There are plenty of things to do in Derry, once you give it a chance.
However, many people exploring this corner of Ireland often pass it by.
County Derry is home to countless historical sites, walks and a glorious stretch of coastline.
In the guide below, you’ll discover what to do in Derry City, first, before seeing the wider county’s main attractions.
The best things to do in Derry City
We’re going to tackle the various things to do in Derry City first. The city is home to an absolute wealth of things to do and places to see.
There are also some great spots for food that we’ll be recommending you nip into.
1. Derry City Walls
Derry is officially the only completely walled city in Ireland and it’s one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe.
The walls, which were built between 1613-1618, were used to defend the city against early 17th century settlers.
Still beautifully intact, they now form a walkway around Derry’s inner city and offer a unique promenade to check out the layout of the original town.
Standing at an impressive 19-20 feet high, the mile-long oval comes complete with watchtowers, battlements, gates, bastions, and big aul cannons.
2. Bloody Sunday and Bogside Tour
If you’re wondering what to do in Derry that’ll give you a good insight into the city’s past, this tour (affiliate link) is worth considering.
Over the course of 1.5 hours you’ll learn about what happened on Bloody Sunday. You’ll also be taken to Derry’s most prominent murals in the Bogside area.
3. The Peace Bridge
The now-iconic Peace Bridge is one of the more popular places to visit in Derry. It opened in 2011 and has won a clatter of awards since.
The bridge connects the old army Barracks in Ebrington to the city centre and was intended to end a 400-year-old physical and political gap by bringing the largely unionist east side of Derry closer to the largely nationalist west.
You can take a wander across it and get a good eyeful of both sides of the city’s ‘skyline’ or you can admire it from afar from either side of the river.
4. The Museum of Free Derry
If you’re looking for places to visit in Derry that’ll educate and enlighten, then this should tickle your fancy.
The Museum of Free Derry opened back in 2007. It exists to tell the turbulent story of what happened in Derry from 1968 to 1972.
The story is told from the point of view of the people that were most involved in and affected by the events that took place.
For those of you with little to no familiarity with the city’s past, you’re in for an enlightening experience.
This is one of the more popular things to do in Derry when it rains for good reason!
5. The Guildhall
The Guildhall tends to conquer many guides on what to do in Derry, and it’s not hard to see why.
This beautiful neo-gothic style building was built in 1887 and can be found just outside the city walls, near the Peace Bridge.
In 2013, a £9.5m restoration was completed which introduced a new multifaceted tourism experience to the building.
Those that visit the Guildhall can expect:
- An interactive Tourist Information Point
- A new dedicated exhibition exploring how the Plantation shaped our history
- Cultural spaces
- A cafe area
- Interpretation panels that bring the buildings features to life
6. The Derry Girls mural
Derry Girls is one of the most popular Irish shows to hit our screens in years.
In a nutshell, it’s a show set in Derry during the Troubles in the 1990s that follows a group of friends (4 girls and one English lad) as they get themselves into all kinds of mad situations.
The mural is painted on one of the walls of Badger’s Bar in Derry. The owner was contacted by the creators of the show and asked whether they could use the wall at the back of the pub.
The mural depicts the main cast members and was masterfully created by UV Arts, a group that uses street art as a tool for social change.
7. Trad music at Peadar’s
This is, in my opinion, what every great Irish pub should strive to be like – it has a beautifully maintained old-school interior, it holds regular trad sessions and they do a solid pint of Guinness.
If you’re in the city and you’re looking to chill after a busy day exploring, you won’t go wrong here.
8. St. Columb’s Cathedral
St. Columb’s Cathedral is one of Derry’s oldest buildings.
This beautiful cathedral dominates the city’s skyline from many an angle and dates back to 1633.
Standing at an impressive 221 feet, St. Columb’s current tower and main building are that of the original Cathedral.
The spire was added later in 1821. Interestingly enough, the building is constructed from the same stone as the city’s walls and boasts an ample number of artefacts for you to check out during your visit.
9. Tower Museum
It’s from the top of the Tower Museum that you’ll get access to the only open-air viewing facility in Derry City.
Translation: there’s a pretty damn good view from the top of this place.
There are also some excellent exhibitions inside:
- The Story of Derry: This exhibition takes visitors through the dramatic history of the city, from the earliest prehistory to the present.
- An Armada Shipwreck: The second exhibition tells the story of one of the largest ships in the Spanish Armada, ‘La Trinidad Valencera’. This ship sank off the Donegal Coast in 1588 and was only discovered by divers from the City of Derry Sub-Aqua Club in 1971.
What to do in Derry County
The next section of our guide looks at what to do in Derry across the wider county.
Derry’s coastline in particular often gets missed. You’ll discover why it’s well worth exploring below.
1. Benone Strand
Benone Strand in Limavady is a peach of a beach. Here you’ll have a massive 7 miles of golden beach to saunter along while soaking up a mixture of interesting sights.
