Newcastle doesn’t come up all too frequently as a must-go destination for Londoners. And a recent Trip Savvy rundown of the 20 most popular cities for international visitors placed the Tyneside city only in 12th behind the likes of London, Manchester, Oxford, and Brighton. But despite its distance from London, Belle has found that the former industrial hub is now a booming base for lovers of arts, culture and history.
I’ll start by pointing out the first thing Trip Savvy noted, simply because I happen to be a bit of a sucker for history! Like many towns dotted around the UK, there’s an ancient Roman component to Newcastle’s past. In this case, the town was originally built as a sort of fort or outpost to defend a portion of Hadrian’s Wall (For you Game Of Thrones fans, it was the equivalent of Greengaurd, the furthest east before Eastwatch-by-the-Sea). The Arbeia Roman Fort & Museum is a fun stop, displaying some of this history and even featuring reenactments of Roman battles.
Getting into more specific activities, if you’re a football fan then a visit to St. James’ Park is a good place to head. The recently promoted club doesn’t pack the punch of some of its rivals of course, but the stadium itself is beautiful, and always abuzz for a good match. You’re generally in for an expensive day if a good club is coming to town to face off against Newcastle, but it’s worth it for the experience – particularly if you’re travelling with kids who love football.
If you’re heading up without kids, and after a bit of grown up fun, the Genting Casino in the centre of town makes for a great night. It’s part of a successful chain, and these establishments are always top-notch, so you generally know what to expect. There are nice facilities, drinks, and all the usual games you’d expect, though it’s not just about poker and slot machines here. There are live poker games as well, and there’s even one table devoted to baccarat, which is one of the oldest card games available in any casino setting. There’s a nice charm to the place as casinos go, so it’s a fun stop during a night out in town.
When it comes to pubs in Newcastle, you’re spoilt for choice. There are plenty of interesting options but I’d direct you toward the Bridge Tavern, an historic establishment with its own brewery, or to the brilliant live music venue The Cluny, which has the look and feel of an old neighbourhood bar and is always buzzing. Possibly the most famous though is The Tyne, and it is definitely worth a visit for a pint of local ale. When in Rome etc. The traditional pub may still refer to itself as the city’s best kept secret, but in recent years it has become a must-stop venue for visitors to Newcastle wanting to enjoy the feel of a local inn.
The city centre offers pretty much everything when you’re looking for somewhere to eat, from fast food outlets to decent curry houses and plain and simple English grub. Although many of the more refined restaurants are found slightly out of town.
While a night on the toon can be a very enjoyable one (as long as you steer clear of the chain pubs which are a haven for stag and hen parties) one of the best things about being in Newcastle is simply walking around some of its parks and neighbourhoods. It’s not necessarily the most picturesque city at a glance, but there are some really captivating pockets to discover. Walking across either of the famous bridges – the Tyne or the Gateshead – is a bracing and memorable experience. And strolling through the historic Quayside district is a treat as well. The best walk in Newcastle in my opinion, however, is through Jesmond Dene, an enchanting wooded park and an oasis of peace and tranquility in this bustling city.
So while Newcastle may not be top of your Bucket List travel destinations, it’s definitely one worth visiting either for a long weekend or as part of a wider tour of the northernmost regions of our beautiful country.