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20 Best Family-Friendly Things to do in Derby 2024: Derbyshire Attractions

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Derby, located in the East Midlands region of England, is a city with a rich history and cultural significance.

From stunning historic sites and architectural wonders to exciting outdoor activities, Derby offers a range of experiences that are sure to leave a lasting impression.

In this article, we will cover the most memorable things to do in Derby, including cultural landmarks, hidden gems, and exciting outdoor activities.

Whether you’re a history buff, an adventure seeker, or a culture vulture, Derby has something for everyone. So, if you ever find yourself in this charming city, be sure to give these activities a try and create unforgettable memories.

Planning your trip? Use my favorite resources!

🏨 Accommodation: I recommend Booking.com
✈️ Flights: for the cheapest flights, I use Skyscanner
🚗 Rental Car: I recommend Discover Cars
🛡️ Travel Insurance: for the best deals I rely on SafetyWing

Derby Essentials Checklist:

✅ An excellent pair of walking shoes (for lots of walking)
✅ A hoodie or warm sweater (for chilly evenings especially in winter)
✅ A decent raincoat (it rains a lot here)
✅ A good quality compact camera (for taking great pics)

Derby tourist information

How to get there

Air: The main airport is East Midlands Airport (EMA), located approximately 14 miles away. Click here for airport transfers to Derby.

Getting around Derby

The city is well-connected by public transport.

Cycling: Derby has an extensive cycling network which provides easy access to the city center and other towns in the area.

Bus: Buses are a convenient option to travel around Derby, a single adult fare costs around £2 (cards are accepted).

Train: The main train station in Derby is Derby Station, which is located in the city center and provides great transport links to the rest of the UK. You can take a train from London St. Pancras to Derby Station in approximately 1.5 hours!

Car: Derby has an extensive road network and is easy to navigate. You can hire a rental car here.

Best time to visit Derby

The best time to visit Derby is from early May to late September, with July and August being the warmest months, and November being the wettest month.

Derby Attractions Map

Use the interactive map below to see all the best Derby attractions and places to visit in Derby and Derbyshire region:

20 Best Family-Friendly Things to do in Derby 2024

The ultimate guide to the top things to do in Derby for couples, families, and solo travelers, plus hidden gems in Derbyshire off the beaten path.


1. Visit the Derby Cathedral and climb the tower for stunning city views

Derby Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral Church of All Saints, is a beautiful Georgian-style cathedral in the heart of Derby. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, offering visitors a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the area.

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Visitors to the cathedral can expect to be impressed by its stunning architectural details and intricate design. With its intricate stone carvings and breathtaking stained glass windows, the cathedral is truly a masterpiece of design and craftsmanship.

Derby Cathedral is also home to a number of religious and cultural events throughout the year. These events include concerts, art exhibitions, and other performances. Visitors are encouraged to check the cathedral’s official website for information on upcoming events.

The combination of history, culture, architectural wonder and impressive aerial views of the city make Derby Cathedral one of the best affordable things to do in Derby for budget travelers.

Location (Google Maps): Iron Gate, Derby DE1 3GP, United Kingdom
Opening times: Monday-Saturday: 10am-4pm, Sunday: 1pm-3pm
Admission: Free (donations welcome)


Derby Museum and Art Gallery is a must-visit for anyone interested in history, art, and culture. The museum and art gallery was established in 1879 and is located in a beautiful building designed by Richard Knill Freeman and donated to Derby by Michael Thomas Bass.

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The museum boasts a vast collection of paintings, sculpture, and artifacts that span the centuries, including the world’s largest collection of works by the 18th-century artist Joseph Wright of Derby.

Visitors can expect to see a range of exhibits, from archaeology and natural history to fine art and ceramics. One of the most popular displays is the Joseph Wright Gallery, which showcases some of the artist’s most famous works, including “An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump” and “A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery”. The gallery is a fascinating insight into the scientific and cultural advances of the 18th century, and the impact they had on society.

