Newcastle Upon Tyne is not usually the top of most UK staycation lists, but it has a lot of aces up its sleeve to surprise any traveller and earn a reputation for a great UK staycation or city break destination. Here are the top 10 things for you to see and do in Newcastle.
Newcastle Upon Tyne is a UK regional city that is famed for its nightlife. Second only to their western Scouse cousins in the friendliness, Geordies really know how to have one hell of an epic night out and it is easy to just let Newcastle rest on that reputation, but it has so much more to offer too. Alongside the famous nights out is an epic foodie scene, world class concert halls and art galleries, some impressive industrial heritage and ancient British history behind it all and a great swathe of stunning countryside and coastline to explore. Here are just 10 things to see and do to give you a perfect reason to make Newcastle your next staycation destination.
Angel of the North.
Just a few minutes drive out of Gateshead near the A1, Anthony Gormley’s iconic 20 metre tall statue has become a symbol not only of Newcastle and Gateshead itself, but of the entire north east of England itself and is perhaps one of the most famous pieces of public art in the UK. Made from over 200 tonnes of steel it has a wingspan of 54 metres and is an absolute must see for any visit to Newcastle. There is a small coffee van and ice cream van next to the car park, and walkable routes in the fields around the statue if you fancy a little stroll to take in the views.
The Seven Bridges of the Tyne.
Newcastle Upon Tyne is famous for it’s iconic seven bridges, including the landmark Tyne Bridge and the modern Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the world’s first and only tilting bridge. These aren’t just practical bridges that connect Newcastle to Gateshead over the Tyne, these are famous landmarks and symbols of the city, Newcastle’s equivalent to the Liver Building or Big Ben.
The Quayside is Newcastle’s gentrified and picturesque riverbank. Once a bustling industrial and commercial dockside, it is now an arts and culture hub filled with bars, restaurants and pleasant viewing points for the seven bridges. Even if you are only in Newcastle on a short city break it is well worth taking an evening to stroll down the length of the waterfront and take in the bustling atmosphere. If you are here on a Sunday check out the Quayside Market which has a ton of stalls and street food.
This unassuming but impressive gallery is a part of Newcastle University’s Department of Fine Art and holds over 3,500 works dating from the 14th to the 20th Century with frequent contemporary exhibitions from current students at the University.
The Discovery Museum.
Housed in the beautiful Blandford House and opened in 1993 in its current form, the Discovery Museum focuses exclusively on the maritime, technological and scientific history of Newcastle, taking you on a journey through the Roman occupation of Britain through the industrial revolution and the early Millennium. The story of the Tyne exhibition is really worth a visit to get a perspective on the city and the region.
Newcastle cathedral is a 14th Century place of worship with a 15th century lantern tower which for centuries was used as a landmark for ships and boats plying the river Tyne, and you still can’t miss it today. Alongside the neighbouring castle, the Cathedral makes up the medieval quarter of Newcastle and is well worth a visit for the architecture alone, but inside you will find stunning stained glass windows and roundels which are quite simply works of art in their own right, as well as the 17th Century hall.
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.
The biggest gallery of its kind in the world and housed in the stunning, historic flour mill on the bank of the Tyne, the BALTIC is a must see celebration of contemporary visual art with a constant programme of rotating exhibitions. It makes for a perfect afternoon of just exploring and losing yourself in each individual piece, before stopping for a coffee on the riverbank.
The Biscuit Factory.
No, despite the name this is not a building dedicated to your favourite choccy hob nob. Housed in the glorious architecture of a former Victorian warehouse, the Biscuit Factory is one of the UKs largest independent art, craft and design galleries. Focusing mostly on the works of local artists, there are also frequent exhibitions and collaborations with national art organisations too, and is an attraction that no art lover should miss.
You just can’t visit Newcastle without a visit to the castle that gave the city it’s name. In it’s current form since the 12th Century it actually dates back much further to the Roman invasion, and has a fascinating history that spans the history of north east Britain. Climb to the rooftop battlements for a great view over the city.
St James Park.
Right in the centre of the city lies St James Park, home to Newcastle Football Club the stadium towers over the city and like cathedrals of old and the focal point for the modern religion of football for local fans, known as the Toon Army. Any football fan or sports fan will love the guided stadium tours which takes you behind the scenes and when the game isn’t on into the changing rooms and beyond. There is also a restaurant, bars and an ubiquitous souvenir shop to make it a full day out.
Great North Museum.
This award winning museum at the heart of Newcastle is an absolute must visit on any trip to the city. With galleries covering everything from natural history to ancient Egypt, there is also an extensive gallery devoted to Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman occupation as well as a giant T Rex skeleton!
Jesmond Dene Park.
Nestled between south Gosforth and Jesmond Vale just outside of the city lies a narrow wooded valley along the river Ouseburn. This haven for nature and wildlife has over 3 kilometres of trails, bridges and a magnificent waterfall to explore and have a picnic at on a sunny day.
Near the entrance to the park you’ll find a visitors centre with facilities, rangers office and education centre, as well as Millfield House which is worth a visit too, especially if you are coming with a young family who will enjoy the petting zoo.
Wallsend and the Hadrian’s Wall Walk.
Hadrian’s Wall is one of the UK’s oldest and most important heritage sites, and the Hadrian’s Wall Walk has a series of routes designed by Visit England and National Trails to allow visitors to explore the rich 2000 year history of Roman Britain as well as some of the UKs most spectacular countryside and areas of outstanding natural beauty in Northumberland. The Hadrian’s Wall East route ends at Wallsend, just a few miles east of Newcastle, and the route itself takes you along the picturesque riverfront and Quayside. Whether you combine a trip to Newcastle with a wider staycation to explore the full trail in Northumberland or just pick up the end of the trail here, it is a fascinating trek that is well worth your time.
The Segedenum Roman Fort and Museum is the gateway to Hadrians Wall and a perfect start or end point to the Hadrian’s Wall East route, or a simple day out for anyone who wants to discover the incredible history of Roman life in this part of the world. There is a huge excavation site that you can explore at your leisure and an award winning museum that has a plethora of interactive exhibits and original artefacts as well as a unique and distinctive viewing tower.
Now it is easy to dismiss a market as just a market, right? Nothing special, just a few old stalls selling the same old stuff every week. Well that is what I thought too until I came to Grainger Market. Not only is the establishment one of Newcastle’s oldest markets, with traders setting up shop there for over 180 years, but the variety of stalls stretches far beyond the usual market tat and the occasional butchers, you can find a host of truly independent sellers from a vintage music shop, a retro game shop, trendy patisseries, artisan food, clothes and even collectible toys (hello vintage TMHT Raphael!) The market is also home to some seriously awesome street food vendors (try the Chinese dumplings!)
Grey street, and the surrounding Grainger town, is the historical and heritage filled heart of Newcastle city centre. With almost half of the buildings listed as being of historical and architectural importance, the neo classical buildings dating from the 1830s and once the home of upmarket bankers and wealthy finance clerks are now filled with upmarket and independent shops, including the stunning central arcade, countless restaurants, bars and pavement cafes as well as the Theatre Royal. The focal point though is Grey’s Monument, the statue of Earl Grey, once Prime Minister and erected to commemorate the Reform Act of 1832. Most people simply pass it by now or use it as a landmark to find their way, but it is worth stopping for a moment to reflect on the history and heritage this great city has.
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