City Guide / Raleigh-Durham

The Best Neighborhoods in Durham, NC

By Bri Hand | Nov 16, 2021
Downtown sunset in Durham, North Carolina.

Together known as “The Triangle,” Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham, NC, harbor a population of just over 2 million residents, many of whom study or work at the three major research universities that hem these cities together: Raleigh’s North Carolina State University, Duke University in Durham, and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Balancing between southern charm and a collegiate atmosphere, Durham and its neighboring NC cities are home to some of the best neighborhoods in all of North Carolina. Among them include:

  • South Durham
  • Millbrook
  • Greater South Raleigh

Before diving into the best neighborhoods in Durham, NC, let’s first talk about what it’s like to live there. Aside from its rich historic places, Bull City has plenty to offer its residents. For starters, it has affordable housing. In terms of real estate, the average home costs $269,287, and the average median household income is $58,905. As for the job market, it is the go-to for most medical practitioners.

But because it is a collegiate city, it also offers plenty of research-based jobs, hence its other name, Research Triangle Park. Last, it is home to plenty of clubs and coffee shops, which means there’s plenty to explore and see. All in all, the cost of living in Durham, NC, is relatively low compared to other states.

If you’re moving to Durham, NC, let this guide be your little black book for all the best these neighborhoods have to offer when it comes to eating well, staying fit, and having fun.

Three of the top neighborhoods in Durham, NC

If you’re making a fresh start, it’ll also be beneficial to explore the other two points of this southern triangle to absorb everything this dynamic trifecta has to offer. Let’s get started!

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1. South Durham

Durham, NC, is best known as the parent city to the elite Duke University, but there’s plenty in store for newcomers below the northern neighborhoods the institution dominates.

Food, dining, and coffee shops

South Durham is home to some stand-out coffeehouses for mornings when you just can’t bear to prepare your own pour-over:

  • Joe Van Gogh Woodcroft: Artsily named, Joe Van Gogh Woodcroft serves up gourmet tea and coffee made with their own house-roasted beans, with small plates and pastries to sweeten your morning.
  • Bean Traders: Bean Traders sells loads of wholesale coffee beans with plenty of room for you to set up shop and decamp for an afternoon in front of your laptop.
  • Blue Ridge Deli & Cafe: When the clock strikes lunchtime, don’t miss the Blue Ridge Deli & Cafe, a family-owned, no-frills joint with sizable helpings at an affordable price.

If you’re in need of a versatile menu by the time lunchtime rolls around, Dulce Cafe also offers plentiful options for the vegetarian, the carnivores, and the sweet of tooth—as well as libations for those in need of an afternoon beer.


There are plenty of places to pick up groceries at all hours of the day along the beltway of NC-54 in South Durham. These top spots include:

South Durham residents should also check out Nora’s African Groceries and Around the World Market for delectable snacks and homemade bites from around the globe.

Outdoors and recreation

North Carolina’s impressive Blue Ridge Mountains flank the western side of the state, but South Durham also has liberal access to other places to enjoy the outdoors:

  • American Tobacco Trail: This 6.5-mile trail for hikers and cyclists is hemmed by some old railroad tracks, all the way from West Cary to Central Durham.
  • Jordan Lake:This is a scenic waterfront surrounded by 1,000+ campgrounds, beaches, and docks for boaters looking to sail out onto the lake and catch some fish for a fire pit-cooked dinner.
  • Falls Lake State Recreation Area: Right in your backyard is the 12,000-acre reservoir of Falls Lake State Recreation Area, with two hiking trailheads a quick car ride away. 

Gyms and fitness

For colder months when hiking gets rough, South Durham’s gyms are a great way to stay active. The area is home to a host of well-known franchises with affordable memberships, like Planet Fitness and Snap Fitness South Durham.

Nightlife and entertainment

This collegiate town’s young crowd keeps the atmosphere fresh and buzzing with plenty of nightlife options. Because of the variety of establishments, you can always find fun things to do in Durham

For drinks and live jazz, check out the intimate Sharp 9 Jazz Club. Or, if you’re looking for somewhere to take your dancing shoes for a spin, head out to Luna Night Club for a lively night of salsa dancing and cocktails.


Generally, it’s best to travel the South Durham neighborhood by car. However, this part of North Carolina also has two public bus systems:

  • GoTriangle: South Durham residents have the Regional Transit Center a stone’s throw away, where seven bus lines make the city and the rest of the Triangle available without a car.
  • GoDurham: GoDurham chiefly caters to the North Durham crowd, but residents of South Durham have access to the 12 and 2 bus routes, which provides an easy commute toward the Northern parts of the city.

Both GoTriangle and GoDurham offer several options for single-ride and multi-ride passes, too.

2. Millbrook

Once upon a time, Millbrook was an independent hamlet in Wake County, but as Raleigh grew in the mid-20th century, it was incorporated into one of the NC city’s northern neighborhoods. 

Today, Millbrook retains its intimate feel with liberal access to some of Raleigh-Durham’s best cultural highlights.

Food, dining, and coffee shops

Millbrook’s dining offerings range from devotedly regional dishes to flavors from around the world:

  • Big Ed’s North: Big Ed of Big Ed’s North’s motto is “Country cookin’ at its best.” Come to this roadside joint for hearty Southern fares like hotcakes, biscuits, and fried catfish.
  • La Horchateria: True to its name, La Horchateria is the best spot in town to grab a Horchata, espresso, and other confections from Latin America.
  • Saint Jaques: Tucked into a humdrum strip mall is Saint Jaques, a hidden gem serving elevated French cuisine.

