Durham is a beautiful historic city in northeast England, just a few hours ride from London. The River Wear loops around the magnificent Romanesque Durham Cathedral and Norman Durham Castle, now home to the Durham University. North of the castle is the medieval Crook Hall with beautiful gardens and a maze. South of the river is the Durham University Botanic Garden with woodland and greenhouses with tropical plants. The best way to explore this ancient city is by taking one of the walking tours, or stroll along the river on the Durham Riverside Walk trail.

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1.Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral
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The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham or better known as Durham Cathedral is located in the city of Durham, United Kingdom and is considered one of the best examples of Norman architecture in Europe. The cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Durham. The construction of the present cathedral started in 1093 to replace the Saxon 'White Church'. The cathedral and Durham Castle are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Durham Cathedral is home to the relics of Saint Cuthbert, brought to Durham in the ninth century by Lindisfarne monks. The cathedral also holds the remains of the Venerable Bede and the head of Saint Oswald of Northumbria. Its library holds a rare collection of early books printed in England, three copies of the Magna Carta and the monastic accounts.

The College, Durham DH1 3EH, UK

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2.Beamish - The Living Museum of the North

Beamish - The Living Museum of the North
© Beamish – The Living Museum of the North

Beamish, the North of England Open Air Museum is located at Beamish, a 300-acre estate near the town of Stanley, England. The exhibits in the museum include a mix of moved, original and copies of original buildings; a large collection of artifacts, vehicles and equipment; livestock and interpreters dressed in period costumes. The museum's goal is to preserve and showcase an example of urban and rural North East England everyday life in the early 20th century at the peak of industrialization. Most of the exhibits belong to the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, as well as to the part of countryside that was under the influence of 1825 industrial revolution. The museum opened in 1972 and influenced the development of other "living museums".

Regional Resource Centre, Beamish DH9 0RG, UK

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3.Hardwick Park

Hardwick Park
© Hardwick Park

Hardwick Park is Durham country park created in the 1750s when its owner, John Burdon, started working on a sprawling ornamental park on his property. He enlarged the 17-acre ornamental lake by adding an artificial river and a walkway that runs around the lake. He added grottoes, temples and follies designed mostly by London architect James Paine. The garden still has Pain's design structure and is an interesting example of 18th century landscape design. The remains of some of the original structures can still be seen throughout the park. The visitor center has an education room, interactive display, cafe and toilets. Throughout the year, the park hosts a range of events, walks, activities and workshops.

Hardwick Park, Sedgefield, Stockton-on-Tees TS21 2DN, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-30-00-26-28-99

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4.Durham Castle

Durham Castle
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Durham Castle is a Norman castle in the city of Durham, England, on top of a hill above the River Wear on Durham's peninsula, across from Durham Cathedral. Construction of the Castle started in 1072 by William the Conqueror, six years after he conquered England. The Castle defenses encircled the whole of the Durham Peninsula. Durham Castle’s history is closely linked to that of the Prince-Bishops of Durham, whose special status made them among the most wealthy and powerful men in the country. They gradually turned the castle into a lavish palace, until it was transformed in the Victorian era into the home of University College, the precursor of Durham University. Since 1840 the castle has been fully occupied by the University College, Durham. It is open to the general public but only through guided tours. The castle is not only a working school but also a museum and the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Durham DH1 3RW, UK

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5.Durham Town Hall

Durham Town Hall
© Visit County Durham

The Town Hall is a historic building in Durham, UK, standing next to St. Nicholas's Church on the west side of the Market Place, It incorporates the Guildhall. Historically the most interesting part of the building is the Guildhall, constructed in 1356 during the reign of Edward III and rebuilt in 1535. As you enter the Main Hall, the first thing you see is the great west stain glass window that illustrating the history of the city. The Mayor's Chamber has probably originally been built in the early 1500s as a stone walled room and was paneled in 1752. By 1849 the old Town Hall had become too small for the growing city, and in 1850 the new Town Hall was built. The Old Town Hall has been recently renovated and now has new interpretation and interactive information points, short films and audio guides. It is also popular venue for large and small events.

