Durham is the place to be this summer with a sizzling line up of exciting events and amazing exhibitions. 

Are you starting to plan fun family days out or searching for things to do during your stay? Check out our guide to 20 unmissable events and exhibitions happening this summer across the county.  

From getting a close up view of historic masterpieces, to dancing in the streets and travelling back in time. It’s all happening this summer!

left - woman admiring artwork inside Auckland Castle and right - music concert with crowd

Sin: The Art of Transgression

Organised by the National Gallery, London with The Auckland Project, Sin looks at theological ideas and depictions of ‘sinful’ everyday behaviour that blur the boundaries between religious and secular art. It’s a unique opportunity to see exceptional paintings from the National Gallery’s collection, including masterpieces from Rembrandt and Lucas Cranach, alongside more modern artists like Tracey Emin and Ron Mueck.

When? Until 1 October
Where? Auckland Castle, Market Place, Bishop Auckland, DL14 7NR

Seat Unique Riverside concerts

Live music is returning to the Riverside again this summer, with not one, but two world-class concerts. Don’t miss your chance to see Rod Stewart on 30 June with a jam-packed performance of show-stopping classics and fan favourites. Joining him will be Boy George & Culture Club who are guaranteed to get everyone up on their feet. On 19 July, The Who will be performing with a full orchestra, playing music from their nearly 60-year career. Joining them on the evening will be UB40 featuring Ali Campbell.

When? Rod Stewart 30 June and The Who 19 July
Where? Seat Unique Riverside, Chester-le-Street, DH3 3SH

left - two actors hugging each other and right - The Bowes Museum Silver Swan

Durham Shakespeare Festival

To celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio of the complete works, Elysium Theatre Company will be performing two of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Performed with a company of 13 actors at the Assembly Rooms Theatre, as well as special one-off performances at Ushaw and Bishop Auckland Town Hall, and at Palace Green, as part of the Durham Fringe Festival. 

When? 8 – 30 July
Where? Various venues including Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, Bishop Auckland Town Hall, Palace Green and Assembly Rooms Theatre - Durham City.

Movement: Celebrating 250 years of the world’s most famous Silver Swan

The Bowes Museum’s Silver Swan will take centre stage for the museum’s main exhibition of 2023 - Movement: Celebrating 250 years of the world’s most famous Silver Swan.

Discover the incredible story of John Joseph Merlin, the swan’s marvellous inventor, alongside other automata from the 18th century at this special landmark exhibition. Play with automatons from today, make your own clockwork objects and enjoy architectural metal sculptures inspired by nature by Martin Smith, which will be on display across the museum’s grounds and galleries throughout the year. 

When? 8 July – 7 January 2024
Where? The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, DL12 8NP

Crowds walking down street at Durham Miners' Gala and performers at Durham Brass Festival

Durham Miners' Gala

The 137th Durham Miners' Gala also known as ‘The Big Meeting’ will take place on Saturday 8 July. The annual event has been held on the second Saturday of July since 1871. Every year more than 200,000 people march in Britain’s biggest celebration of trade union and community values, and this year's gala promises to be another fantastic event.

When? From 8.30am until late, 8 July
Where? Banner parade takes place on the streets of Durham City and ends at the Racecourse, DH1 3BN

Durham Brass Festival

An eclectic, vibrant and colourful celebration of brass music in all its forms returns to Durham this summer, with a week of spectacular performances, free concerts, community activities, and a full programme of lively brass bands from across the globe.

When? 9 – 16 July
Where? Various venues across the county

man jumping in front of Gaia art installation and runners at Durham City Run


See our home planet like you’ve never seen it before, and enjoy an exciting programme of events, as Luke Jerram's awe-inspiring artwork, Gaia lands at Durham Cathedral. Gaia is a giant seven-metre diameter illuminated globe installation, giving everyone the unique opportunity to gaze up at Earth as you walk around the artwork in the stunning cathedral setting.

Catch a glimpse of Gaia in the Cathedral's Nave, which will be on display every day from 10am - 4pm, alongside an amazing programme of themed activities to enjoy throughout the day and evening.

When? 10 July to 10 September
Where? Durham Cathedral, Durham City, DH1 3EH

Durham City Run Festival

A must for all runners, take part in an exciting programme of events, including the Durham City Run which will return to its iconic World Heritage Site finish line, the Durham City 5K and 10K races, as well other popular themed runs and tech talks.

