20 Must-Visit Attractions in Durham, England

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral | © National Churches Trust/Flickr
Durham in the North East of England is one of the country’s most picturesque areas, thanks to its plentiful cathedrals, castles and its riverside setting. Read on to discover 20 of the best attractions in the area – how many can you tick off your list?

Durham Cathedral

Voted Britain’s best building by BBC Radio 4 listeners and The Guardian readers, Durham Cathedral certainly stands proud. Its grandiose stature looks over the medieval city of Durham beneath, making it one of the finest spectacles to see.

Durham Cathedral © National Churches Trust/Flickr

Beamish – The Living Museum of the North

Celebrating North East England life in the 1840s, 1900s & 1920s, this world-famous open air museum is one of the top attractions while visiting the region. Though a little further out – it’s near the town of Stanley, in County Durham – you should take time out to swot up on local history!

Hardwick Park

Just a 20-minute drive from the centre of Durham is Hardwick Park, a picturesque, leafy retreat from the historic city. This Visit England-accredited country park is full of wildlife, nature and the lovely Serpentine Lake.

Durham Castle

One of the city’s most notable landmarks, Durham Castle has been wholly occupied since the 11th century and is at the centre of Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Now occupied by Durham University, daily guided tours explore the extensive history of the castle and are bookable online.

📍 Durham Castle, Durham, UK, +44 191 334 3800

Durham Castle © Carla Brain/Flickr

Durham Town Hall

This Grade II-listed Victorian Great Hall is one of the best kept secrets in Durham, despite being its official Town Hall. Though public access can be limited, private tours can be booked by contacting the Town Hall directly, with craft fairs and concerts occasionally held here too.

Emirates Riverside Cricket Ground

Not just a venue for cricket, Emirates Riverside is one of the top venues in Durham. Also the occasional host of concerts, this world-class outdoor arena is perfect sports and music fans alike.

Durham University Botanic Garden

Set across approximately 25 acres of mature woodland in the south of the city, Durham University’s Botanic Garden is a tranquil day out for the family. Here you’ll find seasonal plant collections, a glasshouse, outdoor art displays and a gift shop.

📍 South Rd, Durham, UK, +44 191 334 2887

University of Durham Botanic Gardens © Dominic Wade/Flickr

Durham University Museum of Archaeology

Another of Durham University’s offerings, the Museum of Archaeology was founded in 1833. Home to ancient collections from Roman and Greek to prehistoric and medieval, the museum is a fantastic afternoon out.

📍 Palace Green Library, Durham, UK, +44 191 334 2932

Wharton Park

Following a recent £3 million investment, Wharton Park is one of the best outdoor days out in the city. The park, home to a putting green, miniature car track, junior play area and even an outdoor gym, makes planning summer days a breeze. Durham railway station is also at the edge of the park, making travelling here even easier!

Auckland Castle

Set in County Durham’s town of Bishop Auckland, this castle and its surrounding grounds date back as far as the late 12th century. The area itself is packed with history, with artefacts such as a 15-century bed which was owned by Henry VII on display at the Castle.

📍 Market Pl, Bishop Auckland, UK, +44 1388 743750

Auckland Castle, County Durham © Glen Bowman/Flickr

Hamsterley Forest

On the border of the North Pennines, Hamsterley Forest is the largest of its kind in County Durham and is perfect for family picnics and cycle rides.

High Force Waterfall

One of England’s rare and most impressive waterfalls, High Force is set within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Beauty. Follow the routed walk through greenlands to the summit, where the gentle River Tees turns in to a 21-metre waterfall.

📍 Forest-in-Teesdale, UK, +44 1833 622209

Palace Green Library

Palace Green Library is home to the University’s special collections which span across centuries. Through their unique exhibitions and archives, weekly visitors flock here in their thousands to discover Durham and beyond.

📍 Palace Green, Durham, UK, +44 191 334 2932

Palace Green Library, Durham © Gareth Milner/Flickr

Walking tour of Durham

What better way to discover a city than a walking tour? These tours, officially approved by Durham’s tourist board, offer expert insights in to the history, architecture, geology and future of the city.


One for the kids – and big kids too! Diggerland is a fun theme park that’s home to dumper trucks, dirt diggers and just about everything to do with diggers you can think of!

Crook Hall & Gardens

Crook Hall is a 13th-century, Grade I listed medieval hall with plentiful green space to explore in its immediate surrounding areas. At this idyllic, quintessentially English hall, visitors are able to enjoy a cream tea over the log fire in the beautiful Georgian dining room and explore the well-kept gardens.

📍 Frankland Ln, Sidegate, Durham, UK, +44 191 384 8028

Crook Hall & Gardens, Durham © Blondeone200/Flickr

Old Durham Gardens

Less than a mile from the city centre, time spent at Old Durham Gardens is a charming way to spend an afternoon. This green space is accessible from a number of woodland walks or along the River Wear.

Broompark Picnic Area

You’ll never believe this park was once a coal mine and coal storage depot! Fully transformed in to a green space, Broompark is now often used as a picnic area but is also home to a variety of wildlife and has two short walking routes.

The Bowes Museum

Set in a grand, French chateau-style building, The Bowes Museum houses a nationally renowned collection of art including paintings by El Greco and Francisco Goya. One of its leading artefacts is the 18th-century Silver Swan automaton.

📍 Newgate, Barnard Castle, UK, +44 1833 690606

Bowes Museum, County Durham © Colin Gregory/Flickr

Durham Riverside Walk

This popular walking route in Durham takes in the stunning River Tees and gives walkers the chance to marvel in the river itself and the grandiose buildings that peer down on the medieval city beneath them.

📍 Green Lane, Durham, UK, +44 300 026 2626