In this article, I’ll list the best areas and places to stay in Durham. I recently spent 3 months house-sitting in Durham and really loved every minute of my time there. It’s an easily walkable city that’s nicely separated into some great areas to stay and spend your time in.
Having had family visit while I was there, I came to know the different sections of the city well. I’ve compiled some information on where might be best to stay in Durham NC.
Durham, North Carolina is a bustling city filled with great bars, restaurants, cafes, and things to do. Once known predominantly for its tobacco production, there’s a rich amount of American history to be discovered on almost every corner.
Today, the city has become a center for technology. Google has a building located right in the heart of the city, and Apple is also currently developing a property just a few miles outside of town.
Best Areas to Stay in Durham
Downtown Durham: Best Place To Stay in Durham for Your First Time
Downtown Durham is a great area that encompasses bars, restaurants, cafes, and breweries that are sure to keep you entertained. If you’re heading to Durham for the first time this is the best area to stay in Durham.
The area itself was undergoing a lot of development during my stay. Huge new apartment complexes were being built directly in the heart of things. This didn’t detract at all from my experience and is a testament to Downtown’s increasing popularity as the ‘place to be’.
Walk around for a few minutes and you’ll come across everything from a baseball field used in a Hollywood movie to some of the best bars and restaurants in Durham.
Best Places to Stay in Downtown Durham
Despite it being the best area to stay in Durham, Downtown doesn’t have any big hotels. It has more of a neighborhood feel to it, and therefore, apartments are the best option if you want to be in close proximity to everything.
1. Amazing apartment – In an ideal location and with the added bonus of parking. Located so close to the action that everything is a stone’s throw away and just one block from the many bars located around Geer Street. It’s also an equal distance to the famous Bulls Athletic Park. Click here for details.
2. Modern Apartment – Just a two-minute walk from the center of Downtown is this wonderfully modern and fully equipped apartment that includes parking, as well as a swimming pool – a real rarity for apartments in Durham neighborhoods. Click here for details.
3. Comfy Apartment – In a great location just a few minutes walk to Downtown, this entire apartment also has an outdoor communal pool and some great walking trails right outside the front door. It also features a full kitchen and lounge area to make you feel right at home. Click here for more details.
5 Top Things To Do in Downtown Durham
Downtown is one of the best neighborhoods in Durham, and not just because of the great number of cool bars and restaurants. There are also some cool historic sights and culturally significant points that really can’t be missed.
1. Visit The Durham Bulls Athletic Park: The Historic Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a major landmark. The team has now moved to a bigger stadium in the city center but games are still played here. The arena was the scene for the movie Bull Durham. The cult 80’s film put Durham on the map and is a proud part of history for many locals. Click here for directions.
2. Play Retro Arcade Games: If you like arcade games then look no further than Boxcar. This awesome bar and arcade is packed with all your favorite classics like Super Mario Bros and Pac-Man. There are also pinball machines, ping pong, pool, air hockey tables, cornholing, and foosball. Use the machines inside to get your tokens ($1 = 4 tokens). Click here for directions.
3. Have Fun Throwing Axes: Axe throwing is a fun activity for couples or groups of friends, and the staff at Urban Axes are awesome. They act as your instructor and guide throughout. If you want to release some stress or just want to do something primal and cool then this is the place for you. Click here for directions.
4. Go To A Gig: Motorco Music Hall is one of Durham’s best independent venues and hosts a real mixture of weekly live events. The 450-capacity venue doesn’t stick to any specific genre so you never know what musicians may be coming up on the schedule; it’s rather eclectic. It also has a cool adjoining terrace bar and street-food eatery. Click here for directions.
5. Take A Distillery Tour: Downtown is home to several distilleries and one of the best ways to get into the spirit of things is by taking a gin tour. Durham Distillery offers tours of their facility starting at just $10 which includes three samples of their gin. You can also book private guided tours, group visits, and tastings depending on your gin needs. Click here for directions.
Where to Eat and Drink in Downtown Durham
You certainly won’t be short of options for places to eat and drink Downtown. In my opinion, this is the best place to stay in Durham if you like cocktails and cool bars.
