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Bill Bryson called Durham a “perfect little city”, and once you’ve visited you’ll understand why. Boasting an eclectic mix of shops, bars, restaurants and museums, this charming metropolis is set amid winding cobbled streets, and overlooked by Durham Cathedral and Castle – a religious sanctuary so impressive it was made a World Heritage Site in 1986. Trains to Durham take just 1 hour and 15 minutes from Leeds and 2 Manchester, so it’s an easy place to check out.
Durham’s world-renowned Cathedral dates back to 1093 and is steeped in history and mystery. With spectacular stained-glass windows and towering arches, be prepared for your jaw to drop when you first step inside. The 13th-century Crook Hall is almost as beautiful, though it’s the exquisite gardens that are the real attraction. Durham Castle, meanwhile, must be the grandest student accommodation in the world. The only way to see beyond the ramparts of this World Heritage Site is by taking a guided tour (something we heartily recommend).
Tucked away in the garden basement of Farnley Tower, Restaurant DH1 (formerly Gourmet Spot) has a reputation for amazing food. The Garden House Inn, meanwhile, serves fantastic cuisine in a beautiful country pub setting of cosy sofas and substantial tables. Cellar Door is another absolute must. This 13th-century cellar conversion can be found – eventually – at the bottom of some very steep steps. But the reward for your nimble sleuthing is truly delicious grub.
Durham University Botanic Garden is a 10-acre site of learning, research and relaxation, and plays host to a multitude of seasonal events for visitors of all ages. Handily it’s just a 30-minute walk or a short hop on a bus from the station. Close to the cathedral is Durham Museum & Heritage Centre, a local history museum in a pretty church. It tells the story of Durham from the 10th century through to present day using displays, artefacts, models and videos. Finally, with 30,000 items on show, the university’s Oriental Museum is another one of the things to do in Durham that will leave you spellbound.
In Durham, shopping is a case of wandering through stylish boutiques and craft shops, and browsing top-name brands. At Durham Market Hall, you can grab a bite to eat in a charming Victorian setting, while assessing the wares of more than 50 local traders. Fowlers Yard, in the historic cultural quarter, is home to a unique collection of creative businesses, from artists through to designers. And don’t miss the People's Bookshop. Located in the heart of the city, this independent store has a terrific selection of new and used titles, as well as an exceptional view of the castle.
For more ideas on what to do in Durham, visit This Is Durham.