The Best Things to See and Do in Durham, England

Durham City a historic town by the river wear, England | © Shahid Khan/Shutterstock
Durham City a historic town by the river wear, England | © Shahid Khan/Shutterstock
Photo of Richard Franks
Freelance Travel & Music Writer28 October 2017

When visiting a new city, sometimes the rigid tour guides just don’t cut it. Why not take the city of Durham into your own hands and explore its nature, history and culture? Read on to discover some of the top attractions in this north-eastern city.

The River Wear

Stretching 96km, the River Wear rises through the Pennines and flows through County Durham, looping through the city, lacing it with natural beauty. Thanks to community support and river conservationists, the River Wear is thriving, allowing this stretch of water to sustain wildlife and support the community. Why not follow the River Wear through Durham City Centre, and see where it takes you?

Wharton Park

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A great day out for the whole family, Wharton Park has more than 4.3 hectares of lush greens, exciting play areas, community gardens and so much more. Just north of the city centre, this park is a breath of fresh air form the hustle and bustle of the city. Having recently undergone a £3 million renovation, there’s no better time to visit!

Empty Shop

This space is for those who love the charm of independent venues and who enjoy supporting local art and music. Empty Shop has seen 130,000 visitors, 2,500 artists and 750 events since opening in 2008. The organisation provides a platform for local artists to exhibit and produce works whilst encouraging visitors to also engage with art. Be sure to check their website for upcoming events.

Empty Shop, 35c, Framwellgate Bridge, Durham, United Kingdom

Old Cinema Launderette

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One of the very few places where you can wash your clothes, grab a drink and watch a musician perform! The Old Cinema Launderette keeps in line with the trendy 50s theme, a living tribute to its former function as a cinema during 1928-1958. For upcoming gigs, be sure to check their website.

Beamish Museum

Museum, Shop
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The Town at Beamish
The Town at Beamish | Courtesy of Beamish
Step back in time at this highly interactive and immersive museum that gives visitors insight into north-east England in the early 19th and 20th centuries, with a featured exhibit on life in the 1950s. Beamish Museum has preserved the revolution of industry throughout this time, allowing visitors to explore a whole village, colliery, a farm and train station with insightful talks with townsfolk along the way.

Museum of Archaeology

Library, Museum, University
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Ranging from the prehistoric to the post-medieval, the Museum of Archaeology focuses on items from north-east England, excavated by Durham University’s Department of Archaeology. Since moving to the Palace Green Library from Durham University in 2014, the collection has grown and is better preserved—even more reason to uncover some of Durham’s history.

Durham Cathedral

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Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral | © National Churches Trust/Flickr
A focal point of Durham, the cathedral played an important part in its history. Durham Cathedral was the final resting place of St Cuthbert, who died in 687 AD, making it grounds for religious pilgrimage in medieval England. Guests can now discover the treasures of St Cuthbert, explore its breath-taking architecture and take part in seasonal events.

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