A weekend in Durham: Where to stay, where to eat and what to do

Ellie Ross
Here's what to do, where to stay and where to eat in Durham [Photo: Getty]

With its beautiful Romanesque cathedral, Norman castle (now occupied by university students) and a maze of steep, cobbled streets, Durham has a charm of its own.

For many, this historic city has been merely a place to pass through while travelling from the tearooms of York to the tartan of Scotland.

But there’s plenty to do here that warrants your attention – from climbing castles to sitting back in spas.

Durham: Fun facts

  • Charles Dickens stayed in Barnard Castle when collecting material for Nicholas Nickleby

  • Durham's Cathedral and Castle was one of the very first to be designated a World Heritage Site in 1986, along with the Taj Mahal and Palace of Versailles.

  • Durham is the birthplace of English mustard, which was developed by Mrs. Clements in the early 1900’s

Here’s our guide to the best places to stay and eat, and what to do while you’re in Durham – no matter your budget.

Where to stay

If you’re on a budget

For a friendly atmosphere and quirky touches, book a room at The Victoria Inn. Located in the heart of the city, this family-run Victorian inn is packed with character, from its marble fireplaces and red velvet seating to its antique furniture and patterned wallpaper. Its six ensuite rooms range from simple twins to four-poster bed doubles. B&B doubles cost from £80 a night.

Book the hotel here

A room at the Victoria Inn [Photo: Visit County Durham]

If you’re looking for luxury

A short walk from the centre of town, Hotel Indigo is housed inside a grade II listed Victorian building with lovely stained glass windows and marble tiling. This was once Durham University’s “Old Shire Hall” and you’ll find brass etchings on lobby walls and beautiful views of the cathedral from the inside. There are 83 elegant rooms and suites, furnished with bespoke prints and textiles and serene spa bathrooms. B&B doubles cost from £99 a night.

Book the hotel here

The exterior of Hotel Indigo [Photo: Visit County Durham]

Where to eat

If you’re on a budget

From breakfast to Sunday lunch, The Kingslodge Inn is a great shout for a meal that won’t break the bank. This dog-friendly pub in the city holds a Taste Durham Award for quality of produce. The menu showcases local ingredients with homemade creations such as eggs benedict (£6.95), steak and ale pie (£11.95) and apple crumble (£6.95). There’s a lovely little garden and lots of characterful nooks and crannies to sit back and relax with a pint of local ale.

A dessert at the Kingslodge [Photo: Visit County Durham]

If you’re looking for luxury

Sink into a sumptuous velvet booth at The Rabbit Hole. Hidden behind an antiques shop façade, this has a 1920s speakeasy-feel with low-lit, cosy tables and the sound of mellow seductive jazz playing. There’s a central stage where you can watch live performances as you eat everything from Teriyaki Beef (£15.50) to grilled seabass (£16.50).

READ MORE: A weekend in the Isle of Wight, Hampshire: Where to stay, where to eat and what to do

The inside of The Rabbit Hole [Photo: Visit County Durham]

What to do

If you’re on a budget

Dive into Durham’s history on the cheap by visiting Durham Cathedral and Castle. The jewel in the city’s crown, Durham Cathedral and Castle are a designated World Heritage Site. Spend the day reenacting Harry Potter Hogwarts scenes in the cathedral’s cloisters, and admire the stunning stained glass windows and 11th century architecture. Feeling active? Climb to the top of the Central Tower to be rewarded with panoramic views of Durham. You can also book a private tour of Durham Castle with a student guide for £5.

Durham Castle [Photo: Visit County Durham]

If you’re looking for luxury

Get some pampering in at Ramside Spa, a five-minute drive from Durham City. Relax in its sophisticated thermal suite and soak in its five pools – which include one of the UK’s largest hydrotherapy pools and an outdoor infinity pool. For added luxe, you could book a treatment, which range from hot stone massages (£80 for 60 minutes) to personalised facials (£65 for 45 minutes). After a day of swimming, kicking back in the steam room and having your aches massaged away, you’ll virtually float out of the door.

READ MORE: A weekend in Newquay, Cornwall: Where to stay, where to eat and what to do

The pool at Ramside Spa [Photo: Visit County Durham]

How to get there

Durham is well connected by rail. Trains run between London Kings Cross and Durham regularly, taking 3hr 14min on average. For more information about how to book a break in Durham, see thisisdurham.com.

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