Newcastle and Durham are very popular for the tons of touristy attractions and fun activities, yet they might be too crowded for you to enjoy your stay to the fullest. Where do you go if you want to visit the Northeast but not be bombarded with crowds and tourists? Somewhere that is also fun and beautiful and full of places to visit? Why don’t you try Sunderland? We promise there are a lot of things to do in Sunderland!
We know it is not the first place that pops into your mind when you think “fun!”. However, Sunderland can really surprise you! Whether you want to have a relaxing family vacation on a beautiful beach, want to shop till you drop, or want to visit historical sights and museums, Sunderland has got your back!
The Best Things to Do in Sunderland
Back in the day, Sunderland was known for its coal mining and shipbuilding businesses. Those two industries, along with glass making, were what the city was known for for hundreds of years. However, after the decline of the coal mining and shipbuilding industries, Sunderland had to reinvent itself! As an always innovative city, it leaned into becoming a beacon for enterprises and business-oriented people.
Even Though that does not sound fun for tourists, it is a big part of the city’s vibes. Knowing the city’s history and how it came to be today will make your trip to Sunderland even more interesting and exciting! Business aside, though, there are many fun things to do in Sunderland. From vast green parks to waterfront museums to crystal clear beaches, Sunderland has something to offer for everybody!
So, if you’re thinking about planning a trip there, here are the best things to do in Sunderland, England!
Visit Sunderland Museum
As we said, the best way to get to know a place is to learn about its history. Sunderland Museum is located at the heart of the city centre. It is the place to go whether you’re looking for an educational journey through Sunderland’s history or looking to find fun activities to do with your children. The museum is open to the public all year long and is one of the best places to visit in the city!
There are many attractions, exhibitions, and galleries in Sunderland Museum. One of the most popular exhibitions is Wallace the Lion, an exhibition made in honour of Wallace, a lion that was part of a touring circus in the 1800s. Children absolutely love this exhibition, and we bet you will as well!
For the history-loving adults, the museum is full of items that showcase Sunderland’s history of coal mining, shipbuilding, and glass making. You can also see the first-ever car produced by Nissan in their Sunderland factory! Sunderland is proud of its history, and that will be evident as you walk around the museum.
Walk Around the Sunderland Winter Gardens
The Winter Gardens are a new addition to Sunderland Museum that was built in the 21st century. The tropical gardens feature over 2,000 species of plants that thrive in this breathtaking glass-covered garden. You can take a walk through the garden using the treetop walkway. Being able to see not just the Winter Gardens but also Mowbray Park all the way from the top is a beautiful experience you will never forget!
Both the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens are free to enter all year round! Visit and stay as long as you want to with your whole family in tow. You will not run out of activities to do or exhibitions to visit!
Have Fun at the National Glass Centre
You might be thinking, “What is fun about glass?!” Well, a lot! The National Glass Centre in Sunderland is an educational centre, an activity hub, and one of the places with the best view in the city! Located right on Wear Riverfront, The National Glass Museum is one of the most visited attractions in Sunderland. It offers many activities, educational lessons, and a deep look into the history of glass-making in the city.
Glassmaking was introduced to Sunderland in the 7th century AD. Since then, it has been one of the most critical industries in the city. The National Glass Centre does not only offer a museum-like experience where you can learn all about glass making in England, but it also provides glass-based activities for kids and adults. You can learn how to make your own glass items, or if that is too hard, you can just buy something for the gift shop!
Before you leave the National Glass Centre, make sure to grab a bite in the restaurant by the waterfront. If you’re also feeling brave, you can take a walk on the glass roof of the museum! The daring walk is one of the most fun things to do in Sunderland.
Soak in the Sun at Roker and Seaburn Beaches
Are you up for some fun in the sun? Most people make trips to other cities or even countries to enjoy their sandy beaches and blue waters, and Sunderland does not only have one gorgeous beach but two! Roker and Seaburn beaches are two of the most beautiful natural sights in Sunderland. Their golden sands attract locals and tourists alike from all over England every year.
