City Guide

Things to Do in Sunderland

Ben Maples  · Aug 18th 2020
Sunderland city landscape with Sunderland FC stadium

Sunderland is one of the newest cities in the UK, but its also one of the most popular.

In this guide, we will show you the various things to do in Sunderland, as well as give you a brief history of the city, show you the universities in the city and give you an insight into Sunderland’s sporting culture.

Things to do in Sunderland


The city of Sunderland sits at the mouth of the River Wear, the city itself is situated in North East England, and has long been one of the most popular places for students to go to study. The city itself boasts a population of roughly 174,286 according to the most recent figures. The city itself dates back as far as 1179.

Things to do in Sunderland

Sunderland is widely agreed to have the best nightlife in the whole of the North East of England, and we think we can help you with the decisions of where to go on your night out! We’ve compiled a list of three places that we think would be right up your alley, so check them out and see what you think!

First up we have 7even Nightclub, which is one of the most popular nightclubs in Sunderland, offering live music and DJ sets and a collection of drinks that are affordable and will have you coming back time and time again.

An authentic Northern bar is up next for us in the form of Dun Cow, which apart from being a local haunt, the bar has also received high scoring reviews from the people who have come to visit too. The bar features some of the best in live performances, and they certainly know how to pull a pint or two too.

Next up we have one of the best sport’s bars in Sunderland in the form of Sinatra’s, named for one of the pioneers of the Swing genre in Frank Sinatra. The bar is friendly and has many people coming through and not just to watch the Sunderland games, the bar is accommodating and has some great dishes on the menu!

The city of Sunderland has a rich and decadent history and is well-known within the community. The city itself has immortalised the history in their many museums which can be found around the city and are accessible and affordable for all members of the public, including Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

There are a good amount of cinemas too if you’re looking to see some of the latest and greatest films. You can make your way to the local Cineworld, which has tiered seating or you can make your way over to the Empire Cinemas venue, which has excellent reviews from people all around!

The city has many ways of getting the community together, and one such way is the Tyneside Gin Festival which is run annually and allows people from all over to come and experience the best alcohol there is out there. The beer will have you wanting to return, but the people will make you want to stay.

Things to do with kids in Sunderland


The city’s transportation has long been one of the main reasons that Sunderland comes so high in the best city reviews, with excellent bus services, trains and cycle routes.

There are a number of bus services that operate in the city. Services like Stagecoach in Sunderland and Go North East are the most common bus services operated in the city, however, there are some local bus services provided by Arriva North East. There are also services provided by National Express and Megabus, which allows people to travel to a number of major cities.

The main train station in the city is Sunderland Railway Station. The station has five direct trains to London and Newcastle. There are also services provided to cities such as Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool and Birmingham.

The city also has a Metro system as well, which is called the Tyne and Wear Metro, with the city having nine stops on the way. The city also has an on-street tram link which is part of the metro line as well.

The city doesn’t have a designated airport, the closest one is located in Newcastle at Newcastle Airport, which is accessible via the aforementioned Metro line.

Universities in the City

There is only one university in the city, the University of Sunderland, which was initially discovered in 1901 as the Sunderland Technical College. The college eventually became a polytechnic in 1969 and received university status in 1992 and re-branded as the University of Sunderland.

The student body is represented by the University of Sunderland Students’ Union (USSU). The union represents a number of the student media outlets at the university, the most well-known one being Spark Sunderland, the university’s student radio, which has a full community radio licence from Ofcom, the station itself has also won the Best Student Radio Station at the New York Radio Awards.

The university also offers a unique publication called SportsByte. SportsByte is a sports publication that allows students to submit reports and articles relating to sport for publication.

Things to do with family in Sunderland


Sunderland is thought to have been inhabited since the Stone Age, with a number of hunters using the area. Later excavations of the city have found microliths and various hunting tools from the era.

In 1100, the area of Bishopwearmouth decided to include a small fishing village of Soender-land, which was eventually granted a charter in 1179. As fishing was the town’s main commercial option, it took time for the town to grow financially, however, after a while, the town’s port began to see its fortunes improve and eventually by the time of 1396, the town was beginning to export coal as well.

Soon the port came into its own and began to indulge in the salt trade, as a direct result of the city’s coal usage and was still a huge part of the city’s expanding industry by the time of the 17th century.

Further improvements to the town came about with the River Wear’s path into the city, which grew the town’s port even further and with England’s constant demand for coal in the middle of the French Revolutionary Wars and made Sunderland the UK’s fourth largest port.

The city later began to export glass as well, which became a major and lucrative export for the town. Limestone could be found around the town, which is an essential part of the glassmaking process and drastically improved the town’s fortunes.

Eventually, Sunderland was considered to be the greatest shipbuilding port in the world, with a huge number of shipbuilding ports. Sunderland began to produce naval vessels and paddle steamers, which meant that over a third of the ships in the UK were made Sunderland!

By the time of the Second World War, Sunderland’s prominence as a port meant that it was heavily targeted by the German Luftwaffe. The raids on the city caused destruction to over 4,000 homes, claimed the lives of over 260 people and devastated the town’s industries.

Sunderland received city status in 1992.


There is only one professional sports team in the city, Sunderland AFC, which is the city’s local football club, who currently play in League One at the Stadium of Light and are also the subject of the popular Netflix documentary “Sunderland ‘till I Die”, which has chronicled the team’s progress. Sunderland were in the Premier League until 2017. The team shares a fierce rivalry with Newcastle United as well and have competed against them regularly in a number of competitions. Sunderland have also won the FA Cup and the old First Division.

The city also has local rugby and cricket clubs as well, both of which play at Ashbrooke Sports Ground, which is home to a number of different sports clubs in tennis, hockey and squash.

Who’s from Sunderland?

There are numerous notable people from Sunderland too including; Eve Gallagher, Alex Kapranos, Mary Stewart, Ryan Noble and Peter Gibbs.

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