Derry ~ Londonderry: the Walled City

Peace Bridge, Derry~Londonderry

It's cosmopolitan, creative and steeped in history – but it’s the unique combination of warmth and wit that makes Derry~Londonderry so special

Stand on the city walls in Derry~Londonderry and you’ll feel it. History is all around you. The very walls beneath you were built over 400 years ago. Look over to the city’s Bogside area and you’ll see history literally written on the walls in those famous murals. Traditional music spills out onto the streets from cozy pubs, museums tell stories of times past and people still celebrate ancient festivals.

But there’s more to this place than its past. This is a vibrant modern city with a cutting-edge food scene, an exciting cultural life and a pretty impressive ability to enjoy life. Here, where the Wild Atlantic Way meets the Causeway Coastal Route, you can discover Derry~Londonderry – and you can see history come to life.

The city walls

Building began on the walls in the 17th century, back when King James I required defenses to keep the newly planted population safe from Irish rebels besieging the city. At about one mile in circumference and up to 32 feet thick in places, they did their job. In fact, Derry~Londonderry’s walls have never been breached. And the price to build such handsome, efficient walls? £10,757. A bargain.

But if these walls could speak, they would have some stories to tell… The best way to discover all of this city’s secrets is the Unlocking the Walled city walking tour. Listen to the locals as they proudly recall the city’s 6th century origins, as well as the personal accounts of the Troubles and the stories behind the political murals. Book in advance (and bring comfortable shoes!) for your exploration of one of the best preserved walled cities in Europe.

The Guildhall

Sitting pretty within reach of the walls, this auburn-brick beauty is the anchor for the buzzing Guildhall Square. Arguably the hall’s most arresting feature is its collection of stunning stained-glass windows. Donated by London Companies, they represent everything from fishmongers to musicians. Recognize the Guildhall Clock? It was modeled on Big Ben. An exhibition here explaining the city’s plantation provides a keyhole view into Derry~Londonderry’s curious and complex past.

The Peace Bridge

Mere steps from the Guildhall and the city walls, this river-spanning beauty is a visual treat. Introduced to the city in 2011, the elegant, snaking curves of its design have seen the Peace Bridge become a Derry~Londonderry icon, and a scenic spot from which to watch the majestic Foyle rush towards a meeting with the Lough Foyle to the north.

The murals

Belfast isn't the only city with murals. The Walled City could easily match Titanic's hometown for impactful modern art messages. To get the real story behind these colorful and complex artworks hop on a tour run by the Bogside Artists. These are the local artists behind many of the murals and few can elaborate on their significance with more insight or understanding.

Food, fun and festivals

Traditional pubs, culture on tap and elegant eateries: Derry~Londonderry knows how to have a good time. This city is known for its nightlife, from traditional late-night singalongs to buzzing nightclubs. Enjoy a pint in any of the city's bars and soak it all in: the atmosphere of a pub in Derry~Londonderry is truly unique!

The city has dozens of nightclubs for those who bring their dancing shoes with them. For something a little different, try a standup comedy show. There's a vibrant local comedy scene in Northern Ireland, and Derry~Londonderry is no exception. What else would you expect from a former UK City of Culture?

But if you really want to see the city let its hair down, come at festival time. DerryHalloween (October) has been called the best Halloween festival in the world by USA Today. The City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival (May) gets the city grooving. And the Foyle Maritime Festival (July) hosts a stopover for the Clipper Round the World Yacht race.


Ready for a slow adventure?

Derry~Londonderry may be an urban oasis, but it’s also a great base for those who want to slow things down and explore Ireland’s scenic north west. The coastline is right on the city’s doorstep and the outdoor playground that is the Sperrins (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is within easy reach.

Set out on your own slow travel adventure and you can leave the busy world behind as you connect with nature, meet local artisans and bask in the serenity of lush meadows and ancient forests. This is mindful travel at its best and proof (in case you still need it) that Derry~Londonderry is a destination that really does have it all.

Getting here

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