, sunbathing, or walking, which ranks this beach to be one of the top  things to do in Durham. 

3. Seaton Carew Beach

Seaton Care Beach is one of the iconic and scenic beaches in North England. It is a classic place for a weekend getaway or a vacation spot. Whether it be soaking yourself in the sun, playing in the sand, or dipping into the waters, this beach should be on your list of things to do in Durham. 

4. Blackhall 

As its name suggests, Blackhall is a beach with black sand all over the place. This beach was previously devastated by the impact of industrialization but has now recovered and become a beach destination. 

Parks in Durham

Durham is wrapped in nature's arms; there is greenery everywhere, making it an interesting place for many parks. There are many open spaces across the city where people go to unwind from their daily stressful days. Here are a few "worth visiting" parks in Durham that will make you fall in love with nature again

1. Durham University Botanic Garden

Finding things to do in Durham and enjoy going to parks or gardening? Visit the Durham University Botanic Garden. This 10-hectare park is located on Durham's southern outskirts, among the city's most picturesque and stunning woodlands. The botanic garden is home to various flowers, plants, and herbs. Entering the garden, you will come across a glasshouse home to rare butterflies, insects, and bugs. Apart from that, they also have a tropical house where they have replicated the atmosphere of an almost natural rainforest and have a banana, sugarcane, coffee, and bamboo plants.

2. Crook Hall Gardens

Crook Hall Gardens are interlinked beautiful gardens that are unique to their kind, with a medieval mansion situated on the property and surrounded by fields and a 10-acre garden area that gives you one of the best views of Durham City. You can florrick around the gardens and catch sight of buzzing bees, beautiful butterflies, sweet songbirds on the trees, and ducks in the ponds. Moreover, there are seating areas and cafes that can help you take in the serenity and beauty of the place for much longer.

Nature Activities in Durham

1. River Wear

If you like to row your boat gently down the stream, then stopping by the river wear can be a good idea and one of the best nature related  things to do in Durham. You can rent boats from different boat renting services and enjoy a few hours basking in the sun while rowing your boat in the river. Nothing can ever beat the serenity and quietness of a river and the sound of a rowing boat. If you are in luck, you will also spot herons and other species in their natural habitat. 

2. High Force Waterfall

High Force is a magnificent waterfall situated on the Tees river. According to theories, this waterfall has been there for thousands of years and has a 21-meter-high drop. In the daylight, the waterfall is surrounded by beautiful scenery where visitors can enjoy walking around and spotting different animals like owls, hares, foxes, etc. At night, the High force waterfall turns into a star-gazing ground where people can watch bright stars in the dark skies. Many trails and guided excursions are available to help you discover this magnificent tall-standing waterfall.

Best Restaurants in Durham 

You tell a lot about a place by its food scene, and luckily eating different foods will complete your trip and be one of the best things to do in Durham. Locals take great pride in their culinary and food scene, with restaurants, breweries, and bars lined up on every street corner. The city is known for foods that are not familiar to your ears, like Rosewater ice cream or Hush honey! Did we accidentally make you crave delicious food? Well, check out these best recommended Durham Restaurants.

1. Tealicious Tearoom

Unleash the British spirit by savoring delicious tea and cakes at Tealicious Tearoom. This tea room is a famous name in Durham, with a staggering five-star rating on food, service, and ambience. This tea room serves you an array of tea, teacakes, scones, soups, and sandwiches, with gluten-free and vegan options. It is affordable and won't cost too much on a good afternoon break.  

2. Cellar Door

Do you want to wine and dine like the knights and royals? With a unique dining experience, the Cellar Door is known for replicating a 13th-century cellar conversion and a stunning river view. The food is high quality and one of the best-tasted meals in Durham. The cuisine served at this exquisite restaurant is French and British. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available, making it a restaurant that caters to and serves all! Lastly, it is also super affordable and very reasonable for an afternoon lunch or dinner.

3. Finbarr's Restaurant

Like the Cellar Door, Finbarr also has a unique dining atmosphere, where the restaurant was formerly a farm building. Finbarr should definitely be on your list of restaurants to explore in Durham if you are looking for good European or British food. The menu has star dishes like cheese souffle, fish cakes, risotto, etc., which give you a fine dining experience at a low price.

4. Bells Fish Restaurant

Are you looking for an authentic and classic fish and chips bar? Then, Bells Fish Restaurant will be at your service. This restaurant has been praised for years by the locals for its crispy and well-served fish topped with perfectly fried chips. Apart from the fish and chips, the restaurant has other food options if you aren't a big fan of them, but we vouch for them. 

In short, Durham is a place to be ! Its magnificent charm leaves every visitor spellbound. You should visit the above-mentioned museums, beaches, parks, nature sightseeing, castles, restaurants, and Durham's cathedrals to experience the city's cultural, historical, and natural beauty. There are so many things to do in Durham and wonders to explore! 

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