Ah, Derby – the unsung hero of the Midlands. This gem of a city may be small in size, but it’s packed with history, culture, and an undeniable charm that leaves visitors coming back for more.
Nestled on the banks of the River Derwent, Derby is a city that will surprise you with its lively character and rich heritage. So, lace up your walking shoes and prepare to be delighted as we take you on a whimsical journey through the best things to do in Derby during your stay.
Considered the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, this modest city played a significant role in shaping the world as we know it today. It all began with the establishment of the world’s first water-powered silk mill in 1717. So, when you stroll through the bustling streets of Derby, take a moment to appreciate the city’s remarkable past.
In case you’re wondering what else makes this city special for visitors (besides its fascinating history) it also boasts a vibrant arts scene, with the QUAD Arts Centre leading the way as a hub for creativity and innovation.
If you’re a fan of the macabre, you’ll be pleased to know that Derby has been dubbed the “Ghost Capital of England,” thanks to its spooky tales and eerie ghost walks.
Derby is also home to the oldest pub in England – The Ye Olde Dolphin Inne. This fine establishment dates back to 1530 and still serves thirsty patrons to this day.
Speaking of old things, Derby also lays claim to the world’s oldest surviving triple-arch railway bridge. So yeah, all in all, Derby has plenty of fun and exciting things to make for a memorable visit to this historic corner spot in Derbyshire, UK.
A Brief History Of Derby, Derbyshire
Derby’s story began as the Roman settlement of Derventio, an essential crossing point along the River Derwent. After the Roman Empire’s decline, Derventio transformed into a Saxon village called Northworthy.
In the 9th century, Vikings invaded and renamed it “Djúra-bý,” which later evolved into Derby.
The 18th century saw Derby become a key player in the Industrial Revolution, with the establishment of the world’s first water-powered silk mill by John and Thomas Lombe in 1717. This innovation propelled Derby into the spotlight as an industrial powerhouse.
The 19th century brought the rise of railways, with the Midland Railway choosing Derby as its headquarters. The railway connected Derby to the rest of the UK, bringing prosperity and job opportunities to the city.
Throughout the 20th century, Derby’s manufacturing and engineering sectors thrived, with factories contributing to both World Wars and major companies like Rolls-Royce and Bombardier Transportation leaving their mark.
Today, Derby has transformed into a modern, vibrant city that embraces its past while looking to the future. The city has diversified its economy, focusing on sectors such as technology, creative industries, and tourism.
This combination of industrial heritage and contemporary attractions gives Derby a unique charm, making it a must-visit destination for history buffs and curious travellers alike.
Derby’s captivating past and dynamic approach to embracing new opportunities ensure that the city remains an alluring destination for visitors from all walks of life.
Now, with a rich tapestry of historical and modern attractions, Derby invites you to explore its fascinating story and enjoy the many wonders it has to offer.
Ready to explore all the fun things to do in this beautiful town? Let’s get to it shall we…
Top Things to Do in Derby, UK
1. Visit Derby Museum & Art Gallery
Best For: Art lovers, history enthusiasts, families with kids, and students
Derby Museum and Art Gallery is a treasure trove of art, history, and culture, located in the heart of Derby city centre.
The museum is known for its extensive collection of works by the renowned 18th-century artist Joseph Wright, a Derby native whose paintings captured the spirit of the Enlightenment.
The museum also features exhibits about Derby’s fascinating history, including the city’s role in the Industrial Revolution and its connection to the world of fine china.
The museum houses an impressive collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts as well, offering a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of the ancient civilization.
Visiting the Derby Museum and Art Gallery is a must for art enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone looking to learn more about Derby’s unique heritage.
Entrance Cost: Free admission, but donations are encouraged to support the museum’s operations.
What I Love:
- Joseph Wright Gallery – key figure of the Age of Enlightenment.
- Exploring The Archaeology Gallery spanning from the Roman era to the Industrial Revolution.
