Welcome to Londonderry, Northern Ireland!
Walk among the stone walls of the old city enjoying the cobblestone streets and visit one of Ireland’s coolest up-and-coming tourist cities. Although smaller than places like Dublin or Belfast, Derry (as it is more popularly called) can trace its history back to the 20-foot walls that surround the city. Londonderry is the only completely walled-in city in Europe, and in the 1600s, it outlasted a 105-day siege by the Catholic forces of James II, who was fighting against what was a predominantly Protestant population.
Londonderry may not be as popular as a tourist hotspot as some other larger cities in Ireland, but a worldwide local knows that sometimes the smaller cities are the ones that are truly special. Besides, Londonderry is full of as much history and charm as most other cities in Ireland. This insider’s guide will unleash some of the best spots to hit while visiting Londonderry.
Worldwide Local Tip: The city’s name is somewhat a point of political contention. Some refer to the county as Londonderry and the city as “Derry,” but the local city council calls it Derry and the UK government refers to it as Londonderry. Signs in Northern Ireland call it Londonderry, while signs in the Republic of Ireland call it Derry. So really, there is no right or wrong answer, but as a visitor to the city, it’ll probably be preferable for most to refer to it simply as Derry.
Start with a Step into History
Before you check out the Londonderry restaurants or bars, as a worldwide local you should familiarize yourself with the local history. That’s why your first stop in Derry should be to check out the 17th-century walls. The massive walls are all still in very good condition considering their age, and the fact that the city was besieged for over 100 days. Check out the gates, bastions, battlements, and cannons that line the walls. The walls also provide an amazing view of the old city which retains its renaissance style layout, and there is a great museum with tours that can give you the official history of these amazing old walls.
Worldwide Local Tip: After the tour of the walls head, towards the nearby Peace Bridge. The bridge was built to unite the Protestant population of one side and the Catholic population of the other. After crossing the bridge, head to Ebrington Square and have a pint at the Walled City Brewery.
Street Art in Derry
Local art is often an expression of local life and the culture that belongs to a place. Derry has its fair share of art that is often found on walls and murals. The great thing about the street art scene in Derry is that it is often both a history lesson and work of art, meant both to be appreciated and learned from. Rent a bike and track down some of Derry’s most beautiful murals or join a tour that takes people all over town, to see them and learn about life in Derry. A lot of the wall art and murals depict life during the time known as “The Troubles.” A worldwide local knows that taking in the local art is a great way to acclimate to a new city, and a fantastic way to wander the city, appreciating the Londonderry weather.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re interested in diving deeper into the history of Ireland and Londonderry/Derry during the time of troubles, check out the Museum of Free Derry, and get some insight into Ireland’s civil rights movement and history.
Explore the Surrounding Area
Derry is a beautiful city, but sometimes a worldwide local wants to get out of the city a bit and head out into the more rural parts--the Londonderry air will taste even sweeter when you return. Northern Ireland has plenty of natural beauty, and perhaps one of the most beautiful parts of the country is the legendary Giant’s Causeway. Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s as beautiful as it is mystical. The result of an ancient volcanic explosion is now a place of great beauty with the sea, fresh air, and massive rock structures.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re planning a trip to Giant’s Causeway, hopping on the Derry-Coleraine Railway is the way to go. The route is absolutely beautiful and scenic, with rolling green landscapes, large basalt hills, and the sea hitting the coast. The trip there is almost as gorgeous as the actual destination. Don’t forget your camera, because there are moments you want to capture!
Enjoy Your Stay!
Derry has had its fair share of history and turmoil, but it’s truly one of Ireland’s most interesting cities. A worldwide local knows that a city without history lacks character. Luckily, Derry has an abundance!