A reading tour of Durham


Durham is an almost ridiculously picturesque city, filled with beautiful spots and gorgeous cafes, so it naturally has many excellent places to sit and read. Being a literature student, my reading list is always very long and varied, and, when you spend most of your day reading, you tend to need to find different places to read, as too long spent in your bed or at your desk is no good. I hope at least one of my favourite spots for reading, be it academic or leisurely, works for you!

Beautiful and peaceful, it is my personal favourite

The first place to mention would have to be Vennels Café. Beautiful and peaceful, it is my personal favourite of Durham’s cafes. I would buy a coffee and perhaps a cake (they are very hard to resist) and take them upstairs
where, from the window, you can see the castle watching over Durham. The interior of the café is in line with Durham’s medieval history and it truly feels like an idyll. They do not play music and the place is normally filled with students, couples on a romantic date or older ladies having a catch-up. The chattering is generally low and fades into the background. Its location also means it gets a lovely amount of sun, so it always feels bright and pretty. There is normally always a table or more free, especially be-
fore midday or after the lunchtime rush (but at any time really). I have read many books there, especially for my medieval modules, and it is always a very pleasant place with lovely staff.

Though Durham is filled with charming independent cafes, such as Cafédral, Leonard’s or Chapters tearoom, all of which are excellent places to read, you do not need to splash out on coffee or food in order to find lovely places to read in Durham. If the weather is miserable, there is always the Billy B, but if it is just a reading spot, you are after, then maybe try your college library. They are generally small but with a few nice places to sit, maybe a sofa, and are convenient, quiet places to read.

If you want to get out of the college bubble, though, try Durham cathedral. While they have a café, they also have scenic cloisters. This courtyard normally always has benches available and offers a delightful spot
to sit and read. You will be under cover (if the weather is not good) but still outside and somewhere different. Students often do not make nearly enough use of Durham’s gorgeous cathedral.

My final suggestion is really just picking one of the many beautiful outdoor spots around Durham. Palace Green is always a good option, with lots of space to sit on the grass and a beautiful view of the cathedral and castle. Then there is the river: I like to go down either via Prebends Bridge or via going down near the cathedral and there is always a bench to be found where you can sit and read in peace. There’s also Observatory Hill, whose beautiful scenery makes it very popular among students generally, but which could also be a great reading spot when it is quieter. If you
live in Gilesgate and want somewhere nearby, there is a green space at the back of Sherburn Road with a beautiful view and a community garden. Finally, you can try the Old Durham Gardens (open to all and very pretty) or the Botanic Garden (free to students and a convenient location for hill colleges).

A quiet, aesthetic spot to sit and read

In a city as beautiful as Durham, if you want to find a quiet, aesthetic spot to sit and read, there are certainly many options to choose from. I suggest trying various different places to make the most of this incredible city during your time here.

Happy reading!

Model: Daniella Pollendine

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