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The 9 best things to do in Durham

Explore the Dales and more with our comprehensive guide to the best things to do in Durham
EITW DURHAM TTD
DURHAM
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This northeastern university town boasts a wealth of great things to do and ways to spend your time. Straddling the River Wear, the fascinating city of Durham is home to a museum dedicated to showcasing traditional life in these parts, a bona fide Norman cathedral, a stunningly pretty botanic gardens and a whole load more. Plus it’s a short drive from the rolling terrain of the stunning Durham Dales, which are a must for anyone who likes a yomp. And then there’s the restaurants, the bars and the shops that really help make this place such an appealing part of England. So, want our top picks? Check out our list of the very best things to do in Durham.

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Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in Durham

1
Best TTD Durham Cathedral
© Mick306 / Wikipedia

Durham Cathedral

What is it? Durham’s Romanesque icon on the city’s skyline.

Why go? This Unesco World Heritage Site is surrounded on three sides by the River Wear, and forms the basis of a thoroughly pleasant day out. A good way to take everything in is on one of the tours that run daily around the cathedral, castle and encircling old city. And, as of June 2018, the northwest tower opens to the public. So limber up and get a close look at the roof, masonry and central tower.

2
Best TTD Durham High Force Waterfall, from Wiki

High Force waterfall

What is it? A Northern waterfall that crashes down from a height of almost 70 feet.

Why go? With a name like High Force, you can be certain of an impressive sight. Plus, a visit to this watery attraction comes with a charming walk through the Durham Dales, where you’ll pass ferns, wildflowers and may even see the odd rabbit or roe deer. The waterfall is in the grounds of the medieval Raby Castle, so you could always combine trips.

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3
Best TTD Durham Flat White Kitchen
© Flat White Kitchen

Flat White Kitchen

What is it? A labyrinthine restaurant basically begging to be explored.

Why go? Spread over five levels, you’ll find basement rooms, airy dining spaces, cosy corners and even a secret garden in which to enjoy the high-quality Brit-meets-Asian cuisine here. They’re also one of a handful of cafés to serve Ouseburn Coffee, an independent roaster based in Newcastle. If you’re there any day from Thursday to Saturday try After Hours: Flat White’s communal dining experience, which features a series of small plates.

4
Best TTD Durham Beamish Living Museum
© Beamish Living Museum

Beamish Museum

What is it? The ultimate immersive experience through British history.

Why go? This ‘living museum’ offers a look at the North’s communities from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth. Wander around a 1940s farm during wartime, witness an 1813 steam engine in action, and taste fish and chips cooked using traditional turn-of-the-nineteenth-century methods. And if you really want to get stuck in? Try (at an extra cost) your hand at blacksmithing, steamroller driving or wartime cooking.

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5
Best TTD Durham Botanic Garden
© Durham Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden

What is it? Durham University's teaching and research garden nestled in a lovely and lush 25 acres.

Why go? Entry is just £4 for adults and £1.50 for ages 5 to 16 (free for under-fives), providing a highly affordable family day out. Tours, talks and workshops are on daily, so you can get a better insight to the woodland, flora, glass houses, sculptures and tropical insects. Nip into the café to get a glimpse of work by local artists, whose paintings and photographs are often on display (and available to buy).

6
Best TTD Durham Cellar Door
© Cellar Door

Cellar Door

What is it? A restaurant full of character housed in a thirteenth-century brick cellar.

Why go? There’s something novel about descending the steep stone steps that run down to the atmospheric basement of Cellar Door. But there's a light and airy upstairs too, if subterranean dining doesn’t float your boat. The food here is high-end European fare, with slants of French and British cuisine. The restaurant is also less than a five-minute walk from Durham Cathedral and Castle, so book a post-tour table here for a starter course of history.

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7
Best TTD Durham Browns Rowing Boats
© Cool Places Ltd

Go for a row

What is it? A leisurely afternoon on the River Wear.

Why go? Browns Rowing Boats have been renting to the public since the 1900s, so they really do know their stuff. Should the sun shine down during your stay in Durham, you’ll want to hunt them down and hire your own boat. They allow dogs aboard, so your furry friend can join the fun too. And if you don’t fancy rowing? Take the Prince Bishop cruiser instead, which tours Durham on the water.

8
Best TTD Durham Full Moon Market
© Visit County Durham

The Full Moon Market

What is it? Once a month the Full Moon descends on Durham’s market place, bringing with it a bevy of street food stalls.

Why go? All year round you can find traders serving up global dishes like pad thai, crêpes, vegan sweets and sarnies, and something called a ‘conewich’ (it’s a sandwich in a cone). Plus craft beers and other beverages. There’s also live music from Live in Durham, an organisation that presents the best in up-and-coming local talent. Full Moon runs from 4pm to 9pm on Fridays; check their website for exact dates.

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9
Best TTD Durham Citron Vert Bistro
© Citron Vert Bistro

Citron Vert

What is it? A charming spot paying homage to French bistros, serving a traditional English afternoon tea with a petite twist.

Why go? Every Friday to Sunday you can get finger sandwiches alongside cream-covered madeleines, macaron and more. Naturally there are warm scones, too. Citron Vert also rustles up a roast on Sundays, and if you arrive too late for tea, tuck into dinner instead. Seasonal local produce and fresh seafood comprises their oft-changing French menu. Recommended.

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