The spotlight is shining brightly on Newcastle Gateshead this summer; Rough Guides declared it the top place to visit in 2018 and an epic 80-day exhibition – Great Exhibition of the North – showcasing art, culture, design and innovation from the north of England is coming to town. A visit to the city - just three hours from London and 1.5 hours from Edinburgh by train - also means you’re in easy distance of some of north-east England’s coolest and most intriguing spots to visit.
Great Exhibition of the North
A major highlight in the cultural calendar, Great Exhibition of the North opens with a ceremony on 22 June at the Gateshead Quayside, featuring a bridge of illuminated drones over the River Tyne. During the exhibition run, which takes place between 22 June – 9 September, three themed walking routes will guide visitors to venues and attractions: The Get North Art Trail, Get North Design Trail and Get North Innovation Trail. Discover all that is ground-breaking about this part of England and visit iconic venues around Newcastle Gateshead, from the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art to Sage Gateshead.
A foodie paradise
With a spate of new restaurant openings, Michelin-star restaurants, comforting street food and everything in between, the city and the surrounding areas are a must-visit for any foodie. For a romantic date or a special celebratory treat, the two-Michelin-star House of Tides fits the bill, while the Quayside has welcomed Dobson & Parnell, with its focus on fine-dining British cuisine and Gateshead has seen the opening of Lola Jeans, which features a menu ‘from barn to board’ and an inspired cocktail list. Check out the neighbourhood of Jesmond for new eateries such as Cal’s Own for Brooklyn-style pizza pie.
The hottest nightlife
There’s no party quite like a party in Newcastle Gateshead, a city packed with friendly pubs, stylish cocktail bars, clubs playing the hottest DJ sets and music venues catering to every taste, resulting in its well-deserved reputation as one of England’s best party cities… and one that keeps evolving. Hit the newest hotspots such as Wylam Brewery’s Palace of Arts, where you can catch live music and street food events while enjoying its unique craft beers. For quirky surroundings with your cocktails, head to Alvinos with its array of pinball machines and vintage vinyl records or, for an awesome selection of gin, spend the evening at Pleased To Meet You where you’ll find more than 100 behind the bar.
Yes, Newcastle’s city centre is bursting with hot bars and stylish restaurants but its hip neighbourhoods of Ouseburn and Jesmond are well worth a visit. Ouseburn is regarded as the birthplace of the industrial revolution in Newcastle and has grown into a creative hotspot over the last few years. Check out England’s largest independent art, craft and The Biscuit Factory for independent art, craft and design gallery, stop by Hoults Yard for live theatre, music festivals and art exhibitions and spend the evening at cool music venue The Cluny. Jesmond has a more elegant vibe, its streets studded with Victorian terraced houses and home to a fantastic range of bars, restaurants and boutique shops. Pack a picnic and head to Jesmond Dene in the summer months, a stunning local beauty spot.
Sir Antony Gormley’s iconic Angel of the North stands at 20 metres high and 54 metres wide and is an outstanding piece of public art. Dominating the Gateshead landscape, stand at the feet of this impressive statue – itself a symbol of pride in north-east England – for an unmissable photo. Marking its 20th anniversary this year will be a range of special events; look out for pop-up #Angel 20 activities and workshops at Gateshead venues.
Nearby natural beauty
Sometimes you need a breather from the bright lights – easily found by heading 45 minutes out of town to Northumberland National Park. Come here for its Dark Sky Reserve, for Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a bracing walk or gentle cycle through more than 400 square miles of gorgeous countryside scenery. Newcastle is also close to the Northumberland coast – and what a coast it is! Some of the best beaches in Britain are found here, fringed by impressive backdrops. Check out Bamburgh Castle Beach or Cresswell Beach for unmissable sights of sweeping stretches of sandy beaches that go on for miles.
A city of contrast
Just a 12-minute train journey from Newcastle but with a completely different vibe, Durham is one of the most picturesque cities in Britain. A magnificent cathedral and castle dominate the skyline of this city that has its own coastline and countless historical sites and events, including the spectacular Kynren. This ‘Epic Tale of England’ (30 June – 15 September 2018) is an all-action blockbuster show travelling through 2,000 years of history and legend, with 1,000 cast and crew.
North-east England is an area bursting with heritage and history but one of the region’s great skills is bringing that history to life for contemporary audiences. Less than a half-hour drive south of Newcastle, Beamish Outdoor Museum, which tells the story of the region in the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s, offers compelling workshops such as driving a steam engine or cooking 1940s-style. And, this summer at Alnwick Castle – 45 minutes-drive north of Newcastle and seen on screen in both Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Downton Abbey – is hosting a range of experiences, from Wizarding Week and Medieval Week to a Knight’s Week and a Napoleonic Skirmish.