Where is it?
Durham is located in north-eastern England, around 22 km south of Newcastle. It is a small but very charming English city which was founded in the 11th century, but there have been people living in the area since 2000 BC. Today many of the historical buildings such as the castle and the cathedral and UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The Radisson Blu hotel has a rather nice location just by the River Wear and with most sites of interests are within walking distance. There is an area with several shops, bar and restaurants just across the river, very popular with both locals and the many students from the university in the city.
The arrival experience
I arrived in Durham by train from Newcastle. Although Durham is a small city and the railway station is not far from the hotel, actually getting from the railway station to the hotel turned out to be a challenge. The railway station is located on a hill whereas the hotel is located in what can best be described as a valley.
Although you can certainly walk, it should take no more than 10-15 minutes, and both the railway station and the hotel are on the same side of the river, it is not very straight forward where to go if you have not been there before. I had no problems finding the hotel as such, I spotted it rather quickly, the problem was finding how to get there. I ended up crossing the river twice as I did not manage to locate the access road, even though I had a map. If you have luggage it is better to take a taxi from the station to the hotel, it should take no more than 3-4 minutes.
The reception was unmanned when I arrived. This was a Friday evening so presumably most guests had already checked in. But one of the receptionists tried to keep an eye on the lobby from the back office and arrived within a few moments. I was promptly checked in and informed about the facilities of the hotel.
I was assigned a room on the second floor. The hotel has a rather traditional English hotel design with long corridors and doors in dark wood. The design is functional but lacks a bit of an atmosphere.
As a gold card holder of their loyalty program, Radisson Rewards, you should usually get a complimentary room upgrade, unless the hotel is full of course, which it did not seem to be. Nothing was mentioned about an upgrade and since both the next two room categories, Superior Room and Premium Room, offer a river view, which this room did not, there was presumably no room upgrade.
The standard room offered a rather comfortable and spacious king-sized bed, a work desk, an armchair and a small side table.
The room also offered a widescreen TV, coffee and tea-making facilities, minibar and a closet.
The bathroom offered a bathtub, sink, toilet and the standard Radisson Blu toiletries from thisworks.
And there was in fact a small sign of recognition on the desk. A bottle of water and two apples. But no welcome card.
Food and drinks
The hotel offers a restaurant called Collage Restaurant, specialising in traditional British cuisine. There is also a lobby bar called Collage Bar located just by the reception. It is open late, closing as late as 2 am on Friday and Saturday nights and seems to be a popular spot also among the locals.
The hotel offers a decent health club and spa called Pace Health Club & LimeHouse Spa with indoor pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, gym and five treatment rooms for massage and different skin and body treatments. The health club is definitely a highlight of the hotel.
There is a small business centre in the lobby and there is a conference section with 11 different meeting rooms. Parking is available just around the corner from the entrance.
The service was friendly and helpful and I was given all the assistance I needed, such as a good description on how to get back to the railway station the quickest way upon check out. However although this was a weekend stay with presumably few late arrivals and few early departures it would have been nice to have someone visible at the reception desk upon arrival, rather than having to make an effort to get some attention. The same thing happened both upon check-in and check-out.
The breakfast is served in the Collage Restaurant, where you can also have lunch and dinner. Since I was leaving fairly early and did not have breakfast included in the rate I decided to skip the hotel breakfast. I had a morning flight from Durham Tees Valley Airport (which is not at all in Durham, but in Darlington) so I had breakfast in the airport lounge instead.
This was a fairly short one-night stay which should of course be taken into account when giving a verdict. The location of the hotel is excellent close to all sites of interest and it is nicely located just by the river, where you can have an evening stroll or a morning jog. The room was well-appointed but a bit dark and the same thing can be said about most of the public areas, they are functional but lack some atmosphere. Friendly and helpful staff at the front desk. Nothing to complain about but overall a fairly unmemorable stay.