Londonderry, or Derry, is a beautiful coastal city in Northern Ireland. If you plan to visit Belfast or take a tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland, spend at least 1 day getting to know it. Its walled enclosure, its murals, the historic center and its neighborhoods will enchant you.
In this post I talk about the 10 essential places to see in Londonderry in 1 day. If you are doing a route through Ireland, I advise you to stay one night in the city. Perhaps a single day and taking the car to go to another destination is a bit fair to get to know the essential places in the city. At the end of the post, I add some accommodation recommendations and tips for traveling to Northern Ireland.
The city of Derry is divided into Catholic or (Republican) neighborhoods, supporters of the independence of Northern Ireland, and Protestant or Loyalist, in favor of belonging to the United Kingdom. Traces of the political conflicts experienced can be seen in the city during The Troubles (war conflict between 1968 and 1998).
The best way to start getting to know the city is by booking a guided tour of Londonderry. It is a short guided tour, lasting 1 hour, that will take you to see the old walls and the most essential places in the city center.
WHAT TO SEE IN LONDONDERRY – DERRY, NORTHERN IRELAND
1. Tour the Bogside Neighborhood
The Bogside neighborhood is one of the most important places to see in Derry. Known for its murals, Bogside represents the history lived in its city, marked by a religious and political clash between Catholics and Protestants. This is a dilemma that dates back to the times of King James II and the peace treaty was signed in 1998.
In the Bogside neighborhood you will find colorful murals, representing characters from the history of Northern Ireland, nostalgic images...
The best way to understand what they represent and the history of Londonderry is to take a guided tour of the Quarter. You have a guided tour of 1:30 in English for about 12 euros.
2. Wall, gates and bastions
Derry is the only city in Ireland whose wall is preserved in its entirety, being able to walk on it. Just under 2 km long, the wall dates from the early 17th century and was built by the Irish Society to defend the early settlers from England and Scotland. It was widely used during the siege of 1689, when the troops of the Catholic King James II of England besieged the Protestant population of the walled city.
There are seven entrance gates to the city, of which 4 were the original ones:
Shipquay Gate: so named because near the gate there was a jetty, since in the 17th century the River Foyle reached the wall. It is carved with a cornucopia, which is a symbol of abundance, and a caduceus, which is the magic wand used by the Greek god Hermes to protect merchants.
Bishop's Gate: This gate was built by order of Bishop Hervey to commemorate the centenary of the siege. It has two carved heads of warriors representing the Rivers Boyle and Foyle. Leaving the walled city through this gate, we will find The Heritage Museum Tower.
Butcher's Gate: This gate was named for its proximity to a meat market and slaughterhouse. Destroyed and rebuilt in the 18th century, it is almost twice the height of the original.
Ferryquay Gate: The original gate was built in the 19th century on the site of the original, which had a drawbridge.
From each of the 4 original gates a street with the same name leads to the central square of the walled city, The Diamond. Later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the other 3 gates were opened: Castle Gate, New Gate, and Magazine Gat.
The wall also had 9 bastions or bastions, of which only 6 are currently preserved, the 4 essential to see are:
Artillery Bastion: It owes its name to the artillery warehouses that were along Artillery Street (parallel to this section of the wall) and it has two cannons that were used in the 17th century.
Royal Bastion: Originally, in the 17th century, it was called Lord Docwras' bulwark in honor of Henry Docwra, considered the founder of the modern city of Derry. At that time it had a huge Doric column almost 30 meters high in honor of Governor Reverend George Walker. This column was destroyed in 1973 by an IRA bomb. The cannons of this bastion date back to the 19th century. Opposite is St Augustine's Church.
Church Bastion: At first, in the 17th century, it was called King James’ bulwark because King James II of England was shot from there; later it went on to have its current name due to its proximity to St Columb's Cathedral. It also has two 17th century cannons.
Double Bastion: This bastion also began with another name, in the 17th century it was called Prince Charles' bulwark in honor of the son of King James I. It also has two 17th century cannons, one of which is the most famous in the city, Roaring Meg, used in the English Civil War and nicknamed for the noise it made.
3. Visit St Columb's Cathedral
St Columb's Cathedral was built in the mid-17th century. It is a beautiful stone cathedral that stands out mainly for its tower dating from the 19th century. The original tower had a wooden spire covered in lead.
Inside the cathedral you will find a small museum with objects related to the siege, since the cathedral was used as a military post.
Right next to the Cathedral there is a section of wall with two towers. It was built to protect the cathedral from cannon fire.
4. Cross the Bridge of Peace
This bridge was built to unite both communities and the construction was required by the European Union. To build this bridge, the architect was inspired to represent two people who put their hands together, somehow showing the peace between Catholics and Protestants. The bridge is 235 meters long and at night it is beautiful all lit up with views of the city in the background.
5. Derry Town Hall
Londonderry Town Hall is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It is located in Guildall Square and was formerly a church. The most beautiful part of the building is its stained glass windows, in which different social strata of the population are represented. The town hall can be visited inside, it has rooms with exhibitions and a huge old organ.
6. The Tower Museum
The Tower Museum is an old medieval tower. In this museum you will find information about the history of Londonderry and its symbolic wall. Among the collections there are exhibits and objects that refer to the shipwreck of the Spanish ship La Trinidad Valencera, which occurred during the year 1588. A ship that was discovered in the 1970s.
This museum has been awarded as the best Irish Museum of the Year and also the best British Museum of the Year.
7. The Craft Village, the artisan village of Londonderry
Very close to the town hall you will find the craft village of Derry, The Craft Village. Accessing through a corridor you will find a lot of little houses with doors of different colors, small, attached to each other and all of them, with shops and small cafes below. It is a very charming place that you cannot miss in Londonderry.
8. Escape to The Dark Hedges from Londonderry
One of the places that I liked the most in Northern Ireland and that I would include in the essential route to do in Belfast is this place. It is not in Belfast, but approx 1 hour by car. It is located in County Antrim and rose to fame thanks to Game of Thrones.
It is a magical road with trees on each side. Its trunks have strange formations that make this place even more special. The ideal is to go at dawn or dusk since the light filters through the branches and the effect is beautiful (although in high season, it is a very crowded time).
9. The Giant's Causeway
The Giants Causeway are geological formations made up of 40,000 basaltic rocks and more than 60 million years old. Despite popular belief, not all rocks are hexagonal in shape and there are some rocks with more faces. Geologists agree that the area had intense volcanic activity and this landscape would be the result of the lava expelled by the volcano. When the lava comes out and cools quickly, the lava solidifies, turning into rocks with curious geometric shapes.
10. Belfast, essential to complete your route through Northern Ireland
The Capital of Northern Ireland is a city with loads to see and do. Knowing its historic center, the Titanic museum, the Castle... If you are thinking of taking a tour of Northern Ireland and visiting Belfast, here are some articles that may interest you:
WHERE TO STAY IN LONDONDERRY
Londonderry is a city that is visited quite quickly. With one day you can get to know the most essential places, as well as being able to enjoy its historic center without rushing. I recommend you spend the night in the city, and the next day leave for the next destination.
It is advisable to stay in the center. So you can walk everywhere. Being a small city, the accommodation offer is more limited, but you have options from hostels to 5-star hotels.
Some great options where to stay in Londonderry:
PLAN YOUR TRIP STEP BY STEP
I hope you enjoy your trip to Northern Ireland very much and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.
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A hug and see you soon!