29 Reasons To Visit Newcastle For The Weekend

Consistently voted one of the best nights out in the UK, Newcastle Upon Tyne and its sister city across the water, Gateshead, is one of the best places to eat, drink and play. The pride of north east England for more than 2,000 years, the iconic Angel of the North sculpture's open arms will give you a warm welcome if you're travelling from the south. Once in the city, the river is where it's at, so admire the Tyne Bridge, visit the new museums, eat out with a riverside view or try a bar with a roof terrace. The Geordie accent was also deemed one of the most attractive in England, so howay and have a canny time with these things to do in Newcastle.

1. First find out how the city got its name

Newcastle Castle. Image courtesy of NewcastleGateshead Initiaive

In 1080, William the Conqueror's son decided to build a Norman fort on the site to show off their royal power in the north. The result was the Castle Keep and the Black Gate, two of the oldest buildings in the city. The two are now joined together as one attraction.

2. You can even go back further

The Great North Museum: Hancock is the place to visit to find out more about Newcastle's history, which goes way back to the Romans. Don't forget to visit the mummies and animal exhibits too.

3. Get to know Newcastle's neighbourhoods

Quayside - Image courtesy of NewcastleGateshead Initiaive

Newcastle is known for its nightlife - the Bigg Market has been a thriving meeting spot since the Middle Ages. There are more than 20 pubs and bars in the immediate area to grab a drink in. Close by is the Quayside, which is also full of bars, pubs and restaurants - many with outside areas and views over the water. Jesmond is the new up and coming area for hanging out - its also has three conservation areas. You'll find the Georgian quarter of Newcastle in Grainger Town if you want to admire the architecture.

4. Cross one of the seven bridges

Swing Bridge. Image courtesy of NewcastleGateshead Initiaive

When you think of Newcastle upon Tyne, you'll probably think of the Tyne Bridge - and you can take a tour of the towers on Heritage Open Days (September only). The new bridge on the block, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge is tilted in the summer at noon (see website for details). Robert Stephenson designed the High Level Bridge - it was the first in the world to have both rail and vehicle traffic. The current Swing Bridge inhabits a very popular riverside spot, it was opened in 1876 and still swings open four times a week.

5. Wander down Britain's best street...

Grey Street and Grainger Town. Image courtesy of NewcastleGateshead Initiaive

BBC Radio 4's listeners chose Grey Street in Newcastle as the most beautiful and best designed street in the UK (Streatham High Road, London was the worst in case you're interested). It can be found in Grainger Town, where 40% of the buildings are listed.

6. Find one of the cities major landmarks

There are 164 steps up to the top, but the view from Grey's Monument (1838) over the historic Grainger Town is worth the effort. The architect, Edward Hodges Bailey, also designed Nelson's Column, and this tribute to Prime Minister Earl Grey can be visited on selected dates of the year

7. Talking of landmarks

The Angel of the North. Image courtesy of NewcastleGateshead Initiaive

The Angel of the North has been welcoming people to the North East since it was constructed in 1998. The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas is the most northerly cathedral in England, and its unusual 15th century lantern spire is a noted landmark. Its Catholic counterpart, The Church of St Thomas the Martyr, is a fine example of Gothic architecture. The moody Dunston Staiths is the biggest timber structure in Europe, and it's open from March to September (see website for times). Intriguingly the Byker Wall, a block of maisonettes, is a Grade II listed building. It's ground-breaking Functionalist Romantic style led UNESCO to list it as one of the 20th Century's outstanding buildings.

8. See what lies beneath Newcastle's streets

The Victoria Tunnel was reopened in 2010 after a major restoration. During the war it was an air-raid shelter, and now you can take a guided two-hour tour, given by volunteers. Its a bit damp, a little chilly and dark, so they'll give you a hard hat and torch.

9. Join some of the countries most passionate fans

Newcastle United Football Club's home is St James' Park, one of the biggest stadiums in the UK. It's well worth taking a stadium tour as well as getting tickets for a match. You can also go on the Roof Top Tour, which gives you views across the area.

