Happy New Year! Rather than letting the back to work blues creep in let’s get straight into planning all the fun things we can get up to in our fabulous city and local area. A slightly different take on last years guide, this one isn’t in order of months but more general activities of what you can see and do in Newcastle and the surrounding areas throughout the whole year.
Explore the History & Heritage of Newcastle
Newcastle’s 7 Bridges
Geordies know they’re home when they cross the River Tyne and see the Tyne Bridge. The quayside and all seven bridges that cross it is probably the most iconic sight of the city and a walk along to see each one is a must for new visitors, and never gets old for locals either.
Tyne Bridge (1928) – the most famous that is almost never referred to by its other name, the King George Bridge. It’s a great spot to view the Great North Run and the Red Arrows flying overhead in September.
The Swing Bridge (1876) – this road bridge replaced an earlier stone bridge that was removed as it couldn’t allow ships through. The Swing Bridge is the lowest of all bridges due to its medieval heritage, that links Gateshead to the old medieval Newcastle quayside.
The Redheugh Bridge (1983) – a road bridge opened by the late Princess Diana. King Edward VII Bridge (1906) – a rail bridge, the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge (1981) – the blue metro bridge that you cross if you travel the metro passed Central Station.
The High Level Bridge (1848) – from which you get that homecoming feeling as you cross and see the bridges and quayside below. Accessible also by foot and one that you can add a love lock to.
The Gateshead Millennium Bridge (2001) – a lovely one to cycle or walk across after a drink in Pitcher and Piano, it will take you over the the Baltic and the Sage. See it lit up to mark different occasions throughout the year, and ‘blink’ a couple of times a day to allow boats through.
Visit Newcastle Castle and the Black Gate
Open daily take a walk through the Castle Keep and the Black Gate, or for an admission fee take a historical tour to learn about the 800 year history and heritage of the city.
At Halloween you can also do this as a guided ghost tour. I’ve done it myself and it’s not too scary, but you can always duck out and visit the Bridge Hotel pub for a drink instead.
See the old and fabulous architecture
There are so many iconic buildings and sights, and I go on to mention many of them as part of other sections, but to see some of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city take a wander to…
Up or down Grey Street, which often finds itself on many beautiful streets in the UK lists due to it’s curve and the style of the buildings.
Near the top it offers a great view of the Theatre Royal, Grey’s Monument, and the Monument Dome, but also one to visit for a night out due to the many bars and restaurants. You might also spot Alan Shearer in Harry’s.
Linking Grey Street to Market Street and near to the Grainger Market you can also find Central Arcade, a beautiful old shopping arcade from Edwardian times.
Grainger Market itself is the cities most historical market, with a long history and full of local traders, including meat, fish, veg, clothing, but also has some great coffee, cake and places to eat. In December the Grainger Market opens at night, and you can also visit the war air raid shelter as part of this experience.
Down near the Quayside you’ll find many more historical streets that are lined with beautiful old buildings, each of which have a history of their own.
Dean Street is one of my favourites, and so is Broad Chare, where you’ll find some good bars, old pubs and the Live Theatre in the ancient quayside warehouses. Trinity House used to be the place for the Masters and Mariners of the river, and it has been there since the 16th Century.
King and Queen Street are also old yet beautiful, and the stairs that lead up from King Street take you to the foot of the old no longer used All Saints Church.
Similar stairs can be found running from the Castle Keep down to Sandhill, which was the old original quayside.
Sandhill is recogniseable by it’s half timbered medical exterior. The Red House Pub here is a great one for a pie and a pint, especially during British Pie week, the first week of March.
The Quayside has so much to offer all the time, including a huge range of restaurants, places to stay, or even just for a walk along it is a great way to spend an afternoon. There’s different things happening as the seasons change, including the Quayside Seaside in the summer, and the Quayside Market year round.
Find a more detailed guide to Newcastle Quayside here.
Sail the River Tyne
If walking beside it, or across one of the seven bridges isn’t enough of an experience of the River Tyne, you can set sail with River Escapes. They do all sorts of packages, including party cruises, seasonal cruises and sightseeing cruises.
