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Top things to do on a Newcastle city break

Our guide to a city break in Newcastle

The iconic Angel of the North sculpture welcomes you in with open arms as you arrive in this vibrant city, which is characterised by its seven impressive bridges linking the two sides of the River Tyne, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Gateshead. But that’s not all the unofficial capital of the northeast famous for. From foodie hotspots and intriguing underground tours, to historic quarters and late-night shenanigans (Newcastle is consistently voted one of the best nights out in the UK), we’ve got a ton of ideas to make sure you have a canny time exploring the toon. Howay! 

1

Top sights in Newcastle

Grainger Town

Home to a range of restaurants, bars, galleries and shops, Grainger Town, Newcastle’s Georgian quarter, is the historic heart of the city. This particularly pretty part of town is watched over by Earl Grey’s 135-foot monument, which was built to commemorate his role in bringing about the abolition of slavery in the British Empire – you can even climb to the top of the column during the summer for panoramic views. Grainger Market, known as the city’s first supermarket, is definitely worth a visit, and even claims one of the first Marks and Spencer 'Penny Bazaars' in the world. The Edwardian Central Arcade is equally as special, with its mosaic flooring and stained-glass ceiling. A must-see part of Grainger Town, though, is Grey Street. With over 40% of its early-19th-century buildings marked as listed, it’s no surprise it was voted the most beautiful street in the UK.

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Standing at 20 metres tall, with a wingspan of 54 metres, the Angel of the North is one of the most iconic landmarks in England. Designed by Antony Gormley and erected in 2008, the sculpture represents the sacrifice of the miners who had worked for 200 years beneath the site and is said to be the largest angel sculpture in the world. Another famous landmark to dominate the city’s skyline is the Tyne Bridge, linking Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Gateshead. Opened by King George V in 1928, the bridge’s towers were originally designed as warehouses but were never completed. Every September, the towers are opened to the public as part of Heritage Open Days – so be sure to take a tour if you’re about.

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2

Restaurants in Newcastle

Träkol

Located on the Gateshead side of the river, Träkol is an open-fire kitchen with a focus on seasonal and ethical cooking. Only using British breeds, the restaurant’s meat comes straight from local farmers and is cooked over an open fire consisting of a variety of different woods. Proud owners of a Michelin plate, the restaurant is pretty popular, and with bookings opening four months in advance, you’ll have to be organised when it comes to securing a table. Once you do, though, be sure to start your meal with crispy pig-tails or local Lindisfarne oysters, before tucking into a succulent T-bone steak with roasted bone marrow. There are pescatarian and veggie options too, including hay-smoked celeriac drenched in truffle butter, and mouth-watering desserts like citrus doughnuts with rhubarb and caramelised oats. One for the list, that’s for sure.

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For fine dining without the fuss, book a table at Peace & Loaf in Jesmond, run by Masterchef finalist Dave Coulson. If you like your food served with a side of history, opt for Michelin-starred House of Tides, found inside a former merchant’s townhouse just seconds from the river. Or head back even further in time to the middle ages at Blackfriars, believed to be the oldest dining room in the UK. Once regularly frequented by King Henry VIII, the restaurant is now home to a banquet hall and cookery school, as well as one of the most inexpensive set menus in town.

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3

Things to do in Newcastle

CBK Adventures, River Tyne

You won’t have to worry about jostling for the best views when you take to the water on an award-winning Tyne Bridges & Quayside kayak tour with CBK Adventures. As you quietly paddle beneath Newcastle’s seven Quayside bridges, snapping pictures and enjoying the surroundings as you go, you’ll uncover stories on the city’s chequered history, engineering innovations and modern cultural renaissance. Alternatively, opt for an after-dark Quayside Glow Tour to see Newcastle lit up in all its glory. Snug inside an illuminated sit-on kayak, you’ll drift past artistically illuminated buildings, underneath the changing colours of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the beside the twinkling lights of the riverside’s bars and restaurants.  

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Originally built to transport coal from Spital Tongues Colliery down to the River Tyne, the 2.4-mile- long Victoria Tunnel is now a hit with visitors far and wide. Descend underground from its entrance in Ouseburn into the dark tunnel to learn about the history of this 19th-century wagonway and how it became an air-raid shelter to thousands of Geordies during the Second World War. If you’re looking for a fright, try the Gory Newcastle City Tour, where you’ll discover the city’s dark secrets with tales of body snatchers, murders and big explosions. For footy fans, there’s the Rooftop Tour at St James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United. After ascending to the 150-foot-high walkway, you’ll traverse four viewing platforms, taking in the pretty cityscape and one of the biggest football stadiums in the UK.