In addition to the exhibitions, the museum also offers a range of educational programs, workshops, and events, making it a fantastic destination for families, school groups, and art enthusiasts alike. There is also a gift shop that offers a range of souvenirs and gifts, including books, prints, and jewelry.

Location (Google Maps): The Strand, Derby, Derbyshire DE1 1BS
Opening times: Monday-Saturday: 10am-4pm, Sunday: 1pm-3pm
Admission: Free, although some special exhibitions may have a fee.


3. Enjoy a walk in the picturesque Darley Park or the magnificent Markeaton Park

Darley Park is a stunning and popular park located within walking distance of Derby city centre, situated on the banks of the River Derwent and at the gateway to the Derwent Valley Mills. It offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely walk in a picturesque setting, with plenty of green space to relax and enjoy the outdoors. The park is also home to an annual open-air concert, held in the Terrace Garden.

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Darley Park

Markeaton Park meanwhile, is one of Derby’s most popular attractions and its most visited park. It is located on the edge of the city and offers visitors a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and experience the peace and tranquillity of the countryside. The park has a fascinating history waiting to be discovered and is an ideal spot for walking, jogging or just taking in the stunning scenery.

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Markeaton Park

Darley Park Location (Google Maps): Darley Abbey, Derby DE22 1EJ
Opening times: 24 hours a day

Markeaton Park Location (Google Maps): Markeaton, Derby DE22 4AA
Opening times: 7:30 am to 8:30 pm (summer), 7:30 am to 5 pm (winter)
Admission for both: Free


4. Take a tour of the Derby Silk Mill, the first factory in the world, now a museum of industry and history

Seeking historic landmarks to discover in Derby city center? Look no further than Derby Silk Mill – a museum of industry and history. In fact, the museum is widely regarded as the site of the world’s first modern factory.

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It is situated on the site of Lombe’s Mill, which marks the southern end of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. The site opened as Derby’s Industrial Museum in 1974. 

It has been reborn as the Museum of Making, which showcases the city’s 300-year history of making and celebrates Derby’s status as the UK’s first city of innovation. Visitors to the museum can learn about the city’s industrial heritage and the pioneering work that was carried out there.

The Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill is a must-visit for those interested in history and industry. Visitors can explore the museum’s many exhibits and learn about the city’s rich industrial past. The museum offers a variety of interactive displays and hands-on activities that are suitable for all ages. The museum also has a gift shop, a café, and a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city.

Location (Google Maps): 19 Full Street, Derby, DE1 3AF
Opening times: Daily from 10am to 5pm
Admission: Free, but some events and exhibitions may require a fee.

Derbyshire trips & excursions

Use the widget below to book a guided tour of some of the best attractions in Derbyshire:

 

5. Visit the Royal Crown Derby Visitor Centre and see the fine bone china being made

The Royal Crown Derby Visitor Centre is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, art, and culture. The centre offers a unique opportunity to explore the rich history and craftsmanship behind the iconic Royal Crown Derby fine bone china, making it one of the top cultural attractions to explore in Derbyshire.

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At the visitor centre, visitors can take a tour of the factory, see how the china is made, and learn about the intricate designs that have made Royal Crown Derby famous all over the world. In addition, visitors can browse and purchase a range of beautiful fine bone china, including the latest commemorative collection marking the tenth anniversary of King George III’s coronation.

Location (Google Maps): 194 Osmaston Rd, Derby DE23 8JZ
Opening times: 10am – 5pm (Currently the Visitors Center is closed)
Admission: Varies depending on the tour and packages available.


6. Watch a live performance at the Derby Theatre or the Derby Arena

Derby Theatre and Derby Arena are both popular venues for live performances, perfect for those seeking romantic activities for couples in Derby.

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Derby Theatre is a contemporary theatre that hosts a variety of productions, including plays, musicals, and dance performances. It is known for its intimate atmosphere and high-quality productions.

On the other hand, Derby Arena is a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that hosts a wide range of events, including concerts, comedy shows, and sports events. The venue is known for its modern design and excellent acoustics.