1. The Blue Note Grill – This very popular location is known as much for its barbecue as it is for its live music. It has an awesome ambiance akin to that of a Nashville honky-tonk, with bands and music events taking to the stage every night and afternoon it’s open.
The food at The Blue Note is highly rated by locals and is perhaps the most talked about place that I came across during my time in Durham. I can concur, the pulled pork plate is exceptional. Click here for directions.
2. Hutchins Garage – As the name suggests, this building was once a garage, but it now serves up some of the best pizza in Durham. With a lovely festoon-lit patio and a lively indoor restaurant, many locals make Hutchins a regular part of their week. The pizzas are large, fresh, and delicious – the hot honey pizza was my personal favorite. Click here for directions.
3. King’s Sandwich Shop – Located just across the street from the Historic Durham Athletic Park this hole-in-the-wall style food stand has been a fixture of downtown Durham since 1942. You can’t miss King’s iconic red and white building as you head down Geer Street.
They serve great sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs to go but also have a small covered patio area and limited free parking if you want to dine on-site. Click here for directions.
City Center: Best Area in Durham for Nightlife
In most big cities you can expect the city center to be the hub of a lot of nighttime activities. Durham is no different and has a host of bars, restaurants, after-hours clubs, and music venues to keep even the most energetic night owls content. Central Durham is also the primary location for the majority of bigger hotels in the city.
The Carolina Theater is an iconic landmark that sits just on the edge of the city center. It’s a popular place to visit for locals and tourists alike. Whether stopping in for a full gig in the 1000-seat Fletcher Hall or watching a movie in the adjacent cinema, the beautiful and historic building is worth a look.
Best Places to Stay in the City Center
The city center is one of the few places in Durham where you can find bigger resort-style hotels. If you’re looking for Durham hotels near nightlife this is the place to be. Though there are only a few of the better-known ‘chain’ hotels in town, there are a number of independent and ideally located places to stay in Durham Center if you know where to look.
1. Durham Marriott City Center – Perfectly located just steps from the main hub of Durham City Center, the Marriott is a modern hotel that has all the benefits you’d expect of a bigger chain brand. Some of these great features include an onsite bar and restaurant, parking, a fitness center, and 24-hour reception. Click here for details.
2. The Durham Hotel – This beautiful boutique hotel is one of the best places to stay in Durham. The elegant 1960s building was originally built as a bank and has since been stylishly transformed into an iconic Durham landmark. It features a panoramic terrace restaurant and bar, an in-house coffee shop, and business suite facilities. If you’re looking for a great central hotel, consider staying here in Durham NC. Click here for details.
5 Top Things To Do in Durham City Center
Durham is such a walkable city that offers an almost endless list of things to do to keep you occupied. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Watch A Ball Game: When staying in the center you’ll be just a short walk from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Bulls are a triple-A affiliated baseball team which means you’ll get to see some excellent ball players either working their way up to the major leagues or those that have just dropped down from there. Tickets start from as little as $10. Click here to find out more.
2. Have A Selfie With A Durham Icon: Durham is known as Bull City due to a brand of tobacco that was once made locally. “Major the Bull” is located in CCB Plaza and is a huge bronze statue that many believe symbolizes Durham’s revitalization post the tobacco era. Since 2002, Major has become a popular tourist attraction. Click here for directions.
3. Take A Walk Around The American Tobacco Campus: Running almost adjacent to the baseball stadium is the American Tobacco Campus, formerly the home of American Tobacco and now a beautiful complex of historical buildings and iconic landmarks. The iconic Lucky Strike water tower and chimney can be seen for miles around. Click here for directions.
4. Watch A Show At The Carolina Theater: The Carolina Theater is a beautiful, historic building that dates back to the silent movie days of the 1920s. All manner of events are held here from local dance recitals to full gigs by award-winning artists. The theater is the cultural hub of the city and the tickets are absolutely worth the money. Click here for directions.