I’ve done a couple of party cruises in my time, which are good fun in the summer, but take a look at New Girl In Toon’s experience of a sightseeing cruise.
My favourite bit about the River Escapes cruises, is when the Millennium Bridge blinks because you’re sailing under it.
Visit one of the City parks
Leazes Park – located next to the RVI and St James Park this is the oldest in the city, and is a natural space to wander the lake and memorial garden.
Exhibition Park – off Claremont Road there’s a bit more going on here. Visit for the boating lake, crazy golf, croquet, cycling, and basketball/tennis courts. There’s also the skatepark and Wylam Brewery that hosts a number of events throughout the year – see their official site here.
A couple of other suggestions to get a taste of the history and heritage of Newcastle this year include:
National Heritage Week from 13th – 22nd September
See landmarks and buildings as you never have before when many of them take part in National Heritage week. Grey’s Monument and City Hall open to the public, take tours of Newcastle Cathedral, the Grainger Market and the Baltic, listen to talks at the Laing Art Gallery, and there are free exhibitions at museums like the Hancock.
If you visit the official National Heritage website and search for Newcastle all of the participating venues can be found.
Do a Newcastle Treasure Trail
Obviously without finding any real treasure at the end, other than a much more in depth knowledge of the city, but a treasure trail or guided walk is a great way to learn a lot and have a few pub stops along the way.
I did one with work where we just downloaded the booklet at a small cost and attempted to follow it to the end. We definitely got distracted by the pubs, but it was good fun and really interesting. I think this was the one we did, and it took us to Newcastle Central, St James, and the old Eldon Square.
Food and Drink in Newcastle
Literally my favourite thing to do in Newcastle ever, is visit the ever increasing number of bars, pubs and restaurants. Over the last five years the quality and selection of eateries and water holes as risen a lot, and while some haven’t stood the test of time, many have and are now hugely popular. While I love to try out new places, the old are some of the best.
When it comes to trying new places, the NE1 Restaurant week is a great place to start. Twice a year in January (21st – 27th) and August participating restaurants significantly reduce their prices and offer great deals for £10 or £15. Take a look at my most recent restaurant week guide for an idea of what to expect.
Trying to name every bar and pub in Newcastle would have me here forever, but a huge selection of them can be found on my list of bars and pubs with outdoor terraces – here. These aren’t just for summer though, the majority turn their sun traps into cosy winter areas with heaters and blankets for colder days.
A few of my favourite pubs for food and pints – The Broad Chare, The Bridge Tavern, The Forth, The Town Wall, The Red House, Colonel Porters, and the Old George.
A few of my favourite bars for G&T’s and cocktails – St Vincent’s, Dacantus, Central Shaker, The Continental, Browns, Pleased to Meet You, Tiger Hornsby and Bar 28.
For fine dining options, or special occasions I’d recommend Cafe 21 on the Quayside, Six at the Baltic, Artisan at the Biscuit Factory, or the Michelin starred House of Tides.
Try a Newcastle gin along with some delicious tapas at Bealim House, visit the Trent or the Strawberry on a match day, visit Sharks Bar for Wings Wednesday, and I’m unsure if it is returning this year but if it does I’d 100% recommend dining on the Tyne for birds eye views of the city.
If you enjoy afternoon tea either as a treat or to celebrating occasions like Mother’s Day (31st March) or baby showers there’s plenty of choice too.
The prettiest spot in town has to be the Great British Cupcakery, Six also do afternoon tea with a view, the Vermont’s take on it which can also include a Gentleman’s Afternoon tea is very nice, and so is Browns.
Around Easter time there is the annual ‘Battle of the Burger’ at Exhibition Park, and you can snap up the winner from the last couple of years at Lola Jeans, and their pop up at the By the River Brew Co.
Container communities By the River and Stack both offer some great food options, either at Trakol (BTR) or YOLO (Stack) as more formal options, but there’s also the likes of sushi, food vans, pizza and fast food too.
