Wondering how to make the most of a day out in Derby? From where to have breakfast to which attractions to visit and in what order, here’s here you can maximise your Derby travel itinerary.
Derby, the county town of Derbyshire, has an interesting history. Derby is widely considered to be the cradle of the Industrial Revolution and boasts an incredibly rich cultural heritage, you can see the effects all around when you visit.
The city of Derby boasts a myriad of attractions that give a nod to its industrial heritage: The Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill, the Darley Abbey Mills and Pickford’s House, to name a few. But beyond historical landmarks, this city is home to record-holding greenspaces, art galleries, river walks, tasty restaurants, and so much more.
So, how can you make the most of your quick Derby trip if you only have one day? Below, we detail what we believe to be the best travel itinerary for a day out in Derby.
Best things to do on a day out in Derby
From a delicious breakfast at the locally renowned Book Café to sightseeing, museum explorations, river walks and a picnic in the park, here’s how you can make the most of your Derby day out.
08:30 – 09:30: Breakfast at The Book Café
If you want to kick off your day out in Derby with one of the city’s tastiest breakfasts, we suggest grabbing a table at The Book Café, a local and quirky haunt with an all-day breakfast and lunch menu. You can also treat yourself to hot drinks and a range of freshly baked goods.
09:30 – 10:00: Market Place
After breakfast, start your self-guided tour of Derby at Market Place so that you can gain a quick glimpse into the city’s cultural heritage. Historic architecture surrounds this charming square. Notable buildings include the Derby Register Office and the Guildhall Theatre. You can also check out the Derby Speakers Corner, where the locals have been able to air their opinions on the town’s issues for generations.
Keep your eyes peeled for the intricate mosaic stars scattered around Market Place – they form part of the Made in Derby augment reality trail. You can scan the stars to gain insights into the city’s influential residents through history using the Made in Derby app.
10:00 – 10:30: Derby Cathedral
From Market Place, it’s just a two-minute walk north to Derby Cathedral, which is worth viewing from the outside if you don’t have the time to venture in.
While the site of Derby Cathedral has been used as a church since the 10th century CE, the Gothic-style building you can see today was mostly built between the 14th and 16th centuries.
The most prominent external feature of the cathedral is the medieval clock and spire, which reaches a height of 64 metres and stands as an icon of Derby’s skyline. Inside, the lofty nave is adorned with elegant rib-vaulted ceilings, intricate stone carvings and beautifully stained-glass windows that filter soft, coloured light into the space.
From Derby Cathedral, it’s just a 100-metre walk across the Silk Mill Park to your next attraction, The Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill.
10:30 – 12:00: The Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill
Located in the historic 18th-century Derby Silk Mill, The Museum of Making celebrates the industrial heritage and innovative spirit of Derby.
While browsing this fascinating museum, you’ll embark on an immersive journey through Derby’s history, gaining insights into the city’s manufacturing and engineering legacy. You’ll also find out about the building’s pivotal role during the Industrial Revolution.
Exhibits inside the Museum of Making include captivating collections of machinery, artifacts and interactive displays. You can learn about everything from the creation of textiles in the original silk-spinning workshops to the development of cutting-edge technologies.
The Museum of Making also hosts special exhibitions, events and workshops, ensuring there’s always something new to discover. Its commitment to preserving and sharing Derby’s industrial heritage makes it a fascinating destination for history buffs, innovators and families alike.
Ideally, you’d set aside 2.5 hours to explore the Museum of Making, but if you want to squeeze as many attractions as possible into your day out in Derby, you might want to limit your time to 1.5 hours.
12:00 – 13:00: Derwent River Walk and Lunch
After browsing the displays inside the Museum of Making, you’ll make the most of the outdoors in Derby by following the Derwent River to Daley Park (read more about some of the most interesting rivers in England).
On the route, which is just over a mile, you’ll see tranquil waterside gardens and greenspaces such as Parker’s Piece and Derwent Park. You’ll also see historical and cultural landmarks such as the Chapel of Saint Mary on the Bridge and the Handyside Bridge.
The walk takes around 30 minutes in total, but we recommend setting aside an hour so that you can grab lunch along the way.
About halfway between the Museum of Making and Daley Park is a popular traditional pub called the Furnace Inn, where you can fill up on pub grub. Alternatively, skip the pub meal and instead enjoy a picnic when you reach Darley Park.
13:00 – 14:30: Darley Park
Nestled beside the Derwent River is the 80-acre Darley Park, where you can admire lush greenery, mature trees and colourful flower beds while listening to the soothing sounds of the gently oozing river.
