The jewel in the County Durham crown is the magnificent city of Durham. With its historical past and vibrant future, it combines world-renowned heritage and a thriving cosmopolitan atmosphere.
About 500,000 visitors a year visit Durham Cathedral and castle, a World Heritage site now well established on the itineraries of both national and international tour companies.
The castle, once the home of the Prince Bishops and now Durham University's University College, is also open to visitors and retains many artefacts from the past.
Particularly interesting is the refectory where hang the portraits of former diocesan bishops.
You can sail in a pleasure boat around the cathedral, built in a loop of the river Wear, or, if feeling energetic, can row yourself in a boat hired at Brown's Boatyard just off the city centre.
The centre is dominated by the town hall and guild hall. The town hall has a small art gallery featuring local scenes, including one of the unveiling of a sculpture of Lord Londonderry astride his horse, which is outside in the Market Place alongside another sculpture of King Neptune, which once adorned a well in the city centre.
Since 1836, Durham has housed the foundation college of the University of Durham, England's third oldest university after Oxford and Cambridge. The city has an unmistakable air of learning and the university's Oriental Museum and botanic garden add an international theme.
On a more local note, at the Durham Light Infantry Museum and Durham Art Gallery you can trace the proud history of the county regiment and enjoy the world of art. But in no way does Durham simply dwell on its impressive past.
It is also the jewel in the county's shopping crown. Recent times have seen the Millburngate Centre complemented by the opening of the impressive Prince Bishops retail complex on the riverside.
Here, architects have managed to combine modern design with the need to ensure that the development blends in with the historic character of the cathedral, castle and winding streets.
There is a wide range of shops - many small local shops plus leading high street names. There are cafés, bistros and restaurants to suit every taste.
At night, Durham has pubs, wine bars and clubs to appeal to all ages.
In 2002, the Millennium City complex added a major new and exciting focus to the city centre. Its centrepiece is the Gala Theatre, an important new performance venue for the region. A visitor centre with large format cinema and craft workshops also form part of this symbol of Durham's commitment to the future needs of visitors and residents.
Away from the bustling streets, the wooded riverbank offer pleasant walks and peaceful boat trips on the Wear.
There is a good combination of old and new, and the city's tight control on new development means that only carefully and empathetically-designed commercial and residential building is permitted.
The city is recognised as a property hotspot, with the regeneration of Walkergate playing a major part in attracting buyers.
Home-buyers like its obvious quality of life and ease of access to the whole of the region.
Parents of university students are also driving forward the local market, as they move to ensure their children have a dream start to their academic lives.
Amy Whyte, sales manager at Knight Frank's Newcastle office, said: "There is no doubt that Durham is becoming more and more popular, with people attracted to the lifestyle the city affords and its great transport links.
"AMEC's £35m transformation of Walkergate is a major plus.
"People can see the changing face of this important area of the city. It will become a bustling and attractive riverside environment for residents, shoppers and visitors once the overall Walkergate scheme is fully completed, providing a fitting extension to Durham's Millennium City project."
Parents are also investing in property for their student offspring - a trend that is providing a boost to Durham's neighbouring villages, like Langley Moor.
Amy Whyte added: "The £3m development by Grainger Homes at Langley Moor is attracting a lot of interest.
"An increasing number of parents see buying a property for their child as a good investment."