25 Best Things to Do in Derby, England

Derby, England
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The best words to describe Derby are central, compact, connected, and high-tech.

The city lies along the banks of the River Derwent and is located in the heart of the United Kingdom, with the nearest airport at East Middleton.

Derby is considered to be the birthplace of industrialization and is where you'll find the Silk Mill, the world's first-ever fully mechanized factory.

The city is filled with many ancient monuments, halls, and parks.

It is the home of Rolls-Royce and great scholars like Darwin, Joseph Wright, and John Whitehurst.

Derby offers many forms of entertainment for people belonging to various age groups and is particularly known for its races.

The city is one of the best places to visit in the United Kingdom, whether you're traveling solo, with family, or with a group of friends.

These are the best things to do in Derby, England:

Street view of Derby Museum and Art Gallery
Photo © Malcolm Neal (cc-by-sa/2.0)

If you are interested in knowing about the cultural heritage and richness of Derby, Derby Museum and Art Gallery is the place to go.

Front view of Derby Museum and Art Gallery
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It houses collections that reflect archaeology, national history, geology, military history, and world cultures.

Exhibits at Derby Museum and Art Gallery
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The museum also showcases a painting of Joseph Wright of Derby, along with a large display of the royal crown of Derby.

Relax and Take in Scenic Views at Foremark Reservoir

Foremark Reservoir during sunset
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Foremark Reservoir is the best place to relax and enjoy the view.

One can also go walking, fishing, birdwatching, and horseback riding here.

Shore of Foremark Reservoir
Lynne Kirton / Foremark reservoir

Visitors can spend their evenings just relaxing in the park with a view of the water.

The entry is free, but you have to pay for parking.

Located near the town of Melbourne, Staunton Harold Reservoir is a similar place you may want to check out.

Watch a Heart-Pumping Race at Donington Park

Bright red cars at Donington Park
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Donington Park is one of the great racing circuits in the world.

There are many bike and car races that take place here throughout the year.

If you arrive early, you'll definitely get a spectacular view.

Bike race at Donington Park
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The track has conducted popular events such as British Superbikes, Truck Racing, British F3, and much more.

Donington Park is located in Castle Donington, which is a serene and beautiful place that will never fail to awe you with its architectural beauty.


Travel to 18th Century England at Pickford's House

Garden at Pickford's House
Peter Barr / Georgian Garden

Pickford's House is the family home of Georgian architect Joseph Pickford.

It illustrates domestic life from 18th to 20th century England.

This unique museum is located a short walk from the city center.

You are free to roam around its four floors.

There are servants in the house who will treat visitors like their masters so that they can get a full experience of the master-servant relationship of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Several exhibitions take place at Pickford's House.

It also boasts a vast collection of antiques.

Entry and parking are free.


Enjoy the Melodies at Derby Cathedral

Road leading to Derby Cathedral
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The Derby Cathedral building is beautiful inside and out.

Its calm and serene atmosphere invites visitors to reflect and meditate.

Stunning interior of Derby Cathedral
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Refreshing hymns are played in this cathedral at 9:00 am, 12:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. every day.

Derby Cathedral also has the second-largest tower in England, which is open to visitors only once a month.

Front view of Derby Cathedral
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You may visit their official website to see the dates it is open to the public.

When the tower is open, a trained guide will tour you around and take you to the top.


Experience the Countryside at Markeaton Park

Distant view of Markeaton Park
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Markeaton Park is situated at the edge of the city and offers an escape for both tourists and people living in Derby.

It gives tourists a taste of what countryside living is like in England.

Vast play area at Markeaton Park
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The park boasts amenities such as a large play area, paddling pool, crazy golf, donkey rides, a bouncy castle, car and bike tracks, a light railway, and a boating lake.

Scenic view of autumn trees at Markeaton Park
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It also has an obstacle course called Skyline High Ropes, where both adults and kids can play.

Markeaton Park is an ideal place for an afternoon picnic.


Join a Ghost Walk at the Derby Gaol

The Derby Gaol's ghost walk is a must-try when visiting the city.

It is a world-famous ghost walk and runs throughout the year.

The Derby Gaol offers two different ghost walks: the New City Centre Ghost Walk and the Friar Gate (Hangman's) Ghost Walk.

There is also a police museum that tells of haunted stories of things that happened in the jail.

The place also shares stories of 170 years of policing, with a large collection of artifacts and items that are on display.

Visitors can also investigate a ghost crime scene.


Visit the Fascinating Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust

Display at Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust
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The Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust has a large unique collection of aero engines.

Visitors can observe how technology has evolved over a period of time around the world, not only of Rolls-Royce but also about other jet propulsions.

Meachinery at Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust
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There are knowledgeable staff and friendly volunteers who will help you.

Visitors may only drop by this place with prior appointments.


