Last month, I took a trip back to my hometown of Newcastle, for the first time in quite some time. It got me wondering why I’d left it so long to get back to such a bloody brilliant city. A city that is so well placed to explore the whole of the North East, a diverse and vibrant region with something to discover where ever you go. Now, I know Newcastle has the reputation as a party city and, there’s no denying, the nightlife is quite something. But returning home and looking at it through the eyes of a visitor, I was struck by how much more is on offer. Even if partying the night away isn’t your thing, there are plenty of reasons to book in a break to the Toon.
Great Transport Connections.
However you travel, you won’t struggle to get to and from Newcastle. The historic Central station will place you in the heart of the city if you are travelling by train and Newcastle International Airport is just twenty minutes from the city centre by taxi, but also well-connected by the local Metro transport system. Nine miles outside the city you’ll find the Port of Tyne, a stopping point for several major cruise lines and departure and arrival point for the daily DFDS sailing to Amsterdam.
If You Like to be Beside The Seaside…
You’ll find some stunning beaches and coastline just outside Newcastle, and much of it is easily accessible by public transport. Head to Tynemouth with its village feel and historic Priory or to Whitley Bay for traditional seaside fun. Further along the coast, St Marys Lighthouse sits on a tidal island . Walk across at low tide, visit the lighthouse and see what you can find in the surrounding rock pools. And when you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Spanish City for fish and chips in the most stylish of settings.
If you prefer to take a breather from the city inland, Newcastle is home to some beautiful parks and green spaces. Leazes Park is the city’s oldest public park. Exhibition Park is located on the edge of the city and boasts a boating lake, skate park and the stunning Palace of Art building. Dating from 1929, the Palace is now home to the Wylam brewery. Tastings and tours can be arranged!
For open space that feels a little wilder, head out to Jesmond Dene. The narrow wooded valley is a haven for people and wildlife alike and features walks, a visitor centre and a Pets Corner, home to a handful of birds and animals.
Free Museums & Galleries
If the notoriously unreliable Northern weather drives you indoors, or if museums and galleries are just more your gig, you will find plenty going on in Newcastle. And as a bonus, many of them are absolutely free. Visit the Discovery Museum to explore the story of Newcastle with a slant towards industrial and maritime heritage; The Great North Museum to immerse yourself in all things Natural History or The Laing Gallery to see some beautiful art housed in a beautiful building. FYI, the Laing is also home to a gift shop selling beautifully unique pieces and a cafe that serves up good coffee and indulgent cakes. Worth a visit for that alone!
The Dog Cafe.
If you read my last blog post or follow me over on Instagram ( if not, why? please do, would hate for you to miss out) then you’ll know that I fell tail-over-ears with the gorgeous four paw-ed residents of the Dog and Scone dog cafe. It is, as far as I know, the only permanent Dog Cafe in the UK.
Find a modern-day department store in a historic building at Fenwick’s, a go to destination for clothes and accessory shopping but also home no less than restaurants and a diverse Food Hall. The 180 year old Grainger Market originally sold fruit, veg and meat but today is home to a variety of traders and places to eat. The architecture and beautiful tiling in the three domed Central Arcade is as beautiful as the goods in the shops and boutiques you’ll find there and in the surrounding streets of the Grainger town district. All of this, plus the usual high street favourites. Your wardrobe will thank you, bank account not so much.
You could fill days wandering Newcastle and admiring the bricks and mortar that make up this city. Right in the centre, almost half of the buildings that make up the Grey Street & Grainger Town area are listed for historic and architectural importance. Designed in the 1830s by Richard Grainger, the highlights of the area include the beautiful Theatre Royal and the iconic Greys Monument. From here stroll up Northumberland Street and end up at the 1960’s Civic Centre with its sea horse topped tower. A modern classic, the surrounding greens are a pleasant place to explore and home to monuments and sculptures connected to the local area. Head down to the Quayside area to see how regeneration has melded old and new. Here you will also find Bessie Surtees house, a beautifully preserved example of Jacobean housing with a charming history to boot. Newcastle is a very walkable city. Go out, get lost and see what you can see.
If you are planning a trip to Newcastle and want to do some research visit Newcastlegateshead.com for up to date information and where to be and what to see. If you’ve been to Newcastle lately or have revisited your home town as a tourist, I’d love to hear about it. Lets chat in the comments.