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. After several decades of arts-based regeneration, the city has become an important cultural hub for the North. The riverbank is now lined with world-class galleries and museums. Independent shops are growing at a rapid pace. And the food and drink scene has become powerfully diverse. The no-nonsense, tough-yet-loving locals have helped transform Newcastle into one of the best cities to visit in the UK. We strongly suggest you check it out!
The one place to carve time out of your schedule for is BALTIC. Housed within a striking 1950s flour mill, this home for creativity has no permanent collection, but curates cutting-edge exhibitions each and every year. Check out what’s going on in the Biscuit Factory (yet another industrial space that’s been transformed into an art lover’s paradise) and the Laing Gallery for even more art.
Get yourself over to Grainger Town, Newcastle’s historic centre, to see brilliant architecture from multiple stages in history – only London and Bath have more listed classical buildings. While here, make sure you visit the Newcastle Castle and the impressive St Nicholas Cathedral as well. You can even 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.
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. It’s well worth visiting.
Out and about
Grainger Market will satisfy your hunger for food, shopping and a little bit of history. The 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 plenty of great stalls for a day out. Alternatively, the slightly hipper Quayside Sunday Market and Jesmond Food Market are where to head for great beer, street food, vintage clothes, handmade crafts and lively free gigs.
Food-wise, Newcastle has every one of your cravings covered. Get your coffee fix at Pink Lane. Grab a seat at the Butterfly Cabinet for a cheap and cheerful British fry-up. Blackfriars and the Michelin-star House of Tides are the places to go for upscale dining. Grab a juicy burger at underground restaurant Fat Hippo. And for afternoon tea, head to Quilliam Brothers for an impressive range of teas and delicious freshly baked cakes.
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 are Cosmic Ballroom, Think Tank, and Madame Koo.
The owners of Motel One Newcastle seem to have pulled off the impossible. They’ve created a luxury atmosphere within a budget hotel. Expect sleek, industrial style rooms, that are small - but their central location more than makes up for it. If you want sheer lavishness, book an apartment at the Vermont Aparthotel. Optional extras include a butler service and a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce to drive you around Newcastle in style. It’s the epitome of ‘treat yoself’.
Dates for the diary
Ouseburn Festival, July
This long-running summer festival is an exciting mix of food, art, street performers, comedy and live music events taking place in Ouseburn Valley. 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.
Starting out as a humble beer and music party for locals in 2010, this annual May festival is now one of the biggest in the North of England. Run by the Gateshead Rugby Club, you’ll find a huge array of craft beers streaming out of the club room and a handful of stages blasting out brilliant live music on the pitch. Be sure to do some proper people watching too, as all the great Northern characters come out for this one!
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.