City Guide

Things to Do in Durham

Ben Maples  · Jul 12th 2024
Durham Cathedral with a bridge entering a town

Durham is one of the UK’s oldest cities and is located in the north of the country and offers one of the best universities in Europe.

Things to do in Durham


Located to the west of Sunderland, Durham has long since been one of the educational powerhouses that the UK has had to offer. Sitting on the River Wear, Durham boasts a population of roughly 423,533 according to the very latest figures.

Things to do in Durham

Despite it’s moniker as “The Worst Nightclub in Europe”, Klute Durham Nightclub is one of the best nights out you’ll find in Durham. Bizarrely enough, Klute actively encourages their terribleness, with their motto even being “Wipe your feet on the way out”. You won’t be disappointed, or maybe you will, but that is part of the charm of Klute.

Another popular place for students to go is The Big Jug, which offers you a glimpse of the rising Durham music scene and also shows you some of the very latest in football games from the Premier League and the occasional Championship game too!

The city has a number of museums in the area, such as the Durham University Oriental Museum, Durham University Museum of Archaeology and Durham Museum & Heritage Centre. As Durham has such a rich and vibrant history, it’s well worth checking these museums out.

The main cinema in the city is the Durham Picturehouse, for live music, there is the Gala Theatre, which also has two cinema screen. For those looking for more independent releases, we recommend checking out one of the city’s many film societies.

Durham has a wide range of activities that keep everyone involved not just in the culture of Durham but also the community, with Durham offering such festivals as the Great North Festival of Agriculture which gives you the chance to learn about the region’s rural heritage as well as the Dig for Victory, which looks at life on the Home Front during World War II.


Durham has two train stations in the city, Durham Station, which is on the East Coast Main Line. The other is Durham Elvet. Though not the city’s main train station it does offer good transport routes and is good for more local travel, whereas Durham Station is better for travelling to other cities, primarily Newcastle for which there are more services.

There are a number of bus services in the city, with services being provided by Arriva North East and Go North East. The city also is a proud provider of the Park and Ride system, which has free parking and return bus journeys costing £2 per-person.

There is no airport in the city, the closest airports are in Teesside and Newcastle.

Things to do with kids in Durham

Universities in the City

There is only one university in the city, which is Durham University.

Durham University is thought to be the UK’s third oldest university after the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford and is also part of the Russell Group of Universities.

The university was established in 1832 as part of an act of parliament. The university was also part of the 1994 Club before its extinction in 2013.

The student body is represented by the Durham Students Union. The union provides a number of different services to aid students including the Nightbus, which ensures that students get home safely. There are also specific minority groups for students, which are split into five sections:

  • International
  • LGBTQ+
  • Mature Students
  • People of Colour
  • Student with Disabilities

The student union is part of the NUS (so you can get a number of discounts with your TOTUM Card) and organises a number of events for students, such as Freshers’ Week.

Most universities have RAG Week, which is a week celebrating student-run charitable organisations, with most events falling on this week, however, Durham offers its own, unique week called the Durham University Charities' Kommittee (DUCK), which organise events throughout the year, instead of just one week.

The university also offers a number of media outlets run by and made for students as well. The uni has a fortnightly newspaper, called Palatinate, a radio station called Purple Radio (which broadcasts 24-hours-a-day during term time) and an online student magazine called The Bubble.

The university has a long history in the world of sport and competes in a number of different leagues and against a number of different universities in varsity and non-varsity sports. The university is allowed to play first-class cricket matches, as it is one of only six universities in the country to be granted the distinction by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The university has been second in the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) League table since 2012 and became only the second university to pass 4,000 BUCS points in 2015, with Loughborough University being the first.

Durham is also represented by the Durham University Boat Club, which competes in the Durham Regatta and in the Boat Race of the North against Newcastle University.

Things to do with family in Durham

History and Culture

Durham is one of the country’s oldest cities, with records of the settlement dating as far back as 2000 BC. Although the city layout itself can be traced a bit less far back in 995 AD. There is a common legend in the city that the settlement was located by divine intervention, mainly as a place for a number of Lindisfarne monks who were looking for a place to settle with the body of Saint Cuthbert.

The city became one of the spiritual epicentres of the UK, as it was the final resting place of the aforementioned Saint Cuthbert and also of Saint Bede the Venerable. Until St Thomas Becket and his martyrdom changed things in 1170, the shrine of Saint Cuthbert was one of the most important religious sites in the country.

Durham and its geographical location was a huge part of the defence strategy for England against the Scots and Durham Castle remain the only Norman castle keep that never once suffered a breach. The city also suffered a number of outbreaks of the plague in 1544, 1589 and 1598.

Durham was one of the many cities in the country that was proposed as a potential seaport, with ideas being raised of digging a canal just north of the River Team, but this was eventually mooted, though there is a large statue of Neptune, the God of Freshwater and the Sea.

As the industrial revolution rolled around, the city became famous for its coal manufacture, manufacture it kept up until the 1970s. The city also specialised in the manufacture of mustard and also of coal extraction services. This period also saw the creation of the University of Durham and University College, Durham as well.

The city was lucky, in that it was not actually bombed during World War II, though there is a local legend, that the German Luftwaffe tried to target the city but could not do it, as Saint Cuthbert created a mist that, when alongside the infamous country-wide blackout, obscured too much of the city to present a target for them to bomb, whether it's true or not is still being hotly debated, though the elements of Saint Cuthbert’s involvement some 1255 years after his death seems unlikely.


Much like with the university, sport is an important part of the city.

One of the main sports in the city is Archery. Durham has a number of Archery clubs in the city and the city has been a mainstay of a number of national competitions and leagues, as well as there being clubs that exist purely for recreational use as well.

Durham City Cricket Club is the city’s local cricket club and was one of the founding members of the Durham Senior Cricket League in 1903, a league that they have been crowned champions of thirteen times.

The city’s main football club is Durham City AFC, who used to be a member of the football league in the ‘20s, but is now a non-league club, mainly plying their trade in the Northern League. Durham Women’s FC was founded in 2014 and play their home games at New Ferens Park, with the club itself being a part of the FA Women’s Championship.

Rowing is a big part of the city’s sporting focuses as well, with the River Wear being the main river that people use to practise or compete on, with a 700m portion of the river being reserved primarily for usage in the annual regatta.

Who’s from Durham?

Durham also has a number of famous people that claim the city as their birthplace including; Rowan Atkinson, James Wood (No, not that one!), James Fenton, George Camsell, Violet Hunt and Pauline Murray.

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