There are more things to do in Newcastle than you’d ever imagine.
The grand old city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne has lots going for it. The coastal location; the iconic sights such as the Tyne Bridge and Angel of the North; the friendly Geordies (as locals are called); and much more make it a great place to visit. Affectionately called ‘The Toon’ – a transposition of the local pronunciation of the word “town” – Newcastle has a lot to offer. Continue reading this post for a selection of the unmissable things to do – as selected by an-almost Geordie.
Are you looking for a romantic getaway? Check out this guide on the best coastal breaks for couples in the UK.
The Best Things To Do In Newcastle
Cross the bridges of the Quayside
First things first – get your bearings in Geordieland by starting with a mooch around the Quayside. There are seven bridges over the Tyne – the Millennium Bridge, the Tyne Bridge, the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, the Metro Bridge, the High Level Bridge, the Swing Bridge and the King Edward VII bridge.
Spanning the River Tyne is the iconic Tyne Bridge – which looks just like the Sydney Harbor Bridge, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Construction of the Tyne Bridge started in 1925; the bridge was inaugurated by King George V in 1928, back then being the largest arch bridge in the world.
There’s also the Millennium Bridge, locally referred to as the Winking Eye Bridge, joining Newcastle and sister city Gateshead and tilting just about enough for boats to pass under it. It was first opened in 2001 and stretches for 126 meters (that’s more than 413 feet) which can be crossed on foot or on bike. The bridge is beautifully illuminated at night, so make sure to check it out after the sun sets too.
Speaking of night – the Quayside comes to life by night – home to some of Newcastle’s coolest and most stylish bars, restaurants and clubs. Geordies know how to party, so for an unforgettable night out make sure you paint this part of The Toon red. It makes a nice brunch or lunch spot during the day too.
Wander around the Old City Chares
East of the Tyne Bridge, the Chares is the oldest area of Newcastle and one of the most charming places to visit in Newcastle if you are a lover of narrow alleyways and cobbled streets. Places you should not miss include the 1721 Trinity House, 1766 Custom House, the 18th century neoclassical All Saints Church, home to the largest brass in England.
Enjoy a gastropub
There’s a Cooper Chare in Newcastle – a ‘chare’ being a colloquial term for a narrow alleyway or street. The Broad Chare is a highly-regarded pub on a narrow thoroughfare of the same name, offering fine, freshly-prepared fare along with a warm welcome and comprehensive selection of real ales.
Visit the Great North Museum
Formerly known as the Hancock, the original stone signage with its previous name is still in situ at this North East Museum. The smart, solid building alone is impressive, occupying an elevated site just as you enter the city. The museum is free to enter, and there’s always a lot to see. Visiting is one of the best things to do in Newcastle with kids.
Visit one of the nearby beaches
You’d hardly think of it, but one of the things to do in Newcastle is going to the beach. You simply can’t go to Newcastle and not visit at least one of the nearby beaches – aka ‘the coast’ as the locals call it. The North East is incredibly well-endowed in terms of rolling waves and golden sands, and although this isn’t the warmest part of the UK it does tend to be drier than the west coast.
The Spanish City is also a must-see, so head to Whitley Bay in the first instance if you want to tick that one off. Until a few years ago the Spanish City was a crumbling edifice, housing a fun-fair with a decidedly down-at-heel air. These days, it’s been fully restored to its former glory, and calls to mind the Taj Mahal – or indeed a settlement in sunny Southern Spain, like Seville or Granada. These days, it’s packed with upmarket eateries and stylish spaces. It also plays host to events like the Christmas Market as well as exhibitions, parties and weddings.
The wide promenade is great for walkers as well as cyclists, and you can travel on two wheels right up or down the coast to Tynemouth or into Northumberland. If you fancy seeing other beaches, Blyth has cute beach huts while gentrified Tynemouth has local landmark St Mary’s Lighthouse.
Go to Tynemouth Castle and Priory
If you have some extra time when in Newcastle, you should also visit Tynemouth Castle and Priory. It’s located on the East Coast and facing the River Tyne, and just 8 km (5 miles) from the center of town. Once one of the largest fortified areas in England, the coastal location makes it a perfect place to visit on a sunny day. Here you’ll be able to see the towers of a moated castle, its gatehouse and keep as well as the ruins of a 15th century Benedictine priory where a number of kings of Northumbria were buried.
Go to the ‘Department Store’
Fenwick of Newcastle is a local institution, taking pride of place in Northumberland Street – Newcastle’s main retail thoroughfare. If you visit around Christmas, join the crowds for the annual unveiling of the Christmas window – something no-one for miles around would want to miss, as it’s always spectacular. The stylish food hall is always worth a look – far more down-to-earth than London delis yet packed with some delicious morsels.
Go on a shopping spree in Eldon Square
Shopping is easily one of the best things to do in Newcastle, and there’s no better place to do it than the shopping area around Eldon Square and which includes Eldon Garden and the Central Arcade (an Edwardian Arcade filled with lovely small shops). You will find many nice small restaurants, plenty of places to stop for a coffee or a drink, antique stores and designer shops. You can easily spend an entire afternoon there without getting bored!
Wander around Grainger Town
Easily the prettiest area of Newcastle, this is actually the historic center and yet another great shopping area (the main spot for that is Grainger Street). The entire area owes its name to Richard Grainger, who designed the reconstruction of Newcastle’s city center between 1824 and 1841.
The main landmark here, and a typical meeting point for locals, is the 1835 Grey’s Monument, a 41 meters (135 feet) tall monument located at the north end of Grey Street. The monument was built in memory of the second Earl Grey, prime minister until 1834 and the person who inspired the 1832 Reform Bill. If you are lucky to find it open, you may even go up the column to appreciate the views from the viewing platform.
Explore the Historic Market
Located in Grainger Town, Grainger Market is covered, so it’s great to visit no matter what the weather – surely a place to visit when it rains. Fans of architecture will love the light, bright, dome-roofed structure that’s home to all manner of local food and retail outlets. You can enjoy a coffee or lunch stop as you watch the world go by here.
There are cheap and cheerful shops, vintage outlets and craft stalls to name but a few. The Grade I listed market dating from 1835 also has the world’s smallest branch of M&S, in the form of the fascinating ‘Marks and Spencer Original Penny Bazaar.’
For a guided tour of Grainger Market, click here.
Head to the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art
Over on the other side of the Tyne is the Baltic. Some years ago now, a crumbling former flour mill was transformed into what has become a famous icon – the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art. A centre for all that’s contemporary in art and performance, there’s always a buzz around this riverside venue. It’s easy to combine the Baltic with a look around the Quayside and a visit to Sage Gateshead, as they are all clustered close together on the banks of the Tyne.
Check out the Discovery Museum
The Discovery Museum is definitely one of the best in Newcastle. My favorite part is the exhibit of vintage cars which includes some dating back to WWII times. There are also lots of ship models – make sure to check out Turbinia, the 1914 turbine-driven steamer (the first of its kind) that was designed by Charles Parsons. If you are feeling more artsy, check out the paintings and sculptures at the museum.
Go to the Stephenson Railway Museum
Actually located in Wallsend, visiting this museum is one of the top things to do in Newcastle with kids, who can even ride steam and diesel locomotives – yes, they are still working! I’m sure they will enjoy the many workshops that are regularly on offer, so if you are visiting Newcastle with your family make sure to visit.
Have fun at the Hoppings
OK, so this is a bit of wild card, as The Hoppings is only held during the last week of June each year. If you do happen to visit then, though, it’s unmissable – truly one of the top things to do in Newcastle. The sheer scale of the biggest traveling fun-fair in Europe is impressive, and the atmosphere can be electrifying – especially on a pleasant day. The fair is held at the Town Moor, a vast green space on the edge of the city.
If you happen to be in town on one of the National Heritage Days, also visit the Holy Jesus Hospital.
Attend a Premier League game
St James Park is certainly the closest major football ground to the city center, tucked just out of sight just uphill from the bustling Haymarket area. The stadium is one of the country’s largest, and the club also has one of the biggest worldwide fan bases in the whole of the beautiful game. It’s so popular as you may even come across a local in a Magpies’ replica shirt on the summit of a remote Malaysian hilltop! Book a tour for a sneak peek behind the scenes of Premiership football.