5. Visit A Free Durham Museum: The Museum of Durham History is a small but very informative place to visit. This free museum uses the stories of people and artifacts to promote an understanding of diverse perspectives from Durham’s past. They accept donations and also sell some interesting historic Durham literature. Click here for directions.
Where to Eat and Drink in Durham City Center
The city center is, without doubt, the best neighborhood in Durham for food, and is the best spot for some unique bars too. Here are a few of my top picks:
1. Bull City Burger and Brewery – In my opinion, they sell the best burgers in Durham – they are huge, fresh, and delicious. It’s a casual setting with communal bench seating and an awesome adjoining bar that serves all kinds of craft beers. Click here for directions.
2. The Roof at The Durham – This place has an amazing panoramic terrace with unrivaled views of the city. They serve delicious locally sourced food and make some great cocktails too. It’s one of the coolest spots in Durham for sure. Click here for directions.
3. Pour Taproom – If you like having a massive beer selection then look no further than Pour. You sign in, get given a bracelet that activates any self-serve pump of your choosing, and away you go. With rotating taps and a terrific happy hour that includes $4 pints and $0.75 chicken wings, this is one of my favorite bars in Durham. Click here for directions.
9th Street: Coolest Place to Stay in Durham
Heading out of the city and to the other side of the Duke East Campus is a lively social hub situated around 9th Street. Easily accessible via public transport, Uber, or even a decent walk from downtown, this popular area has a real local vibe and is a great location if you like being out of the main drag but are looking for places to stay near Durham.
An added benefit of staying on 9th Street is the proximity to Duke Gardens just a mile or so away. The stunning and expansive botanical garden is a popular (and free) attraction that’s not to be missed. With the Duke campus right on your doorstep too, 9th is one of the coolest areas to stay in Durham.
Best Places to Stay around 9th Street
There’s a nice mix of hotels, apartments, and homes around 9th Street to choose from. Here are a few of my top suggestions:
1. Hilton Garden Inn – One of the few bigger chain hotels around that’s perfectly located for all that 9th Street has to offer. With an indoor pool, fitness center, and 24-hour front desk, the Hilton is a great option for all kinds of travelers. If you have a car, this is a great place to stay in Durham as parking is included free of charge. Click here for details.
2. The Lodge – Located at Duke Medical Center, The Lodge is a great option for exploring 9th Street as it’s just a few minutes walk away. The boutique hotel offers a free shuttle to a number of local attractions as well as a complimentary fitness center and free parking for all guests. Click here for details.
5 Top Things To Do on 9th Street
9th Street is ideally located for a number of great activities to keep you occupied. On top of the great bar and foodie scene, there are some excellent cultural locations to check out too.
1. Visit Duke Gardens: The Sarah P. Duke Gardens is one of the standout places to visit in Durham. The beautifully maintained botanical gardens house a mix of plants and rare flowers with lakes, wildlife, and open green areas littered along gentle trails. The Gardens are free to visit, and there’s an information center and a cafe there too. Click here for directions.
2. Walk The Duke Campus: Take a leisurely walk around one of the most famous universities in the US. The Duke East Campus has a 1.6-mile loop around the grounds and is a nice way to get some fresh air and exercise. You can also cut in at any juncture and admire the beautiful Georgian architecture and many monuments located all around. Click here for directions.
3. Learn About Durham’s History: The Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum is just a few minutes away from 9th Street. The former home of Washington Duke, a pioneer of the US tobacco industry, the museum is a well-preserved collection of 19th-century buildings and barns. It’s filled with interesting artifacts of Durham’s tobacco history. Click here for directions.
4. Watch A Softball Game: Tucked away in the far corner of the Duke East Campus nearest 9th Street is the Duke Softball Stadium. Regular Duke games as well as national competitions are held here regularly and tickets start from as little as $7. Click here for directions.
5. Challenge Yourself In An Escape Room: One of North Carolina’s most highly-rated escape rooms is found around 9th Street. Bull City Escape Rooms also boasts a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor. So, if you like getting yourself into (and out of) some tricky situations then this is the place for you. Click here for directions.