- The Egyptian Collection. Obviously
2. explore Derby Cathedral
Best For:History enthusiasts, architecture lovers, families, and spiritual seekers
Derby Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of All Saints, is a remarkable example of Gothic and Neoclassical architecture in the heart of the city.
It is the seat of the Bishop of Derby and boasts the second-highest church tower in England.
Visitors can explore the cathedral’s rich history, dating back to the 14th century, and marvel at its beautiful stained-glass windows and intricate wood carvings.
Adventurous visitors can climb the 189 steps of the tower to enjoy stunning panoramic views of Derby and the surrounding countryside.
Derby Cathedral is a must-visit for anyone interested in history, architecture, or simply seeking a tranquil space for reflection.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday: 9 am – 5 pm; Sunday: 12 pm – 4 pm
Website URL: https://www.derbycathedral.org/
Entrance Cost: Free admission, but donations are encouraged. There is a small fee for tower tours.
What I Love:
- Climbing the 189 steps to the top of the tower for some awesome views
- The Bess of Hardwick Monument
- Stained Glass Windows
3. Take a stroll through markeaton park
Best For: Families with kids, nature lovers, couples, and outdoor enthusiasts
Markeaton Park, one of Derby’s most popular open spaces, offers a wide range of activities for visitors of all ages.
Set amidst 207 acres of parkland, this beautiful green space is perfect for leisurely strolls, picnics, or outdoor sports.
Markeaton Park also features a boating lake, a mini-golf course, and a splash pad for children to enjoy during the summer months.
Whether you’re looking for family fun, a romantic day out as a couple, or a peaceful retreat with a book, Markeaton Park should definitely be on your Derby travel itinerary
Opening Hours: Park open daily, dawn to dusk; specific attraction hours may vary
Entrance Cost: Free admission, fees apply for certain attractions
What I Love:
- Boating Lake
- Mini-Golf Course
- Splash Pad for Kids
4. Indoor climbing at Clip 'n climb derby
Best For: Families with kids, adventure seekers, friends, and team-building groups
Clip ‘n Climb Derby is an exciting indoor climbing centre that offers fun and challenging activities for visitors of all ages and abilities.
If you’re not so comfortable with heights though then perhaps this isn’t the place for you. Unless, of course, you’re looking for a safe and exhilarating way to overcome your fear!
With over 19 climbing wall challenges, visitors can test their agility, strength, and problem-solving skills in a safe, supervised environment.
Clip ‘n Climb Derby is perfect for families, friends, and even corporate team-building events. It’s a great way to stay active, have fun, and experience the thrill of climbing in a vibrant and colourful setting.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 9:30 am – 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 am – 6 pm
Website URL: https://www.clipnclimbderby.co.uk/
Entrance Cost: Prices vary depending on age and session type. Please check the website for details.
What I Love:
- Varied Climbing Challenges that both scare the life out of you and excite you
- Leap of Faith Activity
- Party and Group Packages
5. immerse yourself in a Derby Escape Room
Best For: Friends, families, team-building groups, and puzzle enthusiasts
Derby Escape Rooms offer a thrilling and immersive experience where players are locked in a themed room and must work together to solve puzzles, riddles, and clues in order to escape within the allotted time.
With a variety of themes to choose from, ranging from a haunted house to a mad scientist’s lab, there’s a challenge for every interest and skill level.
The escape rooms are the perfect activity for friends, families, and team-building events, and just another one of the fun things to do during your visit to Derby.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 10 am – 10 pm
Website URL: https://www.escapegameover.co.uk/derby
Entrance Cost: Prices vary depending on the number of players and the chosen room. Please check the website for details.
What I Love:
- Themed Escape Rooms
- Challenging Puzzles
- Group Experiences
6. Visit the quads arts centre
Best For: Art lovers, film enthusiasts, digital creatives, and families
QUAD Arts Centre is a vibrant cultural hub in Derby that brings together contemporary art, film, and digital media in one innovative space.