For the intrepid eaters out there: Ever tried a duck taco? Bartaco is there to break the seal. This taqueria is open late nights on Friday and Saturday to satisfy your cravings, with enough leftovers to take home for breakfast.


There’s no shortage of places to dip in for a quick grocery run in Millbrook. Four supermarket chains are right down the road, including:

On your grocery trip, don’t skip Han-Ah-Run Mart, Polonez Polish-European Grocery, and Agori International African Market for Korean, Polish, and Sierra Leonean staples, meats, and house-made snacks.

Outdoors and recreation

Millbrook has access to fresh air recreation both within and beyond the city limits.

Neuse River Trail is a neighborhood favorite, with a 27.5-mile paved trail for strolling, jogging, and cycling alongside the Neuse River. A short 15-minute drive from Millbrook is Durant Nature Preserve, one of the most beautiful places in the area to take in the fall foliage surrounding Camp Durant Lake.

Gyms and fitness

To stay fit in Millbrook, check out the area’s gyms like Burn Boot Camp for cardio, strength, and HIIT training led by expert-level trainers. Fitness franchise Anytime Fitness has no shortage of treadmills, ellipticals, and weight training equipment to fit in a no-brainer workout on a regular basis.

If your workout style is more game-oriented, check out Raleigh Racquet Club to enjoy some friendly competition and work on your backhand skills.

Nightlife and entertainment

With central Raleigh nearby, Millbrook has access to some stellar sites for evening festivities:

  • Scooter’s Bar & Grill: Scooter’s Bar & Grill is a neighborhood watering hole that caters to both dogs and their humans with plenty of patio space, southern-style ribs, and live music.
  • Vita Vite Midtown: Head to Vita Vite Midtown for happy hour to sip on wine like a sommelier and nosh on some delectable small plates.
  • Pourworks: At Pourworks, browse a handsomely curated stock of wine and beer and then head to the bar for the bartenders’ top picks.

And, for the cherry on top of your evening, wind down your night by toasting to a bird’s-eye view of Raleigh under the stars at Level7’s rooftop cocktail bar.


Raleigh residents are big on cycling to get around town, but GoRaleigh is the city’s main public transit system. Route 23L cuts east-west through Millbrook, with buses arriving on an hourly basis. Single fares start at $1.25.

3. Greater South Raleigh

As the largest city in the Triangle and North Carolina’s capital city, there are limitless opportunities to explore the city from your home base in Greater South Raleigh, NC.

Food, dining, and coffee shops

Central Raleigh is becoming a bonafide gastronomical destination in its own right, but South Raleigh has its own handful of treasures for a quick cup or bite:

  • Full Bloom Coffee Roasters: The best cup of coffee in town may be Full Bloom Coffee Roasters, an unassuming breakfast spot with small-batch brews.
  • Lorraine’s Coffee House: For a midday caffeine boost and some afternoon entertainment, Lorraine’s Coffee House pairs coffee, sandwiches, and live music with bluegrass and country flavors.
  • Barry’s Cafe: Every city needs a classic diner, and Barry’s Cafe fills the role for South Raleigh.

For after-hours eats, head to MoonRunners Saloon for a taste of the Prohibition era and a spot of moonshine.


South Raleigh residents have five Food Lions in the area to keep their fridges and pantries stocked. For prepared, bulk, or specialty foods, the Central Raleigh Whole Foods is about a 20-minute drive north.

Outdoors and recreation

The WRAL Azalea Gardens, owned and operated by the Capitol Broadcasting Company, have been a favorite gathering spot of Raleigh residents since 1959. On a day when you’re not feeling up to a full-on wilderness trek, the gardens are a lovely way to spend an afternoon wandering around the rambling paths and taking in the scenery. 

Alternatively, Harris Lake County Park is a splendid outdoor venue where you can:

  • Hike
  • Boat
  • Cycle and mountain bike
  • Play volleyball or disc golf
  • Go fishing and angling

You can’t camp overnight at Harris Lake—the park closes at nightfall—but it’s a gorgeous place to see the sunset.

Gyms and fitness

Like other areas in the triangle, Raleigh is well-supplied with places to work out indoors. Planet Fitness and the good ol’ YMCA both have branches in south Raleigh, and you’ll also find small businesses like Chuva Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Pride Boxing and Fitness

Aside from your standard gyms and fitness centers, don’t forget that the Neuse River Trail Greenway is right out your back door!

Nightlife and entertainment

Raleigh is constantly rolling out new bars, restaurants, and venues for the night owl in you to emerge. There’s the maybe-haunted Raleigh Times Bar or House of Hops, the spiritual home of beer. Down in South Raleigh, you’ll also find Shady’s Bar, a neighborhood favorite with live music—and killer ribs, and sports bar/billiard tavern Shotmakers Sports Bar and Billiards.


As for transportation, Raleigh is one of the best-serviced cities in North Carolina for public transport. GoRaleigh and GoTriangle are residents’ preferred modes of public transit, but if you’re staying local, you’ll be pleased to find your bike can get you almost anywhere.

To see which routes are prime cycling territory, check out the city’s comprehensive bikeway map.

Lock in your perfect NC neighborhood with Landing

South Durham, Millbrook, and South Raleigh are just three of the top neighborhoods in the Triangle you’ll need to check out if you plan on moving there. For a full picture of all this North Carolina area has to offer, check out Landing’s network of neighborhoods and apartments.

Landing matches renters to furnished apartments in every major American city, complete with flexible leases and a combination of amenities that will instantly give renters the feeling of “home sweet home.” To land your next place in the neighborhood that jives with you, start planning your move today with Landing. Browse our available apartments in Raleigh-Durham here.

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.