Belfast & Northern Ireland

Derry City Top Ten

more than a year ago
Northern Ireland's second, and Ireland's fourth, largest city is small enough to explore on foot yet bursting with history and culture. To get the most from your stay, here is our Beginner's Guide to the city with more monikers than P. Diddy. Pay attention at the back.

Derry, Londonderry, Stroke City, the Maiden City: what's in a name? Most locals use Derry, but many Protestant Unionists prefer Londonderry. The original name of Derry came from Doire, the Irish for 'oak grove surrounded by bog'.

'London' was added in the 17th Century when King James I's Plantation of Ulster reapportioned land from Irish Catholics to newly settled English Protestants. London's powerful trades guilds invested in the settlement, hence the new name.

Maiden City refers to the impregnable walls which held out during the 1688-89 Siege of Derry. And Stroke City was local radio presenter Gerry Anderson's neutral solution to the political impasse.

Derry is the Dubrovnik of the North and Ireland's most complete walled city. Over 1.5kms of walls encircle the centre, providing a unique walkway and affording panoramic views of the surrounding area. These impressive 17th Century stone fortifications can be accessed by clearly signposted steps, with information plaques guiding you through the city's historic heart and often turbulent past.

Bus, boat, taxi and walking tours leave no historical stone unturned and no curious question unanswered. Bus tours take you through the centre, Catholic Nationalist Bogside and across the River Foyle's two bridges to the more mixed Waterside. Walking tours of the Bogside, site of the infamous Bloody Sunday and Free Derry Corner and home to the Museum of Free Derry, bring this pivotal moment in modern history to life as locals retrace events and recall their own personal experiences. Taxi tours provide similarly indepth commentaries on Derry's political history. The Foyle Cruiser tootles along the eponymous river at a sedate pace, with onboard commentary providing information on the city's maritime history.

After a major revamp, the city centre Tower Museum's permanent exhibition traces the story of Spanish Armada ship, La Trinidad Valencera. This large, heavily armed vessel sank off the Donegal coast in 1588 and lay undiscovered until 1971. The exhibition features artefacts from the wreck and state-of-the-art interactive displays.

The Millennium Forum (Newmarket St, tel.
(+44) (0)28 7126 4455), Playhouse (Artillery St, tel. (+44) (0)28 7126 1884), Nerve Centre (Magazine St, tel. (+44) (0)28 7126 0562) and Verbal Arts Centre (Bishop St. Within, tel. (+44) (0)28 7126 6946) are the city's main arts, culture and entertainment venues. Big name performers, touring productions and community-lead projects dominate their events calendars. And every Halowe'en the city goes wild with a freaky festival renowned throughout the land. Book your overnight early to experience this sparklingly spooky spectacle.

Discover a selection of niche shops and boutiques among the city centre's side streets, including the quaint Craft Village. Mall rats can scurry around the shiny happy Foyleside Centre and Richmond Centre. Both are within the city walls and very easy to find (if in doubt, ask a local).

Retail junkies will be astounded to learn that Derry is home to the world's oldest independent department store. Dominating a corner of central hub The Diamond, the magnificent Austins predates Jenners, Harrods and Macys though this five storey Edwardian building has sadly fallen victim to the ravages of the high street and is now closed. 

For a city so small, Derry has spawned an impressive array of luminaries. From Eurovision to Top of the Pops, Pop Stars to Labour's 1997 election campaign, The Undertones, Phil Coulter, Dana, Josef Locke, D:Ream and Girls Aloud's Nadine Coyle have each contributed to Stroke City's musical legacy. And C4's Derry Girls has put the city's 90s troubled teen scene in the comedy spotlight. 

The food scene has come a long way in a relatively short space of time. Pubs offer great value grub and Café Calm (Shipquay Place, (+44) (0)7889 963858) is a good spot for a strong coffee before hopping on a bus tour. The Exchange (Queen's Quay, tel.
(+44) (0)28 7127 3990), Quaywest (Boating Club Lane, tel. (+44) (0)28 7137 0977), Mange 2 (Clarendon St, (+44) (0)28 7136 1222) and Italian Dananos (Lower Clarendon St, tel. (+44) (0)28 7126 5465) are four of the coolest restaurants in town.

Traditional pubs, contemporary bars and full-on nightclubs dominate the city centre's social scene. Peadar O'Donnell's (Waterloo St, tel.
(+44) (0)28 7137 2318) is a fantastic drinking hole crammed with curios and ephemera, as befits an authentic Irish pub. The traditional music sessions keep locals and culture-hungry tourists coming back for more - as well they should.

The adjoining Gweedore Bar provides a spiritual haven for hardcore, indie types still mourning the untimely demise of Cobain, Hendrix and, dare we say, Mercury. Live rock and metal bands wah wah into the wee small hours while the grunge brigade shift from 21st Century angst to drink-fuelled lust. Great stuff.

The Metro (Bank Place, tel.
(+44) (0)28 7126 7401) is a more contemporary bar/nightclub attracting sparkly 21+ers and their rugby shirted boyfs. Clubbers can cut some serious shapes at Sugar (Shipquay St, tel. (+44) (0)28 7126 6017), Earth (Strand Rd, tel. (+44) (0)28 7136 0556) or, 60km away in Portrush, Lush (Bushmills Rd, tel. (+44) (0)28 7082 6611). Pepe's (Strand Rd, tel. (+44) (0)28 7137 4002) is Derry's only gay bar.

10. GO TO SLEEP...
in one of several city centre hotels, hostels and B&Bs. The 4-star City Hotel and Bishop's Gate Hotel are closest to the action and ideal if you've a bit of money to spend. The Everglades is also 4-star, though a short taxi ride from town. As is the 3-star Ramada Da Vinci's.

The 2-star Travelodge offers cheap, no frills rooms slap bang in the city centre. While Derry City Independent Hostel (Gt. James St, tel.
(+44) (0)28 7128 0542), and Paddy's Palace (Asylum Rd, tel. (+44) (0)28 7130 9051) provide no nonsense, good fun, cheap accommodation.

For more information on all events, tours and accommodation in, call into the Derry Visitor & Convention Bureau, 1 Waterloo Place, tel. (+44) (0)28 7126 7284.


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