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HLN Explores: Durham

The perfect balance of modern-meets-medieval, we delve into some of the city’s hotspots

Written by Jenny Brownlees
Published 02.06.2021

The historic city of Durham is just a stone’s throw from Newcastle, yet feels like a world away.

If you dismiss the local haunt into the I’ve-been-before category, you’re missing a treat. The perfect balance of modern-meets-medieval, the town has an abundance of unmissable gems, including some foodie hotspots that guarantee a luxurious dining experience.



To kick off the day, explore Durham’s stunning 11th century Cathedral and take in the sights at the top of this iconic World Heritage Site. Now that the sun’s starting to shine, it’s the perfect weather for a boat ride along the river in one of Durham’s famous rowing boats, who have been a mainstay on the water since 1900.

Fancy a stroll? Head to the Botanical Gardens. This urban oasis is a haven for plant and nature lovers alike, and ideal for a bit of peace and quiet amid the hustle and bustle of city life. Or, if you’re in need of a history fix, make tracks to nearby Beamish – the world-famous, open-air museum celebrating the North East’s industrial heritage.

For the kids, Hall Hill Farm offers a day out filled with an array of animal encounters – from lamb feeding and donkey rides to small animal handling. Let the little ones blow off some steam and enjoy the soft play, puppet shows, barrel train rides, crazy golf and outdoor adventure area. And while you’re in the area, head a little further East to Durham Heritage Coast – being sure to check out the artisan Jersey ice cream, sumptuous coffee and freshly baked cakes served every weekend at Palominos Ice Cream in Hawthorn Dene on the way.


In Durham’s city centre, head to the plant-adorned Flat White Kitchen for brunch, lunch or that perfect pairing of coffee and cake. You can enjoy really delicious food in a cosy setting or in their pretty secret garden. If you’re looking for afternoon tea, Tealicious is the place for a perfect brew and delicious pastry and cake miniatures.

Lunch-wise, if seafood’s your thing, you won’t find better than Finbarrs, where locally-sourced ingredients make for fine quality and consistently well-reviewed dishes.

Opting for an eco-friendly alternative to fast fashion? Durham’s Circle Vintage is well worth a browse, especially for any fans of period fashion. Nearby is the treasure trove Oxfam boutique, where you’ll find everything from wedding dresses to a wonderful selection of second-hand books.


If all that shopping has worked up your thirst, quench it at Tin of Sardines or Old Tom’s, being sure to sample the locally-produced Durham Gin.

For dinner, the menu at Tango boasts fresh ingredients, sourced daily from local suppliers. Despite their penchant for brilliant burgers, vegans needn’t worry – any burger on Tango’s menu is able to be made with a falafel patty too.

If you’re looking to treat yourself, you’ll find the best fine dining at The Cellar Door. A hidden gem in every sense of the word, beyond the doorway and narrow steps lies ultra-tasty food and stunning river views. Round off your Durham jaunt with a tipple at family-run Ebony’s Champagne Bar, where you can reflect on a day well spent in their stylish venue, all while sipping on one of Ebony’s signature cocktails. Bliss.