20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids

Durham City Centre is a nice and compact city (if a little hilly) with plenty to offer visitors for the day. Durham is easy to get to by train (just 10 minutes from Newcastle), bus or car. If driving, I recommend Belmont Park and Ride. 

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids

5 Reasons to Visit Durham 

  1. It's a compact and beautiful city. Easy enough to get to everywhere on foot (although it is hilly in parts and some areas are cobbled) 
  2. Accessible by train, bus or car 
  3. There are quite a few free places to visit including the Cathedral, Wharton Park and the Oriental Museum 
  4. Durham hosts a range of events across the year including Lumiere, Christmas Markets and Fire and Ice 
  5. It's a good place to visit for Harry Potter fans as the Cathedral was used as a film location

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids 

Bertie's Play Barn 

You will find Bertie's Play Barn in Prince Bishop's Shopping Centre. Recommended for ages 0-8 years, there is no need to book - just pop in during opening hours. Children can enjoy a wide range of toys while grown ups relax with a drink. Find out more here. 

Wharton Park 

You will find Wharton Park behind Durham Train Station. FREE to visit, there is loads to enjoy including a toddler play area, junior play area, mini cars, putting greens, gardens and walks. Not to mention the beautiful views of the city and Cathedral. Find out more here. 

Crook Hall and Gardens 

After a period of closure, Crook Hall and Gardens is now managed by National Trust and has plans to reopen this summer. It's a 10 minute walk from Durham Market Place. I know Crook Hall was a real favourite amongst locals and their gardens were always pretty special. Keep up to date with opening news here. 

Durham Botanic Gardens 

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids  - Botanic Gardens

Durham Botanic Gardens are a 30 minute walk from Durham Market Place but well worth a visit. They're gorgeous! There are 10 hectares of mature gardens to explore with a wide range of planting and trails for children to enjoy. You can catch a bus if you don't fancy the walk (details on their website here). 

Read our guide to visiting Durham Botanic Gardens and see more photos here. 

Oriental Museum Durham 

Oriental Museum Durham is just along from Durham Botanic Gardens and it is wise to combine a visit to both when visiting this side of the city. The museum is home to over 20,000 artefacts from North Africa and Asia and is currently free to visit. Find out more here. 

Take a River Cruise 

The Prince Bishop River Cruiser will take you on an hour's cruise (30 minutes in either direction) along the River Wear and offer an alternative perspective to Durham as you take in the sites with lots of facts provided en-route by the captain. No bookings for this one - just turn up. I bet it's lovely in the summer. Trips leave from the Boat House at Elvet Bridge.  Find out more here. 

Hot Chocolates from Riverview Kitchen

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids  - Riverview Cafe

The Hot Chocolates from Riverview Kitchen are just on another level! Such an indulgent treat, I mean I think Jack's face says it all. If you're lucky enough to grab a window seat, the views of the river, rowers and ducks are the best in the city. Find out more here. 

The Magic Corner 

The Magic Corner offers something a little different. It's a custom built magic studio / bar where audiences will be wowed with close up magic. Recommended for ages 10+, performances last 90 minutes including an interval. Check upcoming dates and book here. 

Create An Epic Pizza at Pizza Punks 

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids - Pizza Punks

Pizza Punks has recently opened at the Riverwalk. The concept here is you pay one set price and can have as many toppings as you like at no additional charge. There are over 50 toppings to choose from including some more unusual options. GF, V, Ve and Halal options are available. Find out more and book here. 

You can read our review of their Newcastle site here. 

Catch a Show at Gala Theatre 

The Gala Theatre and Cinema is in the heart of Durham. You can check what's on here. 

Feed the Ducks along Durham Riverside Walk

Durham Riverside Walk is a 3 mile circular route which should take 1-1.5 hours. This walk takes in some of the city's best scenery and there is a chance to stop and say hello to the ducks too. Find out more and download a route map here. 

