11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Durham

The old center of Durham with its magnificent cathedral perched high above the River Wear is a never-to-be-forgotten sight, making it the top tourist attraction in the city. Today, Durham boasts 600 listed buildings including Crook Hall, Kingsgate Bridge, Elvet Bridge and the Town Hall.

Much of the city's early prosperity stemmed from its strategic position on the route to Scotland, as well as the powerful draw of St Cuthbert's shrine. At the same time, the beautiful surrounding countryside was divided into large estates on which feudal barons erected splendid castles. From the early modern period onwards, the coal industry came to play an increasingly important role, and pitheads and chimneys soon dotted the landscape. In the 19th century, the population swelled with an influx of immigrant workers, and while industrialists built grand houses, working class districts grew and trade unions were founded (the annual Durham Miners' Gala is still a major event in the local calendar).

1 Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral - or, to give it its full title, The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham - is famous for its beautiful British Romanesque style architecture. Whether approached from the narrow streets of the Old City across Palace Green or from the banks of the River Wear over Prebend's Bridge, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is truly awe-inspiring. Completed between 1093 and 1133 (with a few 15th century flourishes), visitors enter the building by the 12th century northwest door once used by fugitives seeking sanctuary.

Inside, visitors will be faced with many wonderful sights to explore, including the graceful Galilee Chapel, the Norman Nave with its massive piers and columns, and the Monks' Dormitory which houses an unparalleled collection of 8th century manuscripts.

Location: The College, Durham

Official site: www.durhamcathedral.co.uk

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Durham - TripAdvisor.com

2 Durham Castle

Durham Castle
Durham Castle

Built as a fortress by the Earl of Northumberland in 1072, Durham Castle - also a UNESCO World Heritage Site - was presented by William the Conqueror to the prince-bishops of Durham. The most interesting rooms are the Norman chapel with its delightful archaic capitals, the large 14th century dining-hall, the 15th century kitchen with its fireplace and pantry, and the bishop's apartments.

Location: Palace Green, Durham

Official site: https://www.dur.ac.uk/

3 Museum of Archaeology

The Museum of Archaeology - relocated to the Wolfson Gallery in Durham University's Palace Green Library - houses finds from the Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods. The library is also home to the university's special collections, archives and early printed books, including over 70,000 volumes printed before 1850.

Location: Wolfson Gallery, Palace Green Library, Durham

4 University Oriental Museum

The University of Durham's Oriental Museum on Elvet Hill, just a short distance from the old city center, has excellent art and archaeological collections from the Near and Far East. All of the major eastern cultures and periods are represented, from Ancient Egypt through India, Tibet and China, and Japan.

Location: Elvet Hill, Durham

5 Botanic Garden

Durham University's Botanic Garden is set in lovely mature woodland with exotic trees from North America and the Himalayas. You'll also enjoy the tropical and cactus houses, as well as the Prince Bishops Garden within the 18-acre property.

Another delight for gardeners among the many things to see is 13th century Crook Hall with its idyllic English gardens, located just a short walk from the cathedral. Wharton Park is another gem, and occupies 10 acres on the hillside to the north of the city center. Its spectacular views are a must for sightseers.

Location: Hollingside Lane, South Rd, Durham

6 Durham Heritage Centre and Museum

The Durham Heritage Centre and Museum contains many informative and educational exhibitions relating to the town's rich heritage. Housed in a medieval church, it includes excellent audio-visual shows, brass rubbings and a collection of beautiful stained glass windows. Another great place to gather useful information about the city's past is the World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, which relates the story behind its historic buildings through film and interactive displays.

Location: St Mary-le-Bow, North Bailey, Durham

7 Durham Town Hall

The interior of the Grade II listed Durham Town Hall is well worth taking a peek at. Its modest glass fronted reception gallery hides a variety of period rooms including the dramatic Main Hall with its stained glass windows and hammerbeam oak roof, and the Crush Hall with its fascinating memorabilia regarding the life of Count Boruwlaski, just 39 inches tall, who died in 1837 aged 98.

Location: Market Place, Durham

Official site: www.durham.gov.uk/

8 Durham Light Infantry Museum and Art Gallery

Uniforms, photos and weapons tracing the history of the Durham Light Infantry regiment from 1758-1968, with an emphasis on WWI and WWII, are all included in this museum. The Medal Room is one of the finest in England and includes displays about the experience of war using soldier's letters and diaries.

Upstairs, the Durham Art Gallery presents an exciting program of exhibitions and events including concerts, lectures and workshops.

Location: Aykley Heads, Durham

Official site: www.dlidurham.org.uk/

9 Finchale Priory

Finchale Priory is an English Heritage Property located just minutes from Durham. The remains of this beautiful 13th century priory are located beside the River Wear, and are well worth exploring.

Location: Finchale Priory, Durham

10 Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

Beamish, The Living Museum of the North
Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

This fantastic living museum, set in 300 acres of beautiful countryside just 10 miles outside Durham, offers a look into the lives of those who lived in the area during the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras. Costumed characters bring the displays to life and help tell the amazing story of how the Industrial Revolution transformed the region. Incredibly, all the buildings at Beamish were brought brick-by-brick from across Durham County and rebuilt on site.

Beamish also hosts numerous exciting events, including The Great North Festival of Transport, a Georgian Fair, and The Great North Festival of Agriculture.

Location: Beamish Museum, Beamish

Official site: www.beamish.org.uk

11 Ivesley Equestrian Centre

Ivesley is set amidst 220 acres of beautiful countryside just 6 mi from Durham, and includes an indoor school, show jumps, and several cross country courses and riding trails. The center is approved by the British Horse Society, and all instructors are BHS-trained.

Location: Waterhouses, Durham

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