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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
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The Best Things to See and Do in Durham, England

Picture of Richard Franks
Freelance Travel & Music Writer
Updated: 28 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?

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The Assembly Rooms Theatre

In the heart of the city, plush, velvet-draped The Assembly Rooms Theatre seats 220 people. It is the port of call for touring acts and the home of Durham Student Theatre. This beautiful spot holds its own against any theatre and is a hub of creativity in Durham.

The Assembly Rooms, 40 N Bailey, Durham DH1 3ET, United Kingdom, +44 (0) 191 334 1419

Entrance to Assembly Rooms, Durham

Entrance to Assembly Rooms, Durham | © Assembly Rooms/Facebook

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Wharton Park

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!

Wharton Park, Framwellgate Peth, Durham DH1 4RR, United Kingdom

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Durham Castle

In 1072, under the instruction of William the Conqueror, Durham Castle was constructed after the Norman Conquest of England, and it still stands today. It is now the home of University College, but visitors can also take tours. Durham Castle is the centre point of the county’s history, making this World Heritage site a must see.

Durham Castle, Durham University, Old Elvet, Durham, United Kingdom, +44 (0) 191 334 2000

Durham Castle

Durham Castle | © Carla Brain/Flickr

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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

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Old Cinema Launderette

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.

Old Cinema Launderette, 38 Marshall Terrace, Gielsgate Moor, United Kingdom, +44 (0) 191 384 1412

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Beamish Museum

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.

Beamish Museum, Beamish, Durham DH9 0RG, United Kingdom, +44 (0) 191 370 4000

Tram at the Beamish Museum | © Draco2008:Flickr

Tram at the Beamish Museum | © Draco2008/Flickr

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Sedgefield Racecourse

Known for its warm and relaxed atmosphere and stellar facilities, Sedgefield Racecourse is the place to become immersed in horse racing. Racing has taken place at Sedgefield since 1732 and has been through many transformations since then. However, the ethos of celebrating the sport has remained the same, and many flock here to place their bets on their favourite horse.

Racecourse Road, Sedgefield, Stockton-on-Tees TS21 2HW, United Kingdom, +44 (0) 1740 621 925

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Museum of Archaeology

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.

Museum of Archaeology, Palace Green Library, Durham, United Kingdom, +44 (0) 191 334 2932

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Durham Cathedral

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.

Durham Cathedral, The College, Durham, United Kingdom, +44 (0) 191 386 4266