Known as the Walled city or the Maiden city, Derry is a very historical and interesting place to visit in Northern Ireland. You will also see it named Londonderry but, as I’m from the Republic of Ireland, I will be calling it Derry for the purpose of this blog post. In 2013 Derry was named UK’s most cultural city and year on year it is becoming a great place to visit with many things to do and with such friendly helpful locals that have the best accent! If you are looking for a list of things to do in Derry, then you’re in the right place.
Things to do in Derry:
Walking Tour on the Derry Walls
The best way to see the city and learn more about the history between the dividing people is to do a walking tour. I highly recommend the Martin McCrossan tour also known as the Derry City Tours which costs only £4 per person and last about an hour. McNulty was our tour guide, and he gave us the ‘warts and all tour’ on all details from both sides on the history of events that happened along the walls. At the end of your tour, you will be given a discount card for Jaffa café and you can also get access to the Tower Museum for £1!
I really recommend this walking tour and it received a Five Star review from Tourism Northern Ireland. You don’t need to book a spot in advance, you can just show up any day at 10AM, 12PM, 2PM or 4PM at 11 Carlisle Road.
Derry Girls Mural
A recent addition on the Derry tourism scene, and one that is a must-see, is the Derry Girls Mural. If you’ve watched this Northern Irish comedy TV series set during the Troubles of the 1990’s you’ll love to see this. The BAFTA TV Awards winner for ‘Best Scripted Comedy’ has grown a huge fan base in and outside of Ireland. The Mural is painted on the side of Badgers Bar and Restaurant on Orchard’s St. Go and get your picture with the five hilarious actors and sit out for a drink at Badger’s bar!
There is also a Derry Girls walking tour every Saturday at noon that starts off at the Mural. If you’re visiting over the weekend this is a great thing to do and costs only £8 per person. You do need to book in advance by emailing [email protected] or calling +44 (0) 7712937997.
Stop by Free Derry Corner
Free Derry Corner is the main historical landmark in Derry. You will find it on the Bogside neighbourhood between the intersection of the Lecky Road, Rossville Street and Fahan Street. In 1969 A young activist named Liam Hillen took a paintbrush and wrote the words ‘You are Now Entering Free Derry’. Initially meant as a message to the British army that they were not in control, it has now become a beacon for civil rights and political liberty across the world. It has also been turned many colours such as pink and yellow for various campaigns in the past few years.
Just a few yards down from the Free Derry sign you will see the memorial for the people who died on Bloody Sunday, which was a tragic event that occurred on the Bogside on January 30th in 1971. This monument is a reminder of the 14 people who were killed on this day.
View the Bogside Murals
These murals are all political in nature but very interesting to see. There are twelve murals in total along the walls on Rossville Street in the Bogside. They each symbolise a moment in Derry’s history. One of which is the shooting of a schoolgirl on her way home during the Troubles. This mural symbolises all the young innocent lives that were lost during this time. The murals are very beautiful and were completed by very talented artists. The artists who created the Peace Dove and Oak Mural were recognised for their skills and asked to go to Washington to recreate the mural for an exhibition in The Smithsonian.
Visit the Museum of Free Derry
The Museum of Free Derry is a highlight of Derry tourism, focusing on Northern Ireland’s turbulent history and struggle for civil rights between the years of 1968 and 1972.
The museum is located in the heart of the Bogside and is very much part of an ongoing healing process for the locals on the events of Bloody Sunday.You will see photographs, footage and more than 25,000 artefacts from the point of view of the people involved and were most affected by this painful event in Derry history.
It’s a powerful and emotional experience but a must see if you want to understand the culture of Derry and its history. You can visit the museum between at 9.30am – 4.30pm from Monday to Friday and between 1pm – 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. The entrance fee is £7 for adults, £6 for students and £5 for groups of 10 or more.
Cross Over the Peace Bridge and View the Peace Statue
The Peace Bridge is one of three bridges spanning over the River Foyle. It was opened in 2011 and it was constructed to bridge the gap between the majority unionist Waterside of Derry and the majority nationalist City of Derry. It was funded by the European Peace Fund and is an impressive modern design that looks great lit up at night. The bridge is completely pedestrianised and it is definitely worth taking a stroll along it.
A similar monument, created with the aim to bridge the political gap between the two communities, is the Hands Across the Divide statue. The statue was created by Maurice Harron in 1992 and portrays a young Protestant boy and a young Catholic boy standing facing each other with their arms stretched and almost touching. This monument is very symbolic and it stands in the middle of the roundabout on the western side of the Craigavon Bridge.
Take in The Guildhall
The Guildhall is a majestic looking building in the city centre, and it is the only surviving Guildhall still in civic use in Ireland. Even though it’s home to the Mayor’s Parlour and Council Chamber, they warmly welcome any visitors! The Main Hall on the first-floor hosts everything from concerts to craft fairs, as well as weddings and private functions. In the middle of the room stands a magnificent organ dating back to 1914.
My favourite part of the Guildhall was the beautiful stained-glass windows. You can see these all round, but the best ones are on the staircase going up to the first floor. The Guildhall was completely renovated after a fire in the building in 1908 and from two bombings in 1971 during the troubles. Around two million pound was spent on the renovations and it shows! The Guildhall Clock Tower was the only part of the building to have survived the fire and, standing at 144 feet tall, is a replica of Big Ben in London!
Visit the Tower Museum
As I said earlier you can enter the Tower Museum for £1 per adult if you mention that you were on the Martin McCrossan walking tour. The general cost is £4 per person if you are entering separately. If you want to get the whole history of Derry, even as far back at 1588, then the Tower Musuem is the place to visit! There are four floors of exhibitions from each era in Derry’s history. Go all the way up to the 5th floor and you will get some panoramic views of the entire city. If you’re stuck for time like we were you can skip to the small cinema beside the section on the Troubles to watch the 15 minute video that summarizes most of the events on Derry’s history.
Explore Derry's Craft Village
If you’re looking for some souvenirs from visiting Derry, Northern Ireland, then this is the perfect spot. Derry’s Craft Village is full of independent and quirky retailers selling all manner of arts and crafts. It’s one of the prettiest areas of the city with reconstructed 18th century streets complete with quaint Georgian style houses. There are a few cafes here too and I would recommend is The Ivy Gate Coffee House. It’s a gorgeous little café with flower decor outside and perfect to sit and have a cuppa on a nice day!
Where to Eat and Drink
Of course, when you’re visiting Derry you’ll want to get a bite to eat or check out some local pubs or bars! I have put together a list of places that are worth trying out:
- Pyke n Pommes – Some good tacos and burgers
- El Tapas Gra – Great choice of tapas and Instagramable cocktails
- Nonna’s Pizza – There are two places – one on Spencer Road for takeaway only and on Shipquay street for eating in
- Mekong – Best Vietnamese place in the city!
- Brön café –Open for breakfast and lunch midweek and turns into a cocktail bar on Fridays and Saturdays
- The Thirsty Goat – Cool outdoor drinks area with live music
- Blackbird – Perfect if you’re a cocktail lover!
- Peadar O’Donnell’s – Classic local Irish pub to visit
- Bennigans Bar and Jazz Club – Great atmosphere in this pub
- Shipquay Hotel – Lovely spot for lunch and they also do Bottomless Brunch
Thank you for reading this blog post and I hope it proves helpful for you when you visit Derry, Northern Ireland!