Population: 260,000

Durham City Profile

Durham is a small city, but it’s a true “city,” with all the pluses and minuses you would expect to find in any city. Historically, it has gotten a bum rap in the Triangle, to the point that a few years ago a bumper sticker reading “Durham, Love Yourself” was quite popular … these days the popular bumper sticker reads “Durham … Find Your Cool” and the most popular tee shirt proclaims “Durham … It’s Not For Everyone.”  These sentiments perfectly express how Durhamites feel about their city – it’s different from the rest of the Triangle, and they like it that way.

And Durham is finally having its day.  In the past 10 years downtown Durham went from boarded up shops and empty streets to the vibrant, bustling, shop-filled downtown it is today.  Old bank and office buildings are now swanky boutique hotels, and brand new apartments and condos are absolutely springing up out of the concrete.

Yes, there is crime, and the occasional panhandler at a stop light. But there is also a world class university (Duke), one of the top highest grossing performance venues in the country (Durham Performing Arts Center, or DPAC), a great annual documentary film festival (Full Frame), a famous dance festival (American Dance Festival), a famed triple-A baseball team (the Durham Bulls) that plays in a terrific, CHEAP, family-friendly stadium, and other astonishingly good live music, amenities, events and independent restaurants that can’t be found anywhere else in the area.

As for housing, Durham has it all – leafy, upscale neighborhoods of big old houses that were built by the tobacco barons in the 20s; historic bungalows and Victorians that surround Duke University; new and “old” country club neighborhoods; and many brand new communities that are now being built to accommodate the influx to the area. The new construction is mostly being done in the vicinity of the two big shopping spots in the area — Brier Creek (an upscale strip mall on the Raleigh/Durham border) and The Streets at Southpoint (a great indoor/outdoor mall) in Durham.

There is also great culture in this little city — like Chapel Hill, who benefits from UNC’s presence, the whole Durham community enjoys the Nasher Museum and the Sarah P Duke Gardens on Duke’s campus, and the concerts, performances, lectures and book signings that Duke sponsors and/or attracts.

Because of the student population, the history and the general mix of the city, Durham has a certain “hip” factor, a grittiness, if you will, that cannot be found anywhere else in the Triangle.


  • Best commute to RTP (that’s Research Triangle Park) of all the cities in the area – a “bad commute” is when the guy in the left lane is doing 70 instead of 75 (or 80) …
  • A world class medical community – there are more than 300 medical and health related companies and practices in Durham, anchored by the mighty Duke Healthcare organization.
  • Watts Grocery, Mateo, Rue Cler, Tyler’s Tap Room, Guglhopf, Foster’s Market, Nana’s, Parizade, Toast, Vin Rouge, Blu Seafood, Dos Perros, Counting House – sooooo many great independent restaurants, so little time … Durham/Chapel Hill was named “America’s Foodiest Small Town” by Bon Appetit magazine a few years ago, and Southern Living named Durham the South’s Tastiest Small Town in 2013.

Read the Top 10 reasons to move to the Triangle area

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