Derry, Londonderry or Legenderry is a city known by several names in Northern Ireland.
The political complexities and history of this beautiful walled city can appear overwhelming to the average visitor.
Residents often laugh off the bewilderment of tourists and fondly refer to their home as “Stroke City”, (as in, Derry Stroke Londonderry). This often only adds to the confusion.
The best thing you can do is order another pint and just roll with the punches, my friends.
The best things to do in Derry
Fun things to do in Derry
At first glance, you might be forgiven for thinking Derry is just another paint-by-numbers city.
You can easily stroll past a Poundland, a few generic pubs and a Primark and believe you are anywhere in the UK or Ireland.
There are actually so many things to do in Derry if you take the time to get to know this charming city.
Spend a few days here and discover river walks, historic walls, murals, festivals, fantastic restaurants, as well as simmering political feelings beneath its cheerful exterior.
This small city is rich with history, culture and politics. You only have to pull up a barstool to be regaled with tales of the town and have some ‘craic‘ with the locals.
If you are looking for a city break in Northern Ireland, then I highly recommend you spend a weekend in Derry.
Take the time to absorb the history and passion of Northern Ireland’s second-largest city and have a weekend you won’t forget.
Disclaimer: Content created from a press trip with Visit Derry
Derry is rich with history, culture & divisive politics. You only have to pull up a barstool to be regaled with tales of the city & enjoy 'craic' with the locals.
Guided walking tour of Derry
Take a Guided Walking Tour of Ireland’s only completely walled city. These historic walls are one of the best examples of walled cities in Europe
Derry walls are also listed as one of the World’s 1001 Historic sites You Must See Before you Die (UNESCO).
2019 marked the 400th Anniversary of the walls and a guided tour will help encapsulate the city’s history within the one-mile circumference.
Derry comes alive when you go on a guided walking tour of the walls. Your guide will lead you through the entire circuit of medieval walls narrating the complex history of Derry.
As you walk around the walls taking snaps you can also try and mentally untangle your guide’s information about the Nine Years War, the Siege of Derry and the Great Hunger.
As well as detailed historical commentary, this tour will also take you to some of the best photo spots in Derry.
The vantage points that you will visit offer some pretty lovely panoramic views of the city and the surrounding area.
Sip craft beer at Walled City Brewery
Check out an exciting range of craft beer at the Walled City Brewery. This hip brewery is Northern Ireland’s only Brewery Restaurant and was voted ‘Best Gastro Pub’ in Ireland.
These guys take their beer very seriously and brew high quality and authentic craft beers.
Their brews are actually inspired by ancient local recipes and new-world brewing techniques
If Craft beer isn’t your jam, there’s a range of wines, spirits and cocktails to try.
Walled City Brewery is also a great place to grab a bite to soak up all that beer. They offer a range of delicious dishes and bites for you to try.
Typical dishes at Walled City Brewery include:
- Beef & Cashel Blue Cheese Croquettes
- Sirloin on the Bone
- WCB Burger
- Taco Selection
- Fish of the Day
Take a selfie at the Peace Bridge
Opened in 2011, the iconic Peace Bridge is a cycle and pedestrian link between the city centre to the newly developed Ebrington Square in the Waterside.
This beautifully designed bridge is a literal bridging as well as a practical one. It joins the two Nationalist and Unionist communities of the city together, along this 235-metre footbridge.
The bridge is a real focal point of Derry and it has played host to Halloween celebrations, fireworks, parades and charity events.
If the weather is kind, fix your GoPro to railings and take a selfie on the peace bridge to document your visit for the gram!
Learn about Bloody Sunday at the Museum of Free Derry
The Museum of Free Derry is a sombre and thought-provoking museum that again, is not a ‘fun day out’ kind of attraction in Derry.
This does not mean it is not worth a visit, in fact, the museum was awarded the most ‘authentic NI Visitor Experience’.
The museum highlights the struggle of civil rights in the city and the events of Bloody Sunday in 1972, in a way that is accessible to visitors that might not be up to speed on exactly what happened?
Bloody Sunday Derry
The story of Bloody Sunday is told from the perspective of those who were most involved in and affected by these events, the Free Derry community.
Again, in order to fully appreciate the history of Derry, one must hear about the critical events from the people who were caught up in them. It’s the best way to try and make sense of them as a visitor.
There are several exhibits, videos and original artefacts from the events, that draws you into the struggle that’s immersive, without being macabre.
