It’s unusual for a city of this size to be so friendly – but in Newcastle, a visit comes with a welcome that you won’t find anywhere else
Once a thriving trading port and now one of Britain’s most diverse and cosmopolitan cities, Newcastle offers history hand in hand with the best of modern culture. There is much to do here for families, couples and solo adventurers, from country walks to arty ambles.
See a performance in one the UK’s best looking theatres, on the UK’s best looking street
Grey Street, a wide neo-classical avenue curving down towards the Tyne, is one of the works of Richard Grainger, a Victorian architect whose cluster of 450 buildings in the town have been dubbed Grainger Town. It is frequently crowned the UK’s finest street – Radio 4 listeners voted it the UK’s best in 2010, and poet John Betjeman (who famously wasn’t so complimentary about Slough) described it as “perfect”. The Theatre Royal is the most handsome building on this most handsome of streets, and you can book to see renowned opera companies and family-friendly musicals performed on its historic stage.
Talk a walk along Hadrian’s wall
Once a 73-mile Roman fortification running from coast to coast, Hadrian’s wall now only exists in chunks. Many of these are found in Newcastle and the surrounding countryside – and a walk across the eastern section of Hadrian’s Wall takes in an invigorating mix of country, coast and city. Set aside a day for a 12-mile walk from the River Tyne to Newburn. You’ll take in the magnificent quay, industrial heartland and rolling hills.
See the city via its public art works
If you visit the newcastlegateshead.com website, you can download nine free art maps – they’re really easy to follow routes around the city, which focus on key areas defined by their arty offering. Newcastle has a huge number of interesting monuments and pieces of public art, both modern and historic. For example, the Grainger Town map is a route 1.75 miles, that takes in statues, monuments and architecture you might otherwise have overlooked in the Neo-classical quarter. The NewcastleGateshead tour runs over the Tyne, while the Newcastle City Centre tour takes in the magnificent Thomas Heatherwick Blue Carpet, a re-imagined public square in front of the Laing Art Gallery. It’s a great, free activity to give you a new perspective of the city.
Take a spooky tour of Newcastle Castle
Newcastle got its name from the castle built there in 1080 by Robert Curthose, William the Conqueror’s eldest son. The wooden castle he built was replaced between 1172 and 1177 by the stone keep that still stands today. The castle itself, which reopened in 2015 after a multi-million pound restoration project, is said to be one of England’s most haunted castles and prisons. You can take a ghostly tour, hearing the tales of real hangings, seeing the site of the 1694 Newcastle witch trials and taking the narrow stone steps down to the execution pit for a séance. This chilling experience is organized by Newcastle’s Haunted City Tours.
See the city on two wheels
Head to The Cycle Hub – a bike-friendly independent café – to hire a bike for the day. They will set you up with a coffee, a ride, and one of several routes around the city and surrounding countryside. Traffic-free routes can be taken directly from the café – either inland along the Tyne, or out to the coast. Cycling novices are welcome – the Hub are very good at retraining and reassuring wobbly riders.
Sit alongside the cows at Town Moor
Town Moor is bigger than London’s Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath put together. In fact, it’s far bigger than New York’s Central Park. It’s so big that it has cattle grazing on it – an odd sight in the middle of a city. In fact, an ancient law decrees that all freemen of the city have the right to graze cows there – they also have the right to graze them at St James’ Park, but as that is now home to Newcastle United FC, it is not a right that is exercised.
Hit the quay for the best view of the bridges
Newcastle has seven spectacular bridges over the Tyne. Head to the cultural heartland of the Quayside to get the best view of them – Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge is an historic structure, built by the engineers who went on to make Sydney’s famous Harbour Bridge in the same style. The Gateshead Millennium Bridge, completed in 2001, is an awe-inspiring piece of dynamic architecture. It’s sometimes called the blinking eye bridge, because it tilts dramatically open and shut to allow tall ships to pass. Tilting times are listed on the bridge, so try and be there when it happens for a glimpse of modern engineering at its most ingenious.
So if a mixture of history and culture sounds like your thing, then take a look at our hotels in Newcastle and see this amazing northern city for yourself.