Gin, rum and prosecco festivals have become a frequent and popular thing on the Newcastle social calendar too, so here’s a couple for your diary:
Gin to my Tonic Festival – 27th April 2019, Assembly Rooms
Gin & Rum Festival – 24th and 25th May, Civic Centre
Prosecco and Gin Festival – 2nd March, Northumbria Uni
Take a gin masterclass at The Botanist year round.
There’s also usually one held twice a year at Newcastle Racecourse too but I can’t find details of that one yet.
Finally, a number of pubs usually join in Octoberfest every October, with menus that fit the time of year and featuring specific German beers. The Broad Chare always take part and Antler is another good spot.
The Malmaison for a bottomless brunch is something I definitely want to try this year, after reading Katie Jane Online’s experience.
Sports in Newcastle
Match day in Newcastle is like no other, with Newcastle United football club often being described as the heart of the city. Despite very little success ever, going to St James and experiencing a match is definitely something you should do if you haven’t before.
The atmosphere is always great, and you can celebrate/drown your sorrows in the pub after. If you can’t go to a game then watching from a city centre bar is also worth doing. I just really hope you bring some luck.
As well as attending matches until May, and then again from August, you could also take a behind the scenes tour of St James Park, hear from legends Kevin Keegan and Shag Given at the City Hall on 6th February, or even Alan Shearer at the Tyne Theatre on Thursday 18th April.
The Newcastle Falcons have played at St James’ Park for one of their biggest fixtures of the season, to allow for a bigger crowd than their usual home ground of Kingston Park. Of course you could support the Falcons at Kingston Park during the rugby season, but this year their fixture against Sale Sharks is on 23rd March when it is the football international break, so the match is being held at St James. Find more info and tickets here.
Going to the races at Newcastle Racecourse is hugely popular, especially in the summer, although their are racing events year round. Take a look at the full fixture list by month on the official site, but key events for your diary are:
St Patricks Raceday – Saturday 16th March, see my past experience here.
Northumberland Plate Day – Saturday 29th June
Ladies Day – Saturday 27th July
If basketball is your sport, the Newcastle Eagles have a new stadium, the Eagles Community Arena on Scotswood Road. They have fixtures through January and February with tickets starting at £16.
Culture & Entertainment in Newcastle
There’s absolutely LOADS on at the Theatre Royal this year, I was really surprised when I was having a look through. I don’t go very often, but over the last year I’ve seen Mary Poppins and Kinky Boots and loved both.
Over the course of this year you could see classics like – RSC Romeo & Juliet, Cinderella ballet, Saturday Night Fever, the Full Monty, the Greatest Showman Sing a Long, The Bodyguard with Alexandra Burke, Joseph & the Technicolour Dreamcoat, Annie and the Rocky Horror Show.
I quite fancy the Bodyguard myself. See the full line up here.
Newcastle Live Theatre and the Tyne Theatre & Opera House have some good line ups too, particularly the Tyne Theatre which is host to Britain’s Got Talent winner Lost Voice Guy (February), Joan Collins (February), an evening with Alan Shearer (April), Reginald D. Hunter (May) and Ben Elton (October) to name a few.
Full line up here.
Tyneside Cinema often shows unusual viewings too, I watched the Royal Shakespeare Company live broadcast from Stratford here last year, and its a good spot for some food and drinks too.
Newcastle Arena will welcome fan favourites Little Mix, Irish boybands Westlife and Boyzone, George Ezra and Olly Murs this year, as well as host a number of other events like the National Wedding Show in January for anyone who recently became engaged, the Big North Tattoo Show in April, and the WWE in May.
There are quite a few famous faces at the City Hall this coming year too, including an audience with the Hairy Bikers, and musical performances by the Vamps, Peter Andre, Wet Wet Wet and the Drifters. There’s also a comedy performance lined up with Jimmy Carr.
The Sage, Gateshead has a whole host of classical musical performances throughout the year, that I basically know nothing about. You can find the list here but I did spot that Dirty Dancing is on stage there until the end of January.