Market Place, Durham DH1 3NJ

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6.Emirates Riverside Cricket Ground

Emirates Riverside Cricket Ground
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Emirates Riverside in Chester-le-Street is the home ground of Durham County Cricket Club. The complex is located in the shadow of Lumley Castle and it has capacity for 17,000 visitors. It includes a modern Media and Education Centre and great eating and drinking options. The facility has hosted a great number of world-class music and sporting events and is the perfect venue for weddings, conferences, celebrations and parties. The Riverside ground was completed in time for the 1995 season, although many of the buildings were still unfinished. The ground hosted the first game on 18 May 1995 - Durham vs. Warwickshire. The club's Don Robson Pavilion was opened in 1996 by Queen Elizabeth II.

3QR, Chester-le-Street, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-19-13-87-17-17

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7.Durham University Botanic Garden

Durham University Botanic Garden
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Durham University's Botanic Garden is located on the outskirts of Durham city and is spread over ten acres of beautiful mature woodlands. The garden’s main role is to provide a resource to the university for research and teaching. It also provides educational visits to schools. The Botanic Garden is open to the public and has a range of landscapes, with plant collections from Chile, China, Japan, New Zealand and Southern Africa. The garden also has an arboretum, Alpine garden and bamboo grove as well as several glasshouses with tropical rainforest and desert plants. The gardens host a range of events such as seminars, guided tours and flower shows.

South Rd, Durham DH1 3DF, UK

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8.Durham University Museum of Archaeology

Durham University Museum of Archaeology
© Durham University Museum of Archaeology

The Museum of Archaeology of the University of Durham in England was founded in 1833 and was originally housed in an old converted fulling mill of the Cathedral estate. It had moved in 1880 to Bishop Cosin's Almshouses on Palace Green and in 1956 returned to the Old Fulling Mill, together with the University Archeology Department. The museum holds collections ranging from the prehistoric, Ancient Greece, Roman and Medieval times, as well as the results of the Survey of the Durham City. The survey undertaken from 1988 to 1991 has a summary of all archeological sites within the Great Durham area. In July 2014 the exhibit named Living on the Hills, which tells the story of 10,000 of Durham, was open in the Palace Green Library. .

Palace Green Library, Durham DH1 3RN, Phone: +44-19-13-34-29-32

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9.Wharton Park

Wharton Park
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Wharton Park is a beautiful green hilly area in Durham City created in 1857 by William Lloyd Wharton on his land north of the railway which was completed the same year. There is a small castle known as the Battery in the park overlooking the railway, as well as benches for visitors to enjoy the views of the city. Inside of the castle is a Crimean War Sebastopol gun given to the city. The park also has an amphitheater, a multi-use sport terrain, outdoor gym, a putting green, a heritage center, a mini-car track, a kids’ play area and a café.

10 Princes' St, Durham DH1 4FJ, Phone: +44-30-00-26-00-00

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10.Auckland Castle

Auckland Castle
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Auckland Castle, locally known as the Bishop's Castle or Bishop's Palace, is located in the town of Bishop Auckland in County Durham, England. The original manor house was built in 1183 by Bishop Hugh Pudsey who liked the 800-acre site with its adjacent park known for great hunting. His successor Bishop Antony Bek made a number of modifications, effectively changing the manor house into a substantive Gothic castle. The castle did not see any military action but became the principal seat for the Bishopric to this day. The castle currently hosts the administrative offices of the Durham Diocesan Board of Finance. The parkland around the castle is open to the public.

Market Pl, Bishop Auckland DL14 7NR, Phone: +44-13-88-74-37-50

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11.Hamsterley Forest

Hamsterley Forest
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Hamsterley Forest is the largest forest in County Durham, covering more than 4,900 acres. This commercial forest in County Durham, operated by the Forestry Commission, offers a range of recreational activities, especially at its eastern end, near the visitors center. There is a cafe, an education room, several kids’ play areas, toilet facilities and a bike shop Wood'n'Wheels that also rents out bikes. The forest is a popular destination for wildlife watching, dark sky gazing and mountain biking. The river that passes through the forest is perfect for leisurely paddling. There are four walking trails, four biking trails and two horseback riding trails.