The Museum is even situated right in the middle of where these events took place, giving it an extra air of poignancy.
Paddleboard on the River Foyle
See Derry from a whole new vantage point on a City Paddle Boards tour on the River Foyle.
You can take a historic city tour whilst mastering Stand Up Paddle Boards (SUPs) on the river.
The outdoor enthusiasts at Far and Wild offer a completely unique and fun take on seeing a city.
It’s lovely to SUP slowly down the river and be surrounded by beautiful nature in the middle of an urban environment.
Experience a spot of quietness and calm as you gently paddle down the river.
Your guides will even help you get some cracking photos for your Instagram. make sure to bring along a GoPro, or waterproof camera, to get your ‘Sup Selfies’.
You’ll then have total travel bragging rights with friends back home.
Enjoy shopping at Derry Craft Village
Derry’s Craft Village is a hipster shopping oasis that’s located in the heart of the city.
The Craft Village is actually a reconstruction of an 18th Century Street and 19th Century Square that is delightfully ‘Dickenson’ in character and vibe.
There a real eclectic mix of retailers, balconied apartments and restaurants here, as well as coffee shops and crafters selling their wares.
Some of the shops at Derry Craft village include:
- Sass & Halo
- Blue Moon
- City of Derry Crystal
- Foyle Books
- Funky Cakes
Visit the Siege Museum
To truly know Derry, you have to delve into its history and politics. This is not a place where you can casually remark, “does it really matter what happened in 1641?” Trust me, it does.
I would recommend that as part of your Derry history lesson, you visit the Siege Museum.
This museum tells the Story of the Siege of Derry, which lasted 105 days and contains a range of exhibits that detail the historic events.
The museum also has lots of information about the quintessentially Protestant organisation, The Apprentice Boys of Derry, which was founded in 1814.
Take a tour of the exhibits and learn more about The Apprentice Boys of Derry from an actual member of the organisation.
This way you can ask questions in an attempt to better understand what the organisation is and its role in the city’s history.
Lunch at Brown’s in Town Restaurant
Have a fancy lunch at the award-winning Brown’s in Town and feast on modern Irish and British cuisine.
Dine amongst understated and contemporary decor as you unwind with a wine or three, [It’s Ireland somewhere right?].
Typical lunch dishes include Fish of the day, Chicken and pancetta risotto and Brown’s Beef burger.
Lunch main & side starts from just £10 at Brown’s in town, for the quality of the food, it’s an absolute steal.
Go on a Free Derry walking tour of the Bogside
Derry City has a troubled history over the years, the complexities of which are far beyond my mere A-Level history level of understanding.
During the Northern Irish Troubles, from 1970 onwards, the city became a conflict zone between many members of the opposing communities, from Unionist and Nationalist backgrounds.
You can learn about Derry’s complicated history and its role during the Troubles on a walking tour of the Bogside district.
On this informative tour, you can learn more about some of the key events in Derry’s history, including the ‘Bloody Sunday’ incident of 1972.
You will also be able to see some of the city’s key murals and historical landmarks in the area.
Bogside Tour Derry
By doing a Bogside Tour you will be able to hear the stories of the political and social repercussions of Bloody Sunday from the people who directly experience it.
Fair warning, this isn’t your typical cheery tourist outing. The stories and harrowing and the events still have a lasting impact on the people of Derry today.
By pushing yourself out of your comfort zone though, you might edge a baby step closer to understanding the city in a broader political and historical context.
Learn how to make Irish coffee
Discover the art of Irish Coffee making with the ‘Irish Coffee Connoisseur‘. Enjoy a fun demonstration and tasting that takes place at the pretty ‘Traditional Irish Cottage’, in the Craft Village.
If you are looking to try traditional Northern Irish food and drinks, then this is definitely an experience for you.
Learn how to make world-famous Irish Coffee and be the envy of dinner parties across the land. It’s a real bargain too, at just £10.00 per person.
In this short demonstration, you will get a chance to taste Irish Coffee and to have a go create your own, if you’re up for the challenge.
The Irish Coffee Connoisseur uses Derry-Londonderry’s own ‘Quiet Man Irish Whiskey’ in all demonstrations. This delicious whisky is also distilled and bottled locally.
Explore the Tower Museum Derry
Delve further into Derry’s history with a trip to the award-winning visitor attraction, the Tower Museum.
