Living in Durham

Durham is undoubtedly one of the most popular and beautiful areas for students and young professionals in the North East. Highlights include the breath taking cathedral and castle, which together are a world heritage site. Durham has all the amenities you need to close to home. If you are considering moving to Durham, here’s everything you need to know…

The Bars

For a small city, Durham has a wide selection of pubs and bars – from traditional to trendy – creating a lively nightlife. Many pubs are targeted at students, offering happy hour deals and great drink offers to distract you from that all-important work.

The best bars offering brilliant beverages include The Library which offers great food and drinks in a relaxed atmosphere. It markets itself to students telling them to: ‘Relax and watch the sport, get together with friends or catch up with your revision – a comfortable place to do all of these.’

Fabio’s Bar, now combined with La Spaghettata restaurant, is a popular bar in the centre of Durham. Fabio’s is closed on Mondays, but open until 1am most nights. If you want a bar with a view, then The Boat Club is perfect. Situated on the banks of the River Wear, this 500 year-old building has panoramic views of the medieval Elvet bridge and Durham city. At lunch you can enjoy the rowing boats on the river. In the evening, the pub caters for everyone with an eclectic range of music styles.

Another pub with a view is the Swan and Three Cygnets, a Samuel Smith’s house by Elvet Bridge with great river views from its terrace. Another great spot is The Swan pub which offers quality food and a pint for as little as £2.

Dating from 1899, family-run The Victoria Inn on Hallgarth Street boasts the North East’s best surviving pub interior. With an ever-changing line-up of real ales, it is a regular in the Good Pub Guide. In terms of solid pubs, The Seven Stars Inn serves quality traditional British pub food, alongside a wide-ranging collection of ales and lagers.

If you fancy something a little quirky, try the Tin of Sardines. With great views of Elvet Bridge, it boasts an outdoor terrace and provides a perfect place for eating and drinking. When the lights go down in the evening, expect a varied range of music.

Those seeking a lively night out head to Walkergate which has a mix of restaurants and bars set around a split-level piazza including Chiquito Bar and Mexican Grill and the Slug & Lettuce.


If you’re still not ready to turn in for the night, then try one of Durham’s nightclubs. Klute was once voted runner-up in FHM Magazine’s review of Europe’s worst nightclubs, but it has since had a revamp and is very popular with students for its intimate atmosphere and mix of chart, cheese and funky house music.

Jimmy Allen’s Nightclub, situated under the Elvet Bridge in Durham, next to the Boat House and Klute, is also a popular venue for students. Loft nightclub, which is above Studio and near Durham Waterhouse offers free entry and well-priced drinks.

The Shops

As for shopping, Durham has all your needs from eye-catching chic, big-name high street stores to bustling markets. The area boasts designer boutiques and a fantastic mix of award-winning independent shops.

The open-air Prince Bishops Shopping Centre offers more than 40 leading retailers and a range of boutiques. Durham Indoor Market, built in 1851, is a real gem and several of its 70-odd traders have been in business over 30 years.

One of the bustling city’s best-kept secrets is the riverside Fowlers Yard. The red brick former stables and warehouses, behind the Indoor Market, provide a creative space for professional artists, crafts people and businesses.

Durham is also considered to be one of the most affluent areas in the North East and in keeping with that there are some excellent high-end shops including Psyche (which offers student discount) which are perfect places to spend your student loan or hard earned cash.

Lovely independents include The Mugwump, a self-styled unique boutique offering three floors of designer fashion, accessories, gifts, homeware and art.


Eating Out

There are many great eateries for students on a budget. Fat Hippo is a northern institution where happy customers tackle mile-high beef, chicken or vegan burgers that leave your fingers messy and your belly full. Team this with loaded chips and alcohol-laden slushies and you’re in burger heaven!

Café culture is thriving in Durham. Meet friends for a chat or revision at Flat White Café on Elvet Bridge. Its sister restaurant Flat White Kitchen offers, coffee and brunches during the day but it also does after-hours small plates from 6.30 – 9.30pm.

Vennel’s Café does a proper lunch, including corned beef and potato pie, quiche of the day and crispy jacket potatoes. Enter from a narrow alleyway (or vennel) off Saddler Street to find original fireplaces. Other good cafés in Durham include Claypath Deli and Cafedral Durham.

If you are in the mood for a takeaway, Bell’s Fish and Chips has three locations around town. There are great views of Durham’s historic marketplace from the main branch so you can watch the world go by whilst tucking into your cod and mushy peas.

Durham has a wide variety of restaurants such as Italian, Indian, Mexican, Spanish, Asian, French and Lebanese. Tia’s family-run Mexican restaurant has been producing Durham fajitas for more than 20 years. Famous for its frozen margaritas and speciality tequilas, it has a Tex-Mex vibe with chimichangas and nachos. Meanwhile Zen is perfect for a big crowd craving delicious Thai food. Find large and welcoming curved booths, sharing plates and even a fully-grown cherry blossom tree.

Out and About

In Notes on a Small Island, Bill Bryson described Durham as “perfect” – and it’s hard to disagree. It’s a compact and beautiful city that is easy to explore on foot. Have a wander around the quaint cobbled streets – there are plenty of little shops, boutiques and cafés to explore.

Durham Cathedral, which has free entry, is now renowned as one of the finest surviving examples of Romanesque architecture. Visited by 700,000 people a year, it has been voted Britain’s best building.

The Gala Theatre is the focus of the city’s arts scene and attracts top theatre companies and stages a varied programme of music, comedy, dance and drama.

With its riverbanks, hidden gardens and parks, Durham City has many green spaces.

Durham Castle and Cathedral, Unesco World Heritage Site, Durham City, Summer skyline

Getting Around

Durham is a very small city, so most places are in easy walking distance and many find that this is the easiest way to get around. Cycling is a great way to get around easily for free and there are bike sheds to park and lock your bike throughout the city.

Local buses run regularly with many stops throughout Durham. Most buses stop at Durham Bus Station and Arriva run a selection of services in and out of Durham City Centre. Taxis are another way of getting around and a good option when carrying heavy bags, or late at night when the bus services are fewer.

Trains to Newcastle and Edinburgh in the North, and Darlington and London to the South, run on a regular basis.

If you’ve decided Durham is the place for you we’d suggest you take a look at St Hilds’ Lane, a mix of refurbished flats and purpose-built apartments located close to the city centre and University campus in Durham.