Durham England: 10 Famous Places To Visit

Durham England
Image by Alex Peace on flickr

There are a lot of pleasant surprises to experience with a visit to the magical city of Durham, England. After all, Durham City is rich in English history and it is a great place to research at different monuments, museums, galleries, churches, and a host of other places that can give you great insights into early English history; before the Normans came to England, and after. There are museums, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, castles, riverside cathedrals, gardens, parks and different structures for you to explore, locals to meet, and delicacies for you to taste and enjoy. This article will give you an idea of some of the interesting and famous places you need to visit in Durham, United Kingdom.

Durham UK is a great city for a Backpacker. There are a lot of places you can walk or cycle to, and you can learn about the history of the city just by mingling with the locals. Even if you don’t want to pay for any of the famed tours; the Durham History Tour, Durham City Half Day Tour, the Treasure Trove tour among others, you will still make good memories. Just visit some of the very beautiful sites in one of the most historical cities of England that are accessible without charges.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral
Image by Oliver Mallich on flickr

Medieval wall paintings, medieval cloisters, the sandstone pillars in the Norman Nave and the breathtaking Rose Window to be found in the chapel of the Nine Altars are just some of the stunning sights that you will see in the Durham Cathedral. The Durham Cathedral is a historical site located in the heart of the Durham World Heritage Site. It was built as the shrine of St. Cuthbert in 1093 and is also the resting place of Bede the Vulnerable.

The central tower at the Durham Cathedral has a great view of Durham City itself and the surrounding parts of Durham County. And you can only see this breathtaking view after you conquer the 325 steps of the tower. You also need to see the Galilee Chapel and the massive piers and columns in the Norman nave.

An additional attraction of the Durham Cathedral is the Open Treasure exhibition which gives you a wonderful historically-enlightening journey through Durham Cathedral’s most spectacular spaces which are otherwise not open to the public. The exhibition begins with the spectacular 14th century Monk’s Dormitory and its medieval oak-beamed ceiling which has the status of best preserved medieval oak in the UK. Then you can see the medieval monastic Great Kitchen which holds St. Cuthbert’s treasures such as his coffin, portable altar, pectoral cross, and an ivory comb. You also get to see the Pilgrim’s Gallery, the Covey and the medieval cloister in the Cathedral’s medieval precinct. Adults need to pay €7.50 and children between ages 5 to 16 have to pay £2.50 to enjoy this exhibition. Additionally, children under the age of 5 can enjoy a free exhibition.

Durham Castle

Durham Castle
Image by WikiCommons

The Durham Castle is also part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in Durham, UK. Many people go to England tourism in order to see medieval castles. This includes the Durham Castle; one of those castles Backpackers will find enchanting in Durham City. The Durham Castle stands beside the Durham Cathedral on the hilltop and they are both encircled by the wandering River Wear.

Also, the castle was originally built in 1072 as a fortress by the Earl of Northumberland. It was later presented to the Durham City’s prince-bishops by William the Conqueror. At the Durham Castle, you’ll be able to see the Norman Chapel and Gallery, the 14th-century dining hall, the 17th century Black Staircase with pineapple carvings, the Tunstall Chapel and Gallery, the Great Hall, and unique rooms that contain over 900 years of living history.

The castle was transformed into the founding college of Durham University in the Victorian period and more than 100 students currently live in the castle. Entrance is only granted to people paying for guided tours. For the daily guided tours, Adults pay £5 per head and children above 5 years pay £4 pounds.

Durham Town Hall

Durham Town Hall
Image by https://www.thisisdurham.com

The Grade-II listed Durham Town Hall has been the center of activities in Durham for the past 650 years. The hall is usually open on Saturdays and you can host your events (large or small) in this hall. The hall has numerous period rooms with stained glass windows and a hammer bean oak roof. Public access to the hall is limited; however, you can book a private tour to see the entire building.

Oriental Museum

The Oriental Museum, located on Elvet Hill has wonderful art and archaeological collections representing numerous Eastern civilizations and cultures from ancient Egypt, India, China, and Japan among others. You get to see different antiquities, jewelry, sculptures, ancient arms, armor, and pottery. The museum even has Touch Tours; visitors on England tourism are allowed to touch some of the antiques in the museum.

