10 free things to do in Durham

Discover Durham on a budget with our 10 free ( or low cost) things to do in Durham and her surrounds.

A picturesque city blessed with historical charm and a whole host of exciting things to see and do, Durham is a popular destination for families looking for a great day out. But what can you get up to without a trip costing the earth? Whether you fancy a wander in the great outdoors, discovering some fascinating facts or marvelling at magnificent lights, check out our top 10 free or low cost things to do while visiting Durham on a budget.

1. Durham Cathedral & Palace Green

Attracting over 700,000 visitors to this North-Eastern city each year, no trip to Durham is complete without taking in its stunning cathedral. Discover previously hidden spaces and artefacts, enjoy make and take craft sessions with the kids and learn all about the produce within the herb garden, to name just a few of the activities within this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Outside, the lush green grass of Palace Green is the perfect spot to enjoy the architecture of the historic building and Durham Castle just opposite.

Stay: Travelodge Durham

10 free things


2. Durham Indoor City Market Hall

We all know that the Great British weather can sometimes be unpredictable, but don’t let it rain on your parade. Why not take shelter in the Indoor City Market Hall? Built in 1851, this Victorian venue offers over 50 independent traders, some of which have traded here for over 30 years. A warm and friendly welcome from all of the stallholders will soon warm your extremities as you browse the interesting items on offer. Grab a hot drink and a bite to eat, or even some handmade gifts for your loved ones. By the time you’ve finished perusing, it may even be nice enough to venture back outside and visit the nearby Marquess of Londonderry’s statue.

Stay: Travelodge Durham

3. Riverside Walk

If you’re a fan of peaceful strolls away from the hustle and bustle of the city, look no further than Durham’s riverside walk. Follow the meandering path of the River Wear as you pass the beautiful local scenery such as Prebends Bridge, St Oswalds Church and of course Durham Cathedral on this 3-mile walk. Though the city centre is still within easy reach during this adventure, you’ll feel worlds away within the natural surroundings.

Stay: Travelodge Durham

10 free things

Family walking on path

4. Wharton Park

Take a leisurely wander through the foliage at Wharton Park. Handily located adjacent to Durham Railway Station, it’s the ideal spot for everyone to stretch their legs before or after a journey.  Study the array of sculptures and statues, test your mettle on the putting green or take a well-deserved rest as the kids let off some steam in the play areas. There’s plenty of parking on site and a café for those in need of a refreshing beverage.

Stay: Travelodge Durham

5. Lumiere Durham Light Festival

It‘s not just the architecture that creates beautiful sights in Durham. Why not add a little sparkle to your visit by visiting the Lumiere Durham Light Festival? A glowing success in previous years, the festival entices people in their thousands to bear witness to its wonderful array of illuminations, installations and performances. Normally taking place in November, be sure to keep a look out for this awesome show if you’re planning a visit near then.

Stay: Travelodge Durham

10 free things

Durham in the evening

6. Durham Treasure Trail

For those excitable young explorers, what could be better that their very own personalised treasure trail around the great city? For just a small fee you’ll be sent a trail booklet with which you can venture through the city at your own pace, taking in riverside views and cultural sights as you go. Figure out the fiendish clues and seek out the location of the hidden treasure in a city jam-packed with historical beauty. This is guaranteed fun for all of the family.

Stay: Travelodge Durham

7. High Force Waterfall

Heading outside of the centre of Durham will lead you to some more of the counties’ geological riches. High Force waterfall is one of the most spectacular visions of the Durham Dales, situated in the North Pennines which itself is considered an area of outstanding natural beauty. Starting from humble beginnings at the top of North Pennines, the River Tees picks up momentum and culminates in a 21-metre drop into the plunge pool below and is well worth checking out. The scenery can be explored by car, bike, or on foot but each makes for a worthwhile journey.

Stay: Travelodge Darlington

10 free things

High Force Waterfall

8. Finchale Priory

With a setting just as idyllic,  Finchale Priory was the remote hideaway and final resting place of a retired sailor and merchant called St Godric. Formerly a holiday retreat for monks, the 13th-century ruins provide a step back in time for explorers young and old. Learn all about Finchale’s history from its original build to a later revamp, or simply just take in the historical wonders on offer. Whether you’re a budding historian or seasoned pro, you’re guaranteed of a relaxing wander through the wooded Finchale Priory.

Stay: Travelodge Chester-le-Street

9. Locomotion – National Railway Museum, Shildon

Keep your day chugging along at a leisurely pace by stopping off at the National Railway Museum at Shildon. Holding over 1,000,000 objects from over 300 years of railway history this is an enthusiast’s Mecca, boasting iconic machines from years gone by. Take a free guided tour with a knowledgeable expert or simply wander at your own pace through stunning exhibits. With regularly changing displays coming from across the country, who knows what mechanical gems you will discover on your visit?

Stay: Travelodge Sedgefield

10. East Durham Coast

In the sunnier months Durham’s East coast is simply a must for any visitor. Crimdon is one of its most southerly beaches, about half-an-hour’s drive from the centre of Durham and has been a popular destination with visiting families for centuries. Seaham beach is also popular, with 1950s themed Lickety Split ice cream parlour serving a tasty selection of pancakes, sundaes and ice cream for all ages. So grab your swimwear and your sunglasses and soak up those rays.

For Crimdon Stay: Travelodge Hartlepool Marina
For Seaham Stay: Travelodge Chester-le-Street or Travelodge Durham

Book your next stay now

10 free things

Crimdon Beach