Durham is situated in the north east of England and contrary to popular opinion outside of the region, those born there are not Geordies. The city is wonderfully placed to get to most of the region. Weardale, Teesdale and Tynedale are all easily accessible and the scenery is stunning - not a crumbing, run down factory or slag heap to be seen. For the more lively visitor, Newcastle (where Geordies do come from) is merely a 20 minute train ride away, although, in truly inexplicable British transport style, there is no train service between the two cities on a Saturday night after 8pm.
The first thing that most people seem to notice about Durham when they arrive is the cathedral. This is probably because it completely dominates the skyline of the city and it is impossible to arrive in the town centre without being distracted by its stunning beauty. In the late 1980s it was named as the 'World's Most Beautiful Building' ahead of such marvellous constructions as the Taj Mahal.
All this of course gives many of the other buildings in Durham an inferiority complex as they are architecturally wonderful themselves, but lose out completely in the comparison stakes. All except the National Savings Building which is quite clearly the winner of the ugliest building in Durham competition. In the 1960s someone decided that a concrete monstrosity was exactly what Durham needed to ensure it would not feel left out of the kind of developments the major towns and cities in the UK were undergoing. From above you can see it was designed in the shape of a key. Unfortunately, the architect responsible for the building obviously never realised that the vast majority of the city's population would never see it from a vantage point other than ground level. In more recent times a new shopping centre has been constructed in the town centre, that in no way resembled the original drawings displayed to ensure it would fit in with the town's character. The gaping cavern of an entrance to the car park underneath is hideous in its own right and the plants cascading down the exterior walls never came to fruition.
The castle, the surrounding streets and the walk-ways around the river banks are also well worth a look.
Durham used to be the most well known for a bishop who didn't seem to believe in most of the Bible and an ice hockey team that was virtually invincible. The team was moved to Newcastle on the basis there would be more supporters there, was promptly renamed and all the Durham supporters promptly stopped supporting them. Durham's ice rink then went on to become a bowling alley.
The city itself is small - you can pretty much tour the city centre in about ten minutes. As in most UK towns and cities, all the major chain stores fill most of the shops. Durham is fairly unique in that in the marketplace there is a sports shop that actually sells sporting equipment for most sports. There are, however, other sports shops present to fulfil this role should any visitor urgently require to dress in a pair of orange tracksuit bottoms and a purple t-shirt.
From a nightlife point of view there are some very good pubs in Durham. Many of them are also very small. In particular The Dunn Cow and Shakespeare, the latter also combining drinking with maze technology (in finding your way to the back of the pub). All well and good in theory but a little puzzling come closing time. Durham also has a pub called the Fighting Cocks, and never has a pub been so appropriately named.
Club-wise, Durham is very uninteresting and extraordinarily uninspiring. The university is campus based and they regularly hold events at the weekend. Subsequently, the nightclubs in Durham tend not to be hugely in demand. They more closely resemble your average front room with flashing lights than any kind of nightclub most people are familiar with. Their size combined with the relatively small numbers attending them does however mean that they're like playing sardines on a weekend. It looks busy but there are probably less than 200 people in the building.