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- 13 Dec 2019, 3 nights
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Small yet stately, Durham is an ideal city for a cultural weekend break in northern England. Its quaint old town hugs a bend of the River Wear and has a towering Romanesque cathedral and medieval castle. As well as being surrounded by seven hills, it also has lots of other natural sights within the city or nearby, from Durham University's botanical garden, which has 10 hectares of plants from around the world, to the English-style manicured lawns and flowerbeds of Crook Hall.
As the city is known for its pristine natural setting, you could stay at a Durham hostel in a village outside of town for a rural backdrop. Choose a charming farmhouse and wake up in serene surroundings to a free breakfast. You can also find hostels in Durham with free tea and coffee, as well as ones with shared kitchens so you can make a picnic to take with you on hikes to picturesque Waldridge Fell or the rolling Durham Dales.
Market Square is the heart of Durham. There's a rotating selection of stalls here, as well as a permanent indoor market just around the corner, and plenty of shops, cafés and pubs in the surrounding streets. The most historic part of the city is called the Bailey and is centred on Durham Cathedral, the castle and Palace Green, which sits between them. Wander through the winding lanes behind the cathedral for a break from the bustle elsewhere.
Once you've seen the main sights (the cathedral and castle have daily tours), come back to the centre for traditional scones in one of the tearooms near medieval Elvet Bridge or try a high-end place with views of the river. You could get out on the water by renting a rowing boat or jumping on a river cruise. Bringing history to life, Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, is an interactive open-air museum about 25 minutes out of the city with fascinating exhibits like a 1940s wartime farm.
You can catch local buses to get around the city, most of which stop at Durham Bus Station. There are also services out into the countryside and to other northern English cities. Trains are convenient, with several a day to Newcastle and Darlington; book in advance for cheaper tickers. From Durham Tees Valley Airport, you can take a bus into Darlington and then a train to Durham. The journey usually takes a bit over an hour, or it's a 40-minute drive.