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4

Entertainment in Newcastle

Newcastle Theatre Royal

First opened in 1837, Newcastle’s Theatre Royal is one of only nine Grade I-listed theatre halls in the country, and thanks to its striking façade, is widely regarded as the UK’s finest. Throughout its history, names like Oscar Wilde, Laurence Olivier and Sir Ian McKellen have trodden its boards and with over 300 shows a year – ranging from the likes of West End musicals to ballet – there will be plenty more famous names to grace its stage. If you’re visiting over the festive period, be sure to book tickets to the theatre’s annual pantomime – you’ll thank us afterwards.

The theatre also puts on a range of audio described, captioned, sign language-interpreted and relaxed performances throughout the year, creating a space for everyone to enjoy live theatre.

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Fans of the silver screen may prefer a visit to Tyneside Cinema. Founded as a newsreel theatre in 1937 by Dixon Scott (the great uncle of Sir Ridley Scott), the venue originally showed the news, documentaries and the occasional cartoon. Today, however, you can catch the latest blockbusters in an art deco-styled auditorium. Look out for the glass mosaic floor in the foyer and, if you have time, visit the cinema’s mini-museum, to learn more about the venue’s history. And for unbeatable live music, Sage Gateshead is a must. Hard not to miss, this iconic bubbled building – home to the Royal Northern Sinfonia – is famed for its world-class performances, across all genres from pop and classical to indie, jazz and dance.

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5

Activities in Newcastle

Point Blank Shooting

If you’re visiting with mates and fancy a bit of friendly competition, book a slot at Point Blank Shooting on Newgate Street. At the UK’s first simulation shooting range, you can test your time, aim and reflexes on over 200 shooting scenarios using some of the five replica guns in your personal armoury – including Glocks, Desert Eagles and AK-47s. Fuel the fun with bespoke cocktails, frosty steins and pizza platters and you’ve got yourself a fully-loaded day out.

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Carry on the competitiveness at Ghetto Golf in Hoults Yard. This seriously twisted, 18-hole urban crazy golf is decorated with graffiti and serves jazzy cocktails like Lethal Drizzle and Ghetto Gospel. Or why not relive your best childhood memories at Howlers, with its adult-only giant ball pit, alongside bonkers live entertainment, crowd karaoke and riotous bingo. Want something more subdued? Unwind at Newcastle City Baths, one of only eleven operational Turkish Baths in the country. Enjoyed by generations of Geordies for almost 100 years, the unisex baths feature art deco-inspired relaxation rooms, heated chambers and invigorating plunge showers.

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6

Bars and clubs in Newcastle

WC Newcastle

It's been tried and tested time and again, and it's hard to deny that Newcastle is one hell of a night out. From its bustling ‘Diamond Strip’ to hipster Ouseburn Valley and Bigg Market (a thriving social spot since the Middle Ages), Newcastle has endless bars and nightclubs to enjoy after the sun goes down. If you’re into hidden gems, you’ll love WC Newcastle, a tiny subterranean wine and cocktail bar in a renovated Victorian public toilet. Exclusive and intimate, the bar’s menu is a homage to its hometown, with cocktails like Royal Warrant, made with Ketel One peach and orange blossom vodka, and Tickle My Fancy – Absolut raspberry mixed with crème de framboise and lemon, and topped with vanilla cream.

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For more sophisticated drinks, trawl through the huge selection of gin at Pleased to Meet You, housed in a Grade II-listed building, or for sky-high views, enjoy a sundowner drink at Roof Thirty Nine, the rooftop bar of famous department store, Fenwick Newcastle. Whisky lovers and deep-house enthusiasts will love Tokyo, with its candles, chandeliers and extensive cocktail menu influenced by Japanese culture, while night owls simply have to swing by The Lofts – Newcastle’s state-of-the-art super club – to dance the night away to world-renowned DJs.

Find out more about Newcastle’s nightlife
7

Places to stay in Newcastle

INNSiDE by Melia Newcastle

In an enviable position on Newcastle’s Quayside, INNSiDE by Melia is cool and upbeat, with minimalist rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows and Newcastle-inspired murals lining the walls of the hotel (and even the staff uniforms). Bedrooms have views towards the city’s seven bridges, alongside retro-style telephones, in-room yoga mats for morning workouts and eco-friendly toiletries, towels and bed linen. You’ll also find a 24-hour fitness room, The Open Living Lounge – which serves food throughout the day to a soundtrack of local DJs – and the lively Gino D’Acampo restaurant and bar.