Newcastle Museums & Galleries
The Discovery Museum – currently running is the Circus exhibition, displaying all things from the circus through time, and it’s on display until June. The other big exhibition here is called ‘Charge! The Story of England’s Northern Cavalry’ and this is on all year.
Art lovers can visit the Laing Art Gallery, the Baltic and the Biscuit Factory for displays throughout the year. Currently at the Laing is ‘Exposed’, a portrait exhibition running until March, and at the Biscuit Factory there is a winter exhibition until February by local artist Malcolm Teasdale which looks great.
I went to the Biscuit Factory for the first time this year and loved browsing the gallery and the shop. There’s all sorts on display and available for purchase, if you haven’t been I’d really recommend it, and it also has the lovely Artisan restaurant on the premises too.
Other Events and Things to Do
The NE1 Motor Show is likely to return at the start of July as it has the past couple of years, with a whole fleet of impressive and one of a kind cars on offer. I went two years ago and for someone who has very little interest in cars I really enjoyed it.
NE1 are also the brains behind Screen on the Green, which is a summertime feature of Newcastle at Old Eldon Square where they play family movies to enjoy in the sunshine.
The Hoppings, the worlds largest and most famous fun fair will return to its usual spot on the Town Moor in June. Even if you aren’t keen on rides its good for all the food, and for the people of Newcastle it’s tradition to visit. This is an old blog post on The Hoppings, but it’s got some pics.
Newcastle Pride Festival will be held over the weekend of 19th – 21st July this year, and it seems to get bigger and brighter every year. Spot the parade that passes down Northumberland Street and Monument to kick start the celebrations.
General activities that can be enjoyed year round include bowling at Lane 7, an Escape Room experience, the ones at Exit on Westgate Road are pretty good, and Mr Mulligan’s crazy space golf experience on Newgate Street. Bongo’s Bingo at the Boiler Shop is always so popular and sells out every time, they’re constantly releasing new dates so keep an eye out for those.
Intu Eldon Square is the main shopping area of Newcastle where you’ll find department store favourites such as John Lewis, Debenhams, M&S and of course the flagship Fenwick’s.
All the high street favourites can also be found, as well as the odd independent boutique. The food hall area has the usual options – TGI Friday’s, Alchemist, Nandos, Chaophraya etc for when you’re done shopping.
Signing up to their mailing list will give you all the latest info and events happening in Eldon Square, and signing up to the Fenwick’s email list will let you know when the 20% off evening events occur.
For an alternative shopping experience I’ve already mentioned Newcastle’s oldest shopping option, the Grainger Market. The quayside market on Sundays also offers some unique shopping options with a local flavour.
For high end designers you can find some in Fenwick’s, but stores like Cruise, Jules B and Flannels in the Metro Centre are your best bet.
While it may be previously known for lively bank holiday Monday’s along Osbourne Road, I love Jesmond more for the cafes and boutique shops. Acorn Road has a few, my favourites being Nudo sushi and Oliver Bonas.
Brentwood Avenue is up there too, for Cake Stories cafe which does amazing cake, coffee, and I particularly like the breakfast menu for the ‘breakfast in a jar’ and Arlo which does a nice full English. Y&L is a lovely card and gift shop, and Julie Carter beauticians will cater to every pamper need you have.
Jesmond Beauty Clinic on Clayton Avenue is also a good beauticians and has a nice gift shop within it too.
For food and drink options there are so many, of course including Osborne Road, but As You Like It isn’t far away either. For Italians you can’t beat Francesca’s, cheap and cheerful but so delicious, but some more upscale options include Branches, Dabawal and Antico.
For a small oasis among the residential streets head to Jesmond Dene, where you can enjoy a walk through the natural environment, have a picnic or visit the pets corner.
Jesmond Dene House is a beautiful luxury house hotel which is perfect for an occasion. We visit for Mother’s Day lunch last year and it was very nice, but a visit in Spring or Summer would be nice to sit in the conservatory.
See more on Jesmond Dene House official site here.
