Nestled on the northeastern coast of England, Sunderland has transformed itself from a city with a rich history of coalmining and shipbuilding to a thriving modern destination. With its rejuvenated city center, stunning beaches, and cultural attractions, Sunderland beckons travelers to explore its diverse offerings. In this blog, we will take you on a journey through 15 of the best things to do in Sunderland, showcasing its fascinating history, natural beauty, and vibrant culture.
1. Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens
Embark on a journey through Sunderland’s past at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. Admire the Nissan car that marked a new chapter in the city’s history, and explore a collection of Sunderland Lustreware ceramics from the 19th century. Don’t miss the fascinating paintings by L.S. Lowry, an industrial landscape artist, and the intriguing taxidermied lion named Wallace, who left a lasting impression on the city.
2. National Glass Centre– Things To Do In Sunderland
Discover Sunderland’s glassmaking heritage at the National Glass Centre. This stunning museum showcases the city’s historical and industrial connections to glassmaking, featuring daily glassblowing demonstrations and exhibitions by renowned glass and ceramics artists. Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of glass as you explore this architectural wonder situated on the banks of the River Wear.
3. Roker and Seaburn Beaches
Enjoy the beauty of Sunderland’s coast by visiting Roker and Seaburn Beaches. These Blue Flag beaches are known for their cleanliness and excellent facilities. With lifeguards on duty during the summer, both beaches are perfect for family fun, sandcastle building, and relaxing walks along the shore.
4. Roker Park
Relish the tranquility of Roker Park, a Victorian-era seafront park. Wander through this well-maintained green space, featuring a memorial fountain and an iron bandstand with a copper roof. Take the kids to enjoy the miniature railway, model boating lake, and playgrounds, while in autumn, be captivated by the Sunderland Illuminations.
5. Herrington Country Park
Experience the transformation of an open-cast mine into the picturesque Herrington Country Park. Take a stroll along the walking and cycling trails, visit the Miners’ Memorial Garden, and observe the model boat lake on the site of a former depression. Attend the Kubix Music Festival or the Race for Life, both held in this scenic park.
6. Souter Lighthouse
Discover the historical significance of Souter Lighthouse, the world’s first lighthouse designed to use alternating electric current. Climb the 76 steps to the top for breathtaking views and explore the meadows along the limestone cliffs. Don’t forget to visit the Foghorn Field, which hosts outdoor events and offers a splendid view of the coastline.
7. Keel Square
Marvel at Keel Square, a dynamic public space celebrating Sunderland’s maritime and industrial heritage. The Keel Line, embedded in the pavement, commemorates the city’s shipbuilding history with inscribed granite naming thousands of ships laid down in Sunderland. Admire the monumental sculpture, “Propellers of the City,” featuring photographs of shipyard workers on a giant wheel.
8. North East Land, Sea and Air Museums
Delve into the history of transportation at the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museums. Marvel at the collection of British-made planes, military land vehicles, and vintage trolleybuses and trams. Learn about Wearside during World War II in the replica street scene and witness the working engines during “Steaming Weekends.”
9. St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth
Explore the fascinating St Peter’s Church, founded in the 7th century by Benedict Biscop. Witness remnants of the first building, including stone carvings and the west wall. Learn about Venerable Bede, known as “The Father of English History,” who lived and studied here during the late 7th century. Discover the interactive museum displays, craft shop, cafe, and potager.
10. Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art
Appreciate contemporary art at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art. Witness exhibitions by established artists like AK Dolven, Sam Taylor-Wood, and Adam Chodzko, who had their first commissions and publications showcased here. Experience the gallery’s ever-changing displays and immerse yourself in the world of modern art.
11. Penshaw Monument
Above the Herrington Country Park in Houghton le Spring, discover the striking folly atop Penshaw Hill, looking like a Greek temple transplanted to Wearside. Built from local gritstone, the Penshaw Monument commemorates John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, a Whig statesman with an important role in the British colonization of New Zealand. Enjoy the scenic viewing platform, accessible via a spiral stairway.
12. Mowbray Park– Things To Do In Sunderland
Among the North East of England’s oldest urban parks, Mowbray Park is right in the city center, behind the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. The park opened in 1857, featuring a cast-iron William Hall Drinking Fountain from 1878 and a bandstand giving concerts that people watch on deckchairs. Explore the Through the Looking Glass-themed play area, with a giant chessboard and walrus sculpture, paying tribute to the connection with author Lewis Carroll.
13. Sunderland A. F. C. – Things To Do In Sunderland
Visit the Stadium of Light, home to Sunderland A. F. C., and experience the vibrant atmosphere of English football. Though currently playing in League One, the stadium’s scale rivals that of a Premier League ground. Discover the club’s history, including their greatest success, the FA Cup in 1973, commemorated by a statue of manager Bob Stokoe.
14. Hylton Castle– Things To Do In Sunderland
Explore Sunderland’s second-oldest building, Hylton Castle, located in the North Hylton suburb. Transformed by English Heritage and Sunderland Council into a major visitor attraction, this castle dates back to the Norman Conquest. Admire the impressive four-storey gatehouse tower and the fascinating moldings of coats of arms on the west facade.
15. Ryhope Engines Museum
Learn about Sunderland’s industrial past at the Ryhope Engines Museum. Founded in 1868, this former pumping station now houses two awe-inspiring Hawthorn beam engines, still in working order. Explore the preserved engines, along with boilers, a waterwheel, and a blacksmith’s forge. Don’t miss the special “Steaming Weekends,” offering live demonstrations of the engines and flywheels in motion.
Sunderland, once renowned for its coalmining and shipbuilding industries, has transformed into a vibrant city with an array of captivating attractions. From its historical museums to the picturesque beaches and lush parks, Sunderland offers a diverse range of experiences for travelers to cherish. Whether you’re fascinated by glassmaking, interested in aviation history, or simply seeking a relaxing beach getaway, Sunderland has something for everyone. Embrace the new path this city has taken and embark on an unforgettable journey through its past, present, and promising future.