Basking in the limelight of being named the 2013 UK City of Culture, Londonderry (also known as Derry) is the ideal city-break location to take in the history and world famous character of this iconic piece of Northern Ireland. Although not as famous as
Dublin, Londonderry still packs a punch, with an enviable range of innovative restaurants and cafes, an outstanding level of luxury accommodation and most importantly the welcoming and unique character of the Derry people.
Now firmly in the spotlight after being named the inaugural UK City of Culture for 2013, Londonderry (alternatively known as Derry) is attracting more visitor interest than ever before. Accordingly, it has a good selection of accommodation. Within the historic city walls is the four-star Tower Hotel (Butcher Street), where a bar offers live weekend entertainment, while on the banks of the Foyle River is the 145-room City Hotel (Queens Quay). For those looking to be close to the airport, the Premier Inn (Crescent Link) is well placed, while the Beech Hill Hotel (32 Ardmore Road) occupies a fine out-of-town country house.
Londonderry gives ample opportunity to part with your cash, with a few spots around town jumping out as being of special note. Foyleside Shopping Centre (Orchard Street) is one of the biggest retail malls in Northern Ireland, playing home to a Debenhams, an M&S and a Dunnes, among some 50 other outlets, while elsewhere the long-standing Austins Department Store (2-6 The Diamond) is, no less, the world's oldest independent department store. It was established in 1830. For something different, the Craft Village (Shipquay Street) is an ambiance-rich area in which to pick up one-off souvenirs and design items.
For somewhere so compact, Londonderry offers a decent array of good dining spots (so much so that the tourist office recently saw fit to launch the LegenDerry Food Guide). Among the very best are The Sooty Olive (160-164 Spencer Road), 68 Clooney (Best Western White Horse Hotel, 68 Clooney Road) and Custom House Restaurant (Queens Quay), which offers good opportunity to indulge in the region’s main culinary draws: the local meat and seafood. Away from the centre of town, the Ardmore restaurant at Beech Hill Hotel (32 Ardmore Road) is another find that relies on quality local produce.
Jazz & Big Band Festival
The city’s annual Jazz & Big Band Festival has been drawing brassy performers to dozens of venues around Londonderry for more than a decade. Bars, hotels and restaurants all get involved, and the artists themselves cover a broad range of good-time styles.
Maiden City Festival
A celebration of diversity taking place in the city’s historic core, the Maiden City Festival centres mainly on music – everything from alfresco bluegrass bands to concert-hall symphonies – but also includes plays, presentations and various other art events.
Big Tickle Comedy Festival
Northern Ireland’s biggest comedy festival comes to Londonderry for a full month each September, usually based in the city’s Playhouse Theatre. The majority of the comedians involved are Irish, and the main events are ticketed.
Banks of the Foyle Hallowe’en Carnival
The city’s biggest night of the year takes place each 31 October, when Londonderry plays host to what is now billed as Europe’s largest Hallowe’en Carnival. Expect costumed street parties aplenty. Events also take place in the run-up to the day itself.
Foyle Film Festival
Now well into its third decade, the city’s Foyle Film Festival is a showcase for feature films, documentaries and shorts from various international filmmakers. The festival also includes side events, educational presentations and panel discussions.