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Best things to do in Newcastle in 2020

Rory Mellon
9 Mar 2020

One of England’s most vibrant cities, Newcastle Upon Tyne is certainly worth a visit

While Newcastle’s reputation for partying is well documented, there’s much more to the city than pubs and clubs. In fact Newcastle, which is often considered the crowning jewel of the much underappreciated North East of England, is a hub of culture, natural beauty and historical landmarks.

With an eclectic range of museums and galleries, an abundance of architecturally impressive landmarks and some of the best watering holes and restaurants in the entire country, you couldn’t ask for a more diverse city to spend a long weekend exploring. 

In fact, there’s so much to see and do that you might find narrowing down the options a tad overwhelming. To help plan your trip, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Newcastle and the surrounding areas, as well as some tips on getting there and finding a place to stay.

How to get to Newcastle

There’s no denying that, as one England’s most northerly cities, making the trip up to Newcastle can be a lengthy journey – but it’s certainly worth the effort.

If you’re London-based, you can hop aboard a direct train from Kings Cross and arrive at Newcastle in less than three hours courtesy of London North Eastern Railway. Direct services are also available from Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. If you’re even further up north, in Scotland, you can get down to Newcastle directly from Edinburgh in just one hour and 27 minutes. 

If you’re coming from abroad, Newcastle International Airport is located just seven miles outside of the city and is well connected to the city centre by taxis, coaches and the city’s popular Metro train service.

The city is also easily accessible by car, with the A1 motorway offering a convenient north-south route to Newcastle for motorists. However, if you’re not starting from a reasonably close distance we wouldn’t recommend taking the car, unless you really enjoy long drives and visiting motorway service stations.

Where to stay in Newcastle

Given Newcastle’s thriving nightlife and range of attractions, it isn’t surprising that there’s a wide range of accommodation in the city - with options that cater to every budget.

The Maldron Newcastle is a contemporary-style hotel located in the heart of the city, making it the perfect pick for those wanting to enjoy the city’s plentiful nighttime offerings. If you’re budget-conscious but don’t want to compromise on a city-centre location then both the easyHotel and the SleeperzHotel offer no-frills rooms at a very fair price. Jesmond Dene House may be located a couple of miles outside of the city centre, but its luxury rooms and scenic surroundings make it ideal for a romantic getaway. If you want some home comforts during your stay, and don’t fancy a cramped hotel room, then Grey Street Apartments are spacious, fully furnished and centrally located. If it’s great views of the quayside and River Tyne you’re after, then Hotel Du Vin offers picturesque sights and grand decor to boot.

The best things to do in Newcastle

1. Wander the Quayside

A trip to Newcastle Upon-Tyne wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the city’s famous quayside. Once a commercial dock area, the banks of the River Tyne are now overflowing with bars, pubs, restaurants and street vendors. Here is where you’ll also find the iconic green Tyne Bridge and the eye-shaped Millennium Bridge, which make for the perfect backdrop for an Instagram-worthy snap. There’s also architecturally significant buildings such as the Customs House and the Malmaison Hotel, both of which have been granted Grade II-listed status. All in all, there’s an awful lot to keep you busy on this riverfront so make sure you give yourself time to experience it all.

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2. Explore Newcastle Castle

If you’ve ever wondered where the name Newcastle comes from, then ponder no more. Newcastle Castle is not just a historic 12th-century keep and 13th-century Black Gate gatehouse, it’s one of the northern city’s most famous sights. Not only does this popular landmark offer an audiovisual journey through the castle’s turbulent past, it also boasts truly stunning views of the quayside from the top of the keep. This is an ideal attraction for families, but do note while the Black Gate is fully accessible, the keep contains a series of very steep steps and is not wheelchair-friendly.

