This blog post is my recommendations for things to do in Newcastle. I recently visited on a day trip from Edinburgh on the new Lumo train and spent the day solo exploring Newcastle.
I recommend a full day in the city and if you want to explore the surrounding area, such as the Beamish village and museum I recommend an additional day. Newcastle is well connected with trains and buses and the journey time from Edinburgh was under 2 hours, a perfect day out in my opinion!
Here are my top things you must see and do whilst in Newcastle, England.
Set in the heart of Newcastle city centre is the free Discovery Museum, which is housed in the old Co-operative Wholesale Society building, Blandford House which opened in 1899.
As soon as you step inside you’ll spot the huge steam powered ship Turbinia which is on display on the ground floor. The museum is set over three floors and the museum is child friendly, with lots of interactive pieces all around. The ground floor focuses the history of Newcastle dating back to Roman times right through until the Millenium year of 2000. My favourite section was a look back through the era’s of the 1960’s and 1970’s of the exhibition. The second floor delves into the city’s industrial and maritime past and looks back at what life was like working in Tyneside.
There is also a cafe on the top floor, gift shop and a dedicated area – play and invent space for children. I really recommend this museum if you want a free activity for a couple of hours.
Entrance: £9.25 (Adult)
As you’d expect from a city named Newcastle, there is indeed a standing Castle. This Norman medieval castle is not far from the river Tyne and less than ten minutes walk from Newcastle’s train station.
The remaining buildings include the Keep, and the fortified gatehouse. The castle was used for defence when the Romans were constructing the nearby Hadrian’s wall. In 1080, the Norman king, William I, sent his eldest son north to defend the kingdom against the Scots. Many years later during the 16th century it was used as a prison and eventually the surrounding areas of the castle were used for accommodation. By the early part of the nineteenth century, the Black Gate had become a slum tenement, housing up to sixty people.
If you want to discover where Newcastle really began I’d recommend a visit inside. If you visit when the Castle is closed, you can still walk around the grounds from the outside.
Once you have worked up an appetite, you should walk towards Newcastle’s Chinatown which is based around Stowell street in the Grainger town area. It is one of 5 Chinatowns in England. On the border of Chinatown right next to St. James football park you will see the beautiful Chinese arch. Built in 2004 by Shanghai craftsmen, at either side you’ll spot stone lion statues guarding one side of the gateway and symbolises good fortune and prosperity.Along the main street you will also spot 22 metal lanterns that were used to replace street lights.
The first Chinese restaurant in Newcastle was the Marlborough Café on Scotswood Road which opened its doors in 1949 when the estimated Chinese population was about 30. Today that population in Newcastle is now growing to more than 35,000 strong.
Along Stowell street there is a great selection of Chinese restaurants, supermarkets and bubble tea cafes. You are sure to find somewhere tasty to eat. You can walk to Chinatown from the train station but the nearest metro is St. James subway station.
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Set along the famous river Tyne in Gateshead is the iconic Baltic centre, which is now set in a former flour mill which was completed in 1950 and known locally as “the pride of Tyneside”, 300 people were employed by the mill at its height, the mill ceased trading in 1984. Thankfully the local council invited the Royal Institute of British Architects to hold a competition to select a design for the conversion of the Baltic Flour Mills. The objective of the competition was to “provide a national and international Centre for Contemporary visual arts”.
Now the Baltic showcases art exhibitions all year round, from sculpture, large scale installations and paintings. There are also a couple of viewing platforms, one indoor and an outdoor area where you will more than likely spot a few Kittiwakes roosting on the edge of the building.
I highly recommend a look into the Baltic, even for the sheer scale of the building and views across Newcastle.
Walk along the Quayside
No visit to Newcastle should be without a walk along the riverside of the Tyne. The best way to see this area is on foot along the way you’ll spot seven of the bridges that cross the river from the iconic Tyne bridge to the more modern and unusual Millennium footbridge. If you are heading to the Baltic then I suggest a walk across this bridge, it is the first and only tilting footbridge.
The area is also the best place if you want to hit the bars and restaurants. On weekends there is also a local market ‘Quayside Sunday Market,’ which takes place each Sunday between 9am and 4pm. This area underwent a huge regeneration during the early 2000’s and during the summer months it is a great place to sit out with a cool drink and watch passersby.
During my day trip I also visited the Pink Lane Coffee shop which is directly across from the main train station, with really great coffee and friendly service. They purposefully serve single origin coffee and source their beans ethically and responsibly. Just the way every coffee shop should be. They also have a small breakfast menu serving “stuff on toast” and have a selection of cakes.
Also in the city centre, I had lunch at Meat:Stack on Groat Market. Not too far from Newcastle Castle. It serves classic real American cheeseburgers. I opted for some homemade chicken tenders, beef dripping fries and a side of baconnaise. If you are a lover of American food, I can really rate this place. Quick, reasonable price and friendly staff.