Forest Enterprise, Redford,Hamsterley Forest Bishop Auckland, Hamsterley, Durham, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-13-88-48-83-12

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12.High Force Waterfall

High Force Waterfall
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High Force is one of the most impressive waterfalls in England. Starting high at the top of the North Pennines, trickling down the sill rock at Forest-in-Teesdale, the River Tees grows and gathers pace until it suddenly drops 70 feet into the dark pool below. It is the most majestic waterfall on the River Tees and England’s highest uninterrupted falls. The best place to see the waterfall and feel its awesome power is from its base, which can be reached by taking an easy, well-maintained trail through a pretty surrounding woodland. The waterfall is easily accessed from the parking lot and a picnic area.

Forest-in-Teesdale DL12 0XH, Phone: +44-18-33-62-22-09

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13.Palace Green Library

Palace Green Library
© Palace Green Library

Palace Green Library, located in the heart of Durham city, was first founded by Bishop John Cosin in the 17th Century. Palace Green Library originally served as the University’s main library until 1980 when it changed its focus to special collections and Durham University archives. The library also houses early printed books and other special collections. It has more than 70,000 books printed before 1850 including 300 incunables, over 100 medieval manuscripts, 30,000 maps and prints, 100,000 photographs and 3,400 meters of artifacts and archives. The library is open to anyone who wants to consult the precious collections.

Palace Green, Durham DH1 3RN, Phone: +44-19-13-34-29-32

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14.Walking tour of Durham

Walking tour of Durham
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Durham City Walking Tours offers a special tour of the ancient city that is not only informative but is also fun and entertaining. Their highly knowledgeable local guides take visitors from all over the world on a trip through history, sharing information on the historic events, architecture and art, with stories, legends and interesting details about the characters that shaped the city’s past. They have special tours designed especially for families with kids, with the goal to bring the history to life and make the visit to Durham and its most fascinating attractions memorable. Many of the guides are local history students, well-versed in Durham's unique history and keen to share their love of the city with visitors. The tours take about hour and half and are suitable for all ages and levels of fitness.

Durham DH1 1WA, England

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© Diggerland

There is more to do in Durham than explore the city’s historic monuments and palaces. Diggerland is an adventure theme park in which kids and adults get to drive and operate real diggers, dumpers and other large-size construction machinery. Diggerland is a great destination if you are looking for a day of action, fun and thrill. It has 20 different rides and drives and a range of other activities. Kids are especially thrilled to be able to ride a real giant excavators or take a turn on the Spindizzy, rise to dangerous heights on the Skyshuttle, get their adrenaline pumping on the Groundshuttle or have a fun race on the Dodgems and go-carts. Diggerland is located in Langley Park, on the outskirts of Durham city.

Riverside Industrial Estate, Langley Park, Durham DH7 9TT, Phone: +44-87-12-27-70-07

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16.Crook Hall & Gardens

Crook Hall & Gardens
© Crook Hall & Gardens

Crook Hall is a medieval stone manor house built in 1217 and one of the oldest still inhabited houses in Durham City. The medieval Hall changed in time into a Jacobean Manor house and later into a Georgian Town house, reflecting the changes in style over the centuries. The Hall is surrounded by five acres of spectacular English gardens. Both the Hall and gardens are open to visitors, who can also enjoy traditional English Afternoon Tea in the gorgeous Georgian Drawing Room. The Hall is also a unique, historic wedding venue. Garden Gate Café is open 7 days a week for breakfasts, light lunches and refreshments with wines and local ales.

Frankland Ln, Sidegate, Durham DH1 5SZ, Phone: +44-19-13-84-80-28

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17.Old Durham Gardens

Old Durham Gardens
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Located less than a mile from downtown Durham city, Old Durham Gardens is a 350 year old walled garden with a series of terraces that run down to a restored orchard. It is believed that the garden was walled towards the end of 18th century, when the orchard was planted as well. The garden can be reached through several pleasant riverside or woodland trails through Pelaw Woods. So close to the city, gardens are magical oasis with so much history, constantly restored and maintained by Durham County Council and the Friends of Old Durham Gardens. The Gardens are open every Thursday throughout the year, and every Sunday during the summer.