Both venues offer a diverse range of shows, catering to different audiences and interests. Whether you’re a fan of classic plays or modern musicals, there is something for everyone at Derby Theatre. Similarly, Derby Arena hosts a variety of events throughout the year, ranging from international sports competitions to popular music concerts.

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If you’re planning to watch a live performance at either venue, it’s recommended to book your tickets in advance, as these venues are popular and shows often sell out quickly. You can book tickets online through the venue’s website or by visiting their sales and information center in person.

Location:

  • Derby Theatre (Google Maps): 15 Theatre Walk, St Peter’s Quarter, Derby DE1 2NF
  • Derby Arena (Google Maps): Royal Way, Pride Park, Derby DE24 8JB

Opening times and admission prices:

  • Derby Theatre: opening times vary depending on the scheduled performances, and admission prices vary depending on the show and seating area.
  • Derby Arena: opening times and admission prices vary depending on the event. It is recommended to check the venue’s website for up-to-date information on specific events.

7. Learn about the region’s natural history at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Derbyshire Eco Centre

The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Derbyshire Eco Centre is a hub for sustainability learning and conservation efforts in Derbyshire.

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The centre, which has been protecting wildlife and wild spaces in the area since 1962, offers high-quality and enjoyable programs to support local wildlife.

Constructed using sustainable methods and technologies, including local stone, a living green roof, rainwater harvesting, air source heat pump and solar panels, the Derbyshire Eco Centre is committed to reducing its environmental impact.

Visitors can participate in a variety of sustainability-focused activities, including workshops on organic gardening, energy-efficient building, and wildlife conservation.

Location (Google Maps): Porter Ln, Wirksworth, Matlock DE4 4LS
Opening times: Monday-Friday, 9am – 5pm (closed on weekends and bank holidays)
Admission: Free (although donations are welcome to support the conservation work of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)


8. Visit the Pickford’s House Museum, an 18th-century townhouse with exhibitions on Georgian life

Pickford’s House Museum is an elegant Georgian townhouse located at No. 41 Friar Gate in Derby.

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It was built by the prominent architect Joseph Pickford in 1770 for his own family, and is now a unique museum dedicated to the life and times of the Enlightenment. The house was left to Reverend Joseph Pickford upon the elder Pickford’s death, who had it extended and divided into two properties.

The museum showcases a world-class toy theatre collection, as well as displays on the Georgian home and family life. Visitors can discover the miniature world of toy theaters in the newly expanded displays across the top floor of the museum.

Pickford’s House was the home of an Enlightenment family, and it offers a glimpse into the lives of the family who lived there. Visitors can explore the house, which has been restored to its original splendor, and imagine what life was like for the family who lived there.

Location (Google Maps): No. 41 Friar Gate, Derby DE1 1DA
Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm
Admission: Adult £6, Concession £5, Child (under 16) Free.


9. Take a day trip to the beautiful Peak District National Park, just a short drive from Derby

The Peak District National Park, located in central England, is a beautiful landscape of rolling hills, heather-covered moors, dramatic limestone cliffs, and picturesque villages.

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The park covers an area of 555 square miles and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including rare birds such as the merlin and peregrine falcon.

Its purpose, as stated by the Peak District National Park Authority, is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage of the area, while promoting opportunities for people to understand and enjoy it.

The Peak District National Park Authority owns and manages 34 miles of traffic-free trails, mostly along former rail routes. These trails are very popular among walkers, cyclists, and horse riders. The park also has numerous footpaths and bridleways that crisscross the countryside, offering visitors the chance to explore the area on foot, bike or horseback.

Easily one the best things to do near Derby, the Peak District is packed with some of the most incredible scenery and is an absolute must-see.

Location (Google Maps)
Opening times: The Peak District National Park is open 24/7, year-round, and is free to enter. However, some of the visitor centers, museums, and other attractions in the park may have their own opening times and admission fees.


10. Go shopping in the historic Derby Market Hall, with over 50 independent traders selling fresh produce and crafts

Derby Market Hall is a key component of the city’s vision for a thriving cultural and retail destination in the heart of Derby. The Market Hall underwent a significant transformation in 1989, where it received a multi-million-pound renovation, during which workmen discovered unique traces of Derby’s past, including a well that was six feet wide.