Visit the Castle
Ever wondered how the Tyneside city got its name? Newcastle Castle, of course! The 12th century fortress occupies a pretty unbeatable location – it’s to be found at the end of Grey Street (where you can also see Grey’s Monument) as you enter the Quayside area. As such, there are some great views over the Tyne and the city.
You can also learn all about local history – including the fact that this castle isn’t in fact the castle the city was named for. That honor actually belongs to another fortress that previously occupied the same site. But anyways – visiting is one of the best things to do in Newcastle.
You can get your Newcastle Castle tickets here.
Looking for more historical buildings? Why not visit the University of Northumbria campus to admire Burt Hall and the Southerland Building?
Go to Beamish
Beamish is a museum quite unlike any other you may come across – anywhere on earth. Admittedly it’s not really in Newcastle, but it is worth making the trip south into County Durham to see this amazing place. At Beamish, you really do get to experience life in times long gone by. From Georgian-style, 1820s Pockerley to a 1900s pit village or a 1940s farm, Beamish offers visitors the chance to spend time in such locations – in the present day.
Admire the Sage Gateshead
Comparisons have been drawn with Sydney Opera House, perhaps partly due to Sage’s proximity to the Tyne Bridge, calling to mind Sydney Harbor with its bridge and Opera House. It’s certainly not quite as pretty as its Antipodean counterpart, yet Sage has deservingly established itself as a major music venue for the North East and beyond. Even if it does look a little like a slug wrapped in tinfoil.
Explore the Biscuit Factory
The Biscuit Factory on Stoddard Street in the city’s cultural quarter is the largest independent art, craft and design venue in the UK. This converted Victorian warehouse has been painstakingly restored, and is now a venue for craft fairs, meetings and parties as well as a gallery. Locals love to meet for brunch here, so even if art isn’t your bag it’s well worth a pitstop when passing nearby. No prizes for guessing what the building once was… Just go – it’s one of the coolest things to do in Newcastle.
Walk the Underground Tunnel
Victoria Tunnel is deep underground, snaking underneath the city above for an impressive two-and-a-half miles. If your childhood was largely spent reading about the adventures of The Famous Five, you may just have the same fascination with secret passages. In typical North Eastern fashion, the tunnel was created between 1839 and 1842 to transport coal. What else? This is Newcastle, and of course coals came here. It was also used as an air raid shelter during World War II.
Visit the Life Science Center
Newcastle’s Life Science Center is more than just a museum. It has the North-East’s biggest planetarium, as well as an ever-changing selection of live theater shows, events and exhibitions. One of the center’s main objectives is to raise awareness of all things scientific, so there’s a real focus on making science fun and interactive. Visiting is certainly one of the things to do in Newcastle with kids – even those who profess to hate spending time in museums.
Check out the Laing Art Gallery
Laing Art Gallery is one of the best places to visit in Newcastle for art lovers. Built in 1901, it houses an impressive collection which includes paintings by Gauguin and Stanley Spencer; as well as sculptures by Henry Moore. There is a large section dedicated to decorative arts from the 16th to the 18th century, and lots of temporary exhibits. You can visit independently or join a guided tour, at the end of which you can sit in the lovely café for a nice cup of tea.
And the Roman remains
Hadrian’s Wall traverses northernmost England, stretching between the east and the west below the Scottish border. Take the local Metro to Wallsend, where the famous wall does – literally – end. At Segedunum, just 8 km (5 miles) from the city, you can see a recreated Roman bathhouse, climb a 35-meter (almost 115 feet) tower and explore Roman culture at the on-site museum. It’s easy to get to Segedunum, as it’s just a few minutes’ on foot from Wallsend Metro station.
These are two good guided tours of the Roman Ruins:
Segedunum Roman Fort guided tour – a 2-hour guided tour that is actually quite budget friendly.
Newcastle: Hadrian’s Wall and Roman Fort Half-Day Tour – a more expensive option than the one above, but it’s actually a longer tour and more inclusive.
