The 14 Best Things To Do In Durham – Attractions, Sights & Tours

(Last Updated On: April 15, 2023)

Durham is a vibrant, historic city situated in the North East of England.

It has a rich cultural heritage and is best known for its magnificent 11th century Norman Cathedral and nearby iconic castle, both of which have become a symbol of the city.

Throughout history Durham was home to powerful bishops who ruled over large swathes of northern England with great power and influence.

With its beautiful riverside setting, quaint cobbled streets and interesting mix of cultures and top attractions, Durham is a great place to visit!

Things To Do In Durham

1. Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral is a stunning Norman-era building and is an iconic landmark, often considered one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the United Kingdom.

The cathedral was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and is known for it’s stunning architecture and historical value.

Durham Cathedral contains many features such as ribbed vaulting, pointed arches supported by composite piers, alternated with massive drum columns.

This architectural marvel was designed to be awe-inspiring when viewed from both outside and inside its walls.

The Cathedral is free to visit, open daily, with a 1 hour tour available to explore and discover with an expert volunteer guide (there maybe a charge for a tour).

Address: Durham Cathedral, Durham DH1 3EH

2. Ushaw Historic House, Chapels & Gardens

Ushaw Historic House is a stunning open countryside destination located near Durham City.

It’s the perfect place to explore and find wonder, curiosity, and amazement.

The grounds are full of eclectic artworks, majestic carved creatures, and plenty of outdoor activities.

With its rolling fields, woodland trails and packed calendar of events there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Al-Fresco Cinema screenings show classic films under the stars in this historical backdrop while live music events bring together local bands in spectacular fashion.

For those looking for family fun activities Ushaw also hosts theatre, dance and meditation classes as well as wellness seminars throughout the year.

Explore the historic house itself or take a walk through the chapels or courtyard areas where one can marvel at the many artefacts on display from centuries past.

Address: Woodland Rd, Durham DH7 9RH

3. Crook Hall and Gardens

Crook Hall is a stone manor house originally built in the 13th century located in the Framwelgate area of Durham.

Crook Hall’s long history can be seen through its architecture as well as artefacts that have been discovered on the site throughout its existence.

Crook Hall also boasts two acres of award-winning landscaped areas including patios, a maze, colourful flowerbeds, topiary trees as well as abundant wildlife habitats including ponds and streams.

Open daily, visitors can discover intriguing paths that wind through interlinked gardens each with an individual character and style.

Address: Frankland Ln, Sidegate, Durham DH1 5SZ

4. Durham Castle

Durham Castle is a magnificent Norman castle that has been occupied by University College, since 1837, and is designated as a World Heritage Site.

Standing on top of a hill overlooking the River and Durham Cathedral, it provides an awe-inspiring sight.

While its origins are steeped in history and legend, it has become an internationally renowned tourist attraction in more recent times due to its impressive architecture and views of the city below.

Within its walls lies a treasure trove of artefacts, artwork, sculptures and other relics dating back hundreds of years.

Of particular interest is the Great Medieval Hall, an impressive room with stained glass windows, ornate wooden carvings and detailed stone masonry.

Worth a visit, the Castle is open for guided tours for visitors on afternoons during term-time.

Address: Durham DH1 3RW

5. Seaham Beach

Located on the picturesque Durham Coast, Seaham Beach’s sandy shoreline stretches half a mile into the sea, and is accompanied by a beautiful promenade that adds to its charm.

The beach is framed with low rise cliffs and green space areas that form an impressive backdrop.

Towering above it is Seaham Hall, a grand building that now operates as a luxury hotel, but still retains its majestic presence overlooking the beach.

This lovely seaside town offers lots of friendly activities for kids and some great opportunities to jump in the sea and then build some sandcastles.

Address: Seaham Beach, 22 North Rd, Seaham SR7 7AB

6. Finchale Priory

Finchale Priory, sometimes referred to as Finchale Abbey, is a 13th-century Benedictine priory located by the River Wear four miles from Durham.

It is a Grade I listed building and one of the most well preserved medieval monastic complexes in Britain with centuries worth of alterations and additions.

This chapel still stands today and has become somewhat of an icon for Finchale.

The remaining monastic complex was constructed during the latter half of the 13th century until it reached its full glory several decades later.

Free to visit, it can be reached from Durham City along a scenic riverside and woodland walk.

Address: Finchale Priory, Finchale Ave, Framwellgate Moor, DH1 5SH

7. Durham Riverside Walk

Set in picturesque North East England, the Riverside Walk is a truly unique experience stretching three miles along the majestic River Wear and taking approximately 1-1.5 hours to complete.

The walk offers an array of beauty and history combined into one and takes in many of the city highlights.

Along this walk you’ll also find a handful of local eateries and street food stalls ready to be explored during your journey.