The Ouseburn Valley has rejuvenated itself in recent years and is now very much a creative, cool area of the city. Go on the Ouseburn pub crawl which will take you to some of the oldest pubs full of character, including the Cluny, The Cumberland Arms, The Ship, The Tyne Bar, and the Free Trade which has an incredible view back up the Tyne.
As well as food and drink options the area is a hub of creative spaces, many of which are ran by volunteers. Visit the Star and Shadow Cinema, Seven Stories National Centre for children’s books, or Ouseburn Farm. I’ve also yet to visit Kiln, a pottery and small cafe but it’s on my list for early in 2019 after reading this review by Newcastle Eats.
One place you mustn’t miss this year if you haven’t been already is the Proven Donuts warehouse at Hoult’s Yard. These home made treats are seriously incredible, and before they had their own premises they popped up frequently at local markets and in cafes. Their own spot is so cute, and their donuts are unbeatable.
Hotel du Vin can also be found in the Ouseburn, and the luxury boutique hotel has some amazing views of the city, as welll as a lovely restaurant. It’s in a great spot for a staycation, to visit the Ouseburn while being close by to Central Newcastle.
For a full events program happening in the Ouseburn this year see their official event guide.
I’m not going to lie here, I know very little about Gateshead and it isn’t an area I often find myself in. Not for any reason, I’m just firmly based on the Northern side of the river.
There are three things I would venture over for and that is, the annual firework display at Saltwell Park, the Metro Centre for shopping, and to see the Angel of the North.
I did actually recently visit Saltwell Park for the Enchanted Parks week, which returns every December after dark. It was very enchanting and displays works of art using light, and music throughout the park. Take a look here in case you fancy it for December 2019.
For someone who has a much better knowledge of the Gateshead area visit Life In Geordieland.
Day Trips Further Afield
Perhaps you’re looking for something to do outside of the city centre, especially in the summer or if you’re in need of a change of scenery. Here are some suggestions all within very easy reach for a day trip:
Visit the coast – North/South Shields, Tynemouth, Cullercoasts and Whitley Bay make up the coastline found at the end of the aptly named Coast Road, direct from the city centre.
All of them have seen an improvement over recent years and there are many bars, restaurants and local spots to be found.
Tynemouth is my favourite, with the Tynemouth market every Sunday, the Mouth of Tyne Festival every July, and plenty food and drink festivals throughout the year too. Not to mention some of the best fish and chips in the world, and of course the wonderful Long Sands Beach. The Grand Hotel right on the sea front is a beautiful venue for occasions, we’ve celebrated Mother’s and Father’s Day there in the past.
Whitley Bay is coming into its own again, pay a visit to St Mary’s lighthouse to see the grey seals that live there, see what’s on the beautiful Whitley Bay Playhouse, or visit Di Meo’s for the best ice cream in Newcastle!
The Spanish City has recently reopened and is stunning inside. Head here for fish and chips, afternoon tea, the champagne bar, or just a look inside and a walk by the beach.
Head further up the Northumberland coast to the likes of Amble, Warkworth, Bamburgh, Alnwick and Seahouses, all of which offer stunning scenery, heritage sites to explore and lots of pubs with good hearty British food!
Try the Boathouse at Amble for some seriously good seafood, and explore the medieval Warkworth Castle followed by a walk along the river.
I recent went back to Morpeth for the first time in years, and a visit up there for a day trip weekend won’t disappoint or either. For a good base to explore from take a look at Air BnB apartment – The Morpeth Apartment, and there’s some local recommendations in there from the host too.
Beamish is somewhere I’ve not been to since I was a kid, and I really want to go again this year. The open air museum tells the story of the North of England from the early 20th Century, complete with trams, interactive activities and if I remember rightly an excellent sweet shop. There’s a whole year long program at Beamish, take a look here.
How to get about
Newcastle isn’t the biggest city and it’s pretty easy to navigate. There is parking within the city centre, most of which is free after five. There are bus links everywhere and of course the Metro system.
I hope this has given you some inspiration for Newcastle over the coming year. There’s so much to see and do my diary is already filling up fast.
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