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If you’re looking to buy a house in Durham, you’ll want to get a feel for what life is like in the city. We’ve rounded up the need-to-know information about life in the city, to help you make your decision. Read on for our take on the city’s culture and the best places to eat and drink, as well as more practical information including schools in the area and the quality of transport links.

Durham’s History

Durham is an ancient city with its roots dating back to 995 AD when Lindisfarne monks chose the area to be the final resting place of the body of Saint Cuthbert. This led to the city’s prominence in Medieval times, during which the city was an important stronghold in the battles between Scotland and England.

More recently, whilst County Durham became well-known for coal mining, the city of Durham itself gained recognition for its prestigious university. Although Durham has city status, it’s a small city of under 50,000 residents and has a compact city centre. It’s popular with tourists, thanks to its lauded architecture and charming setting.

Durham’s Culture

For a small city, Durham has a lot going on. There are a host of galleries and museums in the city, including the surrounding area. Beamish is an open-air, living museum, which showcases life during the industrial period, whilst the Durham Mining Museum gives a fascinating insight into the area’s heritage.

The Gala Theatre in the city centre offers a 500-seat theatre, as well as 2 cinema screens showing a mixture of the latest blockbusters and classic films.

As well as the arts, Durham is a sporting hotspot. Durham County Cricket Club is one of England’s first-class county clubs, whilst Durham Regatta is the second-oldest regatta in the country, dating back to 1834. The annual event is a big draw for locals and tourists, particularly with the student rowing clubs in the city.

Food and Drink in Durham

Durham has a reputation as a culinary hotspot, so if you’re a foodie looking to buy a house in the city, you’re in luck! The city centre is compact, meaning the majority of restaurants are clustered in a small, walkable area. There’s something for everyone in Durham, from high-end cuisine to cheap-as-chips grab-and-go options, as well as a huge variety of coffee shops to settle down in with a cake and a cuppa.

There’s a lively nightlife scene in Durham, and it’s not just for students! From cosy bars for a romantic glass of wine to clubs for a night of dancing, the city is versatile. The Dun Cow is one of the oldest pubs in the city, dating back to the 18th century, and it’s a great place to soak up the city’s history, whilst Klute is one of Durham’s oldest clubs and still going strong with partygoers.


Durham is a small city, but it has a decent range of shops for its size, particularly antique and independent shops. The Mission Hall Antiques Centre is a treasure trove for antique hunters, selling everything from crockery and tableware to furniture.

Within the city, Prince Bishops Shopping Centre has a range of big-brand retailers, but real shopaholics might want to venture further afield. Dalton Park has over 60 shops and is a 15-minute drive from Durham city centre, whilst the Metrocentre can be reached in under half an hour.


There are 41 primary schools across the city of Durham, 9 of which have an OFSTED rating of ‘excellent’, and a further 30 which enjoy a ‘good’ rating.

The city has 5 state secondary schools in Durham, including the highly-regarded Durham Johnston Comprehensive School, which has been rated as ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED and is regularly ranked within the top 100 schools in the UK. Additionally, there are three independent schools in Durham. The Chorister School serves pupils between the ages of 3 and 13 and is open to both boarders and day pupils, whilst Durham High School for Girls is a single-sex independent school for ages 3-18. Durham School is the third independent school in the city; a co-educational institute for ages 3-18.


As a compact city, it’s easy to get from A to B in Durham. It’s well-connected via rail to locations both north and south of the city, and Durham railway station is located on the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh. It takes roughly 3 hours to get to London by rail, and Edinburgh can be reached in around 2 hours.

Durham is conveniently located close to the M1, which provides easy access for commuters, and there’s a reliable bus network within the city and to the surrounding areas. There is an affordable Park and Ride service which operates from three locations (Belmont, Sniperley and Howlands) into the city centre.

Have a question?

If you need advice for first-time buying in Durham – or if you’re looking for a reliable mortgage broker in the North East – don’t hesitate to contact us today.

We’re experts on all things mortgage-related (and our services are always 100% free).


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