Durham: Love at first sight

From brooding dramatic landscapes and cobbled streets to its magnificent World Heritage Site cathedral, Durham is well worth a visit. Here are our suggestions for the top places in Durham for sightseeing, eating, drinking and shopping.

Here are the best things to see and do in Durham, the great places to grab some grub, the perfect places to pitch up for a pint and where to head for some retail therapy. Plus the secret spots you might never have heard of.

Writer Bill Bryson said it was love at first sight when he arrived in Durham - and it’s easy to see why.

From brooding dramatic landscapes and cobbled streets to its magnificent World Heritage Site cathedral, Durham is well worth a visit.

In his travel book Notes From A Small Island, Bryson called Durham “a perfect little city” – here are some of our favourite spots for eating, sightseeing and shopping.  

Things to do in Durham 
Durham Cathedral was voted the UK’s number one landmark by TripAdvisor users worldwide last year. 

Dubbed “the birthplace of gothic architecture” by Guardian Travel, the 900-year-old Norman cathedral is also a Unesco World Heritage Site – alongside the adjacent Durham Castle.  

Each year some 600,000 people visit the cathedral, and it’s impossible to miss from the train window as you pull into Durham on the East Coast Main Line.

Durham Museum and Heritage Centre will take you on a journey from medieval times to the 20th century. A stone’s throw from the cathedral, this tiny museum is jam-packed with history. 

Wander around a Victorian prison cell or take a close look at ancient stained glass panels recovered from Brancepeth Castle.

Eating in Durham
Nestled a few steps from Durham’s bustling city marketFlat White café is fast gaining a reputation for serving the best coffee in town. But aside from lattes, cappuccinos and mint hot chocolate, this little gem is also loved for its grub. 

TripAdvisor users rank it the third-best eatery in the city, with sandwiches such as roast chicken with homemade pesto and mayo and roast beef with caramelised onion and mustard on offer. 
Want something more substantial? How about fish and chips? Bells Fish Restaurant serves everything from traditional battered cod and haddock to the more unusual options of sea bass and salmon. 

Enjoy some mushy peas, tartar sauce and a squeeze of lemon on the side.

Shopping in Durham 
You’ll find everything from fashion boutiques to foodie shops on the historic streets of Durham city centre

If there’s one shop that typifies the vibe of Durham, it’s Jack Wills. Although a national chain, the brand’s ‘heritage-inspired goods for the university crowd’ are a perfect fit for the historic cathedral, and university, city. Meanwhile, check out your favourite high street brands at Prince Bishops Shopping Centre

With a charming duck-egg blue exterior and twinkling lights in the window, Cuba Lily on Framwelgate Bridge is an Aladdin’s cave of contemporary jewellery. 

With Pandora and Lulu Guinness among the brands, Cuba Lily will ensure your special one is made to feel special.  
Make time to while away an hour rifling through the artefacts at Ding Dong Vintage, or explore the quirky lifestyle and beauty gifts at Wild and Funk.

Hidden Durham 
Here are three spots in Durham you might not have heard of.

Crook Hall and Gardens is an idyllic English country garden in the heart of Durham City. Dating back to the 13th century, Grade 1-listed Crook Hall lies a short walk from Durham Cathedral – wander through its colourful, dreamy gardens before enjoying a cream tea.

Durham University Oriental Museum will leave you spellbound with its artefacts from ancient Egypt, China, Japan, India, Korea and south-east Asia. See how Ancient Egyptian language evolved over time and much more – including authentic mummies.

The historic Vennels Cafe is hidden down a tiny alleyway in the city centre inside a building which dates back to the 16th century but it’s really worth a visit. Scones baked fresh that morning and sandwiches on homemade bread are the order of the day.

Upcoming events in Durham

One Day International: England Vs Sri Lanka (25 May) Durham Country Cricket Club will see England’s cricketers slog it out with Sri Lanka in One Day International. Expect to see some of the biggest stars of world cricket.

Enjoy your trip to Durham.