As the doors of many galleries, museums and cultural attractions start to re-open across the county this week, we’ve picked some great ways you can get that culture fix we’ve all been missing during lockdown. 

Durham’s amazing indoor attractions have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure all visitors could be welcomed back safely. Many attractions have put in place new measures and guidance to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable visit including reduced capacity, pre-bookable arrival slots, one-way systems, and new opening times.

Make sure you know before you go and check all details directly with businesses before you travel, as many attractions now require pre-booking arrival times. 

costumed staff with children in the miners cottages garden at Beamish Museum

Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

Visitors can once again discover what’s inside Beamish Museum’s incredible period exhibits and buildings as the doors start to re-open. Step inside the Edwardian dentist, Co-op, chemist, and bank. Hop on board the 1950s buses to time travel around the museum’s grounds and treat yourself to delicious and traditional food from Davy’s fish and chip shop or the 1900s Tea Rooms. 

Bishop Auckland Town Hall exterior

Bishop Auckland Town Hall

Be one of the first to catch a glimpse of the newly refurbished Bishop Auckland Town Hall. Sip delicious coffee in the Town Hall Café as you admire Norman Cornish’s famous Miners’ Gala mural, which is on display alongside a stunning stained-glass feature by fellow local artist Tom McGuinness.

Save the date for Gladiators: A Cemetery of Secrets - a touring exhibition by The JORVIK Group which opens on 29 May, where you can explore Roman life in Britain through archaeological relics, replicas and artefacts.

couple with masks on inside Durham Cathedral Cloisters

Durham Cathedral

Step inside the magnificent Durham Cathedral and reconnect with world-class heritage. Explore the cathedral’s grand architecture, shop handmade, quintessentially Durham gifts in the Durham Cathedral Shop and enjoy a bite to eat in the #tastedurham award-winning Undercroft Restaurant, or pick up an al fresco picnic lunch to enjoy in the Monks’ Garden.

If you have a head for heights, don’t miss a trip to the top of the cathedral’s Central Tower, where you can admire stunning views of historic Durham City and beyond. 

Great Hall inside Durham Town Hall

Durham Town Hall

Durham Town Hall is now open every Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 3pm following ongoing restoration programme. Learn about the Prince Bishops who ruled the county from the 11th Century, the evolution of local government, and how the town hall has developed from the first timber structure of 1356 into the complex building it is today.

family admiring an exhibit inside Durham University's Oriental Museum

Durham University Oriental Museum

From Ancient Egypt to modern China, Durham University’s Oriental Museum is the only museum in the North of England devoted entirely to the art and archaeology of the great cultures of Northern Africa and Asia. Explore amazing exhibitions and collections from ancient Egypt to modern China, including the newly opened Lu Xun's Legacy: Print Making in Modern China exhibition.

Family on a lead mine tour at killhope museum

Killhope

Killhope, the Victorian lead-mining museum is offering free entry for all this summer, offering visitors the chance to celebrate Durham’s lead-mining heritage seven days a week.  

Go underground on a lead mine tour, explore the museum’s many exhibitions which delve into the fascinating lives of Victorian lead miners and their families, including pretty spa box collections and minerals from the North Pennines. Or enjoy new theatre productions and the ‘Architect of Ruins’ art installation by artist Steven Messam.

Locomotion No1 engine on display at Locomotion

Locomotion

It’s full steam ahead at Locomotion, as the brilliant railway museum re-opens its doors. Get a close up look at Locomotion No.1 - the original steam locomotive which was the first steam locomotive to haul a passenger-carrying train on a public railway. Explore historic Grade II-listed railway buildings, and admire some real Railway Heroes – an exhibition celebrating the selfless action of rail key workers during the pandemic.

raby castle on sunny day by David Grey

Raby Castle

Step inside Raby Castle and explore the truly amazing spaces within, including the Butler's Pantry, which has been recreated in the original setting and opened to the public for the very first time in 2021.

Be amazed by the opulent Octagon Drawing Room, an elaborate Victorian confection of gilding, silk and glass influenced by French 17th century design, and see what life was like for the staff of Raby Castle in the old kitchen, built in 1360 it was in use for over 600 years! 

couple walking The gallery inside The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum

The North’s Museum of art, fashion and design – The Bowes Museum is home to amazing collections which are just as beautiful as the building itself. Café Bowes has been refurbished, alongside a tasty new menu showcasing delicious local produce. North Country Quilts is ready to wow visitors, as the exhibition celebrates the tradition of North Country Quilting and features some of the finest examples of the craft.

Enjoy listening to the beautiful sounds of the many instruments on display in the Music Room, or head outside and try out one of the new health and wellbeing events in the museum’s grounds, including yoga, tai chi, and meditation. 

Auckland Castle dining room with paintings on wall and large table

The Auckland Project

Save the date! From 3 July, visitors to Bishop Auckland will once again be able to enjoy the historic splendour of Auckland Castle and the nearby Mining Art Gallery, part of The Auckland Project. Inside Auckland Castle, one of the best-preserved bishops’ palaces in Europe, visitors can explore the Throne Room and Long Dining Room, which is home to Francisco de Zurbarán’s famous series of paintings Jacob and his Twelve Sons.

The Bishop Trevor Gallery will host a new exhibition - Beauty in the Everyday, featuring Dutch and Flemish Masters. And for the first time, visitors can join bespoke tours of the 17th Century Lower Walled Garden and Orchard.

To view more of Durham's amazing attractions visit our dedicated top attractions page

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