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The building was originally designed by world-famous Victorian engineers and remains a beautiful structure that’s part of Derby’s heritage. Today, the Market Hall is a retail and leisure destination that features a variety of businesses selling everything from fresh produce to clothing and electronics.

The building will also play an essential role in creating a thriving cultural heart in the Market Place and surrounding area, as part of plans to encourage the development of the Assembly Rooms site.

The ongoing transformation programme aims to enhance and improve the Market Hall, creating an even more fantastic retail and leisure destination in the heart of the city.

Location (Google Maps): Market Hall, Tennant St, Derby DE1 2DB
Opening times: Daily from 9am to 5pm, with some businesses operating on extended hours.
Admission: Free


11. Take a stroll along the Derby River Gardens and relax by the River Derwent

One of the best places to go in Derby for free is the splendid River Gardens, which have undergone significant changes in recent years, as part of a £95m regeneration scheme.

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The area was once a popular spot for locals and visitors to enjoy the beautiful scenery, but it has since been transformed to improve flood defences and rejuvenate the area. Despite these changes, it is important to understand that the River Gardens are just one example of how the city has changed over time.

Today, visitors to the River Gardens can still enjoy the stunning views towards the River Derwent, but with a modern twist. The area now includes flood gates and other flood defences, which have been put in place to protect the city from flooding.

There are also plans for a new pedestrian bridge to be built in the area, which will further enhance the scenery and provide a new route for visitors to explore the city.

Location (Google Maps): 20 The Cock Pitt, Derby DE1 2BB
Opening times: Open daily all year round.
Admission: Free


12. Grab a bite from one of these top 10 independent cafes and restaurants in Derby

Here’s an interactive map of all the best food and drink spots to try in Derby:


13. Explore the historic Kedleston Hall with its beautiful gardens and architecture

One of the best hidden gems to visit in Derby for tourists is the magnificent Kedleston Hall – a stunning neo-classical manor house located in Kedleston, approximately 4 miles north-west of Derby. Built between 1759 and 1765, it was designed by the famous architect Robert Adam and was intended to rival the grandeur of nearby Chatsworth House.

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The main hall was constructed as a space to showcase the finest art, sculpture, and furniture of the time, earning the estate its nickname, ‘a temple of the arts’.

The south front of Kedleston Hall provides an excellent example of Adam’s exterior treatment, with a triumphal arch as the exterior expression of the domed interior hall.

The manor house is the seat of the Curzon family and has a rich history. It was built after the medieval village of Kedleston was moved by Nathaniel Curzon to make way for the new manor house.

Visitors can enjoy a walk in the 820-acre parkland designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown or explore the interior of the house with its impressive collection of artwork, including paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, and Wright of Derby.

Location (Google Maps): Derby DE22 5JH
Opening times: Kedleston Hall is open 9am-5:30pm, from March to October, and during the winter months, the Hall is open for guided tours only.
Admission: As of 2023, adult tickets cost £15, child tickets cost £7.50, and family tickets cost £37.50.


14. Visit the unique and interactive National Tramway Museum in nearby Crich

The National Tramway Museum, trading as Crich Tramway Village, is a fascinating tram museum located in Crich, and is one of the more unique experiences to have in Derby during your visit.

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The museum boasts an impressive collection of over 60 trams, mainly of British origin, that were built between 1873 and 1982. Visitors can explore the museum’s various exhibits, including tram depots, a recreated period village, a working pub, a café, and an old-style sweetshop.

The museum’s displays offer an educational and engaging experience for all ages, with plenty of opportunities to learn about the history of trams and their role in society.

The National Tramway Museum is also an excellent resource for teachers, providing a variety of resources for schools, including workshops, educational packs, and school trips. 