The centre features cutting-edge art exhibitions, an independent cinema showcasing the best in world, independent, and British films, as well as workshops and events focused on digital creativity.
QUAD Arts Centre is a must-visit destination for art lovers, film buffs, and those looking to engage with the creative community in Derby.
What I Love:
- Contemporary Art Exhibitions
- Independent Cinema
- Workshops and Events
7. Visit Pickford's house
Best For: History lovers, architecture enthusiasts, families, and students
Pickford’s House is a beautifully preserved Georgian townhouse and museum that offers a fascinating glimpse into 18th-century life.
Built by the prominent architect Joseph Pickford, the house showcases elegant period rooms filled with fine furniture, artwork, and decorative items.
Visitors can explore the house, stroll through the charming gardens, and discover the lives and tastes of the Georgian middle class.
Pickford’s House is an excellent destination for history enthusiasts and those interested in architecture and interior design.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm; Closed on Sundays and Mondays
Entrance Cost: Free admission, but donations are encouraged
What I Love:
- Georgian Architecture
- Period Rooms
- Charming Gardens
8. visit the royal crown derby
Best For: Ceramics enthusiasts, history lovers, art and design aficionados, and collectors
Royal Crown Derby, one of the oldest remaining English porcelain manufacturers, offers visitors the chance to explore the world of fine china in Derby.
This historic factory and museum showcase the craftsmanship and artistry that have made Royal Crown Derby’s porcelain products world-renowned.
Visitors can take guided factory tours, learn about the company’s rich history, and browse exquisite collections of tableware, giftware, and collectibles.
Royal Crown Derby showcases some of the very best in ceramics, design, and British craftsmanship making it well worth a visit whilst visiting Derby.
Opening Hours: Museum: Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm; Factory Tours: Tuesday to Thursday: 11 am and 1:30 pm
Website URL: https://www.royalcrownderby.co.uk/
Entrance Cost: Museum entry is free; Factory tours cost £7 for adults, £5.50 for concessions, and £4.50 for children
What I Love:
- Guided Factory Tours
- Museum Exhibits
- Shopping Experience
9. Explore Hopton Hall Gardens
Best For: Nature lovers, photographers, families, and couples
Are you ready to tiptoe through the tulips? Hopton Hall Gardens is your garden of earthly delights and is one of my favourite things to do in Derby for couples or with the faily
This magnificent estate boasts enchanting gardens with dazzling displays of flora and fauna that change with the seasons. From the magical snowdrop walks in winter to the vibrant summer rose gardens, there’s always something new and exciting to see.
Hopton Hall Gardens is a true paradise for nature lovers, photographers, and anyone who appreciates the beauty of the great outdoors – or those who simply need a break from the concrete jungle!
Opening Hours: Seasonal opening hours, please check the website for details
Website URL: https://www.hoptonhall.co.uk/
Entrance Cost: Prices vary depending on the season; please check the website for details
What I Love:
- Snowdrop Walks
- Summer Rose Gardens
- Wildlife Pond
10. wander through darley park
Best For: Everyone!
Grab your picnic basket and put on your walking shoes, Darley Park is calling your name. This picturesque riverside park offers a serene retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.
With lush greenery, beautiful gardens, and plenty of open space, Darley Park is the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely stroll, a family picnic, or an afternoon snooze in the sun.
If you’re lucky, you might even catch a live concert at the park’s bandstand – it’s music to our ears.
It’s a lovely way to pass a couple of hours and a fun thing to do in Derby as a couple or with the family and kids.
What I Love:
- Riverside Walks
- Hydrangea Garden
- Bandstand Concerts
11. Take a tour around the Derby Brewing Company
Best For: Beer enthusiasts, foodies, friends, and couples
Thirsty for some hoppy goodness? The Derby Brewing Company has you covered in this category. As Derby’s oldest independent brewery, they know a thing or two about crafting the perfect pint.