Palace Green Library

Durham England
Image by WikiCommons

Do you want to learn about the history and story of the City of England called Durham and its many medieval buildings, chapels, and structures? The best place to learn is at the Palace Green Library. Located in the heart of Durham, UK. There is a permanent exhibition using various archaeological objects to explain the history of Durham. They date as far back as the last 10,000 years. The Durham Light Infantry Museum/Collections has pictures, uniforms, and weapons that trace the history of the Durham Light Infantry(DLI) regiment from 1758-1968; especially during the first and second world wars.

The DLI Museum also has a medal room. Here, there are displayed experiences of the war from the perspective of the soldiers through their letters and diaries. The Wolfson Gallery hosts the Museum of Archaeology. It consists of numerous artifacts and other finds from the Norman, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon periods. There are also two galleries that you can enjoy here for free. The Palace Green Library also has over 70,000 books, 300 incunables, up to 30000 maps and other special collections that visitors are allowed to use for research.

Finchale Priory, Durham England

England ruins
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The Finchale Priory was a 13th-century Priory located a few minutes from Durham City. The Priory was built on a retired Pirate’s hermitage site. Later it became a holiday retreat of sorts for monks from the Durham Cathedral to relax. The ruins of the Priory are sited close to the meandering River Wear. The Priory ruins and the River wear make for a lovely riverside walk especially on a sunny afternoon. You can also buy food, snacks and ice cream at the cafe beside the remnant of the Priory.

Entering and Walking around the Priory is also free of charge; so, it’s one of the few places that cater to Backpackers on strict budgets. However, you may need to pay £3 when you’re leaving. Interesting right?

Durham University Botanic Garden

Among the gardens that Durham England has to offer, the Durham University Botanic Garden is one of a kind. The 25-acre garden has plant collections from all over the world. It houses a variety of gardens such as Winter Garden, Bamboo Groove, Woodland Garden, Wildflower Meadow, and Alpine Garden. This is a great place to walk around, discover the different variety of gardens and their plants, and engage in other activities like bee watching.

durham botanic garden
Image by WikiCommons

There are also different places where you can sit down to think or just to muse under cool atmosphere. The Durham University Botanical garden even allows you to experience different climates in glass houses such as the Arid climate and Rainforest climate in the Desert House and Rainforest House respectively. The garden also has a wide range of all-year-round activities to cater for the millions of visitors of Tourists. Such activities include the traditional craft weekends, teddy bears’ picnics, Easter chick hunt (held annually), face painting, and so on.

Accommodations In Durham, England

For your accommodation, couch surfing and Airbnb are great options, but you can also get cheap rooms at a Backpacker’s budget at places like the “Cook Avenue 2” where you can pay as low as £25 for a night, Franny Keay’s B&B for as low as £45 per night, and Finchale Abbey Touring Park and Eco Village for as low as £20 per night. Others include The Shoes, St. John College, and the Finchale Abbey Camping Pods among others. Here are the best places To Visit In Durham, England.

Walk Around Key Spots in Durham City

Caddy's course
Image by WikiCommons

There are a number of key spots that you can walk through in Durham on a Backpacker’s budget without taking the paid Walking tours of Durham.

Some Routes You Will Enjoy Walking in Durham City:

The Durham Riverside Walking route allows you a view of the River Tees and numerous medieval buildings.

The Durham Peninsula Walk stretches from the Market Place to the Elvet Bridge. It then goes to the House of Correction, the Count’s House, the Perpend Bridge, the archway Watergate, and the former garrison church (now St. John’s College Chapel). It then ends at Bow Lane.

The Cuddy’s Corse walking route from Chester-le-Street to the Durham Cathedral.

The Sherburn Way Railway Path offers you stunning views of both Durham and Pittington City.

The Durham Miners Path is the path that miners used to take to the Miner’s Gala meeting.

There are a variety of places to see and unique activities to experience in Durham, England, even on a Backpacker’s budget. Backpackers visiting Durham, England, have wonderful opportunities. This includes walking down the cobbled streets of Durham City, enjoy riverside walks, visit cute little cafes and restaurants, artisan workshops, markets, galleries, museums, cinemas, theatres, and most importantly, Norman Cathedral; an 11th central English architecture. Whether you’re a new visitor or a returning Backpacker in Durham, always expect to get the best historical and cultural experience of Old and Contemporary England. You will never grow tired of this city.


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