This museum contains two permanent exhibitions as well as several temporary ones. The first exhibition is the ‘Story of Derry’ and details the long and varied history of the city.
The second permanent exhibition, An Armada Shipwreck – La Trinidad Valencera, tells the story of the Spanish’s Armada ship, La Trinidad Valencera’s journey around the Irish coast.
It was shipwrecked off the coast of Donegal in 1588 and discovered in 1971.
Both exhibitions use a range of display and interactive techniques to present their stories.
A cheeky bonus is that this museum also offers gorgeous panoramic views of the city and River Foyle. Perfect for travel photography lovers.
Dinner in Soda and Starch Restaurant
Dine at the independent family-run & chef-owned restaurant, Soda and starch for a casual evening in the Craft Village.
Meals at this rustic restaurant are freshly prepared and feature local produce where possible, so you can feast on delicious and seasonal dishes.
Typical dinner dishes at Soda and Starch include Wild Atlantic Way Seafood Pie, Half Roast Duck, Roe Venison and Sweet Potato Gnocchi.
Take a train journey between Derry and Coleraine
It’s not often I recommend undertaking a train journey in the UK and Ireland. This is no ordinary commuter service though darlings.
Michael Palin famously described the train journey between Derry and Coleraine as “one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world”.
The line follows the River Foyle, out to the countryside and then past the dramatic Northern Ireland coastline.
This train passes the dreamy, golden sands of Benone Strand. The railway track runs right alongside the beach giving you incredible views of this pristine stretch of sand.
Coleraine to Derry railway line
The scenery is absolutely unreal as you pass by the striking, maritime cliffs at Downhill and Binevenagh Mountain.
The Derry to Coleraine rail journey lasts around 45 minutes and a return ticket starts from just £10.
You can also continue your journey from Coleraine by bus to coastal towns and tourist hot spots such as the Giant’s Causeway.
For timetables and more information visit the Translink website.
Geek out on a Game of Thrones Tour
There are loads of Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland, as around 80% of the popular series was filmed there.
You’ll visit film sites where the Iron Islands, Dragonstone Beach, and Renly’s Camp came to life on screen.
The best part about the tour is that you’ll get to dress up ‘Thrones style’ with shields, swords and swords. It really is a brilliant day out for Thrones nerds.
Love Game of Thrones? Check out my article on Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland and get inspired now.
Learn how to Longboard in Derry
Take a unique ‘Boom Board Tour’ with Far and Wild and learn how to master the art of longboarding in an urban setting
This tour is a team-up with Craft beer experts the Walled City Brewery, so you can have a boozy, adventure on wheels, whilst on a guided tour of Derry.
Your 2-hour city tour begins with a longboard lesson in pretty St Columb’s Park. You’ll then hit the streets with your boom board as you show off your ‘mad skills’.
The tour ends at the legendary Walled City Brewery in Ebrington Square, where you can sample local brews.
Looking for more travel content on Ireland and Northern Ireland? Check out my other articles:
- 13 fun things you have to do in Dublin Ireland
- Traditional dishes you need to eat in Northern Ireland
- 19 Game of Thrones Instagram spots in Northern Ireland
- Star Wars Film Locations Ireland: Finding the force in Portmagee
- Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland
Where to stay in Derry
There are many hotels in the Derry area to suit your budget and accommodation needs.
There’s a huge range of guest houses, boutique hotels, budget hotels and Airbnb properties to choose from.
Some of the best hotels in Derry include:
Is Derry worth visiting?
Whilst there are other impressive cities and sites vying for your attention on Northern Ireland you shouldn’t overlook Derry.
This small city is a perfect city break spot if you love arts, culture, history and great restaurants.
Whilst the city might have been previously synonymous with the Northern Ireland’s Troubles, Derry has now become something of a tourist hotspot in recent years.
This is in part thanks to holding world-class events, being named as the 2013 UK City of Culture and getting listed as one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities to visit in 2013.
The effect on the city has been transformative and restorative as Derry moves boldly forward towards cultural prestige.
It’s definitely a place worth putting on your Northern Ireland bucket list for future travels.
Planning your trip to Derry
Ready to book your trip to Derry? Use these awesome travel resources to get you started:
- Search for the best flight deals with Skyscanner
- Search for the best hotel deals on Booking.com
- Get the best travel tips with a travel guidebook
- Book an Airbnb and have £25 towards your first booking
- Get the best destination recommendations from TripAdvisor
Check out all the best travel resources on my bumper travel resources page!
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