The Metro Centre is where it’s at if you want to score a bargain, shop til you drop and join the lunch crowd...Metro Centre
The secret of Newcastle’s success is its residents. The Geordie character, forged over decades of industrial abandonment and some seriously cold weather, is as warm and inviting as the interior of one of the city’s many new bars and pubs. Yes, the locals are likely to laugh at you if you go out wearing a coat; and yes, it’s still a bad idea to mention Sunderland in the presence of Toon Army (Newcastle United) fans. But these are just elements of the city’s personality – and it’s a personality as big, brash and groovy as any in the country.Read more
Angel of the North
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Visit Newcastle and you’ll find hundreds of museums, dozens of theatres, countless music venues.
The Toon is a place that loves its culture – and in keeping with its resurgent attitude, plenty of it is world class. The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts on the banks of the River Tyne is emblematic of Newcastle’s status as a city of artistic innovation. Its constantly changing exhibitions showcase the best in the world, and it’s free to get in. For the visitor with a more traditional eye, the Great North Museum is an absolute must-see: its collections of fossils, Egyptian artefacts and stuffed animals are the best in the north east.
Museums and Galleries
With all these free museums and galleries (the Great North Museum is free too), the traveller needs somewhere else to spend their money. Newcastle is happy to oblige, with some of the best shopping arcades in the country. Hit the Metro Centre to pick up anything and everything, from big high street names to boutique oddities – it’s the biggest shopping centre and leisure village in Europe.
Architecturally, Newcastle’s a typical northern mix of Victorian industrial buildings – many now redesigned as clubs, bars and trendy apartment complexes – modern developments and misguided 1960s high rises. The Tyne bridges are not to be missed. Grandiose, practical, ingenious – there are seven of them, including the iconic Tyne Bridge itself. From the bold lines of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge to the ponderous splendour of the High Level Bridge, these are landmarks that dominate the area, and express the eclectic character of the city.
No introduction to Newcastle would be complete without mentioning its nightlife – believed by many to be the best in the UK. The Toon regularly tops lists of the craziest/wildest/most fun nights out in the country, and a quick tour of its hotspots will leave you in no doubt as to why. Bigg Market, the Quayside, Central Station, Ouse Burn, Jesmond, the Pink Triangle: a person could be forgiven for thinking that half the city is given over to the pleasures of the evening, and you wouldn’t be far wrong at that. Hen parties, stag parties, hardcore clubbers, big drinkers: Newcastle welcomes you all with open arms. The only rule – be nice.
Newcastle is served by Newcastle International Airport, which connects the city with the rest of the UK and Europe. It is also connected to Dubai International Airport.
Trains arrive at Newcastle Central Station, and connections may be made for London and the southeast; Bristol and the southwest; Reading and points west; York, Leeds and Manchester; and Glasgow.
The A1 and the A69 connect Newcastle’s road networks with the rest of the country. Traffic can get heavy in the city centre, and parking’s a bit pricey if you’re intending on staying for more than a couple of hours, so catching a park and ride service (there are points all round the outlying areas of the city) can be a good idea.
By bus and boat
You can visit Newcastle by bus and boat too: buses terminate in the centrally located Newcastle Coach Station, and there’s a ferry running from North Shields to Amsterdam.
Internally, Newcastle is served by several bus operators, and two Metro lines. The buses either run within the centre and out to the quays, or from the centre and out to the suburbs. The Quaylink bus service, with its easy to spot yellow vehicles, will suffice for central journeys. To travel further afield, there are twin bus stations at Haymarket and Eldon Square.
The Green and Yellow Metro lines serve large parts of the city and its suburbs, and are both reliable and cheap.
Central Newcastle is compact, easy to get around and full of worthwhile sights – so it is recommended that the visitor consider walking, or cycling. There are plenty of places to lock bikes up in the city centre, and explorers on foot get the added benefit of multiple pedestrian areas. Some must-visit sights, including the hilariously disturbing Vampire Rabbit (above an office block door in the grounds of St Nicholas’ Cathedral) are only visible to the walker.
The earliest architectural evidence of Newcastle’s history is the Newcastle Castle Keep, which is dated to the 11th century and may be older even than that. The name of the city comes from the wooden Norman fort erected there in the 11th century by Robert Curthose (William the Conqueror’s son) – it’s possible that the Newcastle Castle Keep predates even this.
Like many northern towns, Newcastle’s fortunes began to grow in the 18th century. The town’s printing presses whirred day and night – making Newcastle the fourth biggest centre for printing in Britain (after the Oxbridge towns and London). As a result, Newcastle played host to important intellectual societies of the time, including the Literary and Philosophical Society.
Newcastle grew iron muscles in the 19th century. Its location on the Tyne made it a perfect centre for Victorian industry, particularly coal and shipping. Newcastle’s innovators during the Industrial Revolution were responsible for the steam turbine (which revolutionised marine propellers); electric light bulbs; and some extraordinary architectural achievements including the two and a half mile Victoria Tunnel.
The Tyne bridges, which span the river at various points through the city centre and its suburbs, are visible legacies of the expansion of transport in Newcastle. The Tyne Bridge is the most famous example of this – a suspension bridge, it was built to make it easier for the increasingly popular motor car to access the city centre.
The Great Depression
The Great Depression had a huge effect on Newcastle, from which it never really recovered. Coal pit closures finished off the mining industry before 1960, and the city’s shipyards died out over the next 30 years. Modern regeneration began in the 1990s.
Museums and Galleries
Newcastle has always been proud of its past – as early as 1934, the city was opening museums celebrating its industrial history. There are now dozens of museums and galleries devoted to the history of life in the north of England, as well as internationally recognised collections.
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