Last Updated on June 3, 2024

The Durham Hotel is a mid-century modern gem located in the heart of the city. Once known for playing a leading role in North Carolina’s tobacco industry, Durham celebrates its past while pivoting into the future as a leading technology hub. It’s a hot spot for innovators, scholars, artists, foodies, and those who love its quirky Southern charm.

As the only independently owned and operated hotel in downtown, much of The Durham Hotel’s design appeal comes from its original use as the headquarters for the Home Savings and Loan Association in the 1960s. The spacious former bank lobby is now the hotel dining room. The mezzanine level that once held bank executive’s offices serves as event space with a view into the lobby. Peek behind the bar and you’ll see the bank’s safe, with hinges and dials still intact.

Two-story windows and gold accents on the building’s original façade cement The Durham Hotel’s spot as an architectural paragon in the city.

While preserving the character of the former bank building, modern touches like custom Moroccan tiles and Japanese-inspired chandeliers give the lobby a grand, welcoming feel. An easy-to-miss, but important amenity is the Liberation Station Black Lit Library. Outside, next to the newsstand, you’ll find this self-serve library stocked with children’s books highlighting characters of color. Guests and visitors can borrow a book to read in the lobby.

The Durham Hotel Rooms

The Durham Hotel single room.
The Durham Hotel single room. Photo credit Spencer Lowell/The Durham Hotel

Stepping into my room on the third floor, I was impressed by the spacious layout. Not only was there an ample-sized desk and comfortable chair, but the room also had a lounging area with a small sofa and easy chair. I love it when I don’t have to sit on the bed or at a desk during my stay.

The furniture continues the mid-century vibe with sleek, minimal lines and natural wood. The indigo bedspread made by local Raleigh Denim Workshop adds a pop of color. A little jar of Durham’s own Burt’s Bees hand salve sat on the nightstand with a welcome note.

Local roastery Counter Culture Coffee provides complimentary java each morning, both in the room and in the lobby. These little touches give the Durham Hotel personality and warmth.

Relaxing on the Roof

The Durham Hotel rooftop.
The Durham Hotel rooftop. Photo credit Anna Routh Barizin/The Durham Hotel

With a 360-degree view over the city, the hotel’s rooftop is one of its best features. I popped up to the Roofin the evening, mingling with the cocktail crowd, and came back early in the morning to watch the sunrise over Durham. Seasonal drinks, snacks, and desserts are available to enjoy with the panoramic view. Sofas for lounging and tables to set my morning coffee made me want to linger.

The Roof is also home to weekly entertainment and special events like morning yoga on weekends, free for guests and a nominal charge for visitors. Pop-up desserts take place on Wednesdays with local bakeries and ice cream producers showcasing their delicious goods.

Storytime mornings and Stargazing nights on the Roof are free and open to everyone, making The Durham Hotel a popular gathering place for the local community.

Dining at the Durham Hotel

The Durham Hotel Dining Room. Photo credit Spencer Lowell/The Durham Hotel

Vases of fresh flowers on the table and curved booths provide intimate, cheerful dining nooks in the bank-lobby-turned-restaurant. Breakfast is a casual affair; order from the bar and take a seat inside or on the patio and your breakfast will be delivered to your table. Add a latte to your order – the baristas create elegant art in each cup.

Lunch and dinner are also served, with North Carolina seafood, burgers, steaks, and vegetarian options.

Discovering Durham

The Durham Hotel is in the heart of downtown. It’s an easy 10-minute walk to the American Tobacco Campus (ATC), where you’ll find retail shops and trendy dining. Don’t miss Zweli’s Ekhaya, a high-end tapas restaurant with flavors from Zimbabwe.

Baseball fans can catch a game at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park just across the street from the ATC. At the Tobacco Road Sports Café, perched on the edge of the field, diners can watch the game while dining or grabbing a beer.

The compact downtown means that the Durham Hotel is also within walking distance to several galleries, lots of restaurants, and the Saturday Farmer’s Market. I stopped in at the Durham Food Hall a few times on my visit since it was just a few blocks away.

If you’re a fan of cocktails, The Durham Distillery is within striking distance as well. Stop in for a tour and sample their dazzling purple Conniption Gin, colored with butterfly pea flowers. I decided to linger in the onsite Corpse Reviver Cocktail Bar & Lounge, located in a former coffin shop.

In the collection of impressive lodging offerings in North Carolina, the Durham Hotel stands out for its striking design elements, local touches and convenient location. It’s a welcoming, comfortable base for discovering Durham and everything the city has to offer.

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