Newcastle upon Tyne
With a reputation as the party capital of England, many underestimate Newcastle upon Tyne as a holiday destination. The popular reality show “Geordie Shore” further enforces this stereotype – and while it’s not an entirely misguided assessment of the city, since the nightlife scene here is particularly lively, Newcastle has much more to offer than that. Newcastle upon Tyne is home to history, culture and adventure. The setting on the Tyne river alone promises a beautiful scenic backdrop to your trip. Still not sure how you feel about it? Allow us to change your mind.
The Many Roads to Newcastle
With a population of 300,000, Newcastle is relatively small compared to other major English cities. Nevertheless, it is the city in the North East, not far from the Scottish border. Thanks to its location on the English coast, getting there is easy, as there are several routes to choose from. It has its own international airport on the outskirts of the city, and is also accessible by ferry, with an overnight connection to the Dutch capital Amsterdam sailing up to seven times a week. However, if you want to experience more of the UK on your trip, we recommend opting for the train. Direct trains from both London and Edinburgh will take you to Newcastle in just a few hours. This is a great option if you want to relax and enjoy the British landscape passing by your window. The scenic east coast route between Newcastle and Edinburgh is famed for its stunning coastal views. The impressive Newcastle Central Station gives you direct access to the city centre, so nothing stands in the way of your city trip.
Naturally, English is spoken in Newcastle, but with a unique and individual twist. The term ‘Geordie’ denotes both the local accent and the people. Where exactly the name comes from is not entirely clear, though all theories agree it comes from the pet name version of George, whether that’s King George I, George Stephenson (Newcastle local and inventor of the steam engine), or simply a popular name among coal miners in the industrial period.
In addition to their unique accent, Geordies also have a vocabulary of their own. For example, Geordies affectionately call their city “the Toon”, coming from the word “town”. But don’t worry, you’ll have no problem understanding the locals, and besides all that, many consider Geordie the nation’s favourite accent and Geordies the friendliest people in the country. So, if anyone calls you “hinny,” take it as a compliment.
Like the people, the city’s vibe is exuberant and welcoming. Many of the highlights of the city are located in the centre, the beating heart of Newcastle with lively, bustling streets. For shopping, check out Northumberland Street and Eldon Square. Grey Street is also home to the historic Grainger Market of 1835, which still hosts a wide range of regional traders. A 41-metre-high monument in honour of Lord Charles Earl Grey (yes, as in Earl Grey tea) marks the centre, one of two central Metro stops, and acts as the perfect landmark for meet-ups. If you’re out and about in the city, pop in to one of the many Greggs bakeries – the chain, established in Newcastle, has a whopping 29 branches in the city!
Your trip to Newcastle Upon Tyne will not be complete without experiencing the legendary and infamous nightlife. The Bigg Market offers a huge selection of clubs, pubs, and bars – there’s something for everyone in this city. Football is a great excuse for Geordies to get together for a pint. Any time Toon Army – or Newcastle United to me and you – play, you’re sure to find a great atmosphere in the nearest watering hole.
The Seven Bridges of Newcastle
If you don’t visit the Tyne, you’re missing out on one of the city’s highlights. The bridges that connect Newcastle and the neighbouring town of Gateshead on the far side of the river are not to be missed. Seven bridges cross a two-kilometre stretch of the river, forming the iconic image of Newcastle. The promenade around the bridges is called Quayside and invites you to sit down and admire your surroundings. On the opposite side, a huge concert hall, The Sage, an eye-catching example of post-modern ‘blobitecture,’ is a magnificent concert hall, with a unique building designed to optimise acoustics.
Of all the bridges, the Millennium and the Tyne Bridges are probably the most striking. The former is only open to pedestrians and cyclists. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you get to watch the bridge open and close, like a giant blinking eye. And once night falls, you’ll see it lit up in an array of colours. A symbol of the city, Australians may have a sense of déjà vu when they see the glorious Tyne Bridge.
Contrary to the popular local myth, however, the 389-metre Tyne Bridge, built in 1928, was not constructed as a prototype for the 1149-metre Sydney Harbour Bridge which opened in 1932 after a lengthier manufacturing process. Next up along the Tyne is the red Swing Bridge, which was the largest of its kind at the time of its construction in 1876.