Where to Eat and Drink on 9th Street
9th Street has a great social scene and is the place to stay in Durham for nightlife, restaurants, and bars. Here’s a taster of my favorites:
1. Dain’s Place – A really cool bar that has a local feel to it but is very welcoming to newcomers. With bar seating, table service, and a handful of outdoor benches on 9th Street it’s a great spot to sink a few brews, eat some delicious bar snacks and watch the world go by. Their rotating taps and great happy hour deals are absolutely worth checking out. Click here for directions.
2. JuJu – Serving some delicious Asian fusion food and tapas, Juju is a super popular restaurant, not only on 9th Street but in Durham generally. Their extensive menu boasts a wealth of delicious dishes and they offer many great options for vegans and vegetarians too. Be sure to book ahead as this place often gets very busy. Click here for directions.
3. Cosmic Cantina – It’s easy to walk past this place without noticing the stairway leading to the restaurant but it’s well worth scouting out. I heard Cosmic Cantina offers the best burritos in Durham, and I can concur – they’re huge and delicious. They also serve up a full Mexican menu every day from 11 am-4 am. Click here for directions.
Trinity Park: Best for Families
During my 3 months in Durham, I stayed in Trinity Park. It’s a beautiful part of the city with tree-lined streets, parks, schools, and churches. The community spirit here is really high, and everyone says hello to you as you’re walking around. It felt like a really safe neighborhood in Durham to stay and I’m really glad I chose there.
As a location, Trinity Park is pretty perfect. It’s just a 10-minute walk to Downtown, a 15-minute walk to the City Center, and a 20-minute walk to 9th Street. With the Duke East Campus and the Warehouse District just minutes from your front door, I felt in the center of everything staying here.
Best Places to Stay in Trinity Park
Trinity Park is predominantly a residential area, so hotels don’t really exist around here. There are, however, a number of apartments and homes available to rent. Here are a few of the best options I found:
1. Comfy Apartment – In a great location close to both Downtown and Trinity Park, this entire apartment even has an outdoor pool. It also features a full kitchen and lounge area to make you really feel like you’re at home and not just passing through. Click here for more details.
2. Residence Inn by Marriott – These well-equipped studios and suites offer a blend of a hotel/apartment vibe that’s perfect for an extended trip. It’s ideally located for all of Durham’s attractions and is walkable to shops, bars, and restaurants. With a fitness center, 24-hour reception, and free breakfast as standard, this is a great option for all sorts of visitors to the city. Click here for details.
5 Top Things To Do in Trinity Park
Trinity Park is predominantly a residential area but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot going on. Staying here, you’ll be living like a local and will be ideally situated for many Durham attractions and events.
1. Catch A Free Concert In The Park: There’s a small park located within the area of Trinity Park (also known as Trinity Park). It regularly hosts free live music performances, poetry readings, and community events. There’s also a covered marquee for picnics, barbecue stations, plenty of seating, and a play area for children. Click here for directions.
2. Enjoy A Free Art Walk: On the third Friday of every month, a free art walk and gallery tour weaves its way around Durham and usually has more than a few stops in the Trinity Park neighborhood. The varying line-up of local exhibitors is a great way to interact with the community and learn more about artistic projects within the Durham area. Click here for directions.
3. Immerse Yourself In Durham’s History: Explore Durham’s rich and famous history by visiting the Warehouse District. Today, these buildings are predominantly converted into apartments, bars, cafes, and offices and stand as a historical reminder of Durham’s recent past. Click here for directions.
4. Admire The Neighborhood: One of my favorite things to do in Trinity Park is to walk around admiring the beautiful houses. There are some mega modern builds as well as houses of historic importance scattered around the neighborhood. Older houses are identified by plaques indicating their date of origin and significance. Click here for directions.
5. Get A Free Coffee: Duke Coffeehouse is a student-run music venue and coffee spot on the Duke East Campus. Only open for a few hours each weekend, and predominantly to Duke students, they also advertise on their website as being welcoming to the local community. Since 1967 they’ve been serving free coffee and hosting regular live music events. Click here for directions.