Wander at Derby Market Hall

Top view of the stalls at Derby Market Hall
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Even if you aren't really planning to go shopping, you should definitely still drop by Derby Market Hall just for the experience.

Entrance of Derby Market Hall
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It is a hub for local businesses, where diverse sellers offer a wide range of homegrown food, flowers, vintage clothing, retro toys, craft items, hair and beauty services, and takeaway food in a large building.

Derby Market Hall gives visitors a taste of authentic shopping.

A man buying food from a stall at Derby Market Hall
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Grab a Drink at Rowley's Gin Bar

Rowley's Gin Bar is one of Derby's oldest and most famous bars, boasting a cozy ambiance.

They have an extensive rum collection for diners to choose from.

You can also pre-book and enjoy rum tasting sessions at Rowley's Gin Bar.

There are always different types of sales going on in this bar.

The staff is patient and will always tell you about the different drinks on offer.


Enjoy Retail Therapy at Derbion

Nameboard of INTU Derby
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Formerly known as Intu Derby, Derbion is a large indoor shopping center located in the center of the city.

It boasts an excellent variety of food and shopping options, and you'll find Showcase Cinema de Lux right at the center.

Interior of Derbion
Clive Stapleton / Shutterstock.com

The shopping center has many top brand stores where you can shop for clothes, house needs, groceries, and more.

They also offer bowling and crazy golf for visitors' entertainment.

Exterior of Intu Derby
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Take a Walk amid Nature at Calke Abbey

Calke Abbey during winter
Shelli Jensen / shutterstock.com

Calke Abbey is a Grade I-listed country house in England that is under the control of the National Trust.

The house is open for tours, and you can also walk through the surrounding woods, lakes, and gardens.

Front view of Calke Abbey
Chris Hoare, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This English country house is not like any typical estate.

There is a huge play area for children, and the fallen trees are really fun for them to play with as well.

Staircase at Calke Abbey
It's No Game from Leicestershire, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

During certain times of the year, children can also create their own den when they visit Calke Abbey.


Experience a Taste of Derby's Culture at Kedleston Hall

Distant view of Kedleston Hall
Simon Annable / shutterstock.com

Kedleston Hall is a typical English house with a well-designed neoclassical interior.

It has 21 heavily decorated columns and three three-story buildings that are connected through corridors.

Ballroom at Kedleston Hall
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The rooms in the house are well-furnished and display interesting paintings.

Derby also has many culturally preserved places like this, which include Haddon Hall, Hardwick Hall, Sudbury Hall, and many more.

Entrance of Kedleston Hall
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Stay in a Waterside Lodge at Mercia Marina

Europe's largest inland marina, Mercia Marina is home to a number of contemporary country-style cottages near a waterside.

There are nice restaurants and high-end shops around the area as well.

Mercia Marina is an excellent place to walk around with a view of water and boat.

Visitors can indulge themselves in activities such as boating and birdwatching.


Go for a Drive along Swarkestone Bridge

Swarkestone Bridge over River Trent
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Swarkestone Bridge is a medieval bridge over the River Trent, connecting the villages of Swarkestone and Stanton.

It is considered to be one of the longest stone bridges in England.

Vehicles travelling on Swarkestone Bridge
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Visitors can enjoy a one-mile ride on the Swarkestone Bridge with a view of waters running on both sides.


Spend a Night Out at Genting Casino Riverlights

Front view of Genting Casino Riverlights
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Genting Casino Riverlights is the best place to hang out at night in Derby.

They offer table games and a bar, which provides snacks and drinks.

You can enjoy playing in the casino, sipping drinks, and having fun with your friends on your vacation.

Have an Exquisite Indian Dinner at Shalimar Gold

Cozy interior of Shalimar Gold
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Shalimar Gold is one of the top-rated restaurants in the city.

This well-loved Indian restaurant has been operating on Midland Road for more than 40 years.

Shalimar Gold offers an opulent setting, flawless service, delicious food, and the friendliest welcome.

An authentic look into traditional Indian food is provided by Shalimar Gold's thoughtful menu, which is prepared by their award-winning chefs utilizing fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Discover interesting artworks, poems, and custom-made furniture, all arranged in a delicate layout of cozy rooms.

Watch a Football Game at Pride Park Stadium

Entrance of Pride Park Stadium
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With a 33,597 capacity, Pride Park Stadium is one of the 20 biggest football stadiums in the nation.

Despite the enormous numbers, however, the stadium rarely sells out on game days.

Statue in front of Pride Park Stadium
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If you're a fan of English football, you'll be interested to see the monument of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor standing arm in arm on Unity Plaza in the northwest corner of the field.

Interior of Pride Park Stadium
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They brought Derby its first league championship in 1972, and the 1970s represent a pinnacle in the club's history.

