Derry or Londonderry (Irish: 'Doire', meaning 'Oak Grove'), is the second city of Northern Ireland and the fourth largest city on the island of Ireland after Dublin, Belfast and Cork. It is situated on the river Foyle in County Londonderry, close to county Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. It has a population of roughly 100,000.
Note that the name of the city is a point of political dispute, with unionists advocating the longer name, and nationalists advocating the shorter. A common attempt at compromise is to refer to the county as "Londonderry" and the city as "Derry", but this is by no means universally accepted. Because of this, a peculiar situation arises as there is no common consensus either in politics or elsewhere as to which name is preferred; the city council is officially known as "Derry", but the city is officially recognised as "Londonderry" by the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK government. Whilst road signs in the Republic of Ireland use "Derry", alongside the Irish language translation "Doire", road signs in Northern Ireland will always read (unless vandalised) "Londonderry".
Situated on the banks of River Foyle, Derry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and one of the oldest inhabited places in the whole island of Ireland. As they say there, 'Derry was a city when Belfast was still a swamp'. Derry's history dates back over 1,450 years, a lasting reminder of the early inhabitants of the area is the Iron Age fort, just over the border in County Donegal, known as the Grianan of Aileach.
In the 6th Century St Columba/Colmcille established a monastery in Derry. Shifting ten centuries later to the Plantation of Ulster, King James I of England had the wealthy guilds of London build up the city of Derry (hence the title Londonderry) and surround it by the defensive walls that still ring the city today.
These walls witnessed one of the most prominent events in the history of Derry. In 1688 the city was laid siege by the Earl of Antrim and the Catholic forces of James II, the English king who was deposed in favour of Protestant William of Orange. The settlers of the city who were protestant, barricaded themselves within the walls, when a group of apprentice boys from London on seeing the oncoming forces, locked the city gates and so started the Great Siege of Derry.
The siege was to be the longest in British history, lasting some 105 days, during which an estimated third of the city’s then population of 30,000 died through disease and starvation. When James II himself rode up to the city walls and lay down terms for surrender he was greeted with shouts of ‘No Surrender’. The siege was finally broken when the relief ship Mountjoy broke the boom which was laid across the River Foyle beside the city.
However the legacy of the Great Siege of Derry lasted for centuries with the Catholic and Protestant communities in Derry still largely divided today. During the years of the Troubles, Derry witnessed some of the most prominent and terrible events of those times. It was on Derry's Bogside area that British soldiers shot dead 14 civil rights protesters in what became known as Bloody Sunday. The majority of the Bogside murals commemorate this tragic loss of innocents.
Since the peace process in Northern Ireland, Derry is slowly emerging as an upbeat cosmopolitan city with great potential and huge tourist interest. In July 2010, Derry was awarded City of Culture for 2013. A lot of Derry’s sights are meshed with its history, the 16th Century walls which surround the city are among the oldest and the best preserved citadel walls in Europe.
A huge percentage of Derry’s population fall into the 20 – 30 age group and there are plenty of places to cater for them with lots of clothes shops and boutiques, pubs, bars and clubs and Derry's traditional Irish and folk music scene are well established.
Taxis are available from the airport, with the typical fares to the city centre around £12, with the journey taking roughly 15 minutes. The easiest way to get one is by using the very visible yellow phones by the exit on the left as you come out of arrivals. Although, because there are only ever a few flights a day, many taxi men know when to come to the airport, so when you walk out you should see them by the car park and most are there to pick up any free fares. Don't forget that many won't accept Euros!
There is also a bus service but given the intermittent timetable, unless you're short of cash, you should just take a taxi. For details of Ulsterbus bus services visit Translink. The typical fare to the city centre is £2.70 and the journey takes approximately 20-30 minutes.
Belfast has two airports, serving a host of destinations. Belfast International Airport is situated 100km from Derry, whilst Belfast City Airport is located 115km from Derry.
Both Belfast airports are served by a good bus connection to Derry city centre with Airporter.
It is also possible to get to Derry from Dublin Airport, 225km to the south-east.
