Jump to accessibility statement Skip to content

Top ten things to do in Sunderland

Home / Student experience / Discover Sunderland blog / Your university experience / Top ten things to do in Sunderland

Moving to a new city can be a daunting experience, so to help you settle into your new home away from home, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best things to do in Sunderland when you want to take a break from your studying. From shopping and entertainment to outdoor exploring, find out more about our favourite days out in Sunderland below.

1. Roker and Seaburn Beaches

It goes without saying that one of the best things about living in Sunderland is that you’ll be in close proximity to our two fantastic beaches. Roker Beach is just a mile’s walk from the Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s and if you follow the coast northwards for a further mile, you’ll find Seaburn Beach. Both have been awarded Blue Flag status for another year running in 2022, marking their high standard when it comes to cleanliness and safety. Sunderland’s two beaches are both wide and sandy, making them perfect for relaxing walks and popular for watersports. You’ll also find plenty of shops and cafés nearby serving up all the best-loved seaside refreshments.

Students running along the beach

2. Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

Discover more about the city’s rich cultural heritage with a visit to one of our most popular visitor attractions. If you’re looking for things to do in Sunderland for free, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is just a short walk from City Campus. The museum showcases various historical collections as well as changing exhibitions throughout the year, and the gardens house over 2,000 flowers and plants, providing the ultimate tropical paradise.

3. Sunderland Empire Theatre

Planning an evening out with your housemates? Opened in 1907, the Sunderland Empire Theatre is one of the North East’s largest performance venues and can accommodate up to 2,200 people when at full standing capacity. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, with the theatre offering everything from West End musicals like Les Misérables and Wicked, to the pantomime at Christmas and shows by the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

4. Herrington Country Park and Penshaw Monument

Tick off two of our favourite things to do in Sunderland with a day out to Herrington Country Park, overlooked by the impressive Penshaw Monument. There’s a wealth of walking and cycling trails to explore and the park plays host to a variety of events and festivals during the year. Widely considered to be Wearside’s most beloved landmark, Penshaw Monument is owned by the National Trust, and sitting atop Penshaw Hill, it offers stunning views across the adjacent country park.

A view across Herrington Country Park towards Penshaw Monument

5. National Glass Centre

Right on the doorstep of our campus at St Peter’s and home to our University’s very own Glass and Ceramics department, National Glass Centre is a fantastic daytime activity and one of the best free things to do in Sunderland. The centre contains a museum dedicated to the history of Sunderland’s glass making culture, which dates all the way back to 674AD. It also includes several galleries where the exhibitions change during the year and some of the artists’ work can be purchased in the gift shop.

6. The Bridges Shopping Centre

If you’re looking to treat yourself to some retail therapy, The Bridges in Sunderland’s city centre is here for all your shopping needs. The shopping centre houses over 90 retailers, including high street chains, independent boutiques, specialist shops, plus several food and drink outlets. Many of the shops offer student discount all year round with proof of student ID, offering up to 20% off some of your favourite brands.

Students shopping at The Bridges Shopping Centre

7. Hylton Castle

Just a ten minute drive from the city centre or accessible via public transport in under half an hour, Hylton Castle is another great day out if you’re looking for things to do in Sunderland for free. The castle was built by Sir William Hylton in the late 13th century but is now owned by English Heritage. Welcoming visitors with its distinctive gatehouse tower, there are guided tours available and plenty of pathways surrounding the grounds, offering good disabled access.

8. Mowbray Park

For green spaces closer to home, Mowbray Park is conveniently located in the heart of Sunderland city centre and is one of the oldest parks in the North East. It’s the ideal spot to take a picnic, unwind and enjoy the scenery, or take a walk around the lake to feed the ducks. Often referred to as ‘the jewel in the crown of the city centre’, it’s one of our favourite places to visit in Sunderland no matter the time of year.

9. The Fire Station

Part of a recent £18 million cultural development in Sunderland, the original 1907 Fire Station has been transformed into a brand new centre for performing arts. Upgraded with a new auditorium, the venue hosts a variety of entertainment such as theatre, music, dance, and comedy, and is open every day of the week. Also part of the restoration is the Engine Room bar and bistro which you’ll find on the ground floor, serving up some delicious food and drink options.

A view of the Fire Station auditorium from the stage

10. Silksworth Sports Complex

The final attraction to make our list of the best things to do in Sunderland is Silksworth Sports Complex, which is located just a short distance out of the city centre. If you want a more action-packed day out or want to try something new, Silksworth contains the North East’s only dry ski slope, with a 160m main slope and two beginner slopes. The centre welcomes skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities, with qualified instructors on hand to give lessons and all equipment provided. There’s also an athletics track and outdoor artificial football pitches where you can book sessions, so there are lots of activities on offer.

These are just a few of our top days out to enjoy in Sunderland, and we hope you have fun discovering them, as well as everything else our wonderful city has to offer to our students. Read more about living in Sunderland here.

Published: 4 August 2022