Downtown Durham NC Skyline

Durham Travel Guide: A Day Exploring Downtown Durham


We are thrilled to welcome you to Durham, NC. Here are our recommendations for how to spend a day in the Bull City, with all destinations walkable from our downtown hotel.

Coffee lovers may have started their day with our in-room coffee service or one of Mark’s famous Coffee Sodas from our lobby Coffee Shop. If you need another shot of caffeine, start your day with a walk downtown to the Warehouse District for a signature drink from Cocoa Cinnamon coffee shop or stroll across CCB Plaza to our neighbors at Jeddah’s Tea. Order their specialty, the Daallo Latte, a traditional Somali spiced black tea.

Complimentary continental breakfast is included with your stay, but if you’d like a more traditional breakfast, we recommend Jack Tar (pancakes! all-day diner!), Rue Cler (beignets!), Beyu Caffe (french toast! coffee!), or Dames Chicken & Waffles (need we say more?).

If it’s Saturday, head to Central Park for the Durham Farmer’s Market, where you’ll find area farmers selling produce, flowers, and plants, plus bakeries, brewers, craftspeople, and a line-up of food trucks. Don’t miss bouquets from Bluebird Meadows, fresh veggies and ginger syrup from Li’l Farm, cowmilk cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery, pastries from Scratch Baking, and Mediterranean specialties from Soomsoom Pita Pockets.

Feel the need to get moving? Join a yoga class on our rooftop (complimentary with your stay) or at Global Breath Studio, kick off a run from The Durham with this 3.5-mile route designed by our friends at Bull City Running Co., rent a bike from Bullseye Bicycle and tour the American Tobacco Trail, or sweat it out with our friends at Base Pilates & Movement.

Now for lunch in Durham. Downtown Durham has tons of great spots. Head to the Brightleaf area for ramen, house-made noodles, and the best ice cream sandwiches you’ve ever had from Rose’s, a small east Asian eatery from a husband-and-wife butcher and pastry chef team. In the DIY District, you’ll find Parts & Labor, a global street food eatery with plentiful outdoor seating attached to a music venue. We recommend the Sesame Udon Salad. For Puerto Rican empanadas, bowls, and sandwiches —   plus affordable lunch specials — head to Spanglish. For seasonal wood-fired pizzas and salads in a charming atmosphere, make your way to Pizzeria Toro. And for composed panini, crostini, and soups, visit downtown Durham trailblazer, Toast.

For a sweet treat after lunch, we recommend ice cream from The Parlour (enjoy it outside while you get acquainted with downtown Durham’s unofficial mascot, Major the Bull) or pastries from Loaf.

Go shopping. In the Brightleaf area, visit retail haven Parker & Otis, where you can find cheeky notecards, gifts, and an excellent selection of cookbooks, local snacks, candy, and wine. Afterwards, head to Indio for jewelry, apothecary items, and home goods from up-and-coming designers, artisans, and small companies. For house plants, terrariums, and gifts for plant lovers, check out The Zen Succulent. For mindfully made clothing from top independent designers, visit Vert & Vogue. And for multimedia work from mostly southern artists and craftspeople, head to PS 118 from our friends at Horse & Buggy Press.

While away the afternoon on a gourmet tour of local restaurants in Durham from Taste Carolina. Get your game on at Boxcar, a bar and arcade with over 70 games, a huge outdoor patio, and a pizza kitchen, or blow off some steam next door at Urban Axes, where “axeperts” will school you in the art of competitive axe throwing. If you time your visit right, you may be able to take in a Durham Bulls minor league baseball game at our city’s standout Athletic Park or visit downtown gallery open houses during Third Friday art walk.

Grab a beer from one of Durham’s many renowned breweries, like Fullsteam with its emphasis on foraged and southern ingredients, Durty Bull with its extensive sour beer program, or Ponysaurus with their saisons and fun, off-the-beaten path outdoor space.

Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time for dinner. The closest restaurant to home is our very own Restaurant at The Durham, helmed by James Beard-award winning chef Andrea Reusing, where the evolving menu is based on ingredients sourced primarily from NC farms, fisheries, and ranches. If you want to step out, we suggest one of chef Michael Lee’s three Durham restaurants, particularly M Tempura, where you are served delicately fried seafood and seasonal vegetables omakase-style in a peaceful setting. For Spanish small plates with southern inflection, head to Mateo Bar de Tapas from chef Matthew Kelly. If handmade pasta and regional Italian food are your thing, we suggest Mothers & Sons. And for inventive dishes served in an intimate dining room, consider Littler, all located in downtown Durham and steps from our hotel.

After dinner, stroll to a show or dance party at one of our local music venues, Pinhook or Motorco. Snag tickets to a concert, comedy show, or broadway hit at Durham Performing Arts Center, or head to The Fruit for performances ranging from dance to jazz to drama.

Cap off the day with a cocktail at one of Durham’s many excellent cocktail bars. We’re particularly partial to the Roof at The Durham where you can enjoy your drink overlooking the lights of downtown. Next door, you’ll find basement lounge, Kingfisher, where the focus is on local ingredients and personal service. Across the street is Alley Twenty Six where bespoke cocktails are served in a comfortable environment. For cocktail classics in a buzzy setting, try Bar Virgile.

Sleep well, and enjoy the Escazu Chocolate we left on your pillow while you were out.

For more, check out local resources Bites of Bull City, Best of the Bull, and Discover Durham.