Destination Derry: Embrace the Walled City’s Charm

Derry, or Londonderry as it's sometimes called, is a city with a rich history, vibrant culture, and a unique spirit. As travel advisors specializing in Ireland, we can confidently say that Derry is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an authentic Irish experience.

Why Visit Derry?

Derry offers a fascinating blend of old and new. Its most iconic feature is the 17th-century city walls, the only completely intact walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples in Europe. The walls offer a unique perspective of the city and its surroundings, and are a testament to Derry's resilient past.

Beyond the walls, Derry's streets are filled with colorful murals, historic buildings, and lively pubs. The city has a thriving arts scene, with numerous galleries and theaters showcasing local talent. Foodies will also delight in Derry's culinary offerings, from traditional Irish fare to innovative modern cuisine.

The Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Derry is during the shoulder seasons, spring and autumn. The weather is usually mild, and the crowds are smaller than during the peak summer season. If you enjoy festivals, Derry hosts several throughout the year, including the Foyle Maritime Festival and the Halloween Carnival, renowned for being one of the largest in Europe. Held over the course of several days in late October, the Derry Halloween Carnival features a vibrant costume parade, live music and entertainment, spooky walking tours, and a spectacular fireworks display. The city is transformed into a wonderland of ghouls, ghosts, and goblins, with locals and visitors alike embracing the festive spirit. Don't forget to dress up in your most creative costume and join the fun!

Must-See and Do Attractions

Destination Derry

Courtesy of Visit Derry

  • The City Walls: A walk along the walls is a must for any visitor to Derry. The 1.5-kilometer circuit offers stunning views of the city and the River Foyle below. Informative plaques along the way tell the story of Derry's long and fascinating history, from its founding by Saint Columba in the 6th century to its role in the Siege of Derry in the 17th century and the Troubles in the recent past. As you walk, keep an eye out for the four original bastions and seven gates that pierce the walls. Don't miss the Free Derry Corner, a section of the wall famous for its murals depicting the city's civil rights struggles.
  • The Guildhall: This magnificent building, constructed in the 17th century, is a symbol of Derry's civic pride. Its exterior is adorned with intricate stonework, and its grand clock tower dominates the city skyline. Stepping inside, visitors are greeted by a soaring Gothic hall with a beautiful stained-glass window depicting the city's coat of arms. The Guildhall also houses a museum that tells the story of Derry's history, from its medieval origins to its role in the Troubles. The museum's collection includes artifacts, photographs, and documents that bring Derry's past to life.
  • The Bogside: This historic neighborhood on the west bank of the River Foyle is best explored on foot. A walking tour is a great way to learn about the area's rich history and see the famous murals that adorn the gable walls of houses. These murals were created by local artists during the Troubles as a form of political expression. They depict events such as Bloody Sunday, a pivotal moment in the Northern Ireland conflict, and portraits of hunger strikers and civil rights activists. The murals are a powerful reminder of Derry's troubled past, but they also celebrate the community's resilience and its hope for a brighter future.
  • The Peace Bridge: This modern pedestrian bridge, designed by London-based architects Wilkinson Eyre and opened in 2013, spans the River Foyle and symbolizes Derry's commitment to peace and reconciliation. The bridge's design is unique, featuring two bowed sections that meet in the middle to form a circle. This circle is said to represent completeness and hope for the future.  A walk across the Peace Bridge is a must-do for any visitor to Derry, offering stunning views of the city skyline and the surrounding countryside. The bridge has also become a popular spot for locals and visitors to gather and enjoy the fresh air and scenic views.
  • St. Columb's Cathedral: This imposing cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and houses many historical artifacts, including a beautiful stained-glass window depicting St. Columba himself. Construction of the cathedral began in the 17th century and was not completed until the 19th century. The cathedral's interior is awe-inspiring, with soaring ceilings, ornate stonework, and a magnificent organ. 
Destination Derry Guild Hall

© Tourism Ireland by Richard Watson

Day Trips from Derry

Derry's location makes it an ideal base for exploring the surrounding area. Here are a few day trip options:

  • The Giant's Causeway: This UNESCO World Heritage site is a natural wonder consisting of thousands of hexagonal basalt columns, formed by an ancient volcanic eruption. The causeway's unique geological features have inspired myths and legends for centuries. Visitors can walk along the causeway, marveling at the geometric perfection of the columns. The nearby visitor center offers exhibits that explain the science behind the causeway's formation.
  • The Inishowen Peninsula: This scenic peninsula in County Donegal is a great escape from the urban environment. Dramatic cliffs hug the coastline, with crashing waves and secluded beaches. Hikers can enjoy trails that lead past ancient ruins and offer panoramic views. Foodies will love the fresh seafood caught in the nearby waters. The charming villages dotting the peninsula have a strong sense of community and Gaelic culture, with traditional music spilling out of pubs in the evenings.
  • Glenveagh National Park: This park boasts stunning mountain scenery, a beautiful lake (Lough Veagh), and a historic castle (Glenveagh Castle). The park is a haven for wildlife, with deer, foxes, and a variety of birds making their home here. Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, and horse riding on the park's many trails. The park's Victorian-era Glenveagh Castle is open to the public for tours, offering a glimpse into the lives of the wealthy family who once owned the estate.
  • Donegal Town: A bit further out but still an easy day trip, this bustling town is a great place to experience Donegal's unique culture and heritage.

Derry and its surrounding area offer a wealth of experiences for travelers of all interests. Whether you're drawn to history, culture, nature, or simply a friendly atmosphere, Derry is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Ready to plan your Derry adventure?
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Copyright: Tourism Ireland

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