Many people mistakenly overlook Derry in favour of Belfast when visiting Northern Ireland. Don’t be one of these people!
Derry, also known as Londonderry, is full of things to do and see. The city is a particularly good place to explore Northern Irish culture and history and is much smaller than Belfast. Derry’s size gives it more of a community atmosphere to experience, so don’t miss out on stopping by.
Here’s a guide to the ten best things to do in Derry.
Stop by the Tower Museum
Northern Ireland is one of the most historically interesting places in the UK. And, to explore Derry’s history, stop by the Tower Museum.
The museum has two permanent exhibitions, with extra temporary events and displays throughout the year. The most popular exhibition is ‘The Story of Derry’, which displays all the city’s recorded history – from its humble prehistoric beginnings to the Troubles and its recent history.
There is also an exhibition on ‘An Armada Shipwreck – La Trinidad Valencera’, which tells the tale of a recovered shipwreck off the coast of Donegal. A group of divers from the City of Derry Sub-Aqua Club found the ship, so it links closely to local history.
Adult tickets cost £4, while children’s tickets cost £2 and concessions cost £2.40. Don’t forget to visit the fifth floor of the museum, as you can enjoy views of Derry from a terrace.
Walk the Derry Walls
The city is known for its walls and exploring them by foot is one of the best things to do in Derry.
The Derry Walls date back to the 17th century and are Northern Ireland’s best-preserved city walls. Initially, their purpose was to protect Derry from English and Scottish settlers. However, they’ve seen action during The Siege of Derry and The Troubles since then. In The Troubles, the walls became a perfect hideaway for snipers, which was dangerous for Derry civilians.
Fortunately, nowadays, you’ll not have to worry about snipers. Instead, you can walk the walls to enjoy views over Derry and to spot the 24 restored cannons spread across its length. Accessing Derry Walls is free, and the entire walk should take less than an hour, so it’s an easy addition to your itinerary.
Go shopping and snap photos at the Craft Village
If you’re looking for souvenirs, the Craft Village is where to go. Shopping in the Craft Village is easily one of the best things to do in Derry, with handcrafted goods and a traditional architectural aesthetic.
You’ll find plenty of independent shops and the perfect backdrops for any Instagram photoshoots. I’d recommend planning a visit over either morning or afternoon. Visiting the Craft Village is ideally combined with a café lunch or a pub dinner.
Spend a day outdoors at Ness Country Park
Contrary to popular belief, the sun can shine in Northern Ireland! If you visit Derry in a sunny spell (or just don’t mind getting wet), stop by the Ness Country Park for some scenic time outdoors.
Ness Country Park is 55 hectares and has woodland and riverside tracks to discover. As an extra claim to fame, the highest waterfall in Northern Ireland is hidden away in the middle of the park. The Ness Waterfall is certainly worth a visit and should only take walkers an hour to reach.
If you need any more convincing, the Ness Country Park is free to enter. As far as things to do in Derry, entertainment doesn’t get much cheaper.
Explore the Free Derry Corner
The Free Derry Corner is a historical mural that marks the city’s brief stint as an autonomous nationalist area between 1969 and 1972.
The words “You Are Now Entering Free Derry” are painted onto the side of a terrace house – a strangely mundane yet powerful representation of resistance. The Free Derry Corner is situated in the Bogside neighbourhood (an attraction in itself) and near the Free Derry Museum.
I’d advise you to visit the Free Derry mural, then visit the museum for a more detailed delve into Derry’s political history. You’ll find exhibitions on the conflict, oppression, and horrific events of Bloody Sunday.
Entrance costs a reasonable £7 per adult and £6 for concession holders. Note that the museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays, so time a visit for other days.
Visit the Grianan of Aileach
A short drive from Derry, the Grianan of Aileach is a hilltop fortress scenically located in Donegal.
The fortress is an unusual round shape and dates back to 1700 BC, when it was used as a stronghold for the Celtic Aileach kingdom. The Grianan of Aileach is surprisingly well-preserved, making it an excellent historical day trip from Derry.
You can access Grianan of Aileach for free, although you’ll need to tackle the short hike to the Greenan Mountain’s summit. At 244 metres high, reaching the hilltop shouldn’t be a massive challenge but still provides impressive countryside views.
Walk the Peace Bridge
Derry’s Peace Bridge is an architectural attraction that requires background knowledge to appreciate fully.
Far from being just a functional cycle and footbridge, the Peace Bridge symbolises the connection between two once divided communities. The bridge was built in 2010 and joins the Waterside and Cityside.
The Waterside was predominantly a Protestant neighbourhood, while the Cityside was Catholic. Therefore, the Peace Bridge provides a useful connection between neighbourhoods and celebrates the unification of all communities in Derry.
Make sure to factor in a walk across the Peace Bridge when in Derry, as you’ll have some great river views and get to experience the architectural celebration of peace first-hand.
Visit the Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is a natural phenomenon and the most popular world heritage site in Northern Ireland. For a full guide to visiting the Giant’s Causeway, see here.
The Causeway is only an hour’s drive from Derry, so it is worth hiring a car if you want to visit. Alternatively, you can book a Causeway tour. Just be aware that Causeway tours are more limited from Derry than Belfast, so check in advance to avoid disappointment.
As mentioned previously, the Bogside neighbourhood is an attraction in itself. The neighbourhood is full of political murals and is where Bloody Sunday took place.
When visiting Bogside, you can pay your respects to the 13 civilians shot dead by British paratroopers while peacefully protesting for civil rights. You can also explore the political murals for a visual glimpse into Derry’s history.
As the events that took place in Bogside are dark and complex, I’d recommend booking a guided tour of the area. The Bogside History Tour is an excellent experience to select and reasonably priced at £10 per person. The tour is led by Paul Doherty, whose father Patrick Doherty was one of the innocents murdered. You can expect a professional but valuably personal insight into the neighbourhood’s history, which is easily one of the most important things to do in Derry.
Go wild for a day at Jungle NI
Once you’ve discovered Derry’s history, wildlife, and culture, a bit of adrenaline is in order. A short 45-minute drive from Derry, Jungle NI provides exciting outdoor activities and a great day trip from the city.
Go paintballing, clay pigeon shooting, llama trekking, raft building, or even zorbing. Jungle NI provides a diverse range of activities, including specialised childrens’ adventures.
If you’re looking to spice up your Derry itinerary, booking an activity (or two…or three) at Jungle NI is a good way to break up more serious attractions. Prices range per activity, but I’ve included a table of 2022 rates for select activities below.
|Paintballing||Llama trekking||Clay Pigeon Shooting||Zorbing||Kids Quad Biking||Archery|
|Adult prices (£)||20||12||35||15||N/A must be between 8 to 12 years old||15|
|Children prices (£)||N/A must be over 16 years old||8||N/A must be over 16 years old||N/A must be over 12 years old||15||N/A must be over 6 years old|
Derry is one of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland and definitely warrants at least a weekend’s visit. After Derry, you can continue North to the Atlantic Coast or head to Belfast for a few more city days. Got any more recommendations of things to do in Derry? Feel free to drop them down below.