Dublin Airport is Ireland's international air hub, served by Ryanair, Aer Lingus and many other international carriers, with destinations in Ireland, Europe, Africa, North America and the Middle East.
Buses link Dublin Airport and the Derry, running throughout the night.
Northern Ireland Railways (a subsidiary of Translink) have trains travelling to and from Belfast regularly during the whole day. Trains arrive in Derry's Waterside, with a shuttle bus linking the train station to the (more central) bus station.
The journey between Belfast and Derry takes just over 2 hours and between Coleraine and Derry affords great views along the shores of Lough Foyle, which was described by Michael Palin as“one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world”.
By carFrom Belfast, start on the M2 and you can either take the main road (A6) to Derry (signposted as Londonderry) via Dungiven or the scenic drive along the Antrim Coast, passing the Giant's Causeway.
From Belfast International Airport, take the main road to the M2 from the airport through Templepatrick. Follow the signposts onto the main road to Londonderry.
From Dublin, take the M1 motorway and go as far as the signpost for Derry and Ardee. Then take the N32 which links to the N2. Follow the N2 via Carrickmacross and Monaghan to the border where the road then becomes the A5. Travel northwards via Omagh and Strabane until you reach Derry.
South of the border road signs will read "Derry", north of the border "Londonderry". It is common to see vandalism where the "London" part has been spray-painted over leaving only "derry" remaining. It is also possible to see some signs where "derry" has been painted over and directions for "London" are on display. This is often done as a joke by kids and is not done to intentionally confuse or misdirect tourists.
Translink's Goldline Express No. 212 departs to and from Belfast regularly during the whole day.
Dublin is connected with Goldine Express No. 274 and Bus Éireann service No. 33, which runs throughout the night.
There is also a connection with the west coast with Bus Éireann service No. 64, which runs to Sligo and Galway, then onwards to Limerick and Cork.
Full details of bus services are available from Translink and Bus Éireann
Further services, aimed mainly at travellers arriving into the local airports are operated by Airporter.
Derry is essentially split (by the River Foyle) into two main areas - The Waterside and The Cityside/Derry Side. The two banks of the river are connected by three bridges. The elder of these is the Craigavon Bridge, a double-decker bridge which once carried trains on its lower deck. A more recently constructed road bridge is the Foyle Bridge. This is a four-lane concrete bridge, which is further from the city centre.
The east side of the river is known as The Waterside. This is traditionally the home of Derry's unionist population.
The west side of the Foyle is usually known as The Cityside. This is predominantly nationalist and contains most of the tourist attractions, the city centre and The Guildhall. Here you will find the city walls and the Bogside. The city centre is small and suitable for walking. There are bus services from the main terminal on Foyle St and local bus stops dotted along the same road, but many people actually prefer to get about by taxi. Fares are surprisingly cheap with the average journey costing £3.00. Taxi men in Derry love a good chat, so if you get them going they'll not be prone to bumping up the fare.
In 2011, the Peace Bridge was opened, which is a pedestrian bridge connecting the Waterside to the heart of the city centre, and in turn bringing the two communities, Catholic and Protestant closer together as well.
Other sights include the fascinating Bogside Murals found on the walls of what is known as Free Derry Corner and depict various events in the history of the town, from the Nationalist perspective. A more contemporary sculpture in the city, known as Hands Across the Divide, serves as a symbol of the two communities coming together.
The city walls are the best-preserved in all of Ireland and make about a one-mile circumference around the city center.
The Walls were built during the period 1613-1618 by "the honourable the Irish Society" as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland. The Walls, which are approximately 1 mile (1.5 km) in circumference and which vary in height and width between 12 and 35 feet (4 to 12 metres), are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city. They provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance style street plan. The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate to which three further gates were added later, Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate, making seven gates in total. Historic buildings within the walls include the 1633 Gothic cathedral of St Columb, the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and the courthouse.
It is one of the few cities in Europe that never saw its fortifications breached, withstanding several sieges including one in 1689 which lasted 105 days, hence the city's nickname,The Maiden City.
