If you’ve decided to visit the cheery North-East and are looking for the best things to do in Newcastle, you’ve came to the right place. After living in this character some corner of England for many years, we’ve assembled the top attractions, places to visit and some excellent day-trips to make it an experience to remember. Geordie’s are known as some of the friendliest people in the world and you’ll get to uncover their charm as you explore the beating heart of the North East. Visit for the electric nightlife scene and stay for historic culture and great sights. It’s a very affordable place to visit and we don’t know anyone that’s left with a bad opinion!
Read on for the best things to do in Newcastle and plan an action-packed weekend away.
1. Uncover Newcastle’s Quayside
One of our favourite things to do in Newcastle is without a doubt a stroll along the Quayside. Walk down from town to the River Tyne and wander along Newcastle’s Quayside, marvelling at the many historic bridges. The area is a clash between Victorian bridges and buildings, with modern art structures and trendy bars and restaurants. Take pictures of the Tyne Bridge and then cross the Millennium Bridge to the Gateshead side of the Quays. Here you have the Sage concert hall that’s shaped like a giant slug, and a museum converted from an old flour mill.
Other top activities on the quayside include a Sunday market, river cruise options in the warmer months, a free walking tour and bike rentals. You can cycle along the entire stretch of the Quayside to experience its beauty and get some exercise at the same time. It’s one of the best ways of seeing this beautiful area of town! Stop for lunch in a trendy café or enjoy a drink with a view in the Pitcher and Piano bar.
2. Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Whilst you’re on the Gateshead side of the Quayside, pop into the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, housed in a converted flour mill. Each floor has a different modern art exhibit that you can browse for free and the art on offer is always changing. If you’re a modern art fan or just want to check out an intriguing and sometimes eye-opening museum, the Baltic is a great stopping point on your tour of the quays. We recommend taking the lift to the top of the building for some excellent views of the River Tyne below. The top floor is home to a swanky restaurant called ‘Six’ and is a particularly romantic setting on an evening.
3. Watch a performance at Sage concert hall
Another key attraction on the Quayside is the intriguing Sage concert hall. Shaped like a futuristic slug with mirrored panels, it’s a talking point of architecture along the River Tyne and has an action-packed event plan of music and performance. See live country bands, enjoy a jazz masterpiece or see local dance schools perform. The programme here is very diverse and what’s on will all depend on when you visit. An elegant venue with excellent acoustics for an evening out. Check out their upcoming shows on the Sage website here.
4. Explore the 2.4-mile-long Victoria Tunnel
At top of the list of things to do in Newcastle on Tripadvisor, the historic Victoria Tunnel is a must-see for any visitor! Built in the 1800’s, it’s a long subterranean tunnel that stretches all the way from Newcastle city centre to the River Tyne and was used to transport coal back in the days of mining. It was then re-purposed during World War II as an air-raid shelter. Venture underground for a guided tour of this eerie but brilliant attraction and learn about its history. Tours last one or two hours depending on the option you choose. Find out more and book tickets here.
5. Watch a football match at St James’ Park
Arrive at St James’ Park on match day to hear the mighty roars of Magpies fans as they cheer on Newcastle United. The home supporters are notorious for being one of the most loyal and electric atmosphere crowds in football and watching a match here is always a good experience, no matter the team you support. The stadium is located right in the centre of town opposite China Town. Browse match-day schedules and book tickets on the official website here.
6. Experience the famous Newcastle nightlife
Newcastle’s lively nightlife is certainly no secret. In fact, it’s rated as one of the best night’s out in the UK! As a city home to two large universities and social locals that love to let their hair down, you’ll find music scenes for all ages and interests. It suits everyone from Stag and Hen parties to students, couples and friends of any age that want a good laugh over a pint. Most bars are within walking distance of each other and there’s a seemingly endless amount to choose from!
We recommend avoiding the Bigg Market as it’s a little rough around the edges, and heading straight to the Diamond Strip (Collingwood Street) area of town. View it on a map here. This long street of lively bars ranges from upbeat pubs to late-night dance clubs. Fancy something a little more chilled? Head to the Quayside or Central Station areas for classy cocktail bars.
