Newcastle upon Tyne is often thought of as a university town, but this city has much more than just fun pubs and a young atmosphere. Not only does Newcastle upon Tyne offer fantastic shopping but there are plenty of museums and outdoor activities as well. Whether you’re visiting for a week or a weekend, there is no shortage of things to see and do. Planning activities for a vacation can be quite stressful, which is exactly what a holiday shouldn’t be. We here at Road Affair want you to relax, whether it’s during the vacation planning or during the vacation, which is why we have carefully crafted a list of the best things to do in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Walk Hadrian’s Wall Path
Hadrian’s Wall Path is a 135-kilometer trail that follows the ruins of an ancient Roman wall from Newcastle upon Tyne all the way to Carlisle. Now, we are not suggesting you walk the whole wall, but a day walk from Newcastle to Heddon-on-the-Wall can be an amazing way to experience the countryside and landscape of Northern England.
The wall was originally constructed in 122 AD on the orders of Emperor Hadrian, with the goal to “separate Romans from barbarians” in Scotland. The wall was equipped with roughly 500 armed infantry and cavalry at all times for nearly 300 years and stood as the border of the Roman Empire. Forts were constructed about every eight miles, and two towers stood between the forts to ensure maximum observations and protection. The wall was abandoned and revived many times over the course of history, with its final abandonment occurring in the fifth century when Roman Britain collapsed. Since then, the stone has been salvaged from the wall for many purposes, from churches to farmsteads and castles in the area. For this reason, much of the wall is gone, but there are still parts that stand out, and the Roman forts have been excavated and can be visited.
Today, Hadrian’s Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a popular walking holiday destination. The trail usually takes about seven days to walk, but day walks are also encouraged. The trail is well marked, and visitors can start their day hike from Wallsend. From there, the path leads through vibrant pastures, wooded areas, and along the River Tyne. Start your hike at Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend and follow the signs for Hadrian’s Wall. Alternatively, you can bus out to Heddon-on-the-Wall and walk your way into town. This walk is roughly 13 miles long and is quite beautiful, so make sure to bring your camera. It is also suggested to bring good hiking shoes, lots of water, and a rain jacket.
Explore Newcastle Castle
This well-preserved medieval fortress is a great attