The popular city of Durham is home to some of the North East’s finest attractions, green spaces and social scenes. Its award-winning museums, iconic natural wonders and enviable nightlife makes it a great environment for students.

Living close to the area’s amenities, and popular education providers including Durham University and New College Durham, is an important factor in making the student experience convenient and enjoyable.


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Durham University

Durham University is highly regarded the world over as one of the top universities. It has a reputation for invigorating research-informed teaching with some of the leading experts in their respective fields part of the teaching staff.

The university is also highly regarded has having top quality study facilities and an overall high satisfaction rate from students with regards to life living in Durham as a student. Durham University is a collegiate system, providing a backdrop of diverse, multidisciplinary students and staff from all cultures and backgrounds. There are 16 colleges at Durham University, set in the centre of Durham – split between Bailey and Hill Colleges.

durham university administration office

The libraries provide an excellent environment to study in for all students (home to over 1.6 million books and 300,000 online resources), with the largest of those being the Bill Bryson Library. Across campus can be found extensive cultural collections at Durham Castle, the Oriental Museum, and Palace Green Library.

In the run up to exams they are open 24-hour a day, and the support staff is always on hand to help students maximise study.

The Student Employment Service works with employers both inside and outside the university, helping students find part-time work during study and full-time work during vacation. The Careers and Enterprise team on the other hand is there to support students with long-term career ambitions, helping to put together CVs, provide start-up business advice, and help with an academic study skills programme.

The team was shortlisted for the 2017 Awards for Excellence, and continues to provide high-level support, with events for over 150 employers each year, as well as recruitment fairs that host over 180 organisations.

Durham Students’ Union represents over 17,500 students and is closely associated to each college within the university. There are over 250 student groups to get involved with, so you’re always going to find like-minded people who enjoy your hobby, or try out something completely new and make new friends.

Regarded as one of the best of its kind in the UK, Durham University Charities Kommittee (DUCK) raises hundreds of thousands of pounds every year for charitable organisation locally, on a national scale, and internationally.

University College is the oldest of the 16 colleges, founded in 1832, with the most recent (Josephine Butler College) founded in 2006. A brand new college is also set to open in 2020 to expand the university even further to new students.

The university is a joint guardian of Durham Cathedral and Castle, which became a World Heritage site in 1987. Durham has always been at the vanguard of higher education, and was one of the very first universities to provide medical training back in 1834, and began awarding Civil and Mining Engineering degrees in 1838 to help meet the needs for national training during the industrial revolution.

Eating Out in Durham

As a student moving to a new city you’ll want to know where you can go for some cheap food after a big night out, where to grab a snack on your way to lectures, and where best to sit with a tasty lunch to recharge during your hard study days. Luckily, there are plenty of cracking food options in Durham, and you’ll never be far away on foot from any you choose living at our comfortable Durham student accommodation.

bella italia durham

Grabbing a coffee to wake up first thing in the morning is something many of us partake in, and there are plenty of delicious coffee shops and cafes in Durham to invigorate the senses and get you moving fully for the day ahead.

Whether you are looking for a chain coffee shop like Nero’s or Costa, or want something a little more independent and interesting, such as Vennels, you are well covered as a coffee-loving student in Durham.

Vennels is a great place to start over on Saddlers Yard. It’s situated in a stunning 16th century building and is well regarded as a Durham institution. Sit in the ancient courtyard or under the creaking beams and eat some of their internationally renowned scones, or choose from sandwiches, pies and quiches, or homemade soup.

Bean Social is a modern coffee shop on North Road and is a great place to relax with friends as a quick break from your daily studies. It offers some fantastic vegan and veggie options, alongside traditional sandwiches, wraps, coffees, teas, and an assortment of other hot and cold drinks. Tinderbox is another great stop off for a quick coffee, great for an espresso on your way through town at the Hotel Indigo in Old Shire Hall.

As far as breakfast goes there are few places better in town than The Georgian Townhouse. Pancakes are the name of the game, with stacks and stacks of savoury and sweet options available between 10am and 6pm every day, parallel to North Road. For a great selection of teas, cakes, and sandwiches, Tealicious can be found on Elvet Bridge, opposite The Swan & Three Cygnets.

For restaurants to eat out at night there is also plenty of choice as a Durham student, from your chain restaurants to a vast array of independent foodies. Inshanghai on The Riverwalk is a popular Chinese buffet that students love to come and fill their boots, whilst Lebaneat is a fantastic Lebanese restaurant with some brilliant falafel choices on the menu.

Nudo Sushi is another popular student haunt – a Japanese-style sushi café. There are several ‘Happy Hour’ restaurant discounts aimed at students in the city, including Half price pizza and pasta at Bella Pasta, Brown Sugar, and Emilio’s.

Durham Nightlife

Living as a student in Durham you’ll have no shortage of great nights out, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to have one either! There are many brilliant old-fashioned pubs, modern bars, and student nightclubs to get to grips with, and a number of exciting student offers to help you unwind at night.

One of the most popular is at Studio, a nightclub that is home to a ‘50p night’ every Tuesday. Students can gain entry for 50p and take advantage of the many drinks offers for the same price.

Another firm favourite on the Durham student nightlife scene is Klute. Some of the colleges within Durham University have their own ‘Klute night’ each week, with discounted entry for members of the specific college associated with that particular night.

It’s a great way to meet people from your college and have a reasonably priced night out in town. Expect cheesy tunes, a sweaty dancefloor, and the chance to revel in what has been voted the ‘worst nightclub in Europe’! In fact, there are plenty of relatively cheap pubs that are within a close walk of each other, making Durham a wonderful student pub-crawl town. The Swan & Three Cygnets on Elvet Bridge is close to The Boat Club, as well as Klute, and you could easily crawl to The Water House and Bishop’s Mill to name just two more. The Head of Steam is another popular, and cheap, boozer.

If you want to stick around the colleges that also makes for a very interesting night out, with most college bars charging only £1.50 a pint, and soft drinks for around 25p (if you’re trying to keep your head a little less frazzled on a night out) and even free during alcohol awareness campaigns.

Other favourites on the Durham student-drinking map include Tin of Sardines on Elvet Bridge. This is a must visit, with over 200 gins and 50 mixers from all over the world, set in a cosy atmosphere in one of the UKs smallest bars!

Sister bars to the Tin of Sardines are Old Tom’s Fin Bar close to Framwellgate Bridge, and The Court Inn by the police station. If whisky is more your style then Whisky River is for you, located on the river near Jimmy Allen’s and Klute. Jimmy Allen’s is a popular destination for students at the end of a pub crawl, with free entry and a chance to mingle with the locals in a quirky and cavernous venue under the bridge.

Sport in Durham

If you are into cricket, living at our Durham student accommodation leaves you just a short train ride away from Durham Country Cricket Club at Chester-le-Street.

It’s about eight miles from Durham but easily reached via public transport. The stadium hosts regular country cricket matches, occasional international tests, T20 cricket, World Cup Cricket, as well as being home to other big events.

boathouse in durham

There are plenty of other big sporting events throughout the year in Durham and the surrounding area, including the Durham Regatta, the Northern Golf Masters, Hamsterley Forest Marathon, and many others. There really is something for every type of sports fan and with such a large area of natural beauty it is no surprise to find such a myriad of sporting events to delve into.

If you are a football fan Durham City play non-league football in the town, whilst the North East is a hotbed of football, with the likes of Newcastle, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, and Hartlepool all close by and home to big football teams.

Keeping active as a student living in Durham is easy however, with sports clubs and societies available in many team and individual sports through the university at Team Durham. It is a town that is easy to explore on foot, and this certainly helps to keep you active and healthy during your time as a student in the city.

A stroll along the River Wear is a great way to spend a few hours, with the surrounding countryside offering some more challenging routes and hiking trails to explore, including the North Pennines area, the Durham Dales, and the UNESCO Global Geopark. There is also a fantastic Durham Heritage Coast to hike and explore.

Similarly, if you love cycling there are some truly breathtaking sights to see (mentioned above), alongside Hamsterley Forest and other areas within and around Durham. Hamsterley Forest in particular is a haven for mountain bikers, with skills loops and downhill mountain bike courses.

It is a real thrill for experienced riders, whilst the reservoirs and riverside routes provide some great cycling trails for inexperienced cyclists or those looking for a less challenging day out on two wheels.

With its proximity to rivers, many reservoirs, and a stunning coastline it is no surprise that plenty of fishing opportunities are available to those interested.

You can find sea angling, regular fishing, as well as watersports such as canoeing and sailing to sink your teeth into. Derwent and Grassholme Reservoirs are brilliant places to start, as is Balderhead for those seeking water-skiing activities. A little more tranquil, but no less exciting, is a trip along the River Wear in a rowing boat (this is a great way to see the spectacular Durham skyline – and makes for a brilliant date idea!), or see the Durham coast with the Seaham Boat Charter.

