For more information, attractions, and photos of the area see our county tour Tyne and Wear
Best known for three icons—the Angel of the North, the Millennium bridge, and of course, Newcastle United, Tyneside’s metropolitan area, Newcastle (a city on the north bank of the River Tyne) and Gateshead (a town on the south bank of the river), is an integrated visitor destination, NewcastleGateshead, replete with attractions from its revitalised riversides and new cultural centres to its architecture and shopping. Linked by seven bridges, the area provides a varied menu of attractions that include art, architecture, and history. Festivals, special events, shopping, and nightlife add to the mix.
Shoppers will need to set aside a day or two, what with MetroCentre garnering the title of the largest indoor shopping and leisure centre in Europe. From high street outlets to department and speciality shops it caters to everyone’s needs. International visitors will recognize the names Zara, Debenhams, and Marks and Spencer. There’s even a MetroLand with roller coaster, 11 screen cinema, and more to attract the kiddie in all of us. Eldon Square is another shopping area located in the city centre. It has 140 shops, restaurants, and a car park.
Nightlight is in ready supply as are festivals. A science festival, dancing festival, food festival, and winter festival add to the mix of performances at the Theatre Royal and Live Theatre. The suburb of Jesmond sports pavement cafes on Osborne Road. Armstrong Bridge has an arts and crafts market (every Sunday until 4pm) with stalls selling unusual and affordable locally made wares.
Newcastle was founded by the Roman emperor Hadrian, and Hadrian’s Wall still runs through the city centre. Two nearby Roman forts bring this history into perspective.
At Bath Lane are the remains of the city’s medieval wall. Pilgrim Street in the city owes its name to the pilgrims who travelled here to visit the Holy Well of Jesus Mount. It’s now a busy shopping street. Robert Curthose, son of William the Conqueror, constructed, in 1080, a castle keep that gave Newcastle its name. Black Gate and Castle Keep can still be seen on the original site on top of a Roman fortification, Pons Aelius. However, the castle keep still standing was one built during Henry II’s reign on the same site. It’s a Grade I listed building.
Bessie Surtees house, a black and white townhouse on Newcastle Quayside, is associated with a romance gone right. Bessie eloped in 1772 against her father’s wishes. He didn’t care for her intended, John Scott. However, he misjudged the man, who later became the Lord Chancellor of England. Pop inside for a view of how a rich merchant lived.
Perfect for rainy days are the many museums that fill you in on the interesting history of the area. Start your visit at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle with its journey through Tyneside’s history. It’s a real child friendly place with plenty of hands-on activities to keep the kids happy. The Newcastle Story tells the history of Newcastle from Roman times to shipbuilders and pitmen to the present day. Maritime history, social history, fashion, and regimental life are on display.
This museum is home to the vessel Turbinia that was built in 1894 by Charles Parsons. It was the first ship powered by steam turbines and went on to become the fastest ship in the world at the time. In Science Maze there are interactive exhibits focussed on the scientific and engineering artefacts invented on Tyneside. You’ll discover that the first passenger-carrying locomotive in the world was built in NewcastleGateshead; that the first street in England to be lit by gas (1811) was Mosley Street in Newcastle. Newcastle led the way again in 1891, being the first lit by electricity. Joseph Swan of Gateshead invented the first carbon filament light bulb in the world.
The Great North Museum, opened in 2009, houses collections from the former Hancock Museum and Newcastle University's Museum of Antiquities, Shefton Museum and Hatton Gallery. It’s home to a large-scale, model of Hadrian's Wall and a planetarium. For the kids there’s a life-size T-Rex dinosaur skeleton. Also on view are displays of the animal and plant kingdoms and objects from ancient Greece.
Grey Street, in the heart of NewcastleGateshead’s historic Grainger Town, was voted the Best Street in Britain by listeners of the national radio station BBC Radio 4. There are more listed classical Georgian buildings here than anywhere else in England, except for Bath and London. In fact, 40% of the buildings in Grainger Town are listed. The rich can shop at the designer boutiques along the street. The first Friday of every month sees a farmers’ and country market take place at Grainger Street’s Grainger Market, a Grade I listed building opened in 1835.
The Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals offer further architectural highlights. St Nicholas cathedral dates from the 15th century. Its lantern tower dominates the skyline. Medieval treasures include a stained glass roundel. St Mary’s church on Gateshead quays is 12th century, but is no longer a church—it’s a visitor information centre with a craft shop and gallery. There’s an interesting exhibition on the history of the church and an ancestor search computer station.
