Tyne Bridge. Photo credit: ©VisitBritain / Pawel Libera

While London, Bath, and even Manchester may get all the attention, lately the small city of Newcastle in North East England has been outstripping them all as one of Europe’s up and coming top tourist destinations. And now, with United Airlines offering direct flights 5 days a week service from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) through September, you  have no reason not to go.

Newcastle: Ready for the Spotlight

Traditionally, Newcastle’s claims to fame are the world-famous Newcastle Brown Ale, Premier League team Newcastle United FC, and the wonderful local Geordie accent, which means it’s been off the radar of most travelers and tourists, including professed Anglophiles.

‘The Toon’, however, has a lot more going for it than past perception held. With its mix of some of England’s oldest architecture, best nightlife, and most avant-garde contemporary art, Newcastle is unmissable if you’re looking to immerse yourself  in a vibrant cultural experience that features a lot of local colour!

History Meets Modernity

Evening view of the illuminated Georgian Architecture by John Dobson in Grey Street. Photo credit: ©VisitBritain / Pawel Libera
Evening view of the illuminated Georgian Architecture by John Dobson in Grey Street. Photo credit: ©VisitBritain / Pawel Libera

While Newcastle is an adventure for all senses, it’s especially easy on the eye. With seven bridges spanning the river Tyne, modern public art including the 20m tall Angel of the North, and the largest amount of Georgian architecture in Northern England, you’ll soon see why Newcastle’s considered one of England’s most picturesque cities.

Historic Grainger Town, filled with 1830s neoclassical buildings including the Theatre Royal and Grey’s Monument, is home to some of the city’s finest architecture, while medieval city walls, alleys and staircases, can still be found throughout the city. Newcastle’s namesake, Newcastle Castle, was built in 1172, and can still be visited today. Both the Castle Keep and Black Gate are open to visitors eager to explore Newcastle’s medieval and more recent history.

At the same time, modern architecture also abounds, with the state of the art Sage Gateshead music centre, award-winning 20th century complexes, and newer bridges over the Tyne, all combining functionality and cutting-edge design with dramatic effect.

Getting the Best Views

View from Newcastle quayside at dusk. Photo credit: ©VisitBritain / Rod Edwards
View from Newcastle quayside at dusk. Photo credit: ©VisitBritain / Rod Edwards

Sweeping views of the city’s mix of modern and new are best found in two spots: At the top of the castle, which overlooks the river and many of Newcastle’s historic sites including the 12th century St. Nicholas Cathedral, and from the Baltic Contemporary Museum, located in Quayside, which gives a bird’s eye view of Newcastle’s modern architecture and unique bridges. You also won’t want to miss a trip to the Quayside at night, when the bridges light up as a truly spectacular setting for a night on the town.

Shopping with Style

Edwardian Central Arcade
Edwardian Central Arcade. Photo credit : ©VisitBritain / Pawel Libera

Newcastle’s mix of both the modern and historic also carries over to the city’s shopping options. Home to both the world’s first department store (Bainbridge’s) and first lightbulb-lit shopping street, Newcastle has always catered to cutting-edge shopping experiences with style.

The city mixes modern shopping and old world charm with both independent and big-name retailers in both the Georgian streets and buildings centered around Northumberland Street and the Central Arcade. For state of the art shopping and entertainment, try Eldon Square and Gatehead’s MetroCentre. From classic Geordie retailers such as Fenwick’s, to top English retailers  Debenham’s and Marks and Spencer’s, and American stores such as Apple and Guess?, you can find just about every type of shopping experience you crave in Newcastle.

Celebrate Local

Lovers of artisanal crafts and antiques will especially want to check out Newcastle’s many markets, including Tynemouth Station’s weekly antique market. Love local food? You won’t want to miss historic Grainger Market, one of Europe’s biggest covered markets in the 19th century, and home to hundreds of stalls selling fresh organic produce, homemade crafts, and artisanal breads and cheeses.

Art is also a popular attraction to Newcastle – both to buy and look at. Quayside’s free Baltic Contemporary Art Museum is the largest in Europe, while the Laing Art Gallery holds one of England’s best historic art collections. And if you’re looking for something special to take home,  head to Ouseburn, which features many art studios and galleries with local pieces for sale. As the city’s emerging top independent art area, the area also features museums that celebrate everything from British children’s books at Seven Stories to commercial art at the Biscuit Factory and working studios at Mushroom Works.

After Sunset

A couple enjoying an evening drinking cocktails in Apartment, a modern bar, dining room and club in Newcastle. Photo credit: ©VisitBritain / Pawel Libera
A couple enjoying an evening drinking cocktails in Apartment, a modern bar, dining room and club in Newcastle. Photo credit: ©VisitBritain / Pawel Libera

While so many of the city’s top sights are best seen during the day, Newcastle is perhaps at its best once the sun goes down. Consistently rated as one of Europe’s top 10 nightlife destinations, Newcastle offers a variety of options from upmarket, celebrity packed VIP clubs, to massive multi-floor venues that hold thousands, to smaller, more intimate underground spaces.  The city’s clubs have been host to top local electronic acts, international DJs, and even Kayne West.

If you’re looking for where to start, try focusing on an area at a time, like the exclusive ‘Diamond Strip’, the super-clubs of Quayside, the LGBTQ friendly ‘Pink Triangle’, or the student heavy Bigg Market area. Traditional and more modern bars also abound throughout the city if you’re eager to try some of Newcastle’s top brews, while the city’s many theatres, cinemas, comedy clubs and musical venues make it easy to take your pick of both local talent and the many big names that regularly tour through the city for a different take on a night out.

From the historic to the contemporary, Newcastle simply shines. Not only this, but with direct flights from Newark (EWR) five days a week through September, the journey is now even more convenient.  The famed Geordie humour, dialect and accent make Newcastle a warm and welcoming city where world-class sights and entertainment options abound for the perfect cityscape trip!

Editor’s note: This post was sponsored by Visit Britain in order to support the voices of women around the world. Click here for our full disclosure statement.