Offering guided brewery tours and tastings, visitors can learn about the art of brewing and sample a range of delicious ales.
And if that wasn’t enough to make you feel “hop-timistic,” the brewery also runs several award-winning pubs where you can relax, enjoy a delicious meal, and taste their delightful creations.
Overall, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon catching up and having fun with friends and one of the best things to do in Derby for adults.
What I Love:
- Sneaky peak into the world of craft beer brewing
- Beer tasting…obviously
- Award-winning pubs
12. Visit the Bluebells dairy farm
Best For:Families with kids, animal lovers, and ice cream enthusiasts
Moo-ve over, city life! Bluebells Dairy Farm is here to steal your heart with its adorable animals and mouth-watering ice cream.
This family-run farm offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with friendly farm animals, learn about the art of dairy farming, and indulge in their award-winning ice cream.
With a variety of exciting flavours made from their own milk, your taste buds will be doing a happy dance.
Bluebells Dairy Farm is a delightful day out in Derby for families, animal lovers, and anyone who can’t resist the siren call of creamy, delicious ice cream.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 9:30 am – 5 pm
Website URL: https://www.bluebelldairy.co.uk/
Entrance Cost: Farm entry fees: Adults £5, Children (2-16) £6, Under 2s free; additional charges for certain activities
What I Love:
- Farmyard Animals that the kids love
- Award-Winning Ice Cream
- Fun Play Areas
13. explore calke abbey and gardens
Best For: History lovers, nature enthusiasts, families, and couples
Take a step back in time and explore the fascinating world of Calke Abbey, a stunning country estate that tells the tale of the decline of the English country house.
Filled with intriguing objects, this Baroque mansion has been purposely left in a state of disrepair to showcase the beauty in decay.
The estate features extensive gardens, parklands, and woodlands, providing a stunning backdrop for a leisurely walk or picnic.
Calke Abbey is an enchanting destination for history enthusiasts, nature lovers, and those seeking a bit of whimsy and wonder.
Opening Hours: Grounds: Daily 9:30 am – 4 pm; House: Wednesday to Sunday 11 am – 4 pm (hours may vary seasonally, please check the website for details)
Website URL: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/calke-abbey
Entrance Cost: Admission fees apply for house and grounds access; please check the website for details
What I Love:
- Unrestored Baroque Mansion filled with intrigue
- Enchanting Gardens to explore and wander around
- Expansive Parklands
14. Stroll down the derwent river & Visit The old mills
Best For: History lovers, industrial heritage enthusiasts, families, and nature lovers
The Derwent River and Mills are an important part of Derby’s industrial heritage and a marvel of engineering. The river flows through the heart of the city and powered the cotton mills that were once the backbone of the local economy.
It’s a great spot to explore and learn about the history of the mills and the people who worked there.
The Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site includes several mill complexes, such as Masson Mills and Cromford Mills, which offer guided tours and exhibits that provide a fascinating glimpse into the past.
Take a stroll along the river, enjoy the peaceful scenery, and discover the industrial history that shaped Derby (and the rest of the UK…)
Opening Hours: Depends on the specific mill or site; please check the website for details
Website URL: https://www.derwentvalleymills.org/
Entrance Cost: Admission fees apply for some mill sites; please check the website for details
What I Love:
- UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Guided Tours and Exhibits
- Scenic River Walks and glorious nature walks
15. Explore the market hall
Best For: Shopaholics, foodies, families, and tourists
Ready for a shopping adventure? Head to Derby Market Hall, where you’ll find over 50 independent stalls offering a wide variety of goods, from fresh produce and artisanal cheeses to unique gifts and souvenirs.
Even if you’re not shopping, the place is still worth a drop-in just to see the colossal steel and glass structure that homes this historic market.
The retro hall has been a hub of activity since the 19th century and is a great spot to soak up the local atmosphere and support local businesses.
