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Top 10 Summer Vacation Activities in Durham

Durham, a historic city in the northeast of England, offers a delightful blend of rich heritage, stunning architecture, and picturesque landscapes, making it an ideal destination for a summer vacation. Whether you’re interested in exploring medieval castles, wandering through tranquil gardens, or indulging in culinary delights, Durham has something to offer for everyone. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the top 10 summer vacation activities in Durham to help you plan your trip.

Top 10 Summer Vacation Activities in Durham

1. Explore Durham Cathedral and Castle

No visit to Durham is complete without exploring its iconic landmarks: Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites are situated adjacent to each other atop a hill overlooking the River Wear. Marvel at the breathtaking architecture of Durham Cathedral, a masterpiece of Norman craftsmanship, and take a guided tour to learn about its fascinating history. Then, wander through the halls of Durham Castle, which dates back to the 11th century and is still used today as a college by Durham University.

2. Wander Through Durham’s Botanic Garden

Durham University’s Botanic Garden is a tranquil oasis nestled within the city, offering a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle. Spread across 10 hectares, the garden features an impressive collection of plants from around the world, including alpine plants, exotic tropical species, and native wildflowers. Take a leisurely stroll along the winding paths, explore the glasshouses and arboretum, and enjoy the serene beauty of the gardens.

3. Enjoy a River Cruise on the Wear

Discover Durham’s picturesque riverside scenery with a leisurely cruise along the River Wear. Hop aboard a boat and relax as you glide past historic landmarks, lush greenery, and charming bridges. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about Durham’s history and heritage from knowledgeable guides while taking in the scenic views from the water.

4. Visit the Oriental Museum

Step into the fascinating world of Asia at Durham’s Oriental Museum, home to one of the most significant collections of Asian art and artifacts in the UK. Explore exhibits showcasing treasures from ancient Egypt, China, Japan, and India, including ceramics, textiles, sculptures, and more. Don’t miss the museum’s stunning collection of Egyptian mummies and the interactive displays that bring the cultures of Asia to life.

5. Explore Durham’s Historic Streets

Take a leisurely stroll through Durham’s historic streets and soak up the city’s medieval charm. Wander along the cobbled lanes of the Market Place, admire the timber-framed buildings of Saddler Street, and discover hidden gems tucked away in the city’s winding alleyways. Along the way, you’ll find a plethora of independent shops, cafes, and galleries waiting to be explored.

6. Discover Durham’s Local Cuisine

Indulge your taste buds with Durham’s diverse culinary offerings, from traditional British fare to international cuisine. Sample local delicacies such as Durham potted shrimp, Northumberland sausage, and Durham lamb, sourced from the region’s bountiful countryside. Be sure to visit Durham’s bustling markets and food festivals to experience the best of the city’s gastronomic delights.

7. Take a Guided Walking Tour

Immerse yourself in Durham’s rich history and heritage with a guided walking tour of the city. Join knowledgeable guides as they lead you on a journey through Durham’s past, regaling you with tales of kings and bishops, battles and sieges, and the everyday lives of its inhabitants. Choose from a variety of themed tours, including ghost walks, literary tours, and architectural walks, to suit your interests.

8. Explore Durham’s Surrounding Countryside

Venture beyond the city limits and explore Durham’s picturesque countryside, dotted with quaint villages, rolling hills, and meandering rivers. Lace up your hiking boots and tackle one of the many scenic walking trails that crisscross the Durham Dales, such as the Durham Heritage Coast Path or the Weardale Way. Alternatively, rent a bicycle and pedal your way through the stunning landscapes of the Durham Moors or along the banks of the River Tees.

9. Attend a Performance at Durham’s Theaters

Experience the vibrant arts scene in Durham by attending a performance at one of the city’s theaters or performance venues. The Gala Theatre and Cinema hosts a diverse range of events, including live music concerts, theater productions, dance performances, and film screenings. Alternatively, catch a show at the Durham Student Theatre, where talented students from Durham University showcase their creativity and talent.

10. Relax in Durham’s Parks and Green Spaces

Unwind and relax in one of Durham’s beautiful parks and green spaces, perfect for picnics, leisurely walks, and outdoor recreation. The Riverside Park offers stunning views of the River Wear and features riverside paths, picnic areas, and children’s play areas. Meanwhile, Wharton Park boasts landscaped gardens, scenic viewpoints, and a charming miniature railway that delights visitors of all ages.


Durham itself does not have a beach since it is an inland city located in the northeast of England. However, the county of Durham does have access to some coastal areas, although they are not directly within the city. The nearest beaches to Durham are located along the Durham Heritage Coast, which stretches from Seaham in the north to Hartlepool in the south.

Seaham is approximately 12 miles (19 kilometers) east of Durham and offers sandy beaches such as Seaham Beach and Seaham Hall Beach. These beaches are known for their dramatic cliffs, rock pools, and sea glass, making them popular destinations for coastal walks and beachcombing.

Further south, approximately 23 miles (37 kilometers) from Durham, is Hartlepool, which has beaches like Seaton Carew Beach. Seaton Carew Beach is a long sandy beach with dunes and is a favorite spot for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports during the summer months.

While Durham itself does not have direct access to a beach, residents and visitors can easily reach the coastal areas of Durham County within a short drive or public transportation journey.


A summer vacation in Durham offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, providing visitors with a myriad of experiences to cherish. Whether you’re exploring the city’s iconic landmarks, wandering through tranquil gardens, or indulging in local cuisine, Durham has something to offer for every traveler. So pack your bags, plan your itinerary, and get ready to create unforgettable memories in this charming city nestled in the heart of northeast England.