A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Newcastle

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 Geordie (as locals are called) welcome; 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.

For more coastal breaks in the United Kingdom, check out this guide on the best coastal breaks for couples in the UK

things to do in Newcastle
Crossing bridges – definitely one of the things to do in Newcastle

20 Unmissable 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. Spanning the River Tyne is the iconic Tyne Bridge – which looks just like the Sydney Harbor Bridge, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. There’s also the Millennium Bridge, joining Newcastle and sister city Gateshead. There are in fact seven bridges over the Tyne, the others being the Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge, High Level Bridge, Swing Bridge and King Edward VII bridge.

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.

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. It’s a families favorite.

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Whitley Bay is one of the nicest places to visit in Newcastle and its surroundings

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.

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Newcastle town center offers lots of shopping opportunities

Go to the ‘Department Store’

Fenwick of Newcastle is 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 one of the best things to do in Newcastle around Christmas and it is 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.

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.

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.

TOP TIP: If you happen to be in town on one of the National Heritage Days, 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.

Newcastle Castle
Visiting Newcastle Castle is a must-do

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 unmissable things to do in Newcastle.

You can get your Newcastle Castle tickets here.

TOP TIP: Looking for more historical buildings? Why not visit the University of Northumbria campus to admire Burt Hall and the Southerland Building?

Explore the Historic Market

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.’

Visiting Beamish is one of the most interesting things to do in Newcastle

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.

Sage Gateshead
Sage Gateshead is a must-see when in Newcastle

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.

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 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 theatre 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 when traveling with kids – even those who profess to hate spending time in museums.

Segedunum – Roman remains just outside Newcastle

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 five miles from the city, you can see a recreated Roman bathhouse, climb a 35-meter 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:

Angel of the North
The Angel of the North is one of the most impressive sights in Newcastle

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 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 storeys 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 sizeable 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.

Newcastle Cathedral
The historic center of Newcastle

Pop into the Cathedral

St Nicholas Cathedral isn’t particularly big, but 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.

Newcastle Upon Tyne
A view of Newcastle

Useful Information To Plan Your Trip

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:

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 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. 

Final Remarks

Which of the twenty things to do mentioned in this post will you tick off the list?

As you can see, there are so many. Then there’s the small but perfectly formed city of Durham to the south, and the rural, coastal charm of Northumberland to the north. Whatever you do – enjoy yourself. In Geordie land, that really is what life’s all about.

Further Readings

Traveling to the UK? Make sure to read my other posts:

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.

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Discover what to see and do in Newcastle Upon Tyne - via @clautavani
Read about the top things to do in Newcastle Upon Tyne - via @clautavani

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