Location (Google Maps): Matlock Rd, Crich, Matlock DE4 5DP
Opening times: Monday to Thursday and weekends until Sunday 5th November 2023, except for Fridays (unless it’s school holidays)
Admission: As of 2023, adult tickets cost £22 (adults), £14 (children 4-15yrs), £19.50 (seniors), £49.50 (family of 2 adults, 3 children). Concessions available (see online)


15. Take a tour of the Derby County Football Club stadium and museum

Derby County Football Club has called Pride Park Stadium their home since 1997 when they relocated from their previous home, The Baseball Ground.

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The stadium is not only used for Rams’ home games but also for a range of non-matchday activities such as conferences, weddings, and other sporting events. The unique design of the stadium makes it stand out, with its notable feature being the Ley Stand “Welcome to the Baseball Ground” sign that was proportionally modeled to create the typeface for the club’s bespoke font.

Location (Google Maps): Pride Park, Derby DE24 8XL
Admission: prices may vary depending on events and fixtures. It’s best to check the club’s website or contact them directly for specific information about opening times and ticket prices.


16. Visit the medieval Derby Gaol, a former prison and now a museum with ghost tours and reenactments

Derby Gaol refers to the former prison facilities in Derby, England, which date back to the 17th century.

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The gaol, which was used between 1756 and 1828, was originally two separate cell blocks. The prison has since been restored and is now a popular tourist attraction, with the cells open to the public.

Visitors can learn about the history of the gaol, as well as experience the conditions that the prisoners would have lived in, making it an interesting and informative experience for all. Visitors can also take a ghost tour with reenactments, making for an exciting visit.

The gaol’s location on Friar Gate in Derby city centre adds to its historical charm.

Location (Google Maps): 50-51 Friar Gate, Derby DE1 1DF
Opening times: Monday-Sunday, 10am-4pm
Admission: Adult – £6.00, Child (5-16) – £4.00, Family (2 adults + 2 children) – £16.00


17. See St. Mary’s Church, the largest parish church in Derbyshire with beautiful stained glass windows and an historic organ

St. Mary’s Church is a stunning Roman Catholic church located in the heart of Derby. Designed by the famous architect A. W. N. Pugin, it is considered by some to be one of his most complete works.

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The church, which is a Grade II* listed building, was constructed in the Gothic Revival style and features impressive architectural details both inside and out. Its foundation stone was laid on June 28, 1838, which happened to be Queen Victoria’s Coronation Day.

Visitors to St. Mary’s Church can expect to be awed by its elegant and ornate design. The church also features a footbridge built over the A601, which offers an incredible view of Pugin’s work.

Location (Google Maps): Darley Ln, Derby DE1 3AX
Opening times: 8am-4pm daily
Admission: Free, but donations are appreciated.


18. Go to the Quad Arts Centre for exhibitions, cinema, and workshops

Quad is an arts center located in Derby’s Market Place, offering a range of facilities such as cinema, gallery, cafe, and workshop space. Anyone can use the space for entertainment, education, and participation in the arts. 

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For those who have never been before, Quad is a cultural hub with various facilities. The arts center holds contemporary art exhibitions, film screenings, and other events that integrate digital media work in their activities, making them innovative and inclusive. Quad won’t disappoint those seeking artistic and creative experiences to have in Derbyshire.

Location (Google Maps): Market Place Cathedral Quarter, Market Pl, Derby DE1 3AS
Opening times: The cinema opens daily from morning to evening, while the gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from morning to evening. The cafe and bar are open daily (opening times vary).
Admission: Cinema tickets range from £6 to £10.50, while the gallery exhibitions are usually free. Prices of the workshops, courses, and events vary depending on the activity and can be found on the Quad website.


19. Enjoy Thrill-seeking adventures at Alvaston Park

For fun things to do in Derby this weekend, head down to the 85-acre, picturesque Alvaston Park – a popular destination offering a multitude of outdoor adventure sports in Derby for thrill-seekers. 

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It has a riverside location and features beautiful landscapes, and has also been awarded the Green Flag Award for the last five years, which recognizes high-quality green spaces in the UK.

