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Best TTD Durham Beamish Living Museum
© Beamish Living Museum

8 best things to do in Durham

From going on a boat row to museums, here's our comprehensive guide to things to do in Durham right now

Charmaine Wong
Written by
Danielle Goldstein
Charmaine Wong

Exciting things to do in Durham are aplenty! Straddling the River Wear, this northeastern college town has something to satisfy your cultural and nature cravings. Whether it's checking out the Beamish museum, exploring a bona fide Norman cathedral or going on a peaceful amble in the stunning botanic gardens, it's sight-seeing galore.

The city is also a short drive from the rolling hills of the Durham Dales, a must-see for lovers of a scenic road trip. Don't forget about the restaurants, cafes and bars that make this city such an appealing stop within England.

🏘️ The best restaurants in Durham
🌾 The best places to visit in the UK
👀 The best things to do in the UK

At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Amazing things to do in Durham

Durham Cathedral
Photograph: © Mick306 / Wikipedia

1. 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 the old city. Limber up and get a close look at the roof, masonry and central tower.

High Force waterfall

2. 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, and wildflowers and may even see the odd rabbit or roe deer. The waterfall is on the grounds of the medieval Raby Castle, so you could always combine trips.

Flat White Kitchen
© Flat White Kitchen

3. Flat White Kitchen

What is it? Flat White Kitchen is 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 high-quality Brit-meets-Asian cuisine. 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.

Beamish Museum
© Beamish Living Museum

4. Beamish Museum

What is it? The Beamish Museum is 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.

The Botanic Garden
© Durham Botanic Garden

5. The Botanic Garden

What is it? Durham University's teaching and research garden is 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 into 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).

Cellar Door
© Cellar Door

6. 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 on history.

Go for a row
© Cool Places Ltd

7. 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.

Citron Vert
© Citron Vert Bistro

8. 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 Thursday to Sunday you can get finger sandwiches alongside cream-covered madeleines, macarons 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 comprise their oft-changing French menu. Recommended.

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