Take a walk around the "Free Derry" corner between the Bogside and the western side of the old city walls. Stop and look at the political murals made by local artists during the 90s, depicting key events in the harsh conflict haunting Northern Ireland. In the same area, the Free Derry monument, Free Derry Museum, and Bloody Sunday memorial are also located. Taking a guided tour of the Bogside is probably the best option for visitors.
The city is home to several museums. (Contact Tourist Information for their opening times which can be somewhat erratic):
Tower Museumphone: +44 28 7137-2411address: Union Hall PlaceConsidered the main museum of the city, it tells the story of Derry from pre-historic times to the foundation of the city in 542, the siege of 1689, the Irish Famine of 1846, the partition of Ireland in 1921, the recent conflict of 1969-1994, up until modern times. The museum now houses a new exhibition of the Spanish Armada. Voted European museum of the year in 1994.
Railway museumaddress: Foyle RoadDetails the city's railway heritage and four railway companies.
Harbour Museumaddress: Harbour SquareThe city's maritime museum.
Workhouse Museumaddress: Dungiven RoadA restored workhouse showing what conditions were like during the Irish Famine.
Genealogy Centreaddress: Butcher StreetTrace your Irish ancestry!
Free Derry Museumaddress: Glenfada ParkA museum of the Northern Irish conflict. A section is dedicated to the Bloody Sunday and its aftermath.
address: Rossville StreetThe "Bogside Artists", who painted the murals in the Bogside, tell the story of over thirty years of turbulent history and unrest through their paintings.
Old Gaoladdress: FountainA small museum of Loyalist memorabilia. Only one of the original gaol (jail) towers remain, the rest having been demolished in 1973. Wolfetone, one of the leaders of the 1798 United Irishmen rebellion, was imprisoned here prior to his execution.
Apprentice Boys Memorial Halladdress: Society StreetA museum is housed in the main building detailing the history of the Apprentice Boys and their prominent role in the 1689 Siege.
Amelia Earhart Museumphone: +44 28 7135-4040address: Ballyarnett Country ParkDedicated to the female aviatrix who landed in the city in 1936 becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
Derry City Football Clubplay their home matches are played the Brandywell Stadium, in the Brandywell area of the city, with most league matches taking place on Friday night. The club play in the League of Ireland Premier Division, which is actually the league of the Republic of Ireland. Visitors to the club with be assured of a warm welcome and a lively atmosphere, with the club being one of the top teams in the country.
The city is host to an annual Halloween Carnival on the 31st October. Upwards of 30,000 revellers dressed in fancy dress costumes throng the streets and bars until the early hours. It is the biggest festival of its kind in Ireland attracting visitors from as far as Australia, Japan and the USA.
- Magee College is a campus of the University of Ulster located in the city.
Derry's last remaining home-grown department store is Austins, in The Diamond, and claims to be the world's oldest independent department store.
Be sure to visit Guildhall Square during the day, where a local market operates.
The town centre is very busy on a Saturday as many travel from the Republic to take advantage of Pound/Euro strengths. However Sunday is very quiet and many shops do not open.
Fiorentini'sItalian-owned cafe, known throughout the city for its great value meals, and home to the best ice-cream in town. Be sure to try the Knickerbocker Glory! Great food, staff very helpful, especially the three owners.
Costa CofféeVery small (located beneath an escalator!), within the FoyleSide Shopping Center, fair priced, delicious coffee and snacks.
Dohertys BakeryA true greasy spoon cafe, there are a number of bakeries around the town all run by this local chain, but their cafe on William Street is the best place to go after walking around the walls and Bogside area for a cheap and tasty lunch. the cafe is located in the back behind the main bakery.
Danano'sA really nice Italian that is relatively cheap but great food.
BadgersA great port of call for lunch while shopping. Can be crowded and cramped at busy times.
Flaming Jack'sTop quality, good value restaurant. 2 courses for £10 offer on most days. One of the busiest city centre restaurants in Derry, located on Strand Road.
