When we think of places to visit in Northern Ireland, Belfast and the attractions around Antrim are normally what comes to mind.
Buuut, Derry City is not one to be missed. This compact little city is full to the brim with Irish History, numerous attractions and fun events throughout the year and has a beautiful Skyline.
Many people may be surprised to know that there is actually a domestic airport in Derry. If you are in the UK, you can fly directly to Derry from Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool and London.
From outside of the UK, you can fly into Belfast airport. Derry is under 2 hours bus ride away.
I always stand by saying that the easiest and best way to see Ireland and Northern Ireland is by car. If you rent a car from Belfast airport, it is a 1 hour 25 minute drive on the M2, joining the M22 and finally on to the A6 right the way to Derry.
From Dublin, it is a ~3 hour drive. Head north on the M1 out of Dublin, but turn off at Ardee on the N33. Join the N2 and continue on this road right the way to the A5 across the border, which will bring you directly to Derry.
If you prefer motor ways, another way is to drive is to head on the M1 to Belfast and then on to Derry using the instructions above. This way is ~ 3 hours 10 minutes, but you will have to go through Belfast City and there may be traffic delays.
You can take Airporter, which is a direct coach from Derry to the Belfast airports. There are also great bus links between northern and the republic of Ireland, with John McGinley Coach Travel providing an express bus from Dublin to Derry.
Luckily, Derry is a compact city and the easiest way to get around is on foot. Most places in the city are a short walk away from each other. There are also 3 taxi companies available, in case of probable rain!
An open top bus tour is always a great way to get around, while seeing some of the best spots in the city. This is one of the things I always do when visiting the city. It is great when you can hop on and off in different parts of the city.
You may be surprised by just how many things there are to do and see in Derry, most of which are steeped in the city’s troubled past.
A unique thing about the city is that it was a completely walled city and these walls still stand today. They were built between 1613-1618 to protect against settlers.
You can now follow the walled path right the way around the inner city. It is complete with watch towers, battlements and cannons and gives you unique views of the city below.
One of the most memorable things about Derry are the murals. Derry is known for “the troubles”, or, conflict between Nationalist and Unionist communities. Striking murals can be seen around the city. The most famous of which is a white wall which reads “you are now entering Free Derry”.
The others all illustrate some of the incidents that have taken place in Derry including:
Bloody Sunday which took place in 1972 – During protests, British Soldiers killed 26 Irish Civilians, 14 of which died.
The Death of Innocence – A mural in the memory of a 14 year old girl shot in 1971.
However there are MANY more.
These murals preserve the history of what has happened in this city and can be seen on the “Bogside” of the city in the nationalist neighbourhood. If you take a trip over to the Loyalist neighbourhood of the city, you will see several other murals, dominated by blue,white and read which show a different perspective.
This neo-gothic building dominates the Derry skyline. This building is home to the council’s chamber and mayor’s parlour but all visitors are welcome. You can learn all about the ulster plantations in the exhibition downstairs and it is really interesting to learn more about the history here.
There are beautiful stained-glass windows in the building as well as a large organ upstairs. There is a cafe on-site as well.
The Iconic peace bridge is relatively new to the city, being completed in 2011. It’s a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the river Foyle. The architect designed the bridge as a way to symbolise reconciliation between both “sides” of Derry. It is photo worthy at all times of day but particularly at night where it lights up the city and river.
The hit TV show Derry girls is based in the city and highlights the tension between the nationalist and unionist civilians at the time. There are numerous locations from filming in the city including: Our Lady’s Immaculate College, Fionnuala’s Fish & Chips shop and there is even a Derry Girls Mural now up in the city.
Halloween: If you are on the Island of Ireland on Halloween, Derry is where you want to be. The city throws a huge Halloween festival and is actually known as the biggest Halloween celebration in Europe
Foyle Maritime Festival: The Foyle Maritime Festival has taken place the last few years as the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race has seen numerous 7ft yachts sweep through the Foyle River.
There is something for everyone in Derry from award winning hotels to affordable BnBs.
The Maldron Hotel is a 4 star hotel with rooms starting at ~112 euro. The hotel has parking and is located right in the city.
City Hotel Derry is another 4 star, right along the banks of the River Foyle. Double rooms start at ~128 euro.
For budget friendly stays, there are so many guest houses.
All times I have been in Derry, I have stayed in Airbnb’s and guest houses. My favourite has been “Chamberlain House”.
It is perfectly located in the heart of the city and has parking included at the back of the property. You can meet the owner on checking and come and go as you please. There are kitchen facilities and a laundry room and is really such a good location. Less than 5 minutes walk to the main streets in town.
Twin rooms start at ~70 euro. This is such a great affordable option for those on a budget like me!
In Derry you will come across your usual mainstream restaurants such as Nando’s but there are so many other great places to grab a meal.
This restaurant and bar has three locations in Northern Ireland and goes by the slogan “You’re at your Granny’s”. It is super warm and cosy and is great for lunch, and is also a bar with live music at night.
Also, check out the toilets! They are very uniquely designed. The men’s “Granda’s” is designed to represent Grandad William’s garage where he fixed tractors.
The lady’s “granny’s” toilets are designed after Annie. It resembles her dressing room with numerous handbags hanging from the ceiling.
It is pretty cool!
This is my favourite spot for breakfast in Derry. This family run bistro serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. As well as afternoon tea, cocktails and local beers.
There are also loads of fresh home baked goods and deserts, mmm!
Quay West is a vibrant gastro-pub. It’s a great place to go for dinner. It is right along the Foyle and you can dine upstairs while looking down at the restaurant below. This means it is perfect for a more intimate romantic meal upstairs, or a social gathering with dinner and drinks on the ground floor.
The Walled City of Derry really has so much charm and history. Make sure you do not make the mistake of missing it, like so many other tourists.
Things to do nearby include:
While Derry is a must-visit city in Northern Ireland, I have also compiled a list of the top five counties in Ireland you need to visit, which are perfect for a long weekend.
This guest post was written by the lovely Sarah from The Tales of Tinyboots. Sarah writes about all things outdoorsy in Ireland, particularly Galway!