Explore Derry: The Ultimate Guide to the Walled City

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Welcome to Derry, a city that combines a rich history and vibrant culture, offering diverse experiences for every traveller. Derry promises an unforgettable journey from ancient sites to modern attractions and a thriving arts scene. It sits at the intersection of two of the most scenic driving routes in the world, the Causeway Coastal Route and the Wild Atlantic Way. Derry City is a perfect base to start your adventure in Ireland. Let’s embark on an adventure to explore the wonders of the Walled City!

Key Takeaways

  • Explore Derry: a historically significant city offering cultural experiences and iconic attractions.
  • Discover its 17th-century walls, St Columb’s Cathedral, Bogside Murals & Peace Bridge/Ebrington Square.
  • Enjoy outdoor activities, food & drink offerings, festivals, and events celebrating the city’s vibrant culture.

Discovering Derry: History and Culture

Derry, also known as Derry City, is Northern Ireland’s second city and harbours a rich history that stretches back to the 6th century. Nestled on the River Foyle’s banks in County Londonderry, Derry mixes monastic settlements, historic city gates, and a bustling city centre in the northwest region of Northern Ireland.

Attractions like the Quayside Shopping Centre and the Craft Village offer a blend of historical and contemporary experiences for visitors to Derry’s city centre.

St. Columb’s Cathedral

As Derry’s oldest surviving building, St. Columb’s Cathedral embodies the city’s architectural grandeur and historical richness. Dating back to 1633, this magnificent edifice showcases breathtaking architecture and stained-glass windows, reflecting the city’s religious and artistic heritage.

The cathedral’s significance extends beyond its beauty, as it represents the first post-reformation cathedral constructed for an Anglican church. Visitors can marvel at the inscription on the stone on the porch, which reads: “If stones could speak, then London’s prayers should resound, For the one who built this church and city from the ground”.

Bogside Murals

A collection of compelling street art pieces, the Bogside Murals mirror Derry’s tumultuous history, significantly portraying The Troubles. These murals serve as a poignant reminder of the city’s past, allowing visitors to reflect on the struggles and resilience of Derry’s people.

Notable murals in Derry include:

  • The Free Derry Corner, initially created by teenager John Caker Casey in 1969
  • The Bloody Sunday Memorial, which commemorates the tragic massacre of 1972
  • The Che Guevara mural, dedicated to the Women of Derry and featuring Countess Markievicz and Ethel Lynch, who both fought for their people and their city.

Exploring the Walled City

Featuring remarkably preserved 17th-century walls and historic buildings with breathtaking city views, the historic Walled City of Derry is an attraction not to be missed. Constructed between 1613 and 1619, the city walls stand 8 meters high and 9 meters thick, encircling the city center and symbolizing Derry’s resilience.

Derry’s walls have withstood the test of time, earning the city the nickname “Maiden City” due to their unbreached status. Originally, there were only four entrances (or gates) into the walled city i.e. Bishop’s Gate, Shipquay Gate, Ferryquay Gate and Butcher’s Gate – arranged in a cross pattern with the Diamond at its centre. When under attack, drawbridges and portcullises were used to protect some of the Gates.

  • Bishop’s Gate
  • Ferryquay Gate
  • Butcher Gate
  • Shipquay Gate

Later were added New Gate (1789), Castle Gate (1803) and Magazine Gate (1865). The original gates were themselves re-built in the 18th and 19th centuries. Between 1805 and 1810 the actual wooden gates were removed from all of the Gates.

Each gate holds its own historical significance.

The Siege of Derry, a 105-day siege from 1688 to 1689, is one of the most notable events in the city’s history, with thirteen Protestant Apprentice Boys closing the gates on the Catholic King James. The walls stand as a testament to the city’s perseverance and survival, serving as a beacon of hope and strength for generations to come.

The Peace Bridge and Ebrington Square

As a symbol of unity and progress, the Peace Bridge arches over the River Foyle, linking the Protestant Waterside to the Nationalist Bogside. This beautiful walking path serves as a reminder of Derry’s journey towards peace and reconciliation, bridging the once-divided communities.

