For a city that regularly tops UK polls in search of the best national night out, Newcastle retains a surprisingly low profile as an international tourist destination. That is perhaps one of its strengths. This is an unpretentious, fun-loving city renowned not so much for its landmarks or events as for its energy, nightlife and unique 'Geordie' character. What may not be apparent at first sight is how much Newcastle has reinvented itself from a traditional industrial powerhouse to a modern, north-eastern cultural hub.
One of the northernmost English cities, Newcastle traces its history back to Roman times. It was chosen as the site for a Roman fort during the time of Hadrian's Wall, but really reached its heyday as an industrial centre in Victorian times, particularly around shipbuilding and coal mining. The elegant Victorian houses in the central Grainger Town area are the remaining legacy from this era. Following an economic slump throughout the Northeast in the 1980s, Newcastle bounced back with vigour as a vibrant cultural city with a large student population. The mills, factories and warehouses of the 19th century are now vast creative spaces, museums and venues.
The city is an easy one to cover on foot. Even the iconic St. James's Park football stadium is right in the middle of town. But as one of the few cities outside London to have its own Metro system, there are quicker ways to get around. You'll find a cluster of museums, galleries and bars around the Quayside area along the Tyne River, with yet more options across the Tyne Bridge in Gateshead.
Newcastle is a year-round city, but the tempo picks up noticeably during the football season and academic year, when famously passionate football fans and students pack out the bars and clubs. A selection of foodie and art festivals keep things ticking over too, don't miss out and book your tickets to visit today.
Things to do
As the cultural and entertainment magnet for the north-east, you'll find plenty of opportunities to visit world-class exhibitions and sample some exciting contemporary food and drink. And when it comes to simply letting your hair down or relaxing in the open air, Newcastle lures you outdoors into a lively social scene.
Get a feel for old, historic Newcastle at the castle [LINK: http://www.newcastlecastle.co.uk/] the medieval fort that gave the city its name. St Nicholas Cathedral dates from the same era and stands as an easily visible reference point for you to get your bearings. Perhaps the city's most famous landmark is the Tyne Bridge, which dates from 1928 and was designed by the same architect as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, thus the similarity. One of seven bridges crossing the Tyne, the bridge makes an easy way to cross into neighbouring Gateshead.
You can't stay in the city for long without hearing about, or seeing, the BALTIC [http://www.balticmill.com/] the former mill on Gateshead Quays that is one of the largest post-industrial conversions since London's Tate Modern. It's a stunning temple to contemporary art and well worth a visit. Also on the banks of the Tyne, the Ouseburn Valley is a fascinating collection of art studios, bars and cinemas where there were once derelict factories. The city is not short of museums. Check out the hands-on Life Science Museum [https://www.life.org.uk/], the Discovery Museum[https://discoverymuseum.org.uk/], and the strikingly modern Sage Centre [http://www.sagegateshead.com/] in Gateshead.
The entertainment and social heart of Newcastle is the Bigg Market, right in the centre of town. Come at the weekend and the area is packed, noisy and buzzing with revellers coming in from all over the north-east to mix it up at more than 20 bars and nightclubs. To really get to the root of what makes the city tick, however, head to St James's Park [https://www.nufc.co.uk/stadium/stadium-tours] home of legends and the dominant feature on the city skyline.
Just a short trip out of town brings you to the Angel of the North [https://www.newcastlegateshead.com/things-to-do/the-angel-of-the-north-p26491] a 20-metre high contemporary sculpture welcoming arrivals to the city. It's easy to reach by bus from the city centre and one of the most viewed pieces of art in the world. You can also find the starting point of Hadrian's Wall [visithadrianswall.co.uk] at Wallsend, a city suburb with an ancient Roman fort called Segedunum. A quick 20-mile trip also takes you to Durham, a university town famous for its UNESCO-listed cathedral and ancient history.
Newcastle is home to one of just five Chinatown districts in England, located in the historic Grainger Town district. It's packed with authentic, award-winning Chinese restaurants and grocery stores. Still on a South Asian theme, the city has a wide variety of traditional curry houses, some of which have won national awards. Most of the city's top-end, fashionable restaurants for international cuisine are spread out along the Quayside, but street food is also becoming popular in town.
Calendar of events
You can find something to do throughout the year in Newcastle but within the last few years a variety of ambitious festivals and events have joined the mix.
Beer Festival: The city might be famous for its own bottled brown ale, but beer-lovers can explore some new regional and international brews at the Beer Festival [http://nclbcf-tynland.camra.org.uk/] in April]. It's organised by CAMRA and hosted at the Northumbria Student's Union, giving it a laid-back feel that draws in an eclectic crowd.
The SummerTyne America Festival: Celebrating all things American, this events takes place in Gateshead around the Sage Centre at the end of July. You can dress up, enjoy some free outdoor performances, sample some classic American food, and immerse yourself in country music with the occasional appearance by top stars.
Great North Run
The north east has produced some legendary UK runners. In September, top talent from around the world descends on Newcastle for the Great North Run [http://www.greatrun.org/great-north-run] the world's biggest half marathon with more than 50,000 runners. The course starts in the city centre and runs through Gateshead to South Shields.
You'll definitely know it when winter reaches Newcastle, even if local Geordies famously meet the dropping temperatures with little more than a t-shirt. The Christmas Market along Grey Street and Grainger Street adds some warmth with hot street food from around Europe, craft stalls, mulled wine and live music.