Architecture buffs won’t want to miss Holy Jesus Hospital with its seven centuries of architecture. Right in the middle of the city centre, it’s collected, over its 700 years of existence, the remains of a 14th century Augustinian friary, 16th century fortifications connected with the Council of the North, a 17th century almshouse built for the Freemen of the City, and a 19th century soup kitchen. The 21st century addition is The National Trust’s Inner City Project (all about countryside access) and exhibition room.
For a quirky visit try the Victoria tunnel, an old Victorian waggonway running under the city from the Town Moor down to the Tyne. Built between 1839-1842, it was used to transport coal from Spital Tongues colliery to the river. In 1939 it was converted to an air raid shelter. There are tours of the tunnel as well as a walk above ground following its route.
The Angel of the North, a 200-ton steel sculpture created by artist Antony Gormley, is now a contemporary icon for NewcastleGateshead. Standing at 20m high, it is seen by more than 33 million people every year passing by road and rail. Only a 15 minute drive from the city centre, it’s even more breathtaking up close. It was digital technology that was used to create the data needed for its measurements. What holds it up are 52 three metre long bolts cast into 20 metre deep concrete piles. The two wings measure 26 metres each. Have fun perching on its giant feet. Other sculptures are scattered on city street corners.
Gateshead Millennium Bridge, sometimes called the ‘winking eye’, is the world's first tilting bridge, able to turn on pivots. It was officially opened in May 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II. Located on the banks of the River Tyne, it links Newcastle Quayside and Gateshead Quays. Information boards on each side of the bridge will give you the tilting times so you can watch the “giant eyelid” open and close. The award winning bridge, the 7th built across the river Tyne was designed by architects Wilkinson & Eyre and cost £22 million. It weighs more than 850 tonne and is powered by eight electric motors. Its top is 50 metres above the river and its length is 126 metres. The first bridge is called the High Level Bridge, dating from 1849. It was designed by Robert Stephenson, grandfather of Robert Louis Stephenson. The Swing Bridge dates from 1876; in 1928 the Tyne Bridge was added.
The Sage Gateshead, a glass and steel building (by Sir Norman Foster) is located at the Gateshead Quay. It’s home to an international music centre with performances in all genres—folk, jazz, pop, and classical. Be sure to have a look inside at the stunning architecture and views over the riverside.
The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, also at the quay near the Sage, is in a converted 1950s grain warehouse. It houses five galleries of contemporary visual art. There’s no permanent collection, so no matter how often you go you’re sure to see the newest in contemporary art.
Another art venue is the Laing Art Gallery with important 18th and 19th century paintings. On display are masterpieces by artists such as Burne-Jones, Holman-Hunt, Gauguin, and local artist, the Romantic painter John Martin. Contemporary work is also on display. In the Ouseburn area is the Mushroom Works where artists at work are on view. Just a step away is a small farm site created for city children to experience the growing of food and animals.
The Biscuit Factory is the biggest commercial space in Europe for original arts covering 35,000 square feet. Its name derives from the restored Victorian biscuit factory in which it is located. Visitors can purchase sculpture, ceramics, paintings, and glass from the inexpensive to the budget breaker.
For live theatre try the Theatre Royal with its education centre, bar, bistro, and of course its stage productions. Next door is the Live Theatre. Then there’s the Northern State with three new performance spaces, and the Round, a new theatre with a variety of performances that include drama, musicals, comedy children’s shows, pantomimes, and live music.
Further down Newcastle Quayside at the mouth of the river Tyne is a heaven-sent attraction for children, Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books. It’s housed in a grade II listed Victorian granary and is dedicated to the exploration and celebration of children’s literature. Exhibitions and activities for children are sure to catch their attention along with the thousands of books to buy. Be sure to look for JK Rowling’s original hand-written drafts of the very first instalment of Harry Potter. Satlwell Park, a winner of Britain’s Best Park award, is another place to take the kids. It has a boating lake, children’s play area, and a maze.
Continue the fun educational theme with the kids at the Life Science Centre where they can use interactive displays and hands-on exhibits that focus on human life. Films and programs are put on regularly throughout the year. A special favourite in 2006 was the event ‘The Science of Chocolate’.
Football lovers will want to take a behind-the-scenes tour of St James’s Park, the giant stadium that’s home to Newcastle United. It seats 52,219 people. The tours operate daily (except on match days.) Need more sports? The Newcastle Falcons rugby team is stationed at Kingston Park. Also try Newcastle Racecourse, a Grade I racecourse located on the High Gosforth Park estate along with two 18 hole golf courses and a nature reserve all set on 812 acres of parkland.
For outdoor attractions wander through the wooded valley of Jesmond Dene, complete with bridges, waterfall and a pets’ corner. Gibside, a short drive from Newcastle is a riverside landscape garden (National Trust), much of it a SSSI. The estate was once the home of the Bowes-Lyon family. There are woodland walks as well as river Derwent walks. Buildings in the grounds include a Palladian chapel, stables and the ruins of a conservatory and mansion. The site has a tea-room and shop selling local foods. Special events are held throughout the year.
You won’t suffer any dietary restrictions while eating out in the NewcastleGateshead area. There’s a huge range of choices with eateries ranging from contemporary to home-cooked to exotic. Two of its restaurants were awarded Restaurant Remy Awards: Black Door and Secco Ristorante Salentino. Restaurant 21 just off the quayside is another choice. It has local fish dishes and a vegetarian menu and serves some of the best food in the area. Service is excellent. It’s one not to miss but is so popular it is best to make reservations.
A completely different eating venue is Blackfriars, dating back to 1239. The site was originally a refectory for Dominican Friars and a favoured hostel of Henry III on his visits to the city. After the dissolution of the monasteries the site became almshouses for the down and out. In 1980 restoration of the building took place and it now houses craft workshops, a gallery, shop and a restaurant. It won an AA rosette. Visitors from other countries should note that the food is traditional British—short on salads and fresh vegetables.
Another Newcastle eatery is Eauzone where leather settees and tub chairs set around oak coffee tables allow customers to relax with a drink. Everything is cooked freshly on the premises. Eauzone has one of the most comprehensive wine cellars in the area with world-wide selections, and prices reflect the owner’s commitment to ensure wine is enjoyed as a perfect accompaniment to a meal. Or you may want to grab a bite or visit a bar or club in one of the many quayside choices. Then again you might want to try something unique to Newcastle by indulging in some local Doddington Dairy ice cream with its Newcastle Brown Ale flavour.
You’ll be spoiled for choices when visiting NewcastleGateshead, so allow a minimum of several days to take in the varied attractions.
NewcastleGateshead and Tyne and Wear Visitor Information Centres
Central Exchange Buildings
132 Grainger St
Newcastle NE1 5AF
Open: Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm; Thu until 7.30pm, Sat 9am-5pm
Gateshead Information Service and Crafts
Gateshead Visitor Centre, St Mary’s Church
Oakwellgate, Gateshead NE8 2AU
Tel. 0 191 478 4222
Open: Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm; Sat 10am-5pm, Sun and BH 11am-5pm
Gateshead Library Tourist Information Centre
Gateshead Central Library
Tel. 0 191 433 8420
Open: Mon-Fri, 9am-7pm, except closed Wed at 5pm; Sat, 9am-1pm
Gateshead Tourist Information Centre
The Sage, Gateshead
Tel. 0 191 478 4222
Open: Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm; Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun and BH, 11am-5pm
Guildhall Visitor Information Centre
Tel. 0 191 277 8000
Open: Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm; Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 9am-4pm; open BH
Bike Hire available from Guildhall
Royal Quays Outlet Shopping
North Shields, Tyne & Wear, NE29 6DW
Tel: 0 191 200 5895
Open: daily, 9am-4.30pm
South Shields (Amphitheatre)
Sea Road, South Shields, Tyne & Wear, NE33 2LD
Tel. 0 191 455 7411
South Shields (Ocean Road)
Museum & Gallery
Ocean Road, South Shields, Tyne & Wear, NE33 2HZ
Tel. 0 191 454 6612
Open: Oct-March, Mon-Sat, 10am-1pm, 2-5pm; April-Oct, Mon-Sat, 10am-1pm, 2-5pm
50 Fawcett Street
Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, SR1 1RF
Tel. 0 191 553 2000 or 0 191 553 2001
Open: Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm; BH,, 10am-4pm
Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear, NE26 1EJ
Tel: 0 191 200 8535
Open: Mon, Tue, Thu-Sat, 9.30am-12.30pm and 1.30-5pm
Official NewcastleGateshead Tourist Information website: NewcastleGateshead
North Tyneside Council: North Tyneside Council
Sunderland: Visit Sunderland
Tyne and Wear Museums: Tyne and Wear Museums
Visitor Information Centres and most hotels have a city map, pocket guide, What’s On leaflet, and metro map. They can also book accommodation for you free of charge and sell tickets for cruises and bus tours. Newcastle Central Station has a left luggage facility (fee charged) so you can forget your luggage for the day while you explore the city attractions.
Getting to and around the area
I travelled from London to Newcastle by rail with East Coast Trains: advance return fares booked online start from £30 Standard Class or £104 First Class. Book via London North Eastern Railway or visit any staffed station. London-Newcastle is a three hour journey. The journey is partly scenic, and the trains are clean and pleasant to relax in, leaving the driving to someone else.
A great option once you arrive in the area is to hire a car and driver to take you to various locations. We used Grosvenor Cars, tel 0191 240 4242 (or if landline failure call 07872 601 098)
Web: Grosvenor Cars
North-east England Blue Badge Tourist Guides
12 Elgin Gardens, Walkerdene, Newcastle
Tel. 0 7905 697 296
Web: North East England Guides
They are professionally qualified to guide walking tours or transport tours of all the area’s attractions.
The Tyne and Wear Metro light rail system connects all major destinations in the city, linking central Newcastle with the airport in 22 minutes and the coast in 30 minutes. Trains run daily from 5.30am-midnight, every 5-10 minutes during the day and 10-20 minutes in the evenings. A Metro DaySaver (£3.20) offers a day’s unlimited travel.
Bright yellow QuayLink electric buses connect Newcastle and Gateshead’s quaysides with Newcastle Central Station, Haymarket Bus Station and Gateshead Interchange. For more information call Traveline North East on 0870 6082608.
City Sightseeing Bus
Central Station, 17 hop-on, hop-off stops
Tel. 0 1708 866 000
Web: City Sightseeing
Tours run year round every 30/60 minutes daily. Check website for full details
Newcastle Walking Tours
Newcastle Tourist Information Centre
28 Market St
Tel. 0 191 277 8003
Mon-Sat, June-end Sep, from 11am
Daily walking tours and twice weekly heritage walks
Newcastle/Gateshead Attraction Details
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Gateshead Quays, South Shore Rd, Gateshead
Tel. 0 191 478 1810
Bessie Surtees’ House
41-44 Sandhill, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 269 1200
English Heritage property
Stoddart St, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 261 1103
Web: Biscuit Factory
Castle Arch, St Nicholas St, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 232 7938
Monk St, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 232 9279
Trinity Gardens, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 222 0755
Cathedral Church of St Nicholas
St Nicholas St, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 232 1939
Web: St Nicholas Cathedral
Blandford Square, Newcastle, NE1 4JA
Tel. 0 191 232 6789
Web: Discovery Museum
Doddington Dairy Ice Cream
Northumberland St, Newcastle
Tel. 0 1668 283 010
Web: Doddington Dairy
Eldon Square Shopping Centre
Eldon Square, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 261 1891
Open: daily until 6pm on Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, and Sat, 8p on Thu, Sun from 11am-5pm
Near Rowlands Gill, Burnopfield, Newcastle
Tel. 0 1207 541820
Great North Museum
Barras Bridge, Newcastle
Tel. 0 191 222 6066
Web:Great Northern Museum
Holy Jesus Hospital
City Rd, Newcastle, NE1 2AS
Tel. 0 191 255 7610
Laing Art Gallery
New Bridge St, Newcastle NE1 8AG
Tel. 0 191 232 7734
Web: Laing Gallery
Life Science Centre
Times Square, Newcastle NE1 4EP
Tel. 0 191 243 8210
Web: Life Science Centre
27 Broad Chare, Quayside
Tel. 0191 261 2694
Web: Live Theatre
MetroCentre, Gateshead, NE11 9YG
Tel. 0 101 493 0219
Open: daily 10am-9pm weekdays, until 7pm Sat and 11am-5pm Sun
High Gosforth Park, Gosforth, Newcastle NE3 5HP
Tel. 0 191 236 2020
Web: Newcastle Racecourse
Newcastle United Stadium Tours
St James Park, Newcastle
Tel. 0 844 372 1892 to book a tour
Tel. 0 191 275 5900
Web: Northern Stage
St Mary’s Square, Gateshead Quays
Tel. 0 191 443 4661
Web: Sage Gateshead
Saltwell Rd, Gateshead
Tel. 0 191 478 4222; 0 191 433 5900 (Saltwell Towers visitor centre)
30 Lime St, Newcastle, NE1 2PQ
Tel. 0 845 271 0777
Web: Seven Stories
Shipley Art Gallery
Prince Consort Rd, Gateshead, NE8 4JB
Tel. 0 191 477 1495
Web: Shipley Art Gallery
100 Grey St.
Tel. 0 870 905 5060
Web: Theatre Royal
Victoria Tunnel Tours
Ouseburn Farm, near the Cluny (bottom of Stepney Bank)
Lime St, Newcastle, NE2 1PQ
Tel. 0 191 261 6596
Web: Victoria Tunnel Tours
To stay in Newcastle/Gateshead we recommend Staybridge Suites
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