Where to Eat and Drink in Trinity Park
Trinity Park is mostly residential housing but is well located for some great nearby bars and restaurants. Here are a couple of my personal favorites:
1. Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom – Offering some of the best barbecue food in town, a terrific lunch special, and a host of great beers, Maverick’s is an excellent lunch, dinner, or drinking spot. With a large outdoor patio that overlooks the Brightleaf building, an extensive menu, and very competitive prices I really loved having this place as my local. Click here for directions.
2. Devine’s Restaurant and Sports Bar – A casual dive-bar-style setting that shows most live sporting events and hosts live music every weekend. They serve up some terrific bar food (their chicken wings are great) and offer a decent selection of craft beers. Devine’s has a real local feel to it and also has a good patio for watching the world go by. Click here for directions.
3. Goorsha – This highly-rated restaurant serves unique Ethiopian dishes such as chicken stewed in a Berber sauce and savory lamb leg soup that you’ll do well to find anywhere else. With a great selection of vegan and vegetarian options too and a terrific cocktail menu, I recommended booking ahead to avoid disappointment. Click here for directions.
Southpoint: Best Place in Durham on a Budget
A few miles south of central Durham is a popular area known as Southpoint. Here, you’ll find some of the best shopping, places to eat, and hotels in the area. It’s ideally located for access to the RTP (Research Triangle Park) and is closer to the airport and neighboring city Raleigh.
Although perhaps better suited to those staying on business or looking to save a few bucks by being a little further from central Durham, I believe Southpoint has many great qualities that should be factored in when booking a trip to Durham.
Best Places to Stay in Southpoint
Southpoint sees a lot of business travelers and therefore has a number of bigger ‘chain’ hotels. The benefit of this means there are often some good deals to be had for accommodation that will also include bonus amenities that you won’t necessarily find in central Durham. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Holiday Inn – A familiar and reliable name in the hotel business and with the added benefit of a free shuttle to all attractions within a 5-mile radius. Access to an outdoor pool, free parking, and a fitness center come as standard with every room. A free complimentary breakfast is also included in the price. Click here for more details.
2. Hyatt Place – Just minutes from the bustling Streets at Southpoint and featuring a fantastic outdoor pool, the Hyatt is another great option when considering cheap places to stay in Durham. The center of Durham is just 7.5 miles away and is easily accessible via public transport and taxis/ride-sharing services. Click here for more details.
3. Hilton Garden Inn – Packed with amenities on-site, but close enough to the Streets at Southpoint Mall that you’ll be spoiled for choice. The Hilton houses two restaurants, a fitness center, and an indoor swimming pool and is only 15 minutes from RDU International Airport. Click here for more details.
5 Top Things To Do in Southpoint
Staying in Southpoint means you’ll be a little bit out of the main center of Durham but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a ton of things to keep you busy. Here are a few of my top recommendations:
1. Shop Till You Drop: One of the main benefits of staying in Southpoint will be your proximity to The Streets at Southpoint – a huge shopping complex featuring every kind of store you could comprehend. Give yourself a good few hours to browse and wear comfortable shoes as you’ll easily rack up the steps looking around here. Click here for directions.
2. Enjoy Sunsets On The Promenade: The actual streets at Southpoint are a popular attraction in their own right. In fact, many people solely go for the pretty festoon-lit promenade of outdoor shops and the beautiful vintage street lights and water fountains that line the walkway. It’s a cool place to be as the sun begins to set and the lights turn on. Click here for directions.
3. Go Wild With Your Dining At The Southpoint Mall Food Court: With 26 different options available, they have everything from casual coffee and snack places to fancier sit-down eateries. So, whether you like sushi and sake or burgers and beers, you’ll find something for everyone here. Click here for directions.
4. Catch A Free Outdoor Gig: The Streets at Southpoint holds weekly live music sessions featuring local bands and artists on their Cinema Circle outdoor stage. The events take place from 6 pm-9 pm, are free to attend, are family-friendly, and are a great way to spend an evening as the street lights and festoons come to life. Click here for directions.