QuaywestStrand Road: by the Waterfront, quite near the Mandarin Palace. Opened in recent years and is quite successful. Serves light and sumptuous cuisine with an array of alcoholic drinks. Relatively cheap.
phone: +44 28 7127 9111address: 15 Culmore Road, BT488JBThis restaurant in the Ramada Da Vinci Hotel complex serves food daily from 5pm. With mid week specials of 2 courses for £12.00. All Day Sunday menu running from 12.30-8pm. Fabulous a la carte food Monday - Saturday.
GuavaHealthy food smoothie bar. Can be crowded at most times. If one prefers more substance than a smoothie, there is a choice of non blended food!
The Mandarin Palaceaddress: Strand RoadLong established Chinese food restaurant with excellent service and value, if you can spare the cash that is! It is however well worth the money. Open from 5.00 in the evening.
The ExchangeThe best restaurant in Derry in the opinion of many ... try the duck!
Imperial CityAnother upper class Chinese restaurant, recently opened, authentic and delicious menu.
address: 100 Strand RoadA new vibrant dining experience located on the banks of the River Foyle.
Brown's Restaurant and Champagne LoungeNow under new management, with multi-award winning chef Ian Orr. Certainly one of the North West's finest restaurants and first champagne lounge.
Derry is a small city with a recent turbulent past. Odds are, you shouldn't have any problems, but be aware of tensions. (see "Stay Safe" below)
Located in the centre of the city, just outside the Walled City, Waterloo Street is a steep hill lined with some of the city's liveliest bars.
Sandinosaddress: Water StreetPerhaps the most interesting bar in Derry. Named after Augusto C. Sandino, the bar has very strong Central/South American vibe. The walls are decorated with posters and paraphernalia of leftist movements form Cuba and Nicaragua amongst others. There are also images from the Citys own past and struggle through the 'troubles', including the battle of the bogside. This is where you will find Derrys inteligencia and one or two local celebs, a must for a pint when in the Walled City.
Peadar O'Donnell'sphone: +44 28 7137-2318address: 63 Waterloo StIf you are looking for traditional Irish folk music sessions, this is the best place in Derry. Such sessions are held nearly every day of the week, and both locals and visitors create a nice atmosphere. Drinkers can access Gweedore Bar through an interior door.
Granny Annie's (Formerly Bound For Boston)address: Waterloo StreetA Derry institution, situated in Waterloo Street this lively bar attracts people of all ages to sample the perfect pint. Only a few minutes walk from the famous Butcher Gate and City Walls. Renowned live band venue.
Gweedore Baraddress: Waterloo StreetGeared purely to live music but with a more contemporary band nature than Peadar O'Donnells. Here you can listen to line ups of all ages strutting their stuff giving their interpretations of all the favourites and some original self penned music. Upstairs is in a nightclub-style, with disco nights.
The Metroaddress: Bank PlaceYou'll find this charming bar in the shadow of the imposing city walls. The décor is interesting, with intriguing bric-a-brac collected from around the world, and lots of alcoves provide an intimate atmosphere. The pub grub here is of a high standard and features every thing from soup and sandwiches to a hearty beef stew in Guinness. A night the upper level transforms into ad hoc dance area, filled with a young crowd. Complete with a roof-top smoking area, great on a sunny day.
Downeys Bar Complexaddress: Shipquay StreetFeatures a pub-style bar on the ground floor, a sports bar (The Poolworks) on the upper levels, the largest roof top beer garden in the city. Also contains 'Sugar' nightclub, extremely popular with the younger crowd.
Oak Groveaddress: Bishop Street Without.Located close to the Brandywell Stadium, this bar is busiest on Derry City FC matchdays.
Da Vinci's HotelBar serving Cocktails and Pub Grub, in the Ramada Da Vinci Hotel. Shows Sky Sports. Open daily. Hotel also has a spirit bar.
The Merchant's Houseaddress: 16 Queen StreetA wonderful old house with Bed and Breakfast. Nice and clean, good breakfast. No en suite bathroom because it would be a pity to change the house.