The High Level Bridge is the oldest of the bridges, constructed in 1849. It consists of two levels, combining road and rail traffic. The Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge, the King Edward VII Bridge, and the Redheugh Bridge are also worth mentioning, but these are off-limits to pedestrians.
Newcastle upon Tyne History
In contrast to the lively atmosphere, the historical buildings throughout the cityscape are another key aspect that characterises Newcastle. Here you’ll find the eponymous castle of the city, a medieval fortress from 1177 – and it’s free of charge! From there, you’ll enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the city and Quayside. Next door is the 14th-century Anglican cathedral, Newcastle Cathedral. Here, entrance is free too, granted there is no church service in progress. A piece of Hadrian’s Wall is also located in Newcastle. Once the boundary of the Roman Empire, the wall had a huge impact on the British landscape from the second to the fifth century. If you want to be further immersed in Roman history, check out Segedunum and Arbeia, two preserved Roman forts, respectively on the Northern and Southern sides of the Tyne.
Industry: “carrying coals to Newcastle”
This expression, meaning “to do something redundant”, refers to the historical development of the city. Newcastle upon Tyne was an important coal-producing region with a high level of coal exports. Transporting coal there would therefore have been unnecessary. Within the city, coal was transported to the Tyne through the Victoria Tunnels, which are now open to free tours. Newcastle’s location on the Tyne and its access to the North Sea also create ideal conditions to flourish as a shipbuilding and port city.
Cultural Pride in Newcastle
If you want to learn more about the city’s history, we recommend the Discovery Museum. Interactive exhibits tell the regional and maritime history, embellished with stories as told by the locals. You’ll also find out about some of Newcastle’s scientists and their world-changing achievements in themed exhibitions. If you’re more interested in natural history and ancient peoples, the Great North Museum: Hancock is the place to go. It’s located next to the main campus of Newcastle University – a renowned university.
Newcastle also has a variety of galleries about different themes. A converted mill building, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art offers modern exhibitions and a wonderful view over the Quayside. The Laing Art Gallery, on the other hand, focuses mainly on local British paintings from the 18th century to the present day and is free of charge, except for occasional exhibitions. The Biscuit Factory in Ouseburn is a former Victorian warehouse that shows off more independent art. Once you’re down in the Ouseburn Valley, don’t miss the chance to check out live bands at The Cluny, experience locals-favourites independent pubs The Tyne Bar and The Free Trade Inn, or immerse yourself in a world of wonder and books at Seven Stories.
Nature and City – The Best of Both Worlds
Park Life around Newcastle
If the hustle and bustle of city life is too much for you, why not visit one of the many parks and vast moorlands? Leazes Park is especially worth mentioning due to it being adjacent to St. James Park football stadium – one of the most impressive stadiums in Britain and a must-see for football fans. Exhibition Park next to the Town Moor, a huge green space larger than New York’s Central Park, or London Hyde Park and Hampstead Park combined, is also a great place for a stroll and maybe a pint at the Wylam Brewery, a microbrewery overlooking the water. One of the most beautiful and popular parks is Jesmond Dene. In addition to extensive green nature and an interactive “Pet’s Corner” with parrots, pigs, and goats, it also features a man-made waterfall, which is a highlight in and of itself.
The North Sea
If you take one of the metros in Newcastle, you will be at the English North Sea within 20 to 30 minutes. The town of Tynemouth, where the river flows into the North Sea, is 13 kilometres from Newcastle. An array of leisure activities awaits you here – enjoy a portion of fish and chips on one of the several beaches, visit the historic castle ruins, or go surfing.
Hopefully we’ve convinced you of the diversity of Newcastle upon Tyne. From history and culture to party night and relaxation, there’s something for everyone here. And best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a uniquely-Newcastle charm, with its beautiful scenery and impressive buildings. The Geordie pride is evident in everything, from its dialect and bridges to the nightlife and football. If you’re visiting the UK, a stop here is definitely worthwhile. And with direct transport from Edinburgh and London, it’s never been easier – howay, what are you waiting for?