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The Insider's Guide to a Fun Break in Durham

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Durham's medieval castle and cathedral make this city in northeast England special. Set in a steep-sided loop of the River Wear, Durham is one of England's most spectacularly sited cities. Nearby, you'll find dramatic coastlines, maritime heritage, Roman forts, and Norman strongholds. There's lively nightlife in theatres, pubs, and bars.

Best time to travel


Durham is a city that can be visited all year round. That said, it's at its best in summer (May through September), when you can make the most of outdoor activities like boat trips on the River Wear, walking in the Durham Dales, and beachcombing on the Durham Heritage Coast. Local weather can be wet and windy at any time of year, but if it rains you can take shelter in cozy pubs and enjoy lots of indoor attractions and activities.

Not to miss


Your break in Durham must take in the city's 2 prime attractions: Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral, which share a crag above the River Wear. They are among England's most impressive chunks of Norman architecture. You can delve deeper into the region's early history at Binchester Roman Fort. Northeast England's more recent past is on display at industrial heritage attractions like Locomotion and Killhope, The North of England Lead Mining Museum.


Getting around


You can fly direct from cities in the US, mainland Europe, and the Middle East to Newcastle International Airport (NCL), 25 miles from Durham. Trains to Durham from London take around 3 hours. You can walk from Durham's mainline train station and the coach terminus to most central Durham hotels in less than 10 minutes. Local bus services link Durham Cathedral, Durham Castle, and the city centre with train station and coach stations, where you'll also find taxi ranks. Within the historic town centre, walking is the sensible way to get around.




Eating and drinking in Durham and surrounding County Durham is all about great local produce. The farms and pastures of nearby Teesdale are famed for their beef, lamb, and mutton. Fishing harbors like Hartlepool aren't far away, so you'll find fresh North Sea fish and shellfish on many local menus. Foodies will enjoy the 2-day Bishop Auckland Food Festival held every April. City pubs and countryside inns serve artisan ales from beermakers like The Durham Brewery, which makes beers flavoured with mango and raspberry. It also crafts potent brews like Finchale Abbey, with a 10 percent alcohol content.


Customs and etiquette


Durham has a friendly, small-town vibe despite its city status. Ordinary good manners will stand you in good stead. Tipping is not usual except in the city's more formal restaurants, where a tip of 10 percent is the norm. Smart, casual dress is acceptable even in upscale eateries. Some nightspots impose a dress code that bans sports footwear.


Fast facts


  • Population: 48000

  • Spoken languages: English

  • Electrical: 220-240 volts, 50 Hz, plug type G

  • Phone calling code: +44 191

  • Emergency number: 999