With friendly vendors, delicious food, and one-of-a-kind finds, Derby Market Hall is a shopper’s paradise!
What I Love:
- Local Produce and Artisanal Goods
- Unique Souvenirs and Gifts
- Vibrant Atmosphere
16. Visit The Crich Tramway Village
Best For: Families with kids, history buffs, and transportation enthusiasts
All aboard. Crich Tramway Village is a great day out for the whole family. This living museum is home to over 60 vintage trams that have been lovingly restored to their former glory, providing a unique glimpse into the history of public transportation.
A short 30-minute drive north for a day trip and visitors can ride on trams, explore exhibits, and learn all about the people who worked on these historic and majestic trams.
The village also features a variety of shops, cafes, and play areas, ensuring that there’s something for everyone.
Crich Tramway Village is a charming and educational destination that will transport you back in time and well worth the visit, especially with the kids.
Opening Hours: Open seasonally; please check the website for details
Website URL: https://www.tramway.co.uk/
Entrance Cost: £22 for adults, £14 for children (group, senior and other tickets also available, please check their website)
What I Love:
- Vintage Trams and Exhibits
- Unique Shopping and Dining
- Play Areas and Entertainment
17. Visit Pride Park - home to derby county football club
Best For: Football fans, sports enthusiasts, families, and friends
Head to Pride Park, home to Derby County Football Club, and experience the excitement of live sports.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply looking for a fun day out, Pride Park has something for everyone.
With a capacity of over 33,000 spectators, the stadium boasts state-of-the-art facilities, excellent views, and an electric atmosphere that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Cheer on the Rams as they take on their rivals and soak up the excitement of live sports at Pride Park.
Opening Hours: Depends on the fixtures and matches; please check the website for details
Website URL: https://www.dcfc.co.uk/
Entrance Cost: Ticket prices vary depending on the match and seat location; please check the website for details
What I Love:
- Live Sports and Excitement
- State-of-the-Art Facilities
- Excellent Views and Atmosphere
17 Best Things To Do In Derby
- Visit Derby Museum and Art Gallery
- Explore Derby Cathedral
- Take a stroll through Markeaton park
- Indoor climbing at Clip ‘n Climb
- Immerse yourself in a Derby Escape Room
- Visit the QUADS Arts Centre
- Visit Pickford’s House
- Visit the Royal Crown Derby
- Explore Hopton Hall Gardens
- Wander through Darley Park
- Take a tour around The Derby Brewing Company
- Visit the Bluebells Dairy Farm
- Explore Calke Abbey and Gardens
- Stroll down the Derwent River & Visit The Old Mills
- Explore the Market Hall
- Visit The Crich Tramway Villiage
- Visit Pride Park – home to Derby County Football Club
What can you do at Derby?
There are plenty of things to do in Derby, such as visiting museums and art galleries, exploring parks and gardens, enjoying live sports events, going on brewery tours and tastings, shopping at local markets, and experiencing the rich history and heritage of the city.
What is special about Derby?
Derby is a city with a rich industrial heritage, and its historic mills, factories, and canals are a testament to its importance in the industrial revolution. Today, Derby is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, with a thriving arts and culture scene, a wide range of dining and shopping options, and plenty of green spaces and outdoor activities.
Is Derby good for a day out?
Yes, Derby is a great destination for a day out, offering a wide variety of attractions and activities to suit all interests and ages. Whether you’re a fan of history, culture, sports, nature, or shopping, there’s something for everyone in Derby.
What is Derby nightlife like?
Derby has a lively nightlife scene, with a range of pubs, bars, clubs, and restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets. Whether you’re looking for a cosy pub, a trendy cocktail bar, or a buzzing nightclub, you’ll find plenty of options in Derby. The city also hosts a variety of cultural and entertainment events, such as live music concerts and theatre performances, making it a great destination for a night out.