Hire a Rowing Boat 

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids  - rowing boats

You can hire rowing boats by Elvet Bridge for £7 per adult and £5 per child and enjoy a leisurely trip along the river. Find out more here. 

Pop Along to the Food Pit

The Food Pit brings together a collection international cuisine and street food stalls at the Riverwalk. It's a canny spot to visit with older kids / teens and there is sometimes live music too. Bookings are not needed - just walk in. Find out more here. 

Visit Durham Cathedral 

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids  - Durham Cathedral

It's a short but steep climb up to the Cathedral or you can catch the bus from Market Place if needed. The Cathedral is free to visit (donations welcome) and definitely worth the climb.

There are usually trails for children and additional free activities and crafts available during the school holidays. Don't miss the Cloisters which were used as a Harry Potter filming location. Find out more here. 

Fat Hippo Burgers 

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids  - fat hippo

Pretty much every trip to Durham involves a trip to Fat Hippo for their brilliant burgers. My kids love it here. Kids meals are £7 and are fab for fussy eaters as you can completely customise your own burger. Vegan and veggie options are also available. Find out more here. 

Palace Green Library (and more)

Palace Green Library is just next to Durham Cathedral and definitely worth popping into if you're in this area of the city. It's free to visit. 

The library features it's own exhibitions as well as a temporary home for the Museum of Archaelogy. You will also find the DLI Collections, Cosin's Gallery and World Heritage Visitor Centre. The building hosts a real mix and there is always something of interest to discover. The library often runs events for children in the school holidays. Find out more here. 

Complete a Treasure Trail 

The Durham 'Old Elvet and Cathedral' Treasure Trail should take around 2.5 hours to complete and covers 2.5 miles. It's a fun way to see the city in a new light and maybe learn something new. Alternatively, you could try the Gilesgate and Riverside Trail which is a detective mystery lasting around 2 hours. 

Bowling at Lane 7 

Everyone's favourite bowling alley Lane7 is set to open in Durham at the Riverwalk in the next few months. We love the Lane7 brand and think this will be a fab addition to the city. Find out more here. 

Shop at Durham Market / Market Place 

There are 40 local market traders to visit in Durham's covered market hall as well as regular food, craft and seasonal markets in the square outside. You can check dates and find out more about traders here. 

Swimming at Freeman's Quay Leisure Centre 

Freeman's Quay Leisure Centre is a 5 minute walk from Market Place (just beside the Premier Inn). The centre is home to a 25m swimming pool which sometimes host inflatable days. Find out more here. 

Bell's Fish and Chips 

If your kids are fans of fish and chips, Bell's Fish and Chips is a traditional fish and chip restaurant in the heart of Durham City. They offer kids meals for £6.95 (main, ice cream and drink) and last time we visited they came with a lovely kids activity set. Find out more here. 

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids  - Bells Fish and Chips

Stop for Mocktails at the Slug and Lettuce 

If you're visiting Durham with older kids, why not pop into the Slug and Lettuce for a few mocktails? At the moment, U18s can visit with an adult before 8pm Sunday-Thurs and before 6pm on a Friday and Saturday. Mocktails include Bambini Bellini and Apple Mojito.

As a side note, the Slug and Lettuce is ideal for a cheap kids meal. Breakfast pancakes are just £1.99 and a 3 course kids meal including drink is £5.99. Bargain! 

Find out more here. 

Catch a Film in Style at Odeon Luxe Durham 

Imagine fully reclining seats, seats with three times the usual leg room and your own fold out table and menu - it's all available at Odeon Luxe Durham which is the place to watch a film in style. Find out more here. 

Fire and Ice Durham 

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids  - fire and ice

Fire and Ice usually takes place on the last Friday and Saturday of February Half Term. It's FREE to visit and a trail of themed ice sculptures runs through the city alongside ice themed activities and a spectacular fire and ice finale. Find out more here. 

Looking for other things to do in County Durham beyond the city? Check out these posts: 

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20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids

20 Things to do in Durham City Centre with Kids


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