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Tourist Guide To Durham City England
Durham City Guide
I've lived in Durham City England all my life so I thought I would write a guide for anyone thinking about visiting the City.
I will give a totally honest and different view of the City compared to tourist information booklets and websites written by paid writers.
This guide to Durham will highlight places to visit and places to avoid from my own personal experience and I don't mind answering your questions if you care to comment.
Durham cathedral is no doubt the crown jewel of the City, it's the main reason why Durham City receives thousands of tourists ever year, whenever I see the cathedral whether it be in a photo, video or travelling across the railway bridge heading home, Durham cathedral reminds me of my home and it's also a fantastic place to visit.
Building started in 1093 and took 40 years to complete quite an achievement considering the Normans didn't have the machinery we use today in construction.
The cathedral is situated in the City centre and access is easy enough for most people but if you have a push chair or wheelchair it can be tricky due to the cobbled banks.
Entry to the cathedral is free, you can clime the steps to the top of the tower and it is well worth the effort but there is a charge of £5 adults and £2.50 children.
More information can be found on the official Durham Cathedral website
Another landmark of Durham City is the castle, Durham castle is situated next to the Cathedral and is open to tourists, however the castle is now a residents for Durham university students and most of the access is limited, you can take a tour of the castle but I personally don't think it is worth the money.
I believe Durham castle could be a much better tourist attraction but this is currently not the case so it remains a disappointment in my opinion.
I would suggest when visiting the cathedral to take photos of the castle from the outside as this would be the best photo opportunity compared to everything else on offer.
Durham castle on wikipedia
Durham Market Place
The market place in Durham has recently undergone a refurbishment costing £3 million pounds and has been quite controversial to say the lest!
In this photo I took you can see construction still taking place.
The market place used to be all cobble stones and visually matched Durham's image however the council decided the market place required modernisation, I personally, do understand why they did this and I generally like modern architecture but I think the market place looks cheap and a lot more should have been achieved for the money spent.
If you are visiting Durham you will at some point find yourself in the market place, there is usually entertainment on a weekend but apart from that all you will see is the same brand shops you will find anywhere else but there are two things you should take a peak at, the first being the indoor market, inside there are about 40 market stalls all offering a range of goods and services at a decent price.
The second good thing about the market place is St Nicholas' church, it really is a wonderful looking building and goes unnoticed by locals but if you take the time to look at the architecture you begin to realise that it is a very good looking building indeed.
The weekend is when the market place comes to life with the addition of the Durham outdoor market running all day Saturday, over 80 market traders selling a range of goods from hot food to vintage clothing at a price you can't argue with, the market traders are all happy to help even if it's just to give you directions.
Another aspect of Durham on a weekend is the night life, thousands of people every week head into Durham to party and the market place is extremely busy from 7 pm onwards.
Map of Durham City
Durham Cathedral location
Durham Castle location
Durham market place location
Walking by the river wear on a sunny day is one of my fondest memory's of being a child growing up in Durham.
The City has some fantastic river walks enjoyed by locals as well as tourists, When walking around the city centre simply ask anyone nearby how to get down to the river and someone will guide you with directions.
There are over 40 river walks in the City centre and each one has it's own beauty depending on the time of year.
You can find a different route no matter where you are in the City and for a new visitor to the City you will be surprised where you end your walk every time.
If you are planning to do a river walk during the night I would suggest taking a torch as some of the areas do not have good lighting or even any lighting, it's also good practice to be accompanied as with any river walk a simple slip could end in disaster.
Want to see Durham from the sky? if so then you should visit Wharton park, in my opinion it's Durham City's best kept secret.
Built in 1858 the park is a beautiful retreat from the noisy roads and busy streets, the park was a gift from William Lloyd Wharton to the people of the City, Mr Wharton wanted to preserve an area of land for people to enjoy. I am sure if he could see the park today he would be extremely happy it has remained free of development and still remains in his original vision.
