Newcastle is well-known for its fabulous shops! If you’re looking for an excuse to spend some money, try Eldon Square Shopping Centre or Northumberland Street, or the Metrocentre – Europe’s largest indoor shopping and leisure complex. What better way to show off your new outfit than taking a night out on the town afterwards? Regularly voted in the top 10 for both UK and World nightlife destinations, Newcastle has hundreds of bars, clubs, pubs and restaurants. The strong student population adds to the choice, with competitively priced venues all over the city. Head for the upmarket ‘Diamond Strip‘ along Collingwood Street, or try Bigg Market, ‘The Gate’ complex or Neville Street for clubs and bars. You’ll be spoilt for choice if you want to eat out, as Newcastle’s restaurants offer a hugely diverse range of cuisine, from the award-winning Blackfriars Restaurant (said to be the oldest purpose-built restaurant in the UK, dating back to 1239), serving modern British dishes to hundreds of different cuisine-specific venues throughout the city.
Musically, Newcastle has strong connections for Bryan Ferry, Sting, Dire Straits and Maximo Park as well as the 1960s group The Animals, and its underground music scene continues to thrive for house music, drum & bass, rock and indie enthusiasts. Today’s concert venues include the O2 Academy Newcastle, the Metro Radio Arena and the Newcastle City Hall, as well as smaller venues such as The Head of Steam, Trillians Rock Bar and The Cluny and Cumberland Arms. The Theatre Royal plays regular host to the Royal Shakespeare Company, whilst those preferring West End shows will find a complete programme at the Sunderland Empire.
The home of the Lit & Phil, founded in 1793 as a ‘conversation club’, Newcastle has a strong background in literature and philosopy. The Lit & Phil houses the largest independent library outside London, as well as a lecture theatre which was the first public building to be lit by electric light, back in 1880. There are plenty of museums and galleries in Newcastle including the fantastic Centre for Life, complete with Science Village; find out about life on Tyneside through the ages at the Discovery Museum, satisfy your inner petrolhead at the Newburn Hall Motor Museum and visit the Great North Museum for a mixture of natural history and artworks.
Further paintings and sculptures can be found at the Gallagher & Turner Gallery and the Laing Art Gallery and if you’re interested in taking home a piece of artwork, the Biscuit Factory is open for visitors and buyers alike.
Newcastle United Football Club has been based at St James’ Park for almost 130 years, although the stadium today seats 52,000 spectators and is a far cry from the original structure. As the sixth largest football stadium in the UK, it will be used as a football venue in the 2012 Olympic Games and will also host part of the 2015 Rugby World Cup games. The city’s strong sporting tradition also supports non-league football, rugby union, basketball, ice hockey, speedway and greyhound racing. Venues include the Sports Central complex at Northumbria University, Gateshead International Stadium, Stadium of Light and Kingston Park. Newcastle is also famous for the Bupa Great North Run, the world’s most popular half marathon. Established in 1981, there will be 54,000 participants for the run’s 30th anniversary event in September 2011.
Regular events include the Chinese New Year celebrations in February around Chinatown, closely followed by the Newcastle Gateshead Comedy Festival. For technically-minded visitors, look out for innovations galore at the Newcastle ScienceFestin early March. For those seeking sustenance, the CAMRA Beer Festival in April should whet your appetite for the EAT! Newcastle Gateshead food and drink festival in mid June, and you can combine food with music and drama at Newcastle Mela in September – a celebration of Pakistani, Punjabi, Bengali and Hindu cultures. Music and art festivals also feature heavily in the events calendar with the Spring Bank Holiday’s Evolution Festivalfor rock, indie and dance music as well as the AV Festival of international electronic art, with concerts, exhibitions, film screenings and conferences. Finally, for something a bit different, try the Newcastle Community Green Festival, the hugely entertaining The Hoppings travelling fair (the largest in Europe) or the Northern Rock Cyclone cycling festival – all held in June in and around the city.
Travel and transport in Newcastle
Newcastle’s Airport near Ponteland, 6 miles from the city centre, continues to grow year on year, handling over 5 million passengers currently and serving more than 90 worldwide destinations. Rail links to the city arrive at Newcastle Central Station. A principal stop on the East Coast Main Line and Cross Country Route, it was opened by Queen Victoria in 1850 and was much copied across the UK, as it was the first covered railway station in the world.
East Coast provides a train service from Newcastle to London Kings Cross every half hour, with a journey time of around three hours, with local and regional services provided by Northern Rail. A second station, Manors, lies to the east of the city centre. In addition to the mainline in Newcastle, the Tyne & Wear Metro consists of a mixture of suburban and underground railways. Carrying over 37 million passengers per year, the Metro extends to Newcastle Airport, Tynemouth, South Shields and South Hylton in Sunderland. As well as rail and metro, Newcastle is also well served by bus, road and cycle routes.
*Price based on cheapest available one way Standard Class Advance ticket, excluding £1.50 booking fee per transaction. Based on payment with a debit card and ticket collection from a self-service ticket machine at the station (free of charge).