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3. Visit the Baltic Centre

While technically located in Gateshead, getting to the Baltic Centre merely requires a quick stroll across the Millennium Bridge to the other side of the River Tyne. Housing an impressively vast collection of contemporary art, as well as offering a regular schedule of informative, experimental and artistically daring events, the Baltic will offer something for everyone who walks through the door. Best of all, admission is free, so you can spend a whole day soaking up culture without having to spend a penny. Don’t forget your wallet or purse though there’s a gift shop and a cafe on site, plus the very popular Six rooftop restaurant.

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4. Enjoy the nightlife

Thanks to its steep streets being crammed with pubs, bars and clubs, Newcastle has developed a reputation as one of the country’s top cities for nightlife – ideal if you don’t fancy an early night. If you fancy a few cocktails try Tiger Hornsby, which serves up from-scratch alcoholic concoctions from its Quayside location. The Bacchus offers a classic pub feeling but with a modern drinks list, and a thumping indie soundtrack. Spot White is ideal for those who fancy a game or two of pool while nursing a pint. Harry’s features cheesy music, neon lights and colourful drinks - you’ll probably see a hen party or two here. If you’re after something more traditional then The Crown Posada, a stunning Victorian pub, and the second oldest in the city, should do nicely.

5. Tour St James’ Park

Newcastle is one of the most football-obsessed cities in the whole world, and while the last decade has hardly been a golden era for Newcastle Utd, St James’ Park remains one of the city’s biggest tourist hotspots. If you’re visiting during the footballing season make sure you get tickets to a match: there’s nothing quite watching – or hearing for that matter – 50,000 Geordies spurring their team onto victory. If there’s no game during your visit then you can still book a stadium tour and get a peek behind the curtain of a Premier League club. Match tickets and stadium tour packages are available on the club’s official website.

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6. Take a tour of the Roman Empire

Covering 73 miles, and stretching from coast to coast, Hadrian’s Wall was constructed by the Roman Empire to defend their British territory from the unconquered Celtic tribes of the North in around AD 122. Much of the wall has been lost to time, but there’s still plenty of historic sights to see along its pathway. This four-hour guided tour explores the two forts of Arbeia and Segedunum, which are located at the east end of the wall, and it also stops at The Great North Museum where the story of the Hadrian’s Wall is unfolded. Convenient pickup and dropoff from the city centre is included in the package.

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7. Paddle down the Tyne

We wouldn’t advise taking a dip in the River Tyne, but padding down it in a canoe is certainly an activity we can get on board with. This canoeing tour offers you the chance to experience the city’s iconic Tyne Bridge and quayside from a whole new perspective. All necessary gear and equipment is provided, along with an experienced canoeing coach to keep you the right way up. While this is an evening excursion, don’t worry about being cold: you’ll be served a hot drink while floating in the river. If the chance to paddle through the dark waters of the River Tyne wasn’t worth the ticket price alone, this tour also includes a complimentary pizza and pint afterwards.

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8. Take in a show

With a packed schedule of events ranging from contemporary touring shows to high-quality original productions, tear-jerking operas to frequent RSC performances, there’s always something to see at the Theatre Royal Newcastle. The theatre itself was opened in 1837, and while it’s seen plenty of renovation over the last couple of centuries, it’s still a venue decked in classic grandeur. No matter when you’re visiting the city there’s always something to see at the Theatre Royal – and if nothing on stage takes your fancy, it’s still worth a quick visit just to get a picture of the truly impressive exterior.

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9. Sample a Sunday roast

All Northerners love a roast, and Geordies are no exception. Newcastle offers some of the finest spots to enjoy a roast in the whole country, whether it’s a Sunday or not. Babucho has become known for its mammoth Yorkshire puddings, and is worth checking out for them alone – book in advance though as this place is usually swarming with roast-loving diners. You can’t go wrong with a roast from Pleased To Meet You either, which has even won awards for the quality of its Sunday dinner. If you’re willing to venture a little further outside of the city centre, then The Dun Cow is also a very good place to get yourself a roast with all the trimmings.

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