Some 450 kilometres north of London, the historic city of Newcastle sits on the north bank of the River Tyne. A city that has been around since Roman times, Newcastle today is a blend of grand Victorian buildings and impressive modern architecture – be sure to visit the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, which has been nicknamed the Blinking Eye Bridge for its ability to tilt to allow ships to pass beneath it.
Excellent contemporary art galleries, quality restaurants and an energetic nightlife scene all play (a close) second fiddle to the locals themselves. Famously known as Geordies, their distinctive dialect is the stuff of English legend.
Get acquainted with the fascinating history of the city on a unique tour below ground in the Victoria Tunnel. This 4-kilometre stretch of tunnel was used to transport coal from 1842 through to the 1860s, and during World War II it was used as an air raid shelter to protect the citizens of Newcastle.
Next, a trip to the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. A former industrial flourmill, this massive contemporary art gallery is the second largest in the country, following London’s Tate Modern. Along with an ever-changing rotation of local and international exhibitions, the gallery boasts a fantastic rooftop restaurant and a few nifty spots to take in sweeping views of the River Tyne.
And finally, no trip to Newcastle is complete without stopping at Newcastle Castle. The namesake of the city with a history dating back to 1080AD, these days this grand fortress has been reduced to a collection of imposing medieval ruins, namely the Castle Keep and Black Gate. Explore the small museum and audiovisual installations before climbing the steps to the top of the Keep to enjoy beautiful views of the city.
Eat and Drink
Eating out in Newcastle can be a wonderful local affair, with restaurants offering lamb from the nearby hills, salmon from the rivers and game from Kielder Forest. Sample modern medieval cuisine in a 12th century friary setting at local institution Blackfriars, where delicacies including woodpigeon make an appearance on the menu.
The riverside precinct of Quayside is known for its bustling chain restaurants, Bigg Market is the place to go for Italian and Indian cuisine, and Chinatown offers delicious, cheap eats. For nightlife, Quayside, Bigg Market and Central Station deliver bars and nightclubs full of locals and out-of-towners alike, while the Ouseburn area will suit those seeking live music, tasty pub grub, laid-back bars and a creative atmosphere.
Where to Stay
Plenty of accommodation options ranging from well-known chains to premier hotels can be found both in the city centre and the popular Quayside precinct, which is the place to be for river views. For something a little different, head north of the city centre to the charming residential suburb of Jesmond, which offers chic boutique accommodation, serviced apartments and hotels set in quaint old English houses.
Dating back to 1835, Grainger Market is home to more than 100 shops offering everything from fashion to fishmongers, bookstores to butchers and cobblers to cafés. This heritage market features a bright steel-framed glass roof and is open Monday to Saturday, 52 weeks a year.
The bustling Quayside Market, which runs every Sunday, is known for its clothing, jewellery, art, ceramics, homewares, food stalls and local live entertainment. For contemporary high street shopping head to Northumberland Street, the city’s main shopping destination, where big-name retailers line both sides of the paved pedestrian walkway.
Newcastle Like a Local
To get into the local spirit, head to any of the charming pubs around town (the Ouseburn area is full of them), tuck into some traditional pub fare and strike up a conversation with the chatty locals, who will be more than happy to give you a lesson in mastering the Geordie accent. To taste a bit of Newcastle history, order a pint of the famous Newcastle Brown Ale, though unfortunately the beer is no longer brewed locally.