On a clear day, you’ll see everywhere from Lough Foyle and Benevenagh to he mighty Mussenden Temple.
It’s around a 50-minute spin from Derry City and it’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle for a while.
2. The Benevenagh hike
The Binevenagh hike is one of my favourite things to do in Northern Ireland. This is a tough trail that can take 4.5 – 5 hours to complete, but it’s well worth it.
The trail begins near Limavady, around a 45-minute drive from the city, and there are several start points, depending on which direction you come from.
This is a relatively strenuous hike but, when the weather’s clear, you’ll be treated to glorious views of Lough Foyle and the surrounding countryside.
If you’re looking for active things to do in Derry, this is well worth tackling!
3. Ness Country park
One of the more unique things to do in Derry is to head to Ness Country Park in Killaloo, a short 25-minute spin from the city.
This is one of those places to visit in Derry that people tend to miss. You’ll find Ness Country Park in the wooded Glen of the Burntollet River, south-east of Derry.
This park boasts 55 hectares of woodland, open parkland, and riverside walks. Oh, and the biggest waterfall in Ulster.
4. Mussenden Temple
The Mussenden Temple is one of those places that looks like it’s been whipped from a movie.
Located in the stunning surroundings of Downhill Demesne in Derry, the temple is perched dramatically on a 120-foot high cliff overlooking the ocean.
Bizarrely enough, the temple was originally built to act as a summer library for those that owned the estate that temple sits within.
It was constructed in 1785 and its architecture was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome.
Make sure this is on your list of places to see in Derry during your visit.
5. Portstewart Strand
Nestled between the town of Portstewart and the River Bann lies the golden sands of Portstewart Strand.
It’s around a 50-minute drive from the city and it’s a good stop-off for those of you doing the Causeway Coastal Route.
Arguably one of the best beaches in Northern Ireland, Portstewart Strand is the perfect spot for a long ramble without any inclines.
It’s also one of the few beaches that you can still drive onto.
6. Seamus Heaney HomePlace
Now, it’s time for a bit of culture. A visit to the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy (50-minute drive from the city) will take you on a journey through the life and literature of Seamus Heaney, the renowned poet and Nobel Laureate.
You’ll find everything from personal stories and artefacts to dozens of family photographs and video recordings over a packed two floors.
If you’re in search of things to do in Derry when it’s raining, then this indoor attraction is the perfect spot to spend an afternoon.
7. Mountsandel Wood
Our next stop is very interesting altogether. I’d never heard of Mountsandel Wood up until recently.
Which is crazy as it’s here that the earliest known settlement of man in Ireland was based between 7600 and 7900BC.
Flint tools were found on the grounds of Mountsandel, which indicates that Stone Age hunters camped here and fished for salmon in the nearby weir (a low dam built across a river).
You can head off on a forest walk here that’ll take you around this historic little chunk of Derry.
8. Roe Valley Country Park
This tranquil park offers stunning riverside views and woodland walks to those that chisel out some time in their itinerary to visit.
The river in Roe Valley Country Park plunges through stunning gorges and its banks are clothed in mature lush woodland.
Grab a cup of coffee in Ritters Tea Room (located on the left bank upriver of the Dogleap Centre) and head off for a stroll.
Fancy learning about the industrial and natural heritage of the area? Nip into the museum on-site.
Things to do near Derry City
Now that we have the various things to do in Derry out of the way, it’s time to explore some of the best things to do near Derry.
And there’s some stiff competition! Derry is close to endless things to see and do, as you’ll discover below!
1. Grianan of Aileach (20-minute drive)
Grianan of Aileach in Donegal is a hillfort that sits right at the beginning of the glorious Inishowen Peninsula.
Now, although it sits on top of a mountain (Greenan Mountain) you can drive very close to the top and it’s a short walk from there.
On a clear day you’ll be treated to magnificent views of the surrounding countryside and peninsulas.
2. Inishowen Peninsula (25-minute drive)
The Inishowen Peninsula is arguably one of Ireland’s finest. If you follow the Inishowen 100 Drive, you’ll be taken to its best bits.
3. The Causeway Coast (1-hour drive)
The Causeway Coastal Route is a great way to spend a day (although 2 days would be ideal, if you have the time!).
Over the course of this spin, you’ll see the likes of:
4. Glenveagh National Park (55-minute drive)
A visit to Glenveagh National Park is another of the more popular things to do near Derry.
You can rent a bike and peddle around it, saunter along one of its many trails or take a tour of Glenveagh Castle.
What places to visit in Derry have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant things to do in Derry from the guide above.
If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
FAQs about things to see in Derry
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What to do in Derry when it rains?’ to ‘Where’s best for a stroll?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do in Derry?
In our opinion, it’s hard to beat Ness Country park, the Benevenagh hike, Benone Strand, Tower Museum and Derry City Walls.
What is there to do in Derry City?
There’s endless things to do in Derry City, from the mural tours and the City Walls to the Guildhall, St. Columb’s Cathedral, the Walled City Brewery and much more.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.