5. Explore Raleigh With A Beer: You can easily take a day trip to the state capitol of North Carolina – Raleigh as it’s just a 25-minute drive from Southpoint. I recommend booking a trolley pub tour of Raleigh so you can sink a few drinks as you explore all the wonders that the neighboring big city has to offer. Click here for details.
Where to Eat and Drink in Southpoint
Thanks to the Streets at Southpoint being so close by, you’ll have many food and drink options available. Here are a few places outside of the mall that shouldn’t be overlooked:
1. Pulcinella’s Italian Restaurant – Open since 1994 and a popular local restaurant, Pulcinella’s serves traditional southern Italian cooking and New York-style pizza. With a real emphasis on the traditions and values of Italian cooking, the quality of the food and atmosphere is super inviting. They have some great online and weekly deals too. Click here for directions.
2. Chubby’s Tacos – This delightfully named restaurant and dive bar is passionate about serving the freshest and best tacos around. With an ethos of ‘real smiles, real epic food, real cold cerveza’, it’s easy to see why Chubby’s has gone from serving tacos on a table in Oaxaca, Mexico to two permanent locations in North Carolina. Click here for directions.
3. Town Hall Burger & Beer – Town Hall is known for their creative approach to cooking and for serving up some truly awesome food. From man n’ cheese patties to Mediterranean lamb kebabs it’s easy to notice that this isn’t your average burger joint. Their rotating taps and casual bar environment make this a really enjoyable place to visit. Click here for directions.
Best Areas to Stay in Durham: FAQs
There are a number of great areas for tourists In Durham. My personal favorites are Downtown Durham and the City Center. There are so many bars, restaurants, and things to do, however, that all areas are great places to stay for visitors.
Trinity Park is a mostly residential area of beautiful homes, tree-lined streets, parks, schools, and churches. The friendly neighborhood and close community vibe make this one of the safest places in Durham to stay, but the city as a whole is safe.
That being said, as with any travel destination, be sure to use common sense; keep your valuables close and avoid dimly lit areas you’re unfamiliar with alone.
Like most big cities, there are a few areas that are probably best avoided. Though exact statistics are hard to come by, East and North Durham are known to have higher crime rates.
Southpoint is about 7.5 miles from central Durham but is home to The Streets at Southpoint where you’ll find over 170 stores covering all your consumer needs. There are also many dining options, free live music events, and ample free parking for visitors.
Durham is a very walkable city and it’s easy to get around, but depending on your requirements you should weigh up a few different areas. If you’re wondering where to stay in Durham for nightlife, consider either the City Center or Downtown to be amongst the many cool bars and restaurants. Trinity Park is much quieter and more residential.
There are many beautiful areas, and it’s a subjective question, but my favorite area is Trinity Park. Being so close to the Duke Campus and surrounded by tree-lined streets and amazing houses to admire made it a truly beautiful and peaceful area to stay.
In relation to other American cities, Durham is not a big city. It has a population of just under 300,000 people meaning it ranks 71st of US cities according to population numbers. This gives Durham a friendly local community vibe and means it’s pretty easy to get around.
The Durham Hotel is where to stay in Durham city center for luxury. It’s an old historic building that was originally a bank and has now been transformed into an elegant boutique hotel with modern aesthetics and mid-century touches. It features a rooftop bar and restaurant with panoramic views of the city.
Carolina, Kura, and Wrightsville beaches are all about a 2.5-3 hours drive heading southeast out of Durham towards Wilmington.
There are some really great neighborhoods to stay in Durham. Whether you’re looking for exceptional nightlife, great shopping, or some peace and tranquillity, you’re sure to find it here. Depending on your needs, consider which of Durham’s main areas is best for you. If a pool is a must-have, maybe a bigger hotel just outside of the city will be more suitable.
Price can of course play a huge role when deciding where to stay. Consider your requirements carefully and decide whether being central and paying a premium for that privilege is really what you’re looking for. Perhaps staying a bit further out will give you more options for your trip. Durham is a great city, enjoy!