Address: Durham Riverside Walk, Sylvan House, St Helens Well, DH1 4DB

8. Wharton Park

Wharton Park is a stunning heritage site and one of the oldest parks in the north-east that nestles in the heart of Durham City,

Its traditional landscape includes Grade II Listed battlements, as well as an array of trees, shrubs and wildflowers.

In recent years, Wharton Park underwent a major refurbishment project which included creating a contemporary heritage centre and cafe.

The park is also home to a putting green, miniature car track, junior play area and an outdoor gym, as well as quiet areas.

Address: Wharton Park, 10 Princes St, Durham DH1 4FJ

9. Durham University Botanic Garden

The Durham University Botanic Garden is a stunning display of horticultural excellence set in 25 acres of mature woodlands on the outskirts of the city.

The garden is home to a wide array of exotic plants from all over the world, including collections from South America, China and Japan, as well as species from Southern Africa and New Zealand.

Visitors can take a stroll through the Alpine Garden, Winter Garden, Bamboo Grove, Woodland Garden and wild flower meadow.

The arboretum is filled with rare tropical rainforest flora, desert plants, Mediterranean species and even insects such as stick insects, scorpions, butterflies and tarantulas!

The Botanic Gardens are open daily, with the Visitors Centre offering a Coffee-Shop, and Gift Shop full of unique items.

Address: Durham University Botanic Garden, South Rd, Durham DH1 3DF

10. Palace Green Library

Palace Green Library is an iconic building that is home to the World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, Cosin’s Library, and two galleries showcasing treasures from around the world.

Located in the heart of Durham city, it sits proudly in the shadow of Durham Cathedral, which is a prominent symbol of the area’s rich cultural heritage.

The two galleries at Palace Green Library are open to visitors and offer an opportunity to explore artworks from ancient times to modern day featuring pottery, books, coins, drawings, photographs and more.

Address: Palace Green Library, Palace Green, Durham DH1 3RN

11. Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle is an impressive medieval castle situated in the picturesque town of the same name, in County Durham.

Located on a high rock above the River Tees, the castle was originally built as a fortified position, however today the Castle is a ruin with its main structures being kept intact for visitors to explore.

Its inner bailey still contains many original features such as the great hall and tower keep, and it’s outer bailey contains a dry moat.

Address: Durham, DL12 8PR

12. Old Durham Gardens

Old Durham Gardens are one of the oldest public gardens in England, established more than 350 years ago.

Located just a mile away from Durham city centre, these beautiful and historic areas offer visitors a great opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

There are five main locations, the restored Orchard, Lower Gardens, Terraces, Gazebo and the Walled Gardens.

They also help organize events throughout the year such as guided walks, charity garden fairs and wildlife-themed activities for children.

Entry is free at all times, with many areas perfect for summer picnics, and going on walks with stunning views.

Address: Old Durham Gardens, Bent House Ln, Durham DH1 2RY

13. National Railway Museum

Located in the town of Shildon, this museum has a fascinating exhibition of railway history with helpful and knowledgeable volunteers on hand.

The museum features items relating to social history and land transport.

Displays have some fabulous exhibits from an experimental passenger train, to a range of steam engines to the first track maintenance machine.

Great for adults and kids alike, especially during school holidays, the museum is free to visit and also has a cafe and gift shop.

Address: National Railway Museum, Dale Road Industrial Estate, Shildon, Durham County, DL4 2RE

14. High Force Waterfall

High Force is one of the most impressive waterfalls in England, located on the River Tees at Forest-in-Teesdale, in the heart of the Durham Dales.

Visitors can enjoy the peaceful mature woodland walk down to the base of the falls, starting from the High Force hotel.

This magical waterfall walk is open daily from 10am to 4pm.

Address: High Force Waterfall, Alston Rd, Forest-in-Teesdale, DL12 0XH


Where are the Durham Dales?

The Dales are part of the North Pennines, with the area covering roughly one third of County Durham.

Is the Gala Theatre Durham worth visiting?

The Gala Theatre in Durham has a great programme of live events showcasing some of the country’s leading theatre companies, comedians, bands, musicians and dance performers.

Where is Durham Railway Station?

Durham Railway Station is a short way from the city centre about a ten-minute walk.

Can you visit Durham Town Hall?

Entry is free for visitors and has public access, with the Town Hall located in a Grade II listed building in Durham City’s historic Market Place.

The Hall is a fascinating complex of historic buildings.


  • Tamara M

    Hey there! My name is Tamara, welcome to my little world! I’m a 20-something-year-old from Toronto, Canada (though I’m rarely there) and I’m super passionate about exploring the world, photography, and cooking delicious plant-based recipes. I created this blog to share my favorite places, adventures, restaurants, accommodations, and travel tips with all of you and keep a bit of a travel diary for myself.

Leave a Comment