10. Watch one of the biggest races

The Great North Run, a half marathon, winds it's way from Newcastle, across the Tyne Bridge and into Gateshead before finishing in South Shields after 13.1 miles. It takes place in September, and thousands of people cheer the runners on during the televised race.

11. Spend some time (and money) shopping

The Metro Centre has hundreds of stores to visit, as well as an IMAX cinema, bowling alley and other children's play areas. It's sister venue, Eldon Square, is in the centre of town, but if you like your shopping with a bit more history - visit the ornate Fenwicks. Opened in 1882, it's now one of the UK's leading department stores.

Eating and drinking in Newcastle

Newcastle Brown Ale is one of the city's most famous exports, even though its no longer brewed in the city. The Northumberland version of Potato Dauphinoise, Pan Haggerty, is worth trying, especially in winter, and you can follow that up with the savoury Pease Pudding for desert. The latter goes well with another local classic, Stotties, which are the north east version of flat bread.

12. See what's on the menu in the city's restaurants

House of Tides has a Michelin star and atmospheric location, but TV chef Kenny Atkinson and his locally sourced ingredients are the main attraction. Another restaurant with a historic location is Blackfriars Restaurant and Banquet Hall, a 13th century medieval friary, you can go for a normal dinner, or try their Medieval Banquet Menu - where they really go to town. Cafe 21 serves up bistro-style food in the Quayside, and Newcastle also has a decent Chinatown.

13. Have a pint in an historic pub

On your way home, pop into The Centurion pub at the station. You can have a pint in the converted former first class lounge - the tiling alone is worth nearly £4 million. The Bodega has a Victorian long bar to order your drink at, and it's sister pub, Fitzgeralds, won the CAMRA Pub of the Year 2016. If you want to try some local beers at source, visit the Wylam Brewery, which is in the Palace of Arts - you can also book a tour on Saturdays.

14. Drink in a cool bar

Perch yourself on a piece of mis-matched furniture or distressed sofa and try one of the classic cocktails at The Holy Hobo in Jesmond. If you want a drink somewhere swanky - try Pleased to Meet You, they have a huge range of gin and a Grade II listed interior. For Quayside views, book ahead at the Pitcher and Piano to bag a terrace table when the weather's nice.

Greys Monument. Image courtesy of NewcastleGateshead Initiaive

15. Don't miss the rooftop bars

The Botanist at Monument Mall has a lovely terrace, with twinkly lighting at night. Tokyo cocktail bar has both an indoor and outdoor roof terrace to sip a mojito on. Tucked out the way is The Forth, who's small rooftop terrace is a cheeky little suntrap. The Bridge Hotel has an outdoor terrace over the River Tyne, as does the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead.

16. Visit some super science museums

The area's maritime, scientific and technological breakthroughs are the main focus at the free Discovery Museum. There's a Great Hall on the fourth floor with an Art Deco ceiling and wood panelling. The Live Science Centre is part of a self-sustaining science village and you can easily spend half a day exploring all the different zones. You can do proper experiments, experience the 4D Motion Ride and young children even have their own special zone to get them into science from the start.

17. The only museum in Britain dedicated to children's literature

Seven Stories - The National Centre for Children's Books was set up to preserve the UK's rich heritage in producing stories specifically for children. It houses many authors personal archives, including Judith Kerr, who wrote and illustrated The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and the Mog the Cat series.

18. Find out more about northern life

Beamish open air living museum is about half an hour drive from the city centre. Taking you from the 1820s up to the 1940s, you can a 1940s farm, a 1900s Pit Village and a Georgian area, and try food and drink from the past.

19. See art and industry combine

Baltic. Image courtesy of NewcastleGateshead Initiaive

Gateshead's Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, was once a flour mill and is now one of the biggest contemporary arts venues in the world. They don't have permanent collections, so whenever you visit there will be a different exhibition, artist or event going on. The Biscuit Factory was once a Victorian warehouse and now is the largest art, craft and design gallery in the UK. Founded in 1901 by a local alcohol entrepreneur,  The Laing Art Gallery is the place to see British oil paintings, watercolours, silver and glassware. Another local businessman, this time a solicitor, donated his collection to create The Shipley Art Gallery.

