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Shop local – Discover Durham Markets

Durham market

When you arrive at Durham, you do not simply join a University, or enter a college: you become part of an entire community. Each of these groups has its own centre, around which its activities revolve – each College has its common room, the heart of University life is your College and the Student Union…and the hub of the Durham community at large is Durham Marketplace.

Durham Market Place

Historic city centre

The Market Place boasts a quite phenomenal provenance. A fine example of Victorian architecture, it has as much form as it does function. In a city blessed with a Norman Cathedral, it’s quite the achievement for any building to stand out. Durham’s Indoor Market does so effortlessly.

Of course, the Market is not simply a shell. Its architectural beauty is only an addition to its true and traditional function – that of trading. Imagine, if you will, yourself as a student of Durham University…but, no longer in the year 2021. Instead, envisage yourself as a member of the Class of 1821. Having arrived by horse and cart, you were unable to carry many of your belongings. Your first task is therefore to find a place to purchase such necessaries (you will, after all, look rather ridiculous arriving at your classes without notepaper). Understandably exhausted by your travels, you dread the thought of travelling far and wide on such a search – so, imagine your relief at finding that everything you could potentially wish for is conveniently clustered under a single roof.

Actually, this imaginary historical scenario is not particularly far from today’s reality. As the businesses formerly resident in central Durham continue to move out to the peripheries, the past is repeating itself: the Marketplace has again adopted a crucial function. Inevitably, your move to University will result in at least one utterly crucial item left behind – be it bedsheets, teacups, or wardrobe hangers. In my case, it was towels!

Lots of stall all under one roof

Where to buy what you need?

Durham’s high streets, as I myself discovered, have little in the way of day-to-day necessities. Had I tried to solve my dilemma using the main street alone, I would have necessarily resigned myself to drying myself using a dress from H&M, or perhaps a sleeping bag from Mountain Warehouse…neither of which are particularly renowned for their absorptive capacities.

My other choice was to trek out to one of the industrial estates. However – besides the associated time and cost – this is far from an attractive way to spend the very first day of Freshers’ Week. (I did not want to be sat on a bus – I wanted to be in the bustle of college life!) Having exhausted all the shops of Durham high street, I was beginning to resign myself to a towel-free existence.

Thankfully, my fears did not come to pass. My mother had spotted the Market, nestled behind the statues in the Market Square. Hoping for little, we ventured in – and instantly renounced our low expectations.

Durham outdoor market on Saturdays

A treasure trove

Durham Market is a treasure trove, with unexpected twists around every corner. Indeed, you’ll find exactly what you need…and a little something you want, too! Whether you are in the market for practical necessities, groceries, or perhaps just a little treat, you’re likely to tick off far more from your shopping list than you’d expect. After all, the Market was the original Victorian superstore; the convenience of having everything you could desire in one place is as welcome now as it would have been then.

Necessities, essentials and treats!

And the Market is not merely a place for those forgotten essentials at the start of term. As a matter of fact, it is the first port of call year-round. Want to avoid the embarrassment of showing up to a formal in the same dress as five other people? You can guarantee that the clothes you’ll buy in Durham market are unique. In need of a new hobby, or continuing an old passion? From sewing to reading, painting to paintballing, you’ll find what you need in the market. If you’re tired of the bland selection of groceries and meats in Tesco, the local grocers and butchers prove to be quite the treat.

Don’t forget – the money and time you’ll save by using the Market deserves consideration too – particularly at the end of term, as deadlines loom and cash is running low…

Plus – Many market traders source their goods locally, so by shopping at the Market, you are supporting the local community and contributing to the local economy.

Enjoy a taste of Durham

After all of this, if you’ve shopped ‘til you’ve dropped, then the Market offers many restorative solutions. Head upstairs to the café and watch the world go by, snaffle some traditional sweets, or sample the (vegan) delights at Green Guerilla’s stall. Whether you’re a fan of more traditional fare, or more adventurous in your culinary tastes, in Durham market you will find all sorts of choices especially when the outdoor market is on Saturdays.

Discover more

Visit the Durham Markets website for further information

Read other student blogs about what else Durham has to offer.

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Emily Smith

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