24 Hours in Newcastle

…. and Gateshead.

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May Bank Holiday weekend we drove up to Newcastle on the Sunday for a family wedding. We were only attending the reception in the evening but decided to set out early so we could make the most of a short break. We had a few hours during the Sunday afternoon and the next day until late afternoon to explore the city. Despite having family in the North East, most of them live around Sunderland and we haven’t spent much time in Newcastle, our last visit, for only half a day, three years ago.

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Newcastle hasn’t been served well by town planners in the 70’s who have designed it for the car. Consequently there’s a maze of busy roads, flyovers and tunnels that surround the historic city centre making it for pedestrians to move around and almost cutting off a number of places of interest. And there are a large number of ugly Brutalist concrete monstrosities that dominate large parts of the city. But there is plenty of things to see and do – and not only the partying and binge drinking for which the city is renowned.

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24 hours wasn’t enough. So we’re already planning another visit.

The city

  • It’s two places really divided by the Tyne. Newcastle on the north side and Gateshead south of the river. They’re linked by  a series of historic bridges including Robert Stephenson’s high level railway and road bridge, the iconic Tyne road bridge (a smaller version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge that was designed and built by the same company) the low level swing bridge and the new Millennium “winking” bridge.

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  • the main areas of interest are the riverside, which has been developed really well and is a focal point for culture, entertainment and outdoor activities, including a regular Sunday market

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  • and the old city, high up on the hill overlooking the river with the Neo-Classical buildings on Grey Street and the nearby streets in the historic centre

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  • some interesting, picturesque, historic streets linking the city on the hill with the riverside

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  • There’s been a real effort to take art out onto the streets with lots of sculptures and other works of art along the riverside and in the city centre

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The people

  • VERY friendly…….
  • …. IF you can decipher the accent! Although not a problem in most cases.

Getting around

  • a relatively small city centre means everything is within walking distance. Two buts though
  • The road system really makes it difficult to get across from the city centre to the quayside. The city really has not been designed for pedestrians
  • The city is on a steep hill which some visitors might find difficult. But there is a good bus service from both sides of the river up to the city centre

Eating out

  • A short visit meant we didn’t really eat out (our evening meal was taken at the reception). There were certainly plenty of the usual formulistic restaurants – Jamie’s, Carluccio’s, Cafe Rouge, Wagamama, Zille and the like.
  • We liked this retro Italian Italian cafe

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which serves

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Architecture

  • In amongst all the horrible Brutalist monstrosities there are plenty of attractive buildings – lots of different styles
  • This is the Sage concert hall designed by Norman Foster (more about this in another post)

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  • Neo-Classical buildings on Grey Street and around (we didn’t have time to explore this area)

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  • Victorian and Edwardian

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  • Georgain

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  • an interesting building in Northumberland Street, one of the main shopping streets. Not sure when it was built

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  • and some older Jacobean and Medieval Gothic buildings

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  • and even some Art Nouveau

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Museums and Galleries

  • one of the main reasons for the renaissance of the quayside was the conversion of the old Baltic flour mill into the Baltic centre for contemporary art (post to follow)

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  • We also visited the Laing art gallery which has a significant collection of paintings from the 18th and 19th Centuries, watercolours and works by artists from the North East. It also shows temporary exhibitions

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  • There’s more. But that’s all we had time for this visit. They’ll wait!
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4 thoughts on “24 Hours in Newcastle

  1. We’re spending an afternoon in Newcastle later in the year (visiting Durham in the morning) so it’s interesting to see what you say. Is it a good idea to park in the Tyne and walk over to the riverside in Newcastle?? I can’t be doing with concrete…

    • Don’t want to pretend this is the definitive advice as we left our car at our hotel (only a Premier Inn, but with a car park and close to the Quays) but coming in from durham if you follow the sign for Gateshead Quays there’s parking near the Sage on the south side of the Tyne. You can see the sights on the river and then either walk up into Newcastle cemtre or take the regular bus. I suspect the car park isn’t cheap but finding your way round Newcastle centre if you’re not familiar with it is difficult to say the least.

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