You would be surprised at how much Newcastle Gateshead might have to offer. It may seem small but there is also lots of culture and history to see, plenty of places to eat and drink and so many instagrammable spots.
Newcastle is really more than its reputation as a noisy party town. Friday nights in the town centre is exactly as you expect it to be. Hardy Geordie girls in their micro dresses and tottering heels, spilling out of pubs and nightclubs. But a weekend here can be filled with lots of fun things to do if you are a family, a couple or even travelling solo.
Here are some of the best things to see, eat and do in Newcastle Gateshead.
1. Walk along the Quayside
All along the Newcastle side of the River Tyne, they have built a really wide walking path. Perfect for an evening stroll with stunning views of the bridges. Along the quayside, you will find many places to stop for a coffee or beer with a view. This is where they show a lot of sculptures and art too.
Look out for the little plaques on the walkway celebrating one of their local heroes.
2. Watch the sunrise from the Tyne Bridge
This is a great spot to see the sunrise over the River Tyne, with all the bridges lit up by the peach coloured skies.
3. Sunday market on the Quayside
On Sundays, the main street along the Quayside is closed to traffic and market stalls and food stalls line the riverside. By mid-morning, it gets busy with families and visitors.
4. Shopping around the town centre
Newcastle town centre is great for shopping. Besides the normal high street shops, fanning out from the Grey’s Monument, you will find several shopping malls and department stores here too.
5. Have a meal in the Fenwicks Food Hall
This food hall in the Fenwicks Department Store is quite impressive. It doesn’t just sell food and is located just steps away from the centre of town, it is a very convenient place to stop for a drink or a bite.
In here you will find several restaurants, a fishmonger, a butcher, a cheesemonger and a vast selection of local and speciality foods. Highly recommend a meal at Fuego for tapas.
You can read about where to eat and drink in Newcastle here.
Things to buy: the Wagyu Beef dripping from the butcher counter and local beers and spirits.
6. Visit the Victorian Tunnels
In the 19th century, when coal was the main industry in Newcastle, the ingenious engineers of the day built a wagonway tunnel running from the coal mines near the Town Moor all the way down to the Tyne River.
The tunnel runs underneath the elegant Georgian streets and parks of the City.
In 1939 during World War 2, the forgotten tunnels were dug out and kitted out with bunk beds and seats and used as air-raid shelters. A visit to the tunnels is quite eye-opening and a must-see bit of history. The volunteers who lead the tours of the tunnels are very informative and have lots of good stories to tell. Read more about the Victorian tunnels here.
7. Visit the “Old Castle” in Newcastle
In the middle of this city of Newcastle is the old Castle, which is how the city got its name. This Norman fortress is now mostly a ruin but parts of it have been restored and now welcome visitors.
From the outside, it doesn’t look very big but inside is a maze of corridors, secret rooms and royal solars. On weekends, they have actors in costumes reenacting life in the medieval times when the castle was at its most active.
It was never used as a home but more of a place for marching armies to stop in between battles and prisoners were tortured and imprisoned.
Robert the Bruce’s sister was held prisoner here in a little room just off the main hall, in the VIP prison, which was a windowless cell but was a better option than slumming it in the dungeons.
A great place to visit on a family day out. You can read more about the grisly history on the Newcastle Castle here.
8. Admire the architecture on Grey Street
9. Take a food tour around Newcastle or Ouseburn
One of the best ways to see the city and to taste all the great food and drink is to take a food tour. There are several you can take. We took a couple of tours with Triple A Food Tours and a very informative one with Alistair Gilmour who is also a beer writer.
The city centre food tour takes place in Grainger Market and in the surrounding streets.
An alternative choice is to take the Ouseburn Food tour which walks through the regenerated area of Ouseburn and you visit some of the hip new bars and restaurants in the area. Both these tours take about 3 hours.
10. Explore the Ouseburn Valley
There is a lot of new enterprise in Ouseburn and home to many new food and drink businesses. Here you can find famous pubs that have live music nights and the Cluny is famous for hosting many big names.
You can grab a bite at the new home Anna Hedworth’s superb Cook House. We visited this at its first incarnation which was in 2 used containers. Read about all the other places to eat and in Ouseburn here.
