We love heading over to Durham for dinner. Though it is only 30 minutes away it seems like heading into a completely different city for the night. Before having a baby, we would head over the dinner, stay out for drinks, and even crash for a night at one of the hotels. It was fun, spontaneous, and the perfect staycation.
Here are some of our top favorites and ones our friends have said are must-stops in the area for a great meal and things to do in Durham City. You can also read our guide in Raleigh NC here.
Best Places To Eat in Durham City
Brick oven pizza done really well! They have some great pizza combos. I loved going here when I was pregnant. Sometimes we would order it to go and eat it on the way home from a hike or after shopping on a weekend. It is very good stuff and a cute little interior.
A ramen and izakaya restaurant that is a not to miss. Downstairs you can order ramen and watch it being made at the open kitchen and bar or you can head upstairs and do Izakaya. Our suggestions is to make a night of it. A must thing to do in Durham city!
3. Guglhupf Bakery:
A cute little bakery and restaurant just outside of downtown that is a great lunch spot on a chilly day. Tons of bavarian style sweet treats to enjoy as well!
4. Rue Cler:
A cute french restaurant that is right next to Dashi that is a not to miss!
A restaurant that celebrates the beauty and bounty of the Piedmont region of North Carolina. The food is as equally beautiful as it is amazing.
6. Happy + Hale:
A fresh on the go food chain that holds its original location in Raleigh.
Perfect for a little shopping and eating. Great sandwiches and deli counter.
A great stop for order and hang type of food. Bar/street food style options. This is a great place to go with kids on a nice day. They also have concerts and great night time entertainment.
10. Lucky’s Delicatessen:
A great lunch stop for a sandwich for lunch or salad. They do it right with pickles and baked cookies of course!
11. Monuts Donuts:
Breakfast and lunch and not just donuts, but those are worth it for a stop all on their own. They source locally and make everything from scratch.
12. M Sushi:
This is where you get your sushi fix if you need it.
Living into their name Littler, this restaurant is small and quaint and on purpose. This allows them to do their thing on their terms and provide the highest quality food and cocktails.
14. Nana Steak:
If you are looking for a good steak while in town this is where you should go. A beautiful light filled dining space and a quality focused menu.
15. The Parlour:
Handcrafted ice cream and not far from Toro or Dashi…so you know just waddle on over for your dessert. Though many of the local restaurants have their own flavors made by them already.
One of the many must try bakeries in town. They also make some amazing crackers!
Do you lie tapas? Do you like southern food? Yes to both? Good news Mateo’s puts them together in one amazing menu and atmosphere. This is a unique and special experience that has become a staple of Durham’s food scene.
18. Vin Rouge:
An authentic french bistro doing all the classics and more. It even feels like you have been transported to France inside. Seriously.
This food stand has become THE place to get your seafood. If you want the truly North Carolina flavor of the coast without heading there, this is where you do it. Serving out of a shack it may lack on atmosphere, but you won’t notice…we promise!
There is always a line. ALWAYS. That should explain every reason you should go and add this to your things to do in Durham city.
A beautiful atmosphere and great dining experience. You just cannot go wrong.
22. Loaf Bakery:
Baking in a handcrafted brick oven, Loaf bakes everything from bread to pastries.
Durham’s Best Places To Drink
The most well-known brewery in town, Fullsteam is in the top two of our favorite breweries. The place is ALWAYS packed on the weekends with food trucks, community events, and more. A huge space offers lots of seating and many beer options. If you have an event coming up and you are still unsure which venue to hold it, you can pop over to this page for more tips.
2. Surf Club:
This is a bar. A good ole’ as it should be bar. It is the perfect place to spend a Friday or Saturday night drinking great cocktails or beers.
This would be our #1 favorite. Their Scottish Ale is worth the trip alone. Ponysaurus is an awesome stop and perfect with kids!
Stop here for drinks, cocktails, and apps with friends on a fall or spring day and get a great view of the city.
A historic bar that is in the Brightleaf area of historic Durham.
If you need to counter your brews with a cider, this is where you do it.
Coffee Places You Should Visit
A serious staple to the Durham downtown. Cocoa Cinnamon has an awesome outdoor and indoors in this old mechanical garage. Stop here after shopping Nomadic or before seeing a show at MotorCo.
You can pick up Joe Van Gogh coffee in Whole Foods, but you can get one of their honest to goodness cups at their coffee shop as well.
Where To Stay – Hotels and Loft Recommendations
1. Durham Hotel:
This is my top pick for Durham. We haven’t stayed here, but we have had friends who have and we have been to the hotel many times. When I tell people where to stay this is always my #1 choice. It is unique, super hip, and they offer great service.
2. 21c Museum Hotel:
My second choice. We always love a 21c and this one is a gorgeous one! You will not be disappointed with a stay here. Staying here is one of the things to do in Durham city.
3. ALoft Durham:
Aloft is a chain and they do a great job with their hotels. We haven’t stayed at this one, but we have stayed at them in the past and have had great experiences.
Amazing Shops to Visit in Durham
We always love a good local farmers market when we travel. Not only do you get a chance to see what the locals are doing, but also what is fresh and being made in the area. Always a great cultural experience definitely one of the best things to do in Durham city.
2. Parker and Otis:
Mentioned them for food, but their store is awesome as well. It is perfect to find some great local products or cute gift options as well. One of the best things to do in Durham city is visiting this place.
A great men’s boutique you don’t want to miss.
4. Vert & Vogue:
Right on main street near Mateo’s they have great collections and stylish clothes that is worth a wander.
A super cute meat and sweets shop that is perfect for a treat or grabbing goods for dinner.
6. Nomadic Trading:
Only open to the public on Saturdays, but this place has PILES of turkish rugs and kilims. They receive truck loads of antique and vintage homewares from around the world and supply them to restaurants and stores all over the country. If you stop in on Saturday you get access to the goods yourself, which is really fun!
7. Chet Miller:
A cute little shop full of curated gifts and other super cute things.
What To Do in Durham When You’re in Town
Are you a Mad Men fan? Well, I kind of freaked out when I saw the smoke stack with the Lucky Strike logo on it. But that isn’t the only reason to swing through. There are shops, restaurants, and more here that you should check out!
This is Durham’s performing arts center, and they have amazing shows. So it should be checked if this is something you enjoy doing.
3. Duke Gardens:
Duke is located in Durham and the campus is beautiful, but the Gardens and woods are pretty magical. Don’t miss them!
This is the Duke Art Museum and they have great exhibitions quite frequently so make sure you check out what is showing while you are in town.
Find out more about current event s and more on Downtown Durham’s website.