If you're in Derby during football season, your chances of finding tickets are definitely high.

Shop for Porcelain Goods at Royal Crown Derby

Entrance of Royal Crown Derby
Dave Bevis / Derby - Royal Crown Derby Works

In the heart of England, Royal Crown Derby, a porcelain company founded in 1750, produces the best dinnerware available.

Exquisite fine bone china, innovative design that sets trends, unmatched quality, and top-notch customer service are the trademarks of its reputation.

Procelain Jug at Royal Crown Derby
Hiart, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

They have built their name over 270 years by serving illustrious customers like royal families and known hotels and restaurants in the world.

Royal Crown Derby is one of the last tableware businesses to manufacture all of its products completely in the United Kingdom.

Go on a Leisurely Stroll around Darley Park

Beautiful narrow paved path at Darley Park
Luke Brennan / Shutterstock.com

From Derby's city center, follow the Derwent upstream until you reach Darley Park, an 80-acre area with farms and woodland on both river banks.

It is situated on the outskirts of Darley Abbey, a former mill community that is now a part of Derby's northern suburbs and is included in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

River Derwent passing through Darley Park
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The public was welcomed to Darley Park on the exact date as Markeaton Park in 1921, and it is famous for its floral beds.

Four hundred different types of hydrangeas, the greatest collection in all of Britain, may be found here, creating a display of color in May and June.

Admire wonderful sights and relax in Darley Park.

Picnic area at Darley Park
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Watch Planes Take off at East Midlands Aeropark

East Midlands Aeropark is a booming international passenger and freight airport where you can observe the contemporary airliners of today taking off and landing while studying the preserved planes of the past.

With indoor and outdoor spaces, this aviation museum displays a variety of historic engines and aircraft.

The majority of the post-war aircraft and helicopters outside are made by British companies.

The Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 Argosy is one of the most notable of the up to 30 aircraft that may be on display at any given time.

East Midlands Aeropark is filled with parts, including Bristol Hercules, Gyron Junion, and Rolls-Royce Spey engines, and even a Link Simulator, pictures, and models.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Ride a Cable Car at the Heights of Abraham

Cable cars at Heights of Abraham
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Located in Matlock Bath, the Heights of Abraham is a hilltop park on Masson Hill.

One can reach get here either by cable car or by walking on a zigzag path.

Visitors may avail of two famous cavern tours, catch film screenings at the High Falls Film Theatre, and check out the exhibition at the Masson Pavilion.

View from Heights of Abraham
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There are two adventure playgrounds where you can let your kids play and enjoy the view.

This tourist attraction also includes a fossil factory, heritage estate, and walking paths.

Cable cars at Heights of Abraham
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The Heights of Abraham also has cafes and gift shops.

Plut points: Your pets are welcome here, too.

Be Awestruck at the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site

Bridge at Derwent Valley Mills
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Derwent Valley Mills is the only World Heritage Site in East Midland, located near the River Derwent.

It offers various activities such as the Bonsall Art Trails (a workshop with live music), Making at the Mill (you can create your own souvenirs using needles), Bazaar (a monthly market where you can bargain and get various unique items), Time Travellers Tour (explore the mill with a costumed guide), Doffers Tie Dyers, and Water Power Tour.

There is a museum with many ancient machines in the basement of the four-story mill building.

Unleash Your Inner Artist at Denby Pottery Village

Located 20 minutes away from Derby, Denby Pottery manufactures tableware, cookware, and dining accessories.

Visitors can try their hand at creating their own pottery at the Denby Pottery Village Craft Studio.

There's also the option to tour Denby Pottery Village Museum and learn about their 200-year pottery-making journey.

There is also an on-site restaurant that serves food with tableware produced by Denby Pottery.

You can also purchase unique souvenirs here.

Travel Back in Time at Crich Tramway Village

Visitors enjoying their tram ride at Crich Tramway Village
Chris Jenner / Shutterstock.com

Crich Tramway Village, situated 30 minutes outside Derby, is a national tram museum that has over 60 trams.

It is set within a recreated village that is home to a working pub, cafe, old-style sweet shop, and tram depots.

Visitors can be transported one mile into the village on the tram.

Trams parked at the National Tramway Museum at Crich Tramway Village
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Every 10 minutes, you can spot a tram.

This place can be seen as a live historical museum.

They also have a huge play area.

Tram ride in Crich Tramway Village
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It is a fun place to go with family and is very entertaining for kids.

Crich Tramway Village is a must-see attraction near Derby.

Final Thoughts

Derby is home to several historic buildings, halls and parks, stores, stadiums, and a whole lot more sights worth seeing.

Walking through parks, visiting museums, taking in breathtaking nature scenes, and learning more about the city's fascinating past are some of the best things to do in Derby.

Go forward and create memories in various tourist locations!