The park was the birth place of the world famous Durham minors gala, when visiting the park you can imagine the crowds of miners gathering to hear speakers in various areas of the park as bandstands still remain to the North end.
Wharton park has a lot of history but still keeps on giving to the people of the City, people of all ages can be found relaxing and playing at the park even during the week.
The park is the most peaceful part of the City and the gathering of such a mixture of young and old creates it's own atmosphere unlike anywhere else in the City.
Described by a poet "Wharton park is magic if only the world could see, the view of the iconic buildings, a view only we can see"
What this is referring to is a particular viewpoint above the train station from Wharton park, it is amazing and well worth a visit just for that view.
Read more about Wharton Park
Helicopter view of Durham
Shopping in Durham City
When travelling I love to shop, buying a memorable item will remind you of your time spent at that particular location and hopefully bring back fond memory's of your visit.
Durham City is full of shops, some good and some that could do with bringing back to life!
The Prince bishop's is the newest area in the City for shopping, it's a modern "L" shaped street that fits in well with the tone of the City.
Shops include NEXT, BHS, BOOTS, COSTA COFFEE, HMV and GAME to name a few.
I was a little bit reluctant to mention the gates shopping centre but as it's situated in the City and this is an honest guide it does need to be included.
The gates is an aspect of the City I hope in the near future will be reinvented, when it first opened it had a large range of shops and used to be a very popular area, however over the years it has lost key brands and is run down.
I am unsure if this is due to high rents, bad management or it's location but something needs to be done as I believe the shopping centre does have potential to be a popular area.
My advice is to avoid the gates shopping centre as there is nothing inside for tourists or locals for that matter.
Shops around the City
When wondering around Durham City you will notice various streets with interesting locally run shops and big retail giants like tesco and M&S, if you focus on the independents your shopping experience will be a joy as Durham has some wonderful shops to offer.
Top 5 Places to Eat In Durham City
I've been to every restaurant in the City at least once and the choice is pretty good.
I have based the top five on my own experiences and I am sure you will enjoy the food and service provided by these restaurants.
5. The Court Inn
For traditional English pub food the court inn is the best option, On the menu are classic British meals served quickly by pleasant staff, the pub is a family owned and operated so attention to detail is always a high priority.
The inside of the pub is how you would expect a English pub to look like and has never opted to modernise and this works in it's favour.
I have always enjoyed every meal at the Court Inn, the quality of food is very good and the prices are not bad considering it's location.
There are two very good Mexican restaurants in Durham and this one makes number 4 on the list, even though Chiquito's is not unique to Durham or the North of England for that matter there is something about it that I love and I keep going back.
I can honestly say I have never had a bad meal at chiquito's and that says a lot considering I have been their over 10 times.
The food is very good value for money, the staff are friendly and helpful (even more fun if you go on a drinks special night) and the location is perfect if you are wanting to continue partying into the night.
3. Bistro Italiano
I would say this is the most Italian restaurant outside of Rome, quite a claim but the owners are Italian, all the staff are Italian the décor is imported from Italy and the food is truly authentic Italian cuisine.
This is easily the best Italian restaurant in Durham and well worth a visit.
Bistro Italia menu
2. Bells Fish and Chips
Luckily for me there is a Bells chips shop in my village (Gilesgate to be precise) but they now own the fish shop in Durham market place and the fish and chips are top class.
The restaurant has just been refurbished since they took ownership and you can't really fault it, I had a sit down meal at Bell's about two weeks ago and the quality of the fish is excellent and well worth the visit.
I love this restaurant and have to restrain myself from visiting every time I head into the City centre, it's not the biggest space but that is part of it's appeal, the food is Mexican although the owners are not Mexican the quality and originality is amazing.
I would highly recommend choosing the chicken enchilada it is truly amazing.
The Court Inn Durham City
Bistro Italiano location
Bells Fish and Chips location
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