Top Things to Do in Durham

It’s been a whole year since I moved back down south from Durham.


One whole crazy, stressful, satisfying, fun year. And my year up in Durham was much the same.

I’d never have travelled as far north until I moved there, and as you know from my graduation post, I was really taken with the city.

It’s somewhere I’d never really have thought of visiting beforehand, and neither had my family or friends.

But I changed a lot of people’s minds. So maybe I can make you consider it too!

Notably, Durham has recently been nominated for the Best UK Holiday Destination in the British Travel Awards 2014. You can vote here and enter the prize draw to win a holiday.

I spent a lot of time simply meandering the streets, and sipping tea from the many tea shops that litter the city.

Here are my top suggestions for your visit to Durham:

  • Row a boat down the river. If you’re lucky enough to have a fairly sunny day, make sure you hop on one of the picturesque rowing boats and cruise down the river to soak up some of the sites. Boats can be hired cheaply from Browns Rowing Boats, just next to The Boathouse pub. As you can tell by my photos from last year, we weren’t necessarily naturals… but it was hilarious, nonetheless! If rowing’s not your thing and you’d rather cruise down in style, pick the Prince Bishop River Cruiser. Similar boats are often used for the ‘booze cruises’ for uni students, where a bar is also set up on deck – it’s great fun!
Boats.........
Photo courtesy of pinterest.com
  • Visit the Cathedral. Arguably the most beautiful cathedral in the world, and certainly the ‘most liked cathedral on Facebook‘, Durham Cathedral is a truly stunning spectacle that can only be enjoyed to its maximum beauty in the flesh. Wander around the beautiful building, see where Harry Potter was filmed, wander around the cloisters, and finally climb the tower for an amazing view across the city. Rumour has it that if students climb the tower before they have finished their degree, they will fail. So sadly I had to wait. Find out about climbing the cathedral tower here. When you’re finished exploring the cathedral, head out onto the lawn outside, known commonly as Palace Green. I used to love picnicking on it and people watching on a nice day. It really is a beautiful place!
A very small section of the beautiful interior at Durham catherdral where everyone is welcome to have a look around
Photo courtesy of flickr.com

Photo courtesy of buzzfeed.com

Palace Green Durham
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Overlooking the Palace Green and Castle.
Photo courtesy of pinterest.com
  • Snoop around Durham Castle. Just across Palace Green from Durham Cathedral is the castle. The castle currently provides student accommodation, and is host to The Undercroft, the oldest student bar in the world! The castle is open to visitors during off-peak seasons (when the students have gone home), and tours are available. Make sure you do it – it really is an incredible building. I used to have formals here in The Great Hall, and was always taken aback by the incredible architecture and history of the building.
Photo courtesy of dur.ac.uk

  • Haunt the various tea shops. Tea shops – Durham’s full of them! Each offering their own outstanding plethora of scrumptious looking cakes and choices of tea from around the globe. I’ve been to a fair few of them in my time, and I’d like to pass some recommendations on to you! Tealicious is a twee little tea room, painted pastel blue and filled to the brim with dainty bunting, cute little tables, gorgeous old china and cake stands supporting towering cakes. Head to Chapters Tearooms for the biggest red velvet cupcakes you’ve seen, hot chocolates brimming with marshmallows and cream (hey – it gets cold up there, you need them!), and tasty slabs of cheesecake. Pop upstairs for the ‘Shake Bar’, where they serve delightfully calorific sundaes and milkshakes. Swing by Be Tempted for its specialty cupcakes and coffee, famous for its cute pastel pink decor. My favourite is Leonard’s Coffee House – set out of town close to the River Wear,  it offers a lengthy and delicious menu of paninis, soups, sandwiches, cakes, and biscuits – I’ve never had a bad trip here!
Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.co.uk
    Photo courtesy of bakedbyiris.wordpress.com

      Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.co.uk

      Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.co.uk

      Photo courtesy of livesonline.sunderland.ac.uk

      Photo courtesy of 192.com

      • Go for a stroll along the river. Grab a loved one or a mate and go for a wander along the river bank. You’ll get to see some amazing scenery. I suggest you start by the steps at Framwellgate Bridge in the city centre, where you can overlook the castle and cathedral. Head down onto the river bank, and walk up and along the Prebends Bridge. You’ll be able to see the cathedral in all its glory, some medieval sculptures and seating, and then continue up and along the cobbled streets of Durham’s famous Bailey. Pass the beautiful gardens of the cathedral and the many colleges of the university before heading back into the city centre… you never know what you’ll come across!
  • Go on a college bar crawl. Durham city is home to 14 independent university colleges, which each and every student uses as a hub. Each college proudly features its own bar, and each is unique with its own pricings, featured drinks, and atmosphere. One compulsory act of every student before they leave is to complete a bar crawl of each and every single one of these colleges. Maybe you don’t fancy all of them, but it is fun and easy to see how many you can get through, particularly on the Bailey where the bars are pretty much next to each other. Particular highlights include The Undercroft Bar at University College in Durham Castle, St. Chads Bar, St. Cuthberts, and my old regular, Ustinov College.
Photo courtesy of community.dur.ac.uk

    Photo courtesy of dur.ac.uk

    Photo courtesy of flickr.com
  • Enjoy the best fish and chips ever. Now I know I plugged Bells in a past post about my Durham graduation, but I’m mentioning it again. I honestly wouldn’t if I didn’t think it was worth it, but oh my word it is! Bells Fish Shop is a fish and chip shop in Durham city that prides itself on its chips cooked in beef dripping. They are genuinely the best fish and chips I have ever tasted, and they even have a restaurant (with a fish tank which I always found a little amusing). I highly recommend a visit!
    • Photo courtesy of bellsfishshop.co.uk

        Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.ie
    • Visit the Botanic Garden. Durham’s Botanic Garden is owned by the university, and features 10 hectares of beautiful scenery and woodlands. It’s perfect for a pretty stroll – meander through woods, fields, past baby goats and through beautiful flowers! I used to love having picnics there in the summer months. There is also an educational centre for those of you with little ones you’d like to take along – they’ll love learning all about plants and insects.
      • Photo courtesy of community.dur.ac.uk

        Photo courtesy of nipitinthebud.wordpress.com
      Have you done any of these?

      Or maybe you live there, or have done something different? Let me know if you have!
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      Laura

      I’m Laura, a roaming blonde who recently made the leap from my home in the Cotswolds, UK to be based across the pond in Vancouver, BC for a brand new job and plenty of adventures.

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