This area is rapidly being regenerated, with lots of new apartment buildings and old mills being turned into businesses. It is a really vibrant part of the city.
You can take a historical walking tour with Ouseburn Trust.
11. Take a spa day at the Newcastle City Baths
After all that shopping, take a couple of hours off and enjoy a pampering session at the newly restored City Turkish baths.
The bathing area (separate from the pool upstairs) still has the original wooden booths, with the mermaid tail brass radiator covers and spectacular glass dome roof.
The unisex baths itself has a hammam, steam room, and soon the restored marble slabs will be used for whole-body exfoliations, just like in Turkey. You can also book in for beauty and health therapy in the beautifully appointed treatment rooms.
After this, you will need to head back to the hotel for a nap before hitting town for the night.
12. Walk across the Gateshead Millenium Bridge
The unmissable Gateshead Millenium Bridge was opened in 2001 to pedestrian and cyclists traffic. This award winning bridge is a tilt bridge that lifts at 12 noon daily.
It is a short route to traverse the river to get to the renewed Gatehead Arts Quarter comprising of the Baltic flour Mills and the unmissable Sage Gateshead.
13. Blackfriars Restaurant
Grab a drink or bite at the oldest dining room in the UK, the Blackfriar’s restaurant. The bar and restaurant is built on the site of the original Dominican Priory, which dates back to 1239. Unfortunately, after King Henry VIII’s Reformation, Blackfriars was stripped and left to ruin.
In 1552, the buildings were leased to the town’s craft guilds who extensively changed the buildings. These guilds were responsible for preserving these buildings until the 19th century. A small part of the old priory is left but you can still see the size of this with the old foundations on the lawn.
14. Newcastle Chinatown and old town walls
A short walk away from Blackfriars you will find the most intact sections of the old town walls, which now seem like its blended into the modern day city.
Next to this is also where you will find Newcastle’s diminutive Chinatown. You will only know that it is Chinatown by the Chinese lanterns along the street and a smattering of restaurants and shops.
15. Stock up on outdoor gear at LD Mountain Centre
This unassuming shop on Dean Street is where the Outdoor brand Berghaus was founded. The founders of LD developed products under the Berghaus brand to sell to their competitors.
Today, it is still operated by the family of the original founders.
16. Admire the splendour of the Central Arcade
This hidden arcade is quite stunning, a perfect Instagram spot. Half the shops are empty, which is a shame but the interiors and setting would make this a perfect place for an Earl Grey themed tea room. (Not sure why there isn’t one in town since the man who invented Earl Grey tea is a local. )
17. Eat and Drink in Grainger Market
Grainger Market is an old market where you could buy food, clothes, hardware and all everyday needs. Today, it is being slowly turned into a food destination with street food stalls, bars and more. In here, you will find the original Marks and Spencer shop, once a market stall.
18. Visit the Angel of the North
Ask any visitor about Newcastle and usually, they only know one thing about the city and it is this iconic sculpture by Antony Gormley.
The Angel of the North is quite a stunning sculpture, standing 66 ft tall, on top of a hill. It is well worth a visit.
You can get there by cab, a short 15 minute ride out of town. Then take the short stroll up to the sculpture and you can’t help but feel in awe of the majesty of this piece of art.
19. Step into history at the Literary and Philosophical Society
If you love libraries like I do, Newcastle’s secret library at the Literary and Philosophical Society.
is a must-visit. Founded in 1825, before universities were established, it was a place of learning.
It started off as an informal group of inventors, pioneers and visionaries. This is where they first used Sir Joseph Swain’s incandescent lightbulb invention to light a public room in 1881.
Then walk a few streets away to Mosely street, the first street in the UK to get electric lights in
The public can now visit for free and get a cup of tea or just soak up the atmosphere, explore their curiosities and be inspired by the 200,000 eclectic book collection.
20. Take a trip to the beach at Tynemouth
Tynemouth is just a short Metro ride away from Newcastle town centre. It takes you to the charming Victorian seaside town which is also where you will find Long Sands beach.
This is a long sandy stretch of sand that dominates the seafront. Besides sunbathing and swimming, you can take surfing lessons. (A bit too cold for me).