Alvaston Park is an excellent place to spend time outdoors, with a range of facilities to suit everyone’s needs. Visitors can enjoy walking trails, a BMX track, a children’s play area, and a cafe. Alvaston Park also features a lake, which has undergone recent improvement projects, including the creation of areas of marginal planting around the lake and clearing areas of invasive reeds.

A trip to Alvaston Park makes for some of the most unforgettable and fun activities to do in Derbyshire for families.

Location (Google Maps): Meadow Ln, Alvaston, Derby DE24 8QQ
Opening times: Mon-Fri 10am-3pm, Sat-Sun 9am-4pm
Admission: Free


20. Have fun with the family at the Hollywood Bowl Derby bowling alley

Hollywood Bowl Derby is a popular bowling alley at the Derbion that offers 18 regular lanes and VIP lanes, as well as pool tables, arcade games and a Hollywood Diner. With numerous indoor activities and hours of fun to be had, Hollywood Bowl surely ticks the box of things to do in Derby for families on a rainy day.

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Location (Google Maps): The Derbion, Derby DE1 2PL
Opening times: Mon-Thurs: 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat: 11am-12am, Sun: 10am-11pm
Admission: Free (check website for activity prices)


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Derby FAQs:

Here are some commonly-asked questions about Derby:

What can you do at Derby?

There are various things to do in Derby, including attending live events and shows through the Derby Creative Arts Network, participating in writing competitions like the Derby Book Festival Flash Fiction Writing Competition, and improving academic performance through helpful resources like the University of Derby’s library guide.

Is Derby UK worth visiting?

Yes, Derby UK is definitely worth visiting for its central location, cultural attractions, and nearby natural beauty in the Peak District. Visitors can enjoy museums, parks, farms, and more.

What is famous in Derby?

Derby is known for its Cathedral Quarter, Museum and Art Gallery, Bluebell Dairy, Derwent River, Donington Park Circuit, East Midlands Aeropark, Markeaton Park, Pickford’s House Museum, and Market Hall. It is also the birthplace of painter Joseph Wright of Derby and home to the world’s largest collection of his paintings.

Is Derby a nice area to live?

Derby is a nice area to live in. It has excellent primary and secondary schools, low crime rates compared to other cities of its size, and areas like Littleover, Mickleover, Chellaston, and Allestree are considered some of the best places to live in terms of safety. Furthermore, Allestree is ranked as one of the best wards to live in Derby based on a recent survey.

Does Derby have a zoo?

Yes, Derby has several zoos and wildlife parks to visit with kids for a fun day out. There are 19 options to choose from. However, the closest zoo to Derby is Twycross Zoo, which is located approximately 30 miles away and can be reached by train and bus.

Is Derby a cheap city?

The cost of living in Derby varies based on lifestyle choices, but it can range from £1,000 to £1,500 or more per month. The average cost to rent a house in Derby is around £700 a month, including bills. Compared to other UK cities, prices are reasonable.

Is Derby rich or poor?

Derby has both wealthy and poor areas. It has the widest income gap between its richest and poorest areas in the UK, with five areas of Derby ranking in the bottom 10. However, the Amber Valley area of Duffield, Quarndon and Kirk Langley has a total annual household income over £58,400.

Where to Stay in Derby:

📍Budget option: ibis Budget Derby (standard triple room) – Good 7.9 | $

📍Mid-range option: The Coach House (Deluxe double room) – Superb 9.3 | $$

📍Luxury option: Kedleston Country House B&B (Deluxe family suite) – Superb 9.1 | $$$

Conclusion:

To wrap up, Derby is a city that boasts an array of diverse experiences and activities that are sure to appeal to any type of traveler.

From the stunning architecture of Derby Cathedral and the historic Derby Silk Mill, to the thrill of experiencing high-speed go-karting at TeamSport Indoor Karting, Derby has something for everyone.

We hope that this article has provided you with some inspiration for your next visit to this charming city, and that you will be able to create unforgettable memories and experiences.

Whether you’re a local or a first-time visitor, Derby is a city that will continue to surprise and delight you with its hidden gems and unique attractions.

Further reading: UK posts