Ebrington Square, located near the Peace Bridge, is a lively public space that hosts a variety of events and gatherings, including concerts, conferences, and outdoor performances. This bustling area adds a modern touch to Derry’s historic charm, offering visitors a taste of the city’s vibrant spirit and dedication to progress.

Derry’s Museums: Preserving History

An image of the exterior of one of Derry's museums, showcasing the city's rich history and cultural heritage of Derry.

The city’s museums meticulously maintain Derry’s rich history, providing visitors with engaging exhibits that profoundly understand its past. The Tower Museum is a great example of the city’s powerful history. It houses two permanent exhibitions – The Story of Derry and An Armada Shipwreck – La Trinidad Valencera, as well as other temporary displays. From the summit of the Tower Museum, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the inner city, River Foyle and county Londonderry.

The Free Derry Museum is dedicated to the Battle of Bogside, Bloody Sunday, and Operation Motorman, highlighting the city’s role in the civil rights movement and its ongoing quest for justice. Through powerful exhibits, the museum brings Derry’s tumultuous history to life, allowing visitors to reflect on the city’s resilience and progress.

Another notable museum is the Siege Museum, which showcases the history of the Siege of Londonderry and the Associated Clubs of the Apprentice Boys of Derry. This permanent display features artefacts, video, and interactive media, providing an immersive experience for visitors to learn about this significant event in the city’s history.

Beyond these museums, unique accommodation options such as Bishop’s Gate Hotel, Shipquay Boutique Hotel, and Larchmount House B&B also offer glimpses into Derry’s past, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the city’s history.

These museums and historic sites serve as important reminders of Derry’s past, providing engaging experiences for visitors who wish to connect with the city’s rich heritage and learn about the events that have shaped its future.

Derry Girls: A Pop Culture Phenomenon

A view of the cast of the hit show Derry Girls

Thanks to the popular TV show Derry Girls, the city has also earned recognition as a pop culture destination. Set in the 1990s during The Troubles, this comedy series follows the lives of a group of teenagers navigating the complexities of their world, offering a lighthearted look at the city’s history.

Fans of the show can visit iconic filming locations, such as the Derry Girls Mural, commissioned by Channel 4 and designed by UV Arts, located on the side of Badger’s Bar and Restaurant at 18 Orchard Street. The Derry Girls Experience, a temporary exhibition at the Tower Museum, provides another opportunity for fans to immerse themselves in the world of the hit show.

The success of Derry Girls has put the city on the map for pop culture enthusiasts, drawing in visitors from around the world and showcasing Derry’s vibrant spirit and enduring charm.

Outdoor Adventures in Derry

A view of the outdoor adventures in Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry offers a variety of outdoor activities for those in search of adventure. Stand-up paddleboarding on the River Foyle is a popular choice, with companies like City Paddle Boards and Far and Wild providing guided experiences. This unique water sport allows visitors to take in the city’s stunning views while enjoying the tranquility of the river.

Derry is also home to several parks and nature reserves, such as:

  • River Foyle
  • Brooke Park
  • St. Columb’s Park
  • Ness Wood
  • Bay Road Nature Reserve

These green spaces, supported by the city council, provide opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and picnicking, allowing visitors to connect with the city’s natural beauty.

For those looking to venture further afield, scenic coastal drives along the Causeway Coast, County Londonderry the Antrim Coast, and the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal offer breathtaking views and opportunities to explore the surrounding areas. With such a diverse range of outdoor activities, Derry is the perfect destination for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike.

Food and Drink in Derry

With a mix of traditional Irish cuisine, modern dining options, and local craft breweries, Derry’s food and drink scene caters to diverse palates. Visitors can indulge in classic Irish dishes like colcannon, Irish stew, and soda bread, or explore the city’s diverse culinary landscape and sample international flavors.

For those interested in local brews, the Walled City Brewery is a must-visit destination, offering craft beers and a unique dining experience. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty meal or a refreshing pint, Derry’s food and drink scene promises a satisfying and memorable experience.

Getting to and Around Derry

Various transportation options facilitate easy access to and around Derry. Some options include:

  • City of Derry Airport: Offers flights from airlines like Loganair and Ryanair, providing convenient access to the city from London heathrow, Glasgow and more
  • Train: Provides connections to major cities like Belfast and Dublin.
  • Bus: Offers transportation options for getting around the city and connecting to other destinations.
  • Car: Allows for flexibility and convenience in exploring the area.

These transportation options make it easy to access and navigate Derry.

Within the city, a walkable city center and public transport options like the Derry Hop On Hop Off bus make it simple to explore the city’s attractions and navigate its streets. For those looking to explore beyond the city limits, renting a car is a great option, offering the freedom to discover nearby parks, nature reserves, and scenic coastal drives.

Whether traveling by air via Dublin Airport, train, or road, Derry’s accessible location and transportation options ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey for visitors.

Accommodation Options in Derry

A range of accommodation options in Derry caters to different types of travelers and budgets. Budget-friendly hostels, such as Carrowmena Activity Centre and Glamping, Hostel Connect, and Fairman House Independent Hostel, provide affordable lodging for those looking to save on their stay.

For a more luxurious experience, visitors can choose from highly-rated hotels like Bishop’s Gate Hotel, Shipquay Boutique Hotel, and Everglades Hotel. Unique accommodations, such as historic inns and bed and breakfasts, also add to the charm of Derry, offering guests a chance to immerse themselves in the city’s rich history and culture.

Festivals and Events in Derry

Derry and wider County Derry bursts into life throughout the year with a plethora of festivals and events, celebrating the city’s vibrant culture and strong community spirit. The city’s famous Halloween celebrations, for example, feature the Awakening of the Walls and the Return of the Ancients Parade, transforming the city into a supernatural wonderland.

In addition to seasonal festivities, Derry hosts the Foyle Film Festival, showcasing the best of Irish and international cinema, and a lively music scene with live performances spanning various genres. These events offer visitors a chance to engage with the city’s creative energy and experience its unique cultural offerings.


From its rich history and cultural attractions to its diverse food and drink scene, outdoor adventures, and lively festivals, Derry Londonderry offers an unforgettable experience for travelers. The city’s blend of ancient sites, modern amenities, and resilient spirit make it a must-visit destination for history buffs, pop culture enthusiasts, and adventure seekers alike.

As you explore the Walled City, immerse yourself in the stories of Derry’s past and present, and discover the warmth and charm that make this city truly special. Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or an extended stay, Derry promises a memorable journey filled with unforgettable moments and lasting connections in the North West of Ireland

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I call it Derry or Londonderry?

It’s generally accepted to use “Derry” among the locals; however, “Londonderry” is the legal and official name. As such, it’s better to refer to it as “Londonderry” in political discussions. You’ll often hear it being called, and on most signposts, Derry Londonderry as and to both “sides” 

Is Derry Catholic or Protestant?

Derry City is predominantly Catholic, with only a small Protestant community near the city walls known as the Fountain.

Why is Derry famous?

Derry is renowned for its role in the Northern Irish Civil Rights Movement, and is home to Bogside wall murals depicting its history of conflict. It is also celebrated for its vibrant culture, offering Irish traditional music, pubs, restaurants and more.

Is Derry Catholic or Londonderry?

Derry is traditionally used by Catholics, while Londonderry is used by Protestants. Its name dates back to 546, when it was known as ‘dore’, which means oak grove. However, in 1613 the Corporation of London extended its name to Londonderry in recognition of their role in the Protestant settlement of the place.

What are the most popular attractions in Derry?

Derry’s most popular attractions include the City Medieval Walls, Bloody Sunday Memorial, Murals, Peace Bridge, and Derry Girls Mural.

About the author

Originally from Scotland, Colin now resides near the beautiful seaside town of Portstewart on the Causeway Coastal Route. By day he works in IT and by day off he spends much of his time travelling around the Island with his young family, writing about his experiences for many sites both locally and nationally.