Newcastle is an incredibly misunderstood city. It has a reputation for being a place that only party goers and football fans would dare go. But times have changed.
Following several decades of arts-based regeneration, Newcastle has been transformed into an important cultural hub for the North. The riverbank is now lined with world-class galleries and museums, independent shops are flourishing, and the food and drink scene has become powerfully diverse.
Time to check in:
Motel One Newcastle provides a luxury atmosphere that won’t stretch your budget. While the sleek industrial style rooms are on the small side, the hotel’s central location more than makes up for it.
Alternatively, the Maldron Hotel Newcastle opened in late 2018 on the site of the former Newgate Shopping Centre in the heart of the city, providing a range of fresh modern rooms to suit any traveller.
For a more lavish alternative, book an apartment at the Vermont Aparthotel, where optional extras include butler service and a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce to take you around the city.
10.00 Venture underground to uncover the city’s industrial past
Head underneath the city as you take to the old Victorian Tunnels which were built to transport coal and later acted as air raid shelters during World War II. Book a guided tour of the tunnels for a great overview of Geordie history, discovering more about the city’s rich industrial past and delving into what life was like during times of war. The preserved 19th century waggonway runs from the Town Moor to the River Tyne, and provides a fantastic opportunity to wander underneath Newcastle’s landmarks, as well as a unique chance to walk below Hadrian’s Wall.
12.00 Be spoilt for lunch options in Newcastle’s Grade I listed market
If you’re feeling peckish, Grainger Market will satisfy your hunger for food, shopping and a little bit of history. The Grade I listed covered market has been around for more than 180 years and was once the largest market in Europe. Today it’s a little humbler, but still offers more than 100 great stalls run by some of Newcastle’s most innovative businesses.
13.00 Tack a trip back in history
In Grainger Town, Newcastle’s historic centre, you’ll find brilliant architecture from multiple stages in history – only London and Bath have more listed classical buildings. It’s also home to Newcastle Castle. Steeped in history, the imposing Norman fortress serves as a delightful reminder of northern England’s turbulent past, a place where armies gathered and criminals were either imprisoned or executed. Discover the story of Newcastle here and take in spectacular views from the battlements before immersing yourself in the nearby splendour of the hugely impressive St Nicholas Cathedral.
14.30 Go on a journey of discovery
Learn about the history of Newcastle and Tyneside through exciting displays at the Discovery Museum, three floors of exhibits that focus on the region’s maritime, scientific and technological importance to Britain and the rest of the world. Walk through the doors of the iconic building and come face to face with the Turbinia, a giant steam-powered ship that was once the fastest in the world.
16.00 Pick from an outstanding range of afternoon teas
Enjoy a chance to sit back and relax by heading to Quilliam Brothers for an impressive range of teas and delectable freshly baked cakes. There are more than 60 types of loose-leaf tea to choose from, as well as a small cinema and art gallery to explore.
17.00 Set foot on the world’s first tilting bridge
Spanning the River Tyne and now a staple part of the Newcastle skyline, the Millennium Bridge became the world’s first tilting bridge when it opened in 2001. Initially build to celebrate the turn of the millennium, the structure is regularly illuminated in the evenings and has featured in football film GOAL!, as well as on an old pound coin. The bridge is regularly opened for river traffic, with the whole tilting process taking just 4.5 minutes.
19.00 Dine in luxurious surroundings
Set in the beautifully restored surroundings of a Grade I listed 16th-century town house in the city’s historical Quayside, the Michelin-starred House of Tides offers a casual, yet upscale fine dining experience. A multi-course tasting menu has a focus on natural, seasonal and sustainable food, which alters as the seasons change.
Alternatively, try out Blackfriars, a beautifully kept restaurant serving a la carte and set menus in the old refectory of a 13th-century former medieval friary. Or for a slightly messier eating experience, venture underground to get your teeth stuck into a delicious juicy burger from Fat Hippo.
21.00 Check out Newcastle’s famed nightlife
You’re spoilt for choice for a night out in Newcastle. Ernest is a laid-back late-night café and bar which holds free DJ parties most weekends. Kommunity is both a bar and a participatory social space which hosts dance nights, film screenings, DJ sessions and daytime raves. But big nights out will usually take place around Bigg Market or on Collingwood Street’s so-called ‘Diamond Strip’. Global HQ is a local institution for massive parties open to everybody. More top clubs to dance all night long in are Cosmic Ballroom, Think Tank, and Madame Koo.
10.00 Browse the best of Northern art
Located on the south bank of the River Tyne within a striking 1950s flour mill, BALTIC serves as a home for creativity, and while it has no permanent collection, you’ll find cutting-edge exhibitions there every year. Works from Rasheed Araeen and Heather Phillipson are among those to have featured in recent times and there are a host of regular workshops and tours to enjoy.
The Biscuit Factory, set in the heart of Newcastle’s cultural quarter, is a huge independent commercial art, craft and design gallery that is also home to a wide array of artistic works from more than 200 artists and makers. The Laing Art Gallery also holds regularly changing exhibitions of historic, modern and contemporary art with a focus on oil paintings, watercolours, ceramics, silver and glassware.
12.00 Marvel at a truly angelic structure
Sticking with the theme of art, hop on the Line 1 bus from Gateshead interchange for 20 minutes to bask in the shadow of Antony Gormley’s spectacular sculpture, the Angel of the North. The most famous piece of public art in Britain dominates the skyline, is the height of four double decker buses and has the wingspan of a jumbo jet.
13.00 Get a taste for local produce
Return to Newcastle to sample some of the foodie delights found at the Quayside Market, which runs weekly on a Sunday throughout the year. Sample quality goods and local produce, ranging from fantastic craft beers to street food and vintage clothes.
14.00 Blend Newcastle’s varied geography and history together
Tyneside is a region packed with natural history, archaeology and geology, and it’s all brought together under one roof at the Great North Museum. Here you can unearth the detailed history of Hadrian’s Wall, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, before perusing exhibitions on ancient Egypt, world cultures and fossils. The famed Dippy the Diplodocus from London’s Natural History Museum will also be in residence from mid-May to early October 2019 as part of a nationwide tour.
16.00 Explore the Ouseburn Valley
In the East of the city lies the cultural quarter of Ouseburn Valley, full of converted warehouses and factories, now home to home to many small galleries, art studios, cool bars, cafes and pubs. If visiting in the summer, keep an eye out for the Ouseburn Festival, an exciting mix of food, art, street performers, comedy and live music events that takes place in the region. Revellers can cheer on the parade running along the riverbank, before heading off to discover the festival activities taking place in landmark buildings and secret locations.
18.00 Finish your visit with a challenge
Complete your visit to Newcastle by testing your wits at Escape Key, a set of escape rooms that take inspiration from the city’s history. Discover clues to escape while learning about the horrors of the Black Death in Plague, face trial for witchcraft and the gallows in Witch, or battle against Armageddon in the setting of a Cold War Bunker.
Newcastle is in north-east England, three hours by train from London. Newcastle International Airport is only a 25-minute train ride away from the city centre.