Admire the Angel of the North
Sir Antony Gormley’s masterpiece has become a national as well as local treasure since its construction in 1998. It weighs 200 tonnes, has a wider wingspan than a passenger jet and stands 20 meters (65.6 feet) high. Many residents of the North East consider themselves home when they first spot the Angel towering over the A1, close to the MetroCentre.
There’s a free car park at the base, or you can hop onto a bus from Eldon Square in central Newcastle.
Go to the Centre for Children’s Books
Another one to see with the kids in tow is the Centre for Children’s Books. A restored Victorian mill in Gateshead houses seven floors devoted to children’s literature. Seven Stories features authors and illustrators from the past and present day, including Enid Blyton, Quentin Blake, Judith Kerr, Philip Pullman, Michael Rosen and Eileen Soper. There are hands-on activities aimed at inspiring a new generation of creative writers and artists too.
Visit the Farm
A farm might not be what you’d expect to see in the heart of a sizable city – but Ouseburn Farm is just that. This community charity is a working farm, complete with pigs, sheep, goats, ponies and chickens. There’s a farm shop and a cafe that serves up dishes made from the produce. Join some 30,000 visitors a year – and entry is free. You can make a donation if you like, but it’s not obligatory to do so.
Pop into the Cathedral
St Nicholas Cathedral isn’t particularly big, but it is topped by an impressive lantern tower that dominates Newcastle’s cityscape. The tower was a later addition, dating from the 15th century; the cathedral itself was completed in 1305 after the Norman original – dating from 1091 – burned down. The lantern tower was once used to help ships navigate their way along the Tyne.
Volunteers lead tours, and entry is free. On certain dates, you can even climb the 162 steps to the top of the tower – check before you go if you’d like to do so.
Other churches to visit in Newcastle include the Church of St Thomas the Martyr, located in the Haymarket area; and St Marys Cathedral, a 19th century church located near the Life Science Center.
Where to stay in Newcastle
There’s no shortage of good accommodation options in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Here are a few good places you may want to check out for your trip:
- Sleeperdorm is the best accommodation option for budget travelers. It has private rooms as well as dorms. Full breakfast is included for a small fee.
- Maldron Hotel Newcastle is considered the best hotel in town. You will find comfortable, modern rooms, a bar and a restaurant on site.
- Hotel Du Vin Newcastle has comfortable, stylish rooms in a prime location.
How to get to Newcastle
Newcastle is very well connected to the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe by plane, train and bus. Direct trains to Newcastle run from all major cities in the country. Trains from Edinburgh take little over 1 hour and 90 minutes. Trains from London depart from King’s Cross Station and take little over 3 hours.
Newcastle International Airport is at little over 10 km (6.2 miles) from the city center and connected to town by both bus and metro.
How to move around Newcastle
Newcastle is best explored on foot. If you need to use public transport, you can count on a great bus system, as well as an efficient metro system. The city is also bike friendly and there are city bikes available throughout the city.
Traveling to the UK? Make sure to read my other posts:
- 19 Exciting Things To Do In Edinburgh
- The Best Things To Do In Bristol
- 24 Stunning London Hidden Gems
- How To Make The Most Of London In A Day
- 15 Amazing Day Trips From Paris
- The Best 5 Days London Itinerary
- An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London
- A Perfect Itinerary To See London In 3 Days
- How To See London In 2 Days
- 15 Great Day Trips From London
- How To Get Tower Of London Tickets
- 5 Easy Ways Of Getting London Dungeon Tickets
- 7 Easy Ways Of Getting London Eye Tickets
- How To Get Madame Tussauds London Tickets And Skip The Lines
- Where To Stay In London: The Best Areas And Hotels
- Where To Get The Most Impressive Views Of London
- How To Get From Heathrow To London
- 20 + Great Things To Do In Oxford
- 19 Fun Things To Do In Cornwall
This post was contributed by Polly Taylor, author at Let’s Travel UK. She is from Northumberland, just north of Newcastle. Following years of independent travel and as a travel consultant, she now resides by the sea in Christchurch, Dorset with her husband and daughter. A summerhouse in the garden is her office, where she works as a content writer and travel blogger.