Shopping in Durham

Within the city of Durham, or just a little further afield in the Durham Dale and along the Durham Coast, there is plenty to explore and to enjoy some retail therapy when living in our student accommodation in Durham. You’ll be within walking distance of some incredible independent stores and high street brands, a within close proximity of some amazing shopping centres via public transport. There is a lot more to shopping in Durham than first meets the eye for a small city.

If you are looking to buy some clothes from some of the best high street brands, get your much-needed beauty products or health and fitness supplements, or purchase some new gadgetry or other types of tech, Prince Bishops Shopping Centre is in the heart of the city.

This is a great place to stop off when you first move to the city, with plenty of hardware that comes in handy for your first time living away from home. Just a short bus ride away at the coastal town of Seaham is the largest shopping outlet centre in the whole of the North East of England.

The Dalton Park Outlet Shopping Centre is a great visit from time-to-time, and is home to over 60 big brand name stores, as well as 10 cafes and restaurants and a Cineworld complex. It makes a for a good day out with your new friends, taking in some shopping, a spot of lunch, and to go see a movie, before heading back into Durham.

For great independent stores and boutiques in Durham itself you’ll find Jack Wills and Woven for some great clothing choices, as is The Mugwump. The Georgian Window on Saddler Street, on the other hand, is a quirky little gift shop with little trinkets and crafty items to explore. The best place to discover independent stores is at Durham Market Hall, which is home to over 50 traders selling all kinds of food produce, goods and services.

It’s a fantastic place to stock up on fruit and veg, fresh meat and fish, and you can also find a mobile repair shop, a key cutter, hairdresser, and a Turkish barbers. All under one roof – a treasure trove of activity. There is also a weekly Outdoor Market on a Saturday and each month a Farmers’ and Producers’ Market, which is host to the top produce from the region.

Every year the Durham Christmas Festival runs across three days in the first weekend of December and it’s the best way to get on top of your Christmas shopping, whether for new friends at university, significant others, or friends and family back home.

Durham Events

For such a small city Durham is packed full with history, cultural artefacts and hidden gems in the form of spectacular events throughout the year. It’s not just in the city itself that you’ll find plenty to see and do, but also throughout the surrounding areas in a region that is rich in tradition.

In Durham itself the town has been built with beauty in mind and it is easy to get lost for a few hours at a time as you walk along the River Wear or take in the river itself on a rowing boat. The cobbled streets wind magnificently through the city towards the stunning cathedral and castle. These are a must visit city attraction as soon as you can after moving to our Durham student accommodation, and they are both part of a UNESCO World Heritage location that sits on the bend of the river and overlooks the town as a whole.

It is certainly a viewpoint worth savouring. The cathedral absolutely dominates the skyline and is a stunning piece of architecture. The building itself has been well preserved and is home to some exquisite collections as part of the Open Treasures Exhibition. The castle sits adjacent to the cathedral and construction began in 1072 as a direct order from William the Conqueror. There are guided tours you can take that provide you with an insight into its long and fabled history.

Another stunning place to explore is Durham Botanical Gardens. Here, you can get lost in its beautiful 10 hectares of landscaped gardens, luscious plant life from around the world, as well as take part in some amazing activities and events that are hosted by the gardens each year.

In terms of events in Durham and the surrounding areas you are truly spoilt for choice as a student living in the city. One of the most popular is ‘Kynren’, a spectacular outdoor live action show where an epic tale of England over 2,000 years is shown in an outdoor theatre spectacular at Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland. From Boudicca against the Romans, to King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake, you are in for a real treat.

Durham Christmas Festival is a great day out just before the Winter break, with over 150 stalls selling crafts, art, gifts, and food, in a lovely winter scene. Durham Book Festival in October each year brings in household names from the literary world for interviews, workshops and discussions, whilst Lumiere Durham is an ambitious light festival that uses some of the stunning architecture the city has to offer as part of its show over a week in November.

For music and a good time outdoors, the Durham Brass Festival is a fun with jazz, funk, ska, and traditional bands playing brass throughout the city. If you are interested in food festivals the Bishop Auckland Food Festival is always a gourmet paradise for food lovers, offering food from all over the globe as well as some of the finest producers in the North East. You’ll never be short of activities, cultural events, and things to see and do whilst living as a student in Durham, and at our comfortable Durham student accommodation you’ve got the perfect base to explore from.

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