Affectionately referred to as “The Toon” by residents, the city of Newcastle is situated way up in the North East of England on the River Tyne, just under 450km from the capital, London. I lived in Newcastle for three years during my university years and can attest that the local population, known as Geordies, are some of the friendliest people you will meet in the country. Their hometown has become a popular city break destination for Brits looking to escape the stresses and strains of work and let loose for the weekend, thanks to a thriving nightlife scene and no shortage of activities. Before the sun goes down and the party begins, there’ll be plenty to keep culture lovers and history buffs entertained, from the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, which is the largest gallery of its kind in the world, to a castle keep that dates back to 1178.
The quayside that runs along the banks of the River Tyne is dotted with stylish restaurants and bars and it is this area that has provided the iconic image of Newcastle and the neighbouring town of Gateshead, just across the water. Some of the city’s most fashionable eateries are located on the quayside, including the Michelin-starred House of Tides, set in a 16th-century Grade I listed building, that will have you snacking on oysters before tucking into Cumbrian hogget (sheep). Close to the quayside, you’ll find the Life Science Centre, which offers a great day out for kids, families and adults thanks to live science shows, a 4D-motion simulator ride and the biggest planetarium in the north of England.
Although Newcastle United, the local football team, may be struggling for consistency and form in the Premier League, Geordies are football mad, meaning that you can always be assured of an electric atmosphere at St James’ Park, with the noise on match day audible almost anywhere in the city. Hop on the Metro, the cheap and convenient light rail network that serves Newcastle and surrounding areas, and you can be at Tynemouth, Whitely Bay or South Shields – all of which have beaches – for a day of sand and (hopefully) sun. The Angel of the North is a 54-metre wide, 20-metre high piece of public art that receives 150,000 visitors a year and is set just on the outskirts of the city – and was always a sign that I had arrived in the North East and the city that had become my second home.
The North East region of England borders Scotland and this far north, the weather can get bitterly cold. If you’re used to warm climes, it’s advisable not to visit during winter, when you can expect lows below zero and frequent snow. Even in summer, the weather is never guaranteed, with average highs of just 18°C. A good plan is to always have an umbrella on standby and wear multiple layers. Geordies have developed their own dialect over the years and with a strong accent, it can sometimes be hard to understand for untrained ears.
If shopping is your thing, you’ll be in your element at intu Metrocentre, Europe’s largest indoor shopping and leisure centre, which offers more than 300 shops as well as 60 restaurants, cafés and coffee shops. Not only will you find all your favourite high-street brands, the shopping centre is also home to a number of one-off boutiques where you’ll be able to pick up a unique gift. Unusual science-related souvenirs can be found at the Life Science Centre gift shop, while key rings, mugs and T-shirts printed with phrases in Geordie slang are also popular choices.
There are a host of accommodation options, from quaint bed and breakfasts to funky hotels along the fashionable Osborne Road, which is just a short walk or an even shorter Metro ride from the centre of town. Many of the most affordable and centrally located hotels belong to large chains; keep your eye out for Staybridge Suites Newcastle and Metro One Newcastle, in particular.