Durham DH1 2RY, Phone: +44-19-13-84-15-58

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18.The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum
© The Bowes Museum

Located in the town of Barnard Castle, Teesdale, County Durham, England, The Bowes Museum is an art museum with a renowned art collection that belonged to John Bowes and his wife Joséphine Chevalier, Countess of Montalbo. The collection, which contain more than 800 paintings, includes priceless paintings by El Greco, Canaletto, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Francisco Goya, and François Boucher. It also contains a large collection of decorative art, textiles, ceramics, tapestries, clocks and costumes, historic local items and the early works of French glassmaker Émile Gallé. The building that hosts the museum was built as a public art gallery in a grand French style of the First Empire, within landscaped gardens.

Newgate, Barnard Castle DL12 8NP, UK

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19.Durham Riverside Walk

Durham Riverside Walk
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Durham Riverside Walk is a popular three-mile long circular walk along the east bank of the River Wear. The walk takes only about hour and half, but there are so many wonderful spots to explore that it might take a whole day to complete. The walk starts next to Durham Castle, a magnificent Norman castle perched on top of a hill above the river, on Durham's peninsula. The walk passes by many of the town’s main features such as Durham Cathedral, Old Durham Gardens and the Durham Botanical Gardens, crosses several ancient bridges and conveniently passes near several popular restaurants and cafes such as the Cafe On The Green, Zen and The Town House, Cafe Cenno and Be Tempted. The walk is as popular with locals as it is with tourists.

Green Lane, Durham, Co Durham, DH1 3UW, Phone: +44-0-30-00-26-26-26

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20.9 Altars

9 Altars
© Korn V./stock.adobe.com

9 Altars Café is a small, cozy café in the heart of Durham, right in the shadows of Durham City’s magnificent cathedral which gave it its unusual name. The café serves breakfast, light lunch and drinks but is most famous for its fantastic home-made cakes. It is a popular spot for the students of the Durham University, who love to hang out in the wonderful walled outdoor patio over a piece of cake and a mug of tea. 9 Altars also offers take-out lunches for those planning a day of exploring or heading out of town on a hike. The café is dog-friendly and offers all dogs special pork sausages.

19A Silver St, Durham DH1 3RB, Phone: +44-74-72-28-84-66

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21.Treats Coffee Shop

Treats Coffee Shop
© Treats Coffee Shop

Located a short flight of stairs above a body shop in the heart of Durham, Treats is a popular, thriving coffee shop and a traditional English Tea Room. It serves award-winning cakes, traditional pies, quiches, salads, daily specials and freshly made scones. Everything is made fresh every day on the premises. It is a perfect spot for tired tourists to have a break from exploring the city and recharge batteries in a traditional environment of an English tea room, enjoying local cuisine and popular dishes such as Panini, salads, soups lasagna and more. Traditional English breakfast is served the whole day.

27-28, Silver St, Durham DH1 3RD, Phone: +44-19-13-84-56-20

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© Tealicious

Located in the heart of busy Durham downtown, in a charming blue house with blue windows, Tealicious is the kind of quaint tea shop tourists imagine in England. White furniture, blue cushions, white fireplace and the smell of hot cakes and scones are irresistible. They offer 24 blends of tea, which is served in an individual pot in fine bone china. The cakes are fantastic – try to resist white chocolate cheesecake. The beast way to try it all is to order High Tea, and treat yourself to a true English tradition. They also serve soups and salads. The place is so tiny and so popular that they take reservations.

88 Elvet Bridge, Durham DH1 3AG, Phone: +44-19-13-40-13-93

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23.Number Four

Number Four
© Number Four

Located in the former co-op building on a quiet street of Durham, Number Four is a small, very popular café and tea room in a bright, modern space shared with a gift shop. The menu is fairly large and includes freshly made cakes, scones, sandwiches, paninis and other light meals. Their High Tea is a reason many people, especially tourists, come to Number Four. It is elaborate and luscious and many people use it to celebrate important dates and occasions. There are a few tables on the sidewalk, great for people-watching and relaxing with your dog.

Old Co-op Buildings, 4, Langley Park, Durham DH7 9XE, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-19-13-73-14-04

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23 Best Things to Do in Durham, UK