7. Wander the old city streets
Part of the beauty of visiting Newcastle and an attraction in itself is simply wandering around the city centre and marvelling at the old buildings. From Monument Mall and Grainger Town next to Eldon Square Shopping Centre and down to Grey Street, Collingwood Street and Stowell Street, you’ll encounter buildings dating back to the early 1800’s. Converted into homes, restaurants, bars and offices, Newcastle’s historic past is deeply engrained into everyday life for the locals and you’ll appreciate the beauty if you stop and look up. Note down the key streets on your Google Maps app and get lost in winding streets and alleys.
8. Venture into China Town
Take a side-step from Gallowgate Street and head under the arch to emerge into Newcastle’s China Town. This colourful collection of streets is lined with traditional Chinese shops and restaurants, posing as a great setting for your photos or if you want a delicious meal ahead of a night out. A quick attraction to check out whilst making your way through town. The street itself is full of early 1800’s buildings and is one of the longest standing areas of Newcastle.
9. Catch a show at the Theatre Royal
Every big city has its iconic theatre and the Theatre Royal is Newcastle’s answer to grand performances, Christmas pantomimes and seasonal shows. The building is over 180 years old and has a grandeur façade reminiscent with the street it stands on. As a traditional red-carpet theatre, you’ll love the atmosphere as you watch a live stage show. Be sure to grab some popcorn and ice cream at the half time interval! Browse the Theatre Royal show schedule and book tickets in advance if you want to catch a performance during your visit. Find out what’s on here.
10. Newcastle Castle
As its name suggests, Newcastle has a castle. The castle keep was built in the 13th century to house kings and queens and the rest of the city walls were built around it. Stop by for an insight into its historic past and explore the ancient passageways and chambers. The castle-keep is one of the most historic things to do in Newcastle, however you’ll find remnants of the castle walls throughout the city centre and tracking them down with a map is a fun challenge! A small but important attraction that history lovers and families alike will enjoy. The whole experience takes an hour or so.
11. Relax in Exhibition Park
If the weather is nice outside, Exhibition Park is one of the best things to do in Newcastle for outdoor activities and relaxation! Put together a picnic and spend an afternoon relaxing on the freshly cut grass, playing mini golf or tennis, or renting a rowing boat and leisurely cruising the lake. The grounds and gardens are well maintained and it’s a great place to get in touch with nature. Perfect for families with kids or students that want study-time in the sunshine.
12. Intu Eldon Square and Northumberland Street shopping
Like most UK cities, Newcastle has a huge high street of shops and restaurants from all the most popular brands – Northumberland Street. Find street performers, seasonal shows and plenty of stores on this historic street or wander into the adjoining Eldon Square Shopping Centre for more shops and restaurants indoors. The area is a modern place to shop or even just wander around, however it can get very busy on a weekend. They’re the go-to areas for retail therapy in the city centre, with brands such as TKMaxx, Zara, Debenhams and H&M. For higher-end shopping, check out Fenwick department store.
13. Discovery Museum
The Discovery Museum is one of the best things to do in Newcastle if you have kids and are on a family outing. It has plenty of interesting exhibits to keep the adults interested and interactive activities for kids. Historic ships, WWII, fashion through the ages and the industrial revolution are just some of the themes you can learn about here and there are tons of artefacts, props and machines to see. A large museum that’s cheap to enter and will keep you entertained for a full afternoon.
14. St Nicholas Cathedral
St Nicholas Cathedral is Newcastle’s answer to visually impressive churches. The Norman church has a history that dates back all the way to 1091 and has been adapted and repaired throughout the ages. It’s noted for its unusual spire that was once used to guide ships back to town and has a beautiful design inside and out. Pay St Nicholas’s Cathedral a visit to marvel at the architecture or attend mass on a Sunday. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Newcastle and a symbol of the historic past of this area of town.
15. The Stand comedy club
If you’re a fan of stand-up comedy, Stand comedy club in the city centre is the home of rising stars and up and coming entertainers in Newcastle. Chris Ramsey was a regular here before his rise to fame and on various nights of the week, the club welcomes comedians from all walks of life. Shows are generally very good and the comedy is to a high standard. Book an evening comedy show as the perfect start to your night out and get a warm welcome by the Geordie crowd and their down-to-earth humour!
Check out the Stand Comedy Club website here for their latest listings and to book tickets.
