Durham is a marvellous city in North East England famous for its historical side which is represented by the Castle and the Cathedral. Due to these architectural gems, it was marked by UNESCO and now is featured in many movies including various parts of “Harry Potter” and Marvel’s “Avengers”.
Head straight to the Bailey, or the Peninsula where the historic centre is located. It’s quite compact and allows you to see everything in just one day.
Scroll down to see what to see and where to eat there!
1. Our Lady of Mercy and St. Godric Church
If you come to Durham by train like we did, then Our Lady of Mercy and St. Godric Church is the first landmark you see on your way from the railway station. It was erected in 1864 under the guidance of the architect Edward Welby Pugin.
2. Framwellgate Bridge
The easiest way to get to the city is to cross river Wear, and we absolutely loved pedestrianised Framwellgate Bridge located between Milburngate and Prebens bridges! Framwellgate Bridge was erected in 15th century – initially there were more arches, but now it has transformed into the two-arch bridge.
3. Market Place
Although Market place is one of the oldest places in the city, many buildings on it date back to Victorian era. Don’t miss the statues there too: Neptune and and the equestrian statue of 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, the builder of the coal port of Seaham Harbour.
4. Town Hall and Guildhall
Town Hall and Guildhall are set side by side on the Market Place, and all the official attributes of the city such as the ceremonial sword are kept in the latter. The Town Hall might look much older but actually it dates back to the 19th century. Check the opening times to get a look at it on the inside and to see the collections it hosts!
5. St. Nicholas Church
When you arrive at the marketplace, the first thing you most probably notice is the decorated gothic St. Nicholas Church, or St Nic’s. It was built in the mid-19th century on the place of a much older demolished church dating back to the 12th century.
During our visit there was a real feast inside the church, everyone was super-friendly and I really felt part of the community even not being religious!
Tip: stroll along the charming streets South Bailey and North Bailey, Saddler Street, and Silver street!
No, it’s not a typo – Cafédral is a greenest family-run cafe with stylish rustic interiors, delicious wraps, salads and desserts. Highly recommended!
7. Durham Castle
Durham Castle is an unmissable gem of Durham! Once it was a fortress, then a bishop’s palace and since 1837 it has been used as accommodation for students.
You can enter only with a guided tour – we booked ours upon arrival at the reception of the Palace Green Library nearby. Our tour guide, one of the local students, was absolutely brilliant, btw.Photography is restricted to a few areas inside the castle.
The main highlights of the Castle are The Norman Chapel dating back to 1078 (now it’s the oldest surviving part of Durham!) and The Tunstall Chapel built in the 15th century and modified in the 17th century. Don’t miss the historical wooden seats over there representing people, animals and beasts! Another gem is Bishop Bek’s Great Hall – it must be an epic experience to pass your time there!
Interesting: The Norman Chapel is a home to one of the earliest depictions of a mermaid – can you spot her?
8. Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral, the finest example of the Norman architecture, is the first UNESCO protected site with The Castle being the second.
Its full title is The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St. Cuthbert of Durham, and it dates back to 1093. The legend links it to the St. Cuthbert, one of the most acclaimed saints of Middle ages, whose relics were ‘destined’ to rest in this place.
You can still see his coffin, comb, pectoral cross and other attributes in an adjacent museum called the Open Treasure. The relics of Saint Bede, ‘The Father of the English History’, are also kept there. For the Lego model of the cathedral head to the Cathedral shop and cafe area.
Durham Cathedral is a place adored by the filmmakers. The list of movies set there include the Harry Potter series where its Cloisters, Chapter House and other parts were used as a Hogwarts and Avengers: the Endgame where it represented Asgard. See it for yourself below!
Tip: if you’re luckier than us, pop into the Palace Green Library and the Museum of Archaeology. We were told at the reception that it was closed on the weekend but the website stated otherwise.
Interesting: the square covered with grass is called the Palace Green – and all the most important buildings are located on its perimeter!
9. St. Mary-le-Bow and Durham Museum
St. Mary-le-Bow is a lovely parish church facing the Cathedral where Durham Museum is located. Sadly, it was closed during our visit: as its website states, it’s open daily from June to September, weekends and bank holidays in April, May and weekends in October, and we were visiting in February… I hope you’ll be more lucky!
10. St. Mary The Less
Another church to have a look at is St. Mary The Less founded in the 12th century. If you are interested in the British Royal Family, you’ll be surprised to learn that the ancestors of Charles Prince of Wales are buried there! Now it’s a chapel for St. John’s College.
Have more time? Plenty of places to explore around! Try Hatfield College Chapel and St. Margaret’s Church or, if you’d like to explore adjacent areas too, Brancepeth Castle, Egglestone Abbey, or Auckland Castle.
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Anna | London & Beyond
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