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Next to Newcastle Castle, The Vermont Hotel is a 1930s icon oozing with elegance, plus 24-hour room service, luxury bedrooms and a dazzling all-weather rooftop bar with views of the skyline. Over in Grainger Town, you’ll find the sleek Grey Street Hotel, with its uniquely designed dog-friendly rooms, while the grand Jesmond Dene House – a country house within a city – is home to an award-winning 3 AA Rosette restaurant.

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8

Attractions in Newcastle

Newcastle Castle

Found in the city centre, the now-very-old Newcastle Castle is a striking fortress that gave the city its name. Originally constructed in 1080 by William the Conqueror’s son out of wooden motte and bailey, the current stone keep was rebuilt by Henry II in 1177 to symbolise the royal power in the north. The castle was consequently used as a starting point for invasions of Scotland, and a place where criminals – including suspected witches – were imprisoned, tortured and, in many cases, executed. You can learn about all this and more of northern England’s turbulent past on a visit to this tardis-like castle, exploring winding staircases, ancient chambers and eerie dungeons before heading to the top of the keep for panoramic views across the city.

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If you want to dive into more of Newcastle’s legacies, see Roman history come to life at Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum in Wallsend, where you can get a taste of life as a Roman and a chance to see a part of historic Hadrian's Wall ruins, fort and bathhouse. Alternatively, head just outside of the city to Washington Old Hall, the ancestral home of George Washington, the very first President of the United States of America. Explore inside this National Trust house to learn more about Washington’s ancestry or take a stroll around the orchard of heritage apple trees in the gardens.

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9

Free things to do in Newcastle

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

A haven of creativity, Newcastle is home to multiple art galleries but if you only have time to visit one, make it the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. A former flour mill, this contemporary art gallery showcases an ever-changing calendar of exhibitions and the shop is an excellent place to find unique souvenirs. All of its spaces are accessible, including the BALTIC Sensory Room which offers a quiet place to play and explore. Head up to Level 5 for indoor and outdoor views across the city, or the penthouse for lunch with a view at Six Riverside.

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As well as being a top-notch brunch spot, The Biscuit Factory houses some of the best art in the area. Inside an old warehouse in the hipster area of Ouseburn, the gallery displays works by over 250 artists at any time, including the likes of Alice Barnes, Peter Hallam and Sally Anne Fitter. Elsewhere, Laing Art Gallery, which started life in 1901, is a treasure trove of contemporary and classic art and local treasures. If you’re more of a science or history buff, pay a visit to the Discovery Museum. Here you can come face-to-face with Newcastle’s maritime, military and industrial past, discover technological breakthroughs and even get up close to Turbinia, a 34-metre steam-powered ship that was once the fastest in the world.

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10

Places to visit in Newcastle

Jesmond Dene

Gifted to the people of Newcastle by William Armstrong, Jesmond Dene is a haven of tranquillity in the city’s suburbs. Whether you’re looking to go for a walk, a run or just need some time-out in nature, head to this historical park to discover a wooded valley teeming with exotic trees, grottoes and waterfalls. Traverse the large network of paths and bridges beside and over the River Ouseburn, keeping an eye out for wildlife like red squirrels and kingfishers, or head over to Pets Corner to cuddle up to rabbits, alpacas and pot-bellied pigs.

Theatre fans are also in for a treat in the summer months as the park hosts a range of open-air performances against a backdrop of lush greenery.

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Another of Newcastle’s green spaces worth visiting is Exhibition Park, complete with tennis and basketball courts, croquet lawns, a boating lake filled and Wylam Brewery, which resides inside the park’s art-deco Palace of Arts. Be sure to pop into its taproom for a crisp local pint plus a roast dinner if you visit on a Sunday. More botanical beauty can be found at National Trust’s Gibside, located southwest of the city. The 18th-century gardens were created by one of the richest men in Georgian England, George Bowes, and are made up of miles of woodland walks, an orangery, walled garden and stables.

Find more things to do outdoors in Newcastle
05 May 2022(last updated)

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  • 1

    Grainger Town

  • 2

    Träkol

  • 3

    CBK Adventures, River Tyne

  • 4

    Newcastle Theatre Royal

  • 5

    Point Blank Shooting

  • 6

    WC Newcastle

  • 7

    INNSiDE by Melia Newcastle

  • 8

    Newcastle Castle

  • 9

    BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

  • 10

    Jesmond Dene

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