Newcastle museums

Best museums in Newcastle

The North East’s major metropolis, dynamic and distinctive Newcastle is up there with the most exciting cities in England.
  1. Centre for Life
  2. BALTIC
  3. Great North Museum: Hancock
  4. Discovery Museum
  5. Laing Art Gallery
  6. Beamish Museum

The de facto capital of the area between Yorkshire and Scotland has always had a flair for creativity as well as industrial prowess. Old factories are now galleries, while its ship-building past has been brought to life at the Discovery Museum. Dotted around this beautiful city, with sweeping streets of listed buildings and a buzzing quayside, a clutch of museums and cultural attractions showcase world-class art, exciting history, and mind-bending science. Read our guide and spend your Newcastle holiday surrounded by incredible art, science and culture.

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Centre for Life

The sleek buildings of the Centre for Life reach around the sweeping expanse of Times Square – a paved area with a clock-tower. This ambitious ‘science village’ project is one of the best museums in Newcastle, nailing its aim to convey the secrets of life using the latest entertainment technology. The best part is the 4D Motion Ride, with juddering seats and an audio-visual experience that regularly changes. The planetarium is another win, sending you on absorbing journeys through the solar system and outer space. Children adore it, so expect to spend a good three hours here, if not more.

Opening hours: Mon–Sat 10am–6pm, Sun 11am–6pm

2. BALTIC

Being an exuberant and creative city, plenty of Newcastle museums revolve around art. The best-known is the BALTIC: fashioned from an old brick flour mill, it overlooks the trendy quayside and the Millennium Bridge. Designed to be a huge visual ‘art factory’, it’s second only in scale to London’s Tate Modern. There’s no permanent collection here – instead there’s an ever-changing calendar of exhibitions and local community projects, as well as artists’ studios, education workshops, an art performance space and cinema, plus a rooftop restaurant with uninterrupted views of the Newcastle skyline.

Opening hours: Daily 10am–6pm

3. Great North Museum: Hancock

This hands-on science centre is one of the top museums in Newcastle for kids, with an engaging mishmash of natural history exhibits, from a knobbly T-Rex skeleton to a planetarium. On the first floor the theme is Ancient Egypt, which features two mummies, a tapestry of a scene from the Book of the Dead, and a chance to build your own pyramid (with Lego, naturally). There’s also a gallery on one of the region’s major attractions, the World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall, which was built around AD 122 to guard the wild north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. The impressive museum is the legacy of Newcastle-born ornithologist and trailblazing taxidermist John Hancock – evident in the astonishing collection of exotic stuffed animals.

Opening hours: Mon–Fri 10am–5pm, Sat 10am–4pm, Sun 11am–4pm

4. Discovery Museum

Newcastle and Tyneside were giants of ship-building – an awe-inspiring industry that’s brought to life at the Discovery Museum, along with exhibits of the region’s maritime history and role in technological developments. Highlights include the Turbinia – the first ship to be powered by a steam turbine – which dominates the museum entrance, and the Newcastle Story, a walk through the city’s past with tales from animatronic characters along the way.

Opening hours: Mon–Fri 10am–4pm, Sat & Sun 11am–4pm

5. Laing Art Gallery

The Laing Art Gallery is where you’ll find the North East’s premier permanent art collection. Whereas the BALTIC is all about contemporary art, here the display moves through British art from the 17th-century to today, featuring sculpture from Henry Moore, John Martin’s fiery landscapes, and a smattering of Pre-Raphaelites. There’s also a hoard of Newcastle silverware and some colourful 1930s glassware by George Davidson.

Opening hours: Tues–Sat 10am–5pm, Sun 2–5pm

6. Beamish Museum

Okay, so it’s not in Newcastle, but this living museum 10 miles north of Durham is a star of the North East. Spread over three hundred acres, it’s linked by restored trams and buses. The story of life in North East England during the 1820s, 1900s, 1940s and 1950s is revived with costumed shopkeepers, workers and householders. Four of the sections show life in 1913, before the upheavals of World War I, including a colliery village complete with drift mine (regular tours throughout the day) and a large-scale recreation of the high street in a market town. You can ride on a beautiful steam-powered carousel, the Steam Galloper, which dates from the 1890s, and the Pockerley Waggonway, which is pulled along by a replica of George Stephenson’s Locomotion, the first passenger-carrying steam train in the world.

Opening hours: April–Oct 10am–5pm; Nov–March 10am–4pm

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