Groarty House And Manorphone: +44 28 7126-1403Groarty Manor is a newly built house, set in its own one acre site surrounded by trees, and is tastefully furnished in warm relaxing colours. Has disabled access and disabled bathroom facilities on the ground floor. It offers a great base for touring County Londonderry, Donegal, and Derry City itself with its historic walls, museums and various other tourist attractions.
address: 44 Great James StreetA friendly, independent hostel, run by two backpackers who have been traveling around the world for quite some time themselves. The hostel actually consists of three separate houses, all spread out within walking distance of the old town and the Bogside murals.
City Hoteladdress: Queen's Quay, off Foyle Street, BT48 7ASContemporary four star hotel centrally located on the bend of River Foyle, 200 metres from Guildhall - Many rooms overlook these points of interest. Rooms fairly spacious. Restaurant serves very good food, and the staff are very friendly and helpful. Underground parking provided.
Tower Hoteladdress: Butcher StreetModern Four star hotel, centrally located inside the city walls, 200 metres from Guildhall. Underground parking provided.
address: 22-24 Strand RdUse of adjacent multistorey car park.
phone: +44 28 7127 9111address: 15 Culmore Road, BT48 8JBModern 4 star hotel. 65 spacious bedrooms, award winning traditional Irish Bar, Grillroom Restaurant, Spirit Bar night club, Style Bar function space and meeting rooms. All guests can avail of complimentary car parking, unlimited wi-fi and weekend entertainment.
Broomhill Hoteladdress: Limavady Road, BT47 6LTThree star hotel, 3 km north of the city centre on the east bank of the river (Waterside). Free car parking.
The Waterfoot Hotel & Country Clubaddress: 14 Clooney Road, BT47 6TB5 km north of the city centre on the east bank of the river (Waterside). Free car parking.
BT48 Apartotel5-star self catering accommodation, luxury 1-3 bedroom apartments on the banks of the River Foyle.
phone: +44 28 7136-5800address: Queens QuayFour-star hotel on Queen’s Quay. Spacious guest rooms, conference and event venues and dining options.
Everglades Hoteladdress: 41-53 Prehen Road, BT47 2NHFour star hotel, 2km south of the city centre on the east bank of the river (Waterside). Free car parking.
Beech Hill Country House Hoteladdress: 32 Ardmore Road, BT47 3QPFive star hotel as stayed in by Bill and Hilary Clinton. Small hotel in a converted country house, located in large grounds 5km east of the city centre on the east bank of the river (Waterside). Free car parking.
After Belfast, Derry was the main centre of trouble during Northern Ireland's conflict. As a majority Catholic city, although significantly improved, some tensions still remain between the Republican and Loyalist communities in some parts of Derry. Wearing items of clothing which would identify you as being from any particular religious denomination or political viewpoint (for example Rangers or Celtic football shirts) is not advised.
Derry was awarded Purple Flag status in October 2011, which recognises that the city provides evening visitors with an entertaining, diverse, and safe night out, and has brought the Purple Flag accreditation to Northern Ireland for the first time.
For someone not familiar with English, the Derry accent can be quite challenging to understand at first (sometimes even to the native English speaker) and they tend to speak quite loudly and fast. However, if they know you are not from the area they will more than likely make an attempt to be more understandable.
The city is built on some quite steep hills. Therefore it is worth noting that a lot of walking up and down these hills will be required. They can become quite slippery in cold weather and sometimes when wet.
The city itself is quite small, making it easy to escape to the surrounding countryside. County Londonderry and nearby County Donegal have a wealth of green fields and sights to appeal to nature lovers. Ulsterbuses can be used for outings. These are operated by Translink.
A trip to the Giant's Causeway on the north coast is highly recommended. If you have a choice, come early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid crowds of tourists treading all over the place. Translink operate buses to and from the Giant's Causeway from both Derry and Belfast.
Not far outside Derry, across the border in Donegal is Grianan of Aileach. This ancient stone fort is on a hilltop between Derry and Letterkenny and affords superb views of loughs Foyle and Swilly, and of Derry itself. The fort at Grianan had been recently closed for renovation work. It is now once again open to the public.