What’s new in 2023?

Publication Date: 18th Jan 2023

It is the start of a new year and 2023 looks set to be an unforgettable one for Durham.

Not only are there exciting events and anniversaries to look forward to, but a host of new attractions, visitor accommodation, exhibits and places to eat and drink are opening over the next 12 months.

This investment will help to make Durham an even more appealing destination, which in turn will attract more visitors, boost our visitor economy and create and protect jobs.

Here are some of the highlights in store.

Remaking Beamish

The multi-million-pound Remaking Beamish project will continue in 2023 with many fascinating new buildings and exhibitions opening. This will include the expansion of the 1950s town with the addition of a bowling green and Aged Miners’ Homes. Replicas of semi-detached council houses will provide an insight into what life was like on a new housing estate, while the opening of a 1950s cinema, toy shop and electrical shop will enable visitors to discover how people shopped and spent their leisure time 70 years ago.

New look Park Head Hotel to open

Following an extensive refurbishment, the Park Head Hotel in Bishop Auckland is set to open on Wednesday 1 February. This stylish and comfortable hotel will offer 38 modern, en-suite rooms and is the perfect base from which to explore The Auckland Project’s attractions and the wider area. It is also a great choice for those attending Kynren, an Epic Tale of England over the summer. Guests and visitors can tuck into delicious local produce, including fruit and vegetables grown in Auckland Castle’s Walled Garden, at the 80 seat Oak Room Restaurant.

England’s first faith museum to open

The first museum in England dedicated to the story of faith in Britain will open in Bishop Auckland this autumn. Part of The Auckland Project, the Faith Museum will explore the ideas, implications and impact of faith, from the beliefs of small communities centuries ago, to Britain’s multi-faith society today. It will be located in the historic Scotland Wing of Auckland Castle, housing seven new gallery spaces spanning two floors.

Landmark anniversary for The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum’s Silver Swan will take centre stage for the museum’s main exhibition of 2023 - Movement: Celebrating 250 years of the world’s most famous Silver Swan.  Running from 8 July 2023 to 7 January 2024, the landmark exhibition will tell the story of the swan’s marvellous inventor, John Joseph Merin. Visitors will also be able to see other 18th century automata, play with automatons from today and make their own clockwork objects. Architectural metal sculptures inspired by nature and the Silver Swan by Martin Smith, will also be on display across the museum’s grounds and galleries throughout the year.

New retail and leisure attractions at Milburngate

Durham City has so much to offer residents and visitors alike, and the completion of the Milburngate development on the banks of the River Wear this year will provide even more retail and leisure attractions for people to enjoy. As well as a new Premier Inn hotel, Milburngate will feature a BrewDog Bar, Everyman Cinema and Bar + Block restaurant.

Celebrating Durham’s story

Due to open later this year, The Story at Mount Oswald will bring together five miles of Durham’s archives charting 900 years of history, as well as reuniting objects and written records from the Durham Light Infantry collection. Offering permanent and temporary exhibitions, the new cultural venue will be located within a restored grade II listed building and will transform how the history of Durham is told, with a focus on lesser told stories of working people and communities.

Durham Distillery development well underway

Work on Durham Distillery’s new home is almost complete. The 5,000 square foot distillery, shop and bar will be located under the streets of historic Durham City, in Prince Bishops Place. Gin lovers can look froward to distillery tours and gin making and cocktail classes, as well as a chance to pick up Durham's range of gins, vodka and whisky.

Lumiere returns

Lumiere, the UK’s light art biennial, will return on 16-19 November, transforming Durham City’s historic cobbled streets and iconic buildings into a magical night-time wonderland. The festival has attracted more than one million people since its launch in 2009 and this year is shaping up to be one of the best editions yet, with a programme of spectacular light installations created by UK and internationally renowned artists.

Kynren, an Epic Tale of England set for extended summer run

The spectacular live-action, open-air extravaganza that is Kynren, an Epic Tale of England will return for an extended summer run this year. Voted one of the top 5 performances to see in the UK by Trip Advisor, Kynren takes audiences on a whistle stop tour of 2,000 years of history, myth and legend, every Saturday from 29 July to 9 September.

Durham hosts international cricket

Cricket fans can look forward to a summer of sporting action this year, when the Seat Unique Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street hosts two international matches. England's Men's team take on New Zealand on 30 August in the Vitality IT20 and England Women return to take on Sri Lanka during the WIT20 on 9 September. Tickets are on sale now. 

Event more events

From Durham City’s Fire and Ice Festival in February to Bishop Auckland and Seaham Food Festivals in April and August respectively, there is no shortage of entertaining events the whole family can enjoy this year. Other dates for the diary include Durham Pride in May, Durham Fringe Festival in July, Wolsingham Show in September and Durham Book Festival in October.  Check out our Top 10 Events for 2023 for more inspiration.

The Year of the Coast

2023 is the year of the coast – a year-long celebration shining a light on England’s coastal heritage and seaside hidden gems. Durham Heritage Coast is one of the most spectacular coastlines in the country where visitors can discover beautiful beaches, hidden nature reserves, delicious local produce, stunning views and special events throughout the year. Durham’s 11-mile coastal footpath is also part of the England Coast Path, which – once it is fully open this year – will be the longest coastal walking route in the world.

Help to spread the word

Visit County Durham is encouraging tourism businesses to include details of appropriate new developments and events in their own communications and marketing activity – follow our channels to keep informed. As well as showcasing what the county has to offer, it could give potential customers a reason to visit, or existing customers a reason to return.

Locomotion expansion plans on track

With just two years to go until the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton and Darlington and Railway, there are many exciting new developments underway at Locomotion. Located in Shildon, the world’s first railway town, visitors can already get up close to historic railway vehicles and explore recently renovated buildings linked to the region’s rail heritage. And next spring, a new exhibition hall housing 45 railway vehicles from the national collection will open its doors in time for the 100th anniversary of the Flying Scotsman. This will mean Locomotion will be home to the largest undercover collection of heritage rail vehicles in the world.