20. Enjoy the great outdoors

The vast Town Moor stretches from Gosforth in the north down to the city centre. It's been the venue for festivals in the city since the 18th Century and hosts The Hoppings - Britain's largest travelling fair - every June for around a week. Saltwell Park has everything a Victorian park should have: majestic formal gardens, wild woodland, a boating lake and maze, as well as more modern stuff - a play park and sports facilities.

21. Get to know the city on a cycle

You can hire a cycle and ride around the area at The Cycle Hub. There's a cafe, workshop and bike hire place. You can download cycle routes - although at 62 miles long, the Hell of the North-East might not be for everyone.

22. Discover more on a walking tour

If you're visiting in the summer (June to September) you should be able to join a City Highlights tour. They take around an hour and a half.

Greys Monument. Image courtesy of NewcastleGateshead Initiaive

23. Spend the night watching comedy

Geordies are renowned for having funny bones - just ask Ross Noble or Sarah Millican. The Stand Comedy Club is a good place to start - there's something going on most evenings, with Wednesdays being the turn of new local acts trying out gags, while over the weekend you'll see more seasoned names.

24. Go to a gig

You can see all the major stadium acts at the Utilita Arena - the largest concert venue in the North East. Sage Gateshead on the Quayside is famous in its own right with its curved steel and glass roof. On a much smaller scale, The Cluny in Ouseburn Valley is a great live music venue for local bands. A short walk away on the riverside is The Tyne Bar, which has a huge outdoor area by the water. It's got a free jukebox for when it doesn't have free live music.

25. See a play or show

The historic Theatre Royal in Grainger Town is one of the few Grade I listed theatres left in England. Another Grade I listed venue is the Tyne Theatre & Opera House which still has wooden stage machinery operating. This opulent building shows opera, musicals and comedy gigs as well.

26. Browse in one of the markets

The Sunday Quayside Market has become a popular place to potter about at the weekend. Grainger Market is open every day but Sunday.

Central Arcade. Image courtesy of NewcastleGateshead Initiaive

27. Visit a stately home

Jacobean splendour can be found at Bessie Surtees House on the Quayside. Saltwell Towers (1842) is a glorious mish-mash of French, Elizabethan and Gothic styles and was built by a stained glass manufacturer.

28. Gauge what railways Gateshead has to offer

Just south of the city, The Tanfield Railway lays claim to being the oldest in the world. Visit for a ride on a steam train, you can even have afternoon tea on certain days. The Bowes Railway Museum is run by volunteers (Tues-Sun) and also holds special open weekends throughout the year.

29. Take a day trip from Newcastle

When the weather's nice, we recommend the pretty seaside town of Tynemouth. It takes about half an hour to drive or get the metro there and it has lovely independent shops, cafes and a ruined castle, as well as the beach. If you're a fan of Harry Potter and Downton Abbey, drive to Alnwick Castle on the east coast - it was Hogwarts in the first two films and appeared in the Christmas specials of Downton. The atmospheric Holy Island of Lindisfarne is just over an hours drive from Newcastle. Time this visit right as there is only one road on and off the island, and it gets covered twice a day by the North Sea tide. Lindisfarne Castle is on the island.

Castle Keep in Newcastle. Image courtesy of NewcastleGateshead Initiaive

Getting there and around

If you're travelling by train, Newcastle Central Station is right in the middle of the city centre. It only takes around three hours to travel there from London by train. You can also fly - Newcastle Airport has flights to and from 80 destinations, and it takes 30 minutes by train or metro to and from Newcastle. If you want to get around the city's neighbourhoods - they have a Metro system, as well as buses to get you from A to B - a cheaper alternative for travelling in the city centre.

Staying there

We've got lots of hotels in Newcastle to choose from for your weekend break.

What are your reasons to visit Newcastle?

Have you got any top tips for Tyneside? We'd love to hear what your love about this north east city. Let us know by leaving a comment below

The majority of the images are courtesy of NewcastleGateshead - the official tourist board for the city.

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