Both Roker and Seaburn are known as Blue Flag Beaches, meaning they are commended for their environmental impact and their excellent facilities. Whether you choose to go to Roker or Seaburn, you can enjoy the countless restaurants and bars that line the shore after your day on the beach. From local eateries to international chains, you can find everything you want at the piers.
The beaches are obviously free to enter with your family. Even the restaurants around the beaches vary in prices so that you can enjoy your time there and eat something delicious no matter your budget! So, when you’re looking for outdoor activities and things to do in Sunderland, pack a beach bag and head to Roker and Seaburn.
Enjoy Nature at Roker Park
While at Roker Beach, you will be able to see the stunning waterfront park, Roker Park. A wealthy landowner donated Roker Park to the city of Sunderland in the 1800s, and since then, it has served as one of the most beloved public parks in Sunderland.
The park has gorgeous nature and landscapes where you can have a nice picnic with your family or friends. It is also perfect for a solo morning walk or jog, where you can appreciate the sights around you and maybe sit by the beach to relax! Speaking of the beach, to get there from the park, you need to walk through a ravine, which can be a bit steep, so be careful!
Roker Park has many facilities for children and families, such as the mini railroad, tennis courts, and the model boating lake. You can easily spend a whole day in the park without getting bored for one minute! Park and beach days are one of the best things to do in Sunderland in the summer.
Tour the Roker Pier and Lighthouse
The Roker Pier and Lighthouse are one of Sunderland’s most iconic landmarks. Located at Sunderland’s harbour, Roker Pier and Lighthouse were built between 1885 and 1903 by the Henry Way Wake and were called a “triumph of engineering”. The Lighthouse’s iconic red and grey hoops will get your attention the moment you step onto the pier!
The location was restored in 2012 after being closed down for years. Nowadays, you can take a walk along the pier to enjoy the beautiful sea views. You can also book a guided tour to tour the tunnel and the lighthouse with volunteers. The tours are great and teach you a lot about the history of Sunderland and how the lighthouse was used to protect its people and guide ships.
Children are always fascinated by lighthouses as they do not get to see them much nowadays. Make sure to pack some snacks and a bottle of water, and go spend some time at the historic Roker Pier and Lighthouse.
Visit the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art
Art lovers, Sunderland has got your back! If you are one who appreciates the finer things in life, like art, then you must make the time to visit the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland. The gallery is one of the best landmarks of the city, providing locals and tourists an artistic escape into the world of some of the UK’s best artists.
The gallery consists of one big open space floor that can be divided into smaller rooms depending on need. They consistently host exhibitions for established and emerging artists alike. Some of the UK and the world’s best contemporary artists held their first-ever exhibitions in the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art.
Make sure to check their opening hours and various exhibitions before you head there. The Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art is an excellent spot for a romantic gallery date or a nice solo night out where you can have some time for yourself to look at beautiful works of art.
Shop at the Local Malls and City Centre
A vacation is never complete without a local shopping spree! Sunderland has a lot to offer shoppers, from local markets to malls with international brands. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it in Sunderland!
The Bridges is one of the biggest and most popular malls in Sunderland. The indoor shopping centre offers around ninety high-street stores, restaurants, and private parking. It is also very easy to get to The Bridges using public transport, which is one of the main reasons for its popularity.
If you prefer an outdoor shopping experience where you can also enjoy the local sights of the city, then head to the city centre. There, you can find a number of shops selling various products ranging from clothes to shoes to shoes to beauty products to sports gear and even electronics. Being in the city centre will also give you the opportunity to try out the restaurants and bars in the area!
Festivals and Music Concerts
Sunderland is a lively city that hosts many festivals and music concerts throughout the year. It might not be London, but the city sure knows how to entertain! Depending on when you will be heading to Sunderland, you can check out what events are happening at the time you are there. Keep your hopes up, though, because Ed Sheeran once played in Sunderland, and people went wild!
People who are willing to go to cities where tourists do not usually go are the ones who have the most fun! Cities like Sunderland might not be popular tourist destinations, but that does not take away from its beauty. You can actually enjoy the city’s landmarks and beaches without having to fight tourists for free spots or stand in long lines! So the next time you’re looking for a place to relax, book a trip to Sunderland!