Downtown Durham – Durham, NC

Entertaining attractions, gourmet restaurants and a proud historic identity define the downtown Durham neighborhood. This compact, revitalized neighborhood is the center of Durham’s universe, boasting exciting things to do and see around every corner. The neighborhood’s strong tobacco-industry roots are evident in the many repurposed factory buildings and warehouses, giving downtown an unpolished, hipster vibe. Located in the very heart of this sprawling city, downtown has several distinct districts that reflect the history of the area and provide a diverse array of dining, attractions and nightlife options.

Schools in Downtown Durham

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Restaurants & Nightlife

For a relatively small city, Durham has a solid reputation for being a foodie town, and many of the buzzed-about restaurants are in the downtown neighborhood. One of the most talked about restaurants in town, Revolution, offers contemporary global cuisine in an upscale, modern atmosphere. Prepared by a renowned chef, the eclectic menu includes dishes such as charred octopus salad, pumpkin ravioli and spinach tagliatelle with braised beef cheeks. There’s also several tasting menus that range from three to seven courses. For more casual fare, Dame’s Chicken and Waffles combines a classic Southern favorite with a modern, European twist. The menu consists of several creative chicken and waffle dishes, such as the Carolina Cockerel, which includes three chicken wings on top of a blueberry waffle. All of the dishes are served with the restaurant’s famous flavored butters, known as schmears. At Mateo Bar de Tapas, the menu combines Spanish tapas with classic Southern flavors and ingredients. Menu items at this stylish restaurant include morcilla, a blood sausage with sweet potatoes and North Carolina apples, and bollo de cerdo, which are steamed dumplings topped with sherry ponzu and N.C. peanuts. Nightlife options in downtown Durham are spread throughout the various districts in the neighborhood. In the City Center district, Pinhook is the place to go to hear live local bands and attend themed parties and special events. Regular events at Pinhook include open-mic, karaoke and trivia nights. It also has several classic video game machines. Listen to live jazz at Beyu Caffe, also in the City Center district. A combination of a coffee shop, restaurant, bar and jazz club, Beyu Caffe brings in both local and national jazz performers from across the country nearly every night of the week. In the American Brightleaf district, cheer on the area college basketball teams with a craft beer at casual and cozy Federal bar, which offers a wide range of locally made beers and gourmet pub eats.

History & Culture

Once a small railroad depot town in the early 1800s, Durham rose quickly from the ashes of the Civil War into a major tobacco-producing city, with many factories built in the current downtown neighborhood. As the tobacco industry faded out, the downtown area was gradually revitalized into the entertainment and cultural heart of Durham. The downtown neighborhood has one museum, the Museum of Durham History, which includes hands-on, kid-friendly exhibits. Downtown has a number of other cultural attractions, such as the historic Carolina Theater, which features major national acts in music, theater and comedy, and regularly hosts independent films. The Durham Performing Arts Center hosts Broadway musicals, national recording artists, and performances by the Carolina Ballet and the North Carolina Opera. Annual events in the neighborhood include the CenterFest Arts Festival and the Bull City Race Fest.


Most of the downtown districts can easily be explored on foot, but public transportation is available to get you from one district to another. Durham Area Transit Authority operates public buses all over the city, with a major bus station terminal in the downtown area. It also offers the Bull City Connector, a free bus route which connects the downtown neighborhood with Duke University. You can conveniently drive into the downtown area via N.C. Highway 147, which runs along the lower portion of the downtown neighborhood. While you can drive to get to various districts, it’s best to park and walk around to explore the various entertainment and dining establishments within each district. Both garages and parking meters are widely available in the area. Hailing a cab can prove difficult unless you go to a major attraction or hotel. However, you can easily get a ride through ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft.


Because of all the attractions and entertainment that downtown Durham has to offer, it costs significantly more to live in this exciting neighborhood than in other parts of the city. Expect to pay an average of $1,405 for an apartment in downtown. However, the cost of living in Durham overall is slightly lower than state average. Riding on DATA public transportation into and around the neighborhood costs only $1.00 per ride, and the Bull City Connector is completely free. Gas prices hover around 8 percent higher than the national average. At a neighborhood pub, a pint of beer generally costs between $4 and $5.


Most of the downtown districts offer shopping opportunities, ranging from local boutiques to high-end chains. In the Brightleaf District, stop by antique bookstore Wentworth & Leggett Rare Books to find a literary treasure. At the luxury retailer Vert & Vogue, check out high-end designer pieces to add to your collection. The Exotique boutique features handmade fashions, artwork, and household items made by artists both locally and in Africa. Downtown Durham does not have its own major grocery store, although there are several nearby. However, the neighborhood does have a year-round farmers market in the Central Park district, held on Wednesdays and Saturdays.


The only park in downtown, Durham Central Park, is more than just grass and a playground. It is a hub of leisure activities in Durham for the whole city. The park includes the spacious Great Lawn area, a 9,000-square-foot pavilion, a skate park, community gardens and a large interactive play area for children known as Mt. Merrill. The great lawn area hosts regular events such as free outdoor movie screenings and music concerts.
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605 W Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
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600 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701
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