When? 13 – 15 July
Where? Various locations across Durham City

crowd watching performance at Durham Fringe Festival and outdoor Adventure cinema

Durham Fringe Festival

Returning for its third year, Durham Fringe will be taking over Durham City from 26-30 July with a fantastic line up of performances at different venues across the city. From comedy and dance, to drama, music and more, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

When? 26 – 30 July
Where? Various venues across Durham City

Adventure Cinema

Sit back and relax under the warm summer sky for an unforgettable movie night like no other, set against the stunning backdrop of Raby Castle. Grab your popcorn, bring your camping chairs and picnic blankets as you take your pick from three fab Adventure Cinema movie nights - Elvis 28 July, Dirty Dancing 29 July and The Greatest Showman Sing A Long 30 July. 

When? 28 – 30 July
Where? Raby Castle, Staindrop, DL2 3AH

performaners with flame lit torches at Kynren and crowd sat in deck chairs at Seaham Food Festival

Kynren, An Epic Tale of England

Travel through time and watch legends come to life at Kynren, An Epic Tale of England! This spectacular live-action extravaganza returns for an extended summer run. Voted one of the top 5 performances to see in the UK by Tripadvisor, Kynren will take you on a whistle stop tour of 2,000 years of history, myth and legend. A truly unique experience, not available anywhere else in the UK! 

When? Every Saturday evening, 29 July to 9 September
Where? Flatts Farm, Bishop Auckland, DL14 7SF

Seaham Food Festival

One of the region’s biggest and most popular food festivals - Seaham Food Festival will take over the bustling seafront with a fantastic weekend of food and family fun. Take your pick from a host of culinary delights, amazing celebrity chef line up, tasty demos, fabulous local producers and delicious street food. 

When? 5 – 6 August
Where?  North Terrace, Seaham, SR7 7EU

crowd watching performance at Hardwick Festival and close up shot of man playing guitar

Hardwick Festival

No matter what your taste in music is, you’re certain to find a performance to get your toes tapping at Hardwick Festival - the biggest music festival in North East England. See top musical acts including Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, The Kooks and Hacienda Classical, alongside fairground rides, silent disco, workshops and delicious food and drink.

When? 18 – 20 August
Where? Hardwick Hall Hotel, Sedgefield, TS21 2EH

Derwent Fest

Celebrate the long Bank Holiday weekend at Derwent Fest, with a weekend of live tribute music, mouthwatering food and drink, and children’s activities and entertainment. Set in the stunning location of Derwent Waterside Park. You can bring all the family for fun filled weekend, even dogs are welcome!  

When? 25 – 27 August
Where? Derwent Waterside Park, Consett, DH8 9TT

Men dressed as Vikings and crowd watching Durham Cricket

Ushaw Viking Takeover

Brand new for 2023, during the August Bank Holiday Weekend, Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Garden will be invaded by fearsome Vikings!

Across the weekend you'll be able to enjoy an exciting programme of events and activities including combat demonstrations, acted scenes and stories from the past, and missile and archery displays. Children can also become a ‘Kiddie Vike’ as they take part in shield wall drills to send the Viking warriors packing.

When? 26 – 27 August
Where? Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, Durham, DH7 7DW

International Cricket at Seat Unique Riverside

International cricket returns to the Seat Unique Riverside ground for a summer of sporting action. England Men take on New Zealand on 30 August in the Vitality IT20 and England Women return to take on Sri Lanka during the WIT20 on 9 September.

When? 30 August: ODI England Men v New Zealand Vitality IT20 and 9 September England Women v Sri Lanka ODI
Where? Seat Unique Riverside, Chester-le-Street, DH3 3SH

group of people dressed in 1940s clothes at Beamish Museum and aerial shot of Wolsingham Show

Dig for Victory

Travel back to 1940s wartime Britain with Beamish Museum's interactive 1940s weekend.  From Land Girls, to Lumberjills and the Home Guard, there's lots of fun to be had. Learn about the vital support role the British countryside played during WW2, see fantastic displays of heritage skills, learn about rationing, discover 1940s fashion and take part in hands-on activities.

When? 31 August to 3 September
Where? Beamish, The Living Museum of the North,

Wolsingham Show

Agricultural shows are a great way to celebrate rural life, community and make for a great family day out. Wolsingham Show, England's oldest and Durham's biggest open-air Agricultural show, promises a packed weekend of countryside entertainment the whole family can enjoy as the summer draws to an end.  

When? 2 -3 September
Where? Wolsingham Showground, Durham Road, Wolsingham, DL13 3JG

Visit our dedicated events hub to discover more exciting events taking place across the county this summer. 




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