On top of picturesque views that provide a welcome break from the urban centre of Derby, Darley Park is home to expansive greenspaces that make it ideal for a game of frisbee, picnics, sunbathing, and more. There are also facilities including a children’s playground and tennis courts.
Just to the north of Darley Park are the magnificent Darley Abbey Mills, a complex of 18th-century mill buildings that pay homage to Derby’s industrial past.
Darley Park boasts such a serene atmosphere that you could easily spend the entire afternoon here. However, given that you’re on a tight schedule with the need to cram as many activities into your day out in Derby as possible, you might want to limit your time at Darley Park to an hour. Keep in mind that you’ll need to walk about 30 minutes to the next attraction.
14:30 – 16:00: Pickford’s House Museum
Back in the city centre, you’ll find Pickford’s House Museum, one of the most popular attractions in Derby. Here, you’ll gain a unique glimpse into the city’s past and the lifestyle of its residents during the Georgian and Regency eras.
This elegant townhouse was originally built in the 18th century and was the former home of the renowned architect Joseph Pickford, who designed many of Derby’s iconic buildings. As you step inside, you’ll be transported back in time to the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The museum’s meticulously restored interiors showcase the opulence the era’s high society. As you explore the house’s beautifully decorated rooms, you’ll see period-appropriate furnishings and items ranging from exquisite furniture to fine china and decorative art pieces. The dining room, drawing room, and bedrooms provide a fascinating insight into the daily lives and social customs of the time.
One of the highlights of Pickford’s House is the impressive collection of costumes and textiles. The museum frequently hosts exhibitions showcasing historical clothing and textiles, allowing you to appreciate the changing fashions and textiles of the Georgian and Regency eras.
People typically spend around 1.5 hours inside Pickford’s House – we’d recommend trying to do the same if you can. You may need to cut your time a little short to account for how long it will take to walk here from Darley Park.
16:00 – 17:00: Derby Museum & Art Gallery
On top of being an awe-inspiring museum, the Derby Museum & Art Gallery is one of the city’s best-known architectural landmarks, featuring an impressive façade adorned with classical columns. As you step inside this 19th-century masterpiece, you’ll be greeted by a world of wonder.
While exploring the museum, you can admire works by renowned artists such as Joseph Wright of Derby, whose dramatic and atmospheric paintings are a highlight of the collection. You’ll also see a variety of works through the ages, from exquisite Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces to contemporary art.
Beyond art, the Derby Museum & Art Gallery features wide-ranging exhibits on archaeology, natural history and geology. From ancient fossils to Egyptian artifacts, you’ll find a fascinating mix of treasures that tell the story of our planet’s history and humanity’s journey through time.
While it is recommended to dedicate a couple of hours to exploring the Derby Museum & Art Gallery, you should be able to catch a glimpse of its highlights in around one hour. Keep in mind that the museum closes at 5 pm (4 pm on Sundays), so make sure to arrive by 4 pm at the latest.
17:00: Drinks and Dinner at The Flowerpot
At 5 pm, most of Derby’s cultural attractions will close their doors for the night. So, it’s time to reward yourself for all that walking on your day out in Derby by heading to one of the city’s top-rated pubs for drinks and dinner.
After a day of exploring Derby’s attractions, The Flowerpot stands out as the perfect place to unwind with a refreshing pint and some tasty grub. This beloved local pub is renowned for its impressive selection of 14 real ales, hand-pulled from the cellar below.
What sets The Flowerpot apart is its lively atmosphere, drawing in a crowd of enthusiastic patrons for nightly live performances. Weeknights feature soulful acoustic musicians, while weekends come alive with energetic rock bands taking the stage.
And when it comes to food, none of the classic pub meals go a miss, but their bangers and mash are an absolute must-try.
After you’ve enjoyed a meal and a pint or two at the Flowerpot, you’ll have Derby city centre on your doorstep.
More things to do on a Derby day out
So, there you have it – our best Derby day out itinerary that combines culture, history, architecture, outdoor spaces and family fun, not to mention a couple of quintessentially British meals and real ales in some of the city’s best traditional pubs and restaurants.
Of course, given that Derby is bursting at the seems with attractions, there are plenty more things you could fit into your Derby day trip. If you want to squeeze even more things to do into your Derby day out, we recommend attractions such as the Royal Crown Derby Visitor Centre, the Derby Arboretum (one of England’s best arboretums) and the Derby Theatre.
Are there any awesome Derby attractions we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.