16. The best day trips from Newcastle
Staying in Newcastle for a long weekend or visiting for a second time and want to try something new? The following attractions make great day-trips from Newcastle and can be reached in under half an hour. Drive there yourself if you have your car or board public transport directly from the city centre.
17. A trip to the seaside – Whitley Bay & Tynemouth
One great thing about Newcastle’s location is that it’s only a 20-minute drive to the beaches of the east coast. Catch a direct bus or rent a car from the train station and drive to the long stretch of beaches. It’s an excellent place to visit in the summer! Visit Whitley Bay beach for a seaside walk, fish and chips and the historic ruins of Tynemouth Priory or check out Cullercoats for the most picturesque beach scenery. A pleasant escape from town and a great thing to do in Newcastle if the weather is nice.
18. Look up at the Angel of the North
The Angel of the North is a 20-metre tall contemporary structure that was built as a north-east monument, looking over and protecting Tyne and Wear with its huge wings. The recognisable appearance of this gigantic angel can be found on postcards and souvenirs, becoming an iconic attraction near Newcastle. To stand at the feet of the Angel of the North with a stunning viewpoint of the valley and city in the distance, catch a bus 30-minutes to the south of Gateshead. Find out how to get there on the Angel of the North website.
19. Go shopping at Metro Centre indoor mall
The Intu Metro Centre is a huge out-of-town shopping centre located just across the River Tyne in Gateshead. As one of the biggest malls in Europe, it’s home to over 400 shops and restaurants from most high street shopping brands. As everything is all under one roof, it makes shopping easy and you’ll have cover from any bad weather. Spend a full afternoon shopping til’ you drop or check out entertainment options such as the cinema, amusement arcade and games centre. We recommend the Metro Centre if you want to invest plenty of time in shopping; otherwise, many of the shops can be found within Newcastle City Centre.
You can get there by taking a 20-minute non-stop bus or catching a direct train from Newcastle’s Central Station in under 10 minutes.
20. Beamish Living North Museum
Take a step back in the past for a unique experience of the Victorian era North-East of England. Whilst not strictly in the Newcastle area and located in the countryside of County Durham, Beamish Living North Museum is an excellent day-trip if you’re staying in Newcastle for four or more days. As an open-air interactive museum that’s designed to look entirely like the early 20th century, you’ll be immersed into a world of coal mining, old town shops and cafes, a working tram and many more historic activities, attractions and exhibits.
The staff all dress up in late 1900’s uniform and get into character as workers from the era. Think London Dungeon but on a much bigger scale! Beamish Living North Museum is somewhat of an unknown hidden attraction for visitors not from the North-East and is one of the best day-trips from Newcastle by far! Great for both families and those that want an insight into the local history.
Our top tips for visiting Newcastle
- We recommend staying in the city centre near the train station for easy access to the attractions and nightlife. Alternatively, stay on the Newcastle Quayside for a prettier environment a short walk from the city centre. Accommodation in Newcastle is very affordable compared to other UK cities and there’s lots to choose from.
- Everything is within walking distance in the city centre so there’s no need for public transport or taxis. You’ll only need to catch a bus if you’re planning a day-trip outside of the city.
- If you want to check out a theatre show, comedy event or performance during your stay, be sure to book tickets in advance and check scheduled dates.
- Many people visit Newcastle and stay solely in the city centre. Take the short walk down to the Quayside and you won’t be disappointed!
- If nightlife is big on your to-do list in Newcastle, research the bars before you head out. There are different scenes depending on music interest and ages.
- Whilst it’s not small, Newcastle is very compact and you can easily navigate between most of the main sites on foot. Plan your route carefully so you’re sightseeing on the way to the next attraction and save locations on your trusty Google Maps app.
- If you’re visiting Newcastle between September and April, there’s a good chance you’ll need a coat! Despite what the legends say, Geordie’s do actually wear coats and it can get pretty cold.
That rounds up the best things to do in Newcastle. We’re confident you’ll be welcomed with open arms and will leave eager to come back. Plan your weekend break using our activity ideas above and consider venturing out to the beaches or another day-trip if you’re staying for a longer duration. If you have any questions about Newcastle, get in touch! We’ll happily help you plan your visit.