Things to do in Durham | Attractions

You can expect nothing less than an awesome sightseeing experience in a city with a name usually preceded by ‘historic’. With some truly spectacular Durham tourist attractions, including the Norman cathedral and an 11th century castle, a visit here is a real visual treat.

Historic buildings

Positioned on the hillside overlooking the river, Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle are the real jewels in the crown of Durham’s cityscape and historical heritage. Both designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, the cathedral and castle lie just across from each other, separated by the Palace Green. The green itself was also added to the UNESCO site and houses the Palace Green Library, Durham University’s archives and special collections vaults. It has previously held exhibitions featuring the world-famous Magna Carta and Lindisfarne Gospels.

A little further out of the city centre is Finchale Priory. A beautiful relic, the extensive remains of the priory are well worth a visit on a good weather day. If you’re staying at our Durham North hotel, the priory is less than a 10-minute drive away.

To find out more about the many splendid historic buildings in Durham, visit our dedicated page.

Durham Castle

Durham Cathedral

Video guide to attractions in Durham


Right in the heart of the city centre and just a stone’s throw away from Durham train station, Wharton Park is a wonderful addition to the city’s landscape. Following a £3 million redevelopment, the park reopened in 2016 to showcase a new heritage centre, café, play area and improvements to its footpaths and amphitheatre. A delightful place to pass the time, the amphitheatre regularly hosts family activities, plays and musical acts. Just bring along a blanket and a picnic then while away the day. A small on-site car park is open between 9am and 5pm, but the park is open for visitors around the clock.

More than 350 years old, Old Durham Gardens lives up to its name. A charmingly unusual public space only a mile from Durham city centre, the gardens have worn many hats in their time; first as private gardens to a manor house, a commercial nursery, bowling green, tennis courts and finally, the public park we can enjoy today.

Best reached on foot via a riverside path, Old Durham Gardens is split over two levels and includes a walled garden and terrace on the top level, which tapers down into the lower gardens. A late spring visit will treat you to a wash of colour from the blossoming fruit trees, and the gardens are a gentle sanctuary all year round.

Durham University is very much a part of the city’s past and present. Palace Green, flanked by Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle, was once the original seat of the city’s market and is now used by students throughout the year, providing a stunning backdrop for many university events.

On the southern outskirts of the city, you’ll find the Durham University Botanic Gardens. Covering 10 hectares, the gardens’ many enclosures are open to the public all year round for a nominal fee. You can enjoy something new every season as you wander through the different plots, including the winter garden, wildflower meadow and woodland garden. A visitor centre with café is open daily for you to learn more about what you’re seeing or to just drop in for a warming coffee and slice of cake.


Located less than 10 miles north of the city, in Chester-le-Street, Emirates Riverside stadium is home to Durham County Cricket Club. One of 18 first-class county clubs in the country, Durham CCC has called the stadium home since 1995. As well as county matches, the stadium has hosted several international and Twenty20 matches, tickets for which can be bought on their website.

A historic venue, Sedgefield Racecourse has been hosting races since 1732. Today, the track promises a warm welcome for visitors and a relaxed atmosphere with top-class, modern facilities for racegoers and horses alike. Set in the beautiful Durham countryside, 20–30 minutes’ drive from our Durham East hotel, the racecourse offers an extensive programme of races, festivals, craft fairs, conferences and car boot sales with a good number of restaurants and bars to keep you happy whenever you visit.

Looking for a hotel in Durham?

Choose from any one of our three main Durham hotels plus our nearby hotels at Newton Aycliffe and Newcastle (Washington) as an ideal base for exploring the fabulous medieval treasures of Durham, an ancient university city that boasts a vibrant cultural scene.