At one end of the beach, you will find The Tynemouth Priory Castle, which you can visit.
On the weekend, Tynemouth Market in a restored Victorian train station sells everything from flowers, plants to books, collectables and food.
21. Grab a bite at Riley’s Fish Shack on Long Sands beach
These guys run their uber popular seafood shack from an Airstream parked on the beach, just below the Castle. They serve very fresh fish and seafood which you can take away or just enjoy on their deck facing out to sea.
I’d recommend the fish tacos if it is on the menu. On weekends, the queues are really long, so get there early.
22. Walk along Hadrian’s wall
You can’t visit the North East without visiting the UNESCO heritage site, Hadrian’s Wall, which tells the story of Roman life in this part of the country. Hadrian’s wall started from the River Tyne, stretching 80 miles across the width of the country.
You can now visit the museum at Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum at Wallsend or see fragments of the wall at the Great North Museum museum in the city.
To get there, just take the Metro to Wallsend. There are also a lot of popular walks along Hadrian’s wall and you can find more details here.
23. Take in some live music at the iconic pub along the quayside
The Tyne Bar is a local landmark. Located near the Glasshouse Bridge in Ousburn is famous for hosting free live music events. Its location on the River Tyne with a large outdoor area makes it a favourite place for a beer with a view.
24. Visit Wylam Micro Brewery in the Exhibition Park
The Palace of Arts was derelict for years before the folks at Wylam Brewery took it over. Their project to turn it into a taproom with an adjoining restaurant has been a major success.
The Sunday lunches are legendary and very well done but you have to book in advance as they are very popular.
25. Walk around Jesmond Dene
Jesmond Dene is a 19th-century suburban park that was built by Lord Armstrong and gifted to the city. The walk along the River Ouseburn is really green and picturesque and you will see lots of relics of Newcastle’s industrial past, watermills that powered the industrial revolution and a lot of flora and fauna.
26. The Old George Inn
This is the oldest pub in Newcastle, dating back to 1582 where King Charles I was a regular visitor while he was imprisoned in a bank nearby (when the prisons were deemed too lowly for a royal prisoner). There are stories that he still lurks around there.
27. Go kayaking on the River Tyne
28. Watch a show at the Sage Gateshead
This live music venue hosts a variety of music acts, from local artists to international superstars.
The award-winning building by Foster + Partners, dominates the waterfront and is best viewed from the Quayside.
29. Explore the Outdoor Art
This series of bronze sculptures by Sean Henry is found in the pedestrian precinct in front of the train station. “Man with Potential Selves” shows men in lifelike everyday poses.
30. Grab a coffee at the Little Coffee Shop Under the Bridge
Little coffee shop under the Tyne Bridge, a great place to stop while strolling along the Quayside.
31. A pint and the best Newcastle sunset view
The Free Trade Inn is another historic pub in Newcastle. Perched on top of a bend on the River Tyne, this the best spot to see the sunset behind all the bridges on the Tyne.
Getting around Newcastle
The city centre, Quayside and all the main attractions are walkable as they are not too far way. You can rent one of these new electric scooters to help you with the hills.
You can take a taxi to Ouseburn and the Angel of the North and take the Metro to Tynemouth and
Places to visit near Newcastle
If you are looking for another place to visit nearby, see The Best Things To Do in Durham or Best Places Not to Miss in Northumberland.
What is popular in Newcastle?
What can couple do in Newcastle?
Is Newcastle Worth visiting?
What is Newcastle famous for?
Does Newcastle have a beach?
Places to stay in Newcastle
The newly opened Innside by Melia is located on the Quayside in the shadow of the Tyne Bridge. Just a short walk away from the city centre and other Newcastle attractions.
See the full review of Innside Hotel here.
How to get to Newcastle from London
We travelled to Newcastle by train with LNER from London’s Kings Cross. With first-class tickets, we had access to the lounge in both King’s Cross and Newcastle station where you can grab a tea or coffee and charge up your devices.
On the train, you will be offered refreshments which varies depending on the time of day. Every seat has a table and plugs for charging your phone or laptop. You get to meet interesting people on the way like my fellow passenger on a day out with her dad and her “Unicat”.
The journey takes about 3 hours.
We were guests of the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative.