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View from Newcastle quayside on a sunny day, showing the Millenium and Tyne bridges over the river Tyne, with the Baltic Art Gallery and the Sage Gateshead on the other side of the river
Photograph: Joe Dunckley / Shutterstock

The 17 best things to do in Newcastle

Whether you’ve just moved to the North East or you're on a weekend break, these are the best things to do in Newcastle right now.

Daniel Dylan Wray
Written by
Rosemary Waugh
&
Daniel Dylan Wray
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If you’re thinking of a city break in England, Newcastle might not be on of your list of options. You should think again.

For starters, the city is a foodie paradise crammed full of so many great restaurants it's hard to know where to start. It’s packed with world-class concert halls and art galleries that will blow your mind. The cherry on the cake? Newcastle is a top-notch nightlife destination, well worth dressing up and dashing out into the evening before crashing at one of the many great value local hotels.

And if, somehow, all that isn't enough to get you booking a ticket, then remember that Newcastle is located close to some fantastic strips of coast where you can swap city slicking for seaside dreaming. 

 

Best things to do in Newcastle

What is it? Iconic concert venue by the river Tyne that opened in 2004 and looks like a giant, shiny slug (in a good way).

Why go? Like the Sydney Opera House, the Sage Gateshead is such a singular building that it’s worth visiting even if you’re not actually there for the music. If, however, that is why you’re here, the programme is made up of world-class classic, brass, jazz, blues, folk… the list goes on.

What is it? It’s a cultural hub in Newcastle. 

Why go? It’s filled with great pubs, bars and amazing eateries. It’s small enough to wander around in an hour or so, so it makes it perfect for a spot of bar-hopping. 

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What is it? An old flour mill turned into a very cool contemporary art gallery programming the best in art and performance right now.

Why go? Two years before Sage opened, the Baltic art gallery welcomed its first visitors. The two venues are almost neighbours, so you can combine a trip to both with a walk along the riverside and a gander at the Millennium Bridge. If you’re seriously into your contemporary art (and you might not yet realise you are) a visit to Baltic is near-enough essential.

Live Theatre

What is it? Quayside theatre creating and staging brilliant new theatre, stand-up comedy and other events.

Why go? Newcastle’s Live Theatre is one of the most exciting companies creating new work in the north of England. In 2017 alone, two of its productions transferred to the West End, with one (Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour) winning an Olivier Award. Take a punt on anything here – you never know what will turn out to be a little gem. Also make sure you check out Northern Stage – another super theatre.

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The Biscuit Factory

What is it? Contemporary art gallery and a top-notch brunch spot.

Why go? If this list is looking a little bit like a guide to the best artsy spots in Newcastle so far, well that’s because Newcastle is such a haven of creativity, it’s hard to stop showcasing these places. The Biscuit Factory is a commercial contemporary gallery, but if art isn’t your thing you need to come here anyway just to sample its fancy brunch menu.

What is it? Home of the Magpies since 1892 and one of the largest football grounds in the UK.

Why go? St James Park is the iconic home of Newcastle United (fun fact, the other St James Park football ground can be found in Exeter and it holds rather less than Newcastle’s 52,000). Take a tour of the stadium that includes all the behind-the-scenes info you could want, from sitting in the dressing room to walking through the tunnel.

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What is it? A preserved nineteenth-century wagonway.

Why go? To explore Newcastle in a very unique way: underground. You’ll also learn about its history on your guided tour route from the Town Moor down to the River Tyne.

What is it? A 400-acre park and nature reserve. 

Why go? An ideal spot if you’re on foot or wheels. As well as being a beautiful park, the lake area is designated as a local nature reserve with habitats including grassland, woodland, pond, wetlands and a lake, plus there is a bird hide for keen twitchers.

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What is it? A science and local history museum. 

Who go? To experience an interactive, educational and fun place for all the family. Not to mention the awe-inducing 35-metre steam turbine ship that greets you as you arrive. 

The Tyneside Cinema

10. The Tyneside Cinema

What is it? The only surviving news cinema still being used to show films in the UK today.

Why go? It’s almost impossible to imagine now, but time was people went to the cinema to see the news. The Tyneside Cinema is the only one of those news cinemas still in use today, except nowadays you won’t get the headlines but an arthouse programme of vintage and modern films. Don't miss out on also eating and drinking in one of its three art deco cafes.

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What is it? A historic park in the heart of suburban Newcastle. 

Why go? To get some peace and quiet amongst the hustle and bustle of the city. As well as enjoy the mix of native and exotic trees, see if you can spot wildlife, such as the kingfisher, the red squirrel, and many woodland birds.

What is it? A city centre market.  

Why go? It has a vast number of great foodie spots, clothes shops and cafes, as well as more traditional things like a greengrocer and a butcher. It’s also located inside a beautiful old building.

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For the Love of the North

What is it? Lovingly-curated shop in Whitely Bay stocking all the North East-inspired gifts you could ever want.

Why go? It’s worth scheduling a trip to Whitely Bay regardless of whether you need to go shopping. BUT, they do say a trip to the seaside is never complete without a souvenir. Check out For the Love of the North, a shop filled with treasures made by artists living in the local area. Because every home needs a Toon Angel of the North.

What is it? Museum of Natural History and Ancient Civilisations on the Newcastle Uni campus.

Why go? Whilst we’re just throwing the cultural recommendations at you, we might as well mention the Great North Museum, previously known as the Hancock Museum. It all started with the collection of a man (splendidly) named  Marmaduke Tunstall. Now you can learn about everything from polar exploration to space travel here.

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Newcastle Castle

What is it? The now very old castle that gives Newcastle its name…

Why go? … actually that’s slightly inaccurate. The medieval remains you can visit today were built on the site of the even older castle that really gave Newcastle its name. Either way, it’s a fascinating family-friendly place to visit which will teach you the history of this part of the North East.

What is it? Massive, historically important library used as the venue for countless talks, performances and other events.

Why go? Newcastle’s Lit and Phil Society is the largest library in the UK outside of London. A bit like the British Library, this space is now used for much more than borrowing books. You can hear poetry here, attend lectures, go on tours, hear live music… or you can just pop in and have a look around.

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Mog on the Tyne (and Dog and Scone)

What is it? A cat café where fans of our fur-covered friends can have a cup of tea and a cuddle.

Why go? You love cats but you can’t afford to have one. Or, you love cats but you left your moggy at home when travelling to Newcastle. Now you’re feeling the need for some feline love. Pop down to Mog on the Tyne for coffee and a cat. Or, if you believe cats are all really Satan in disguise, go just next door to the Dog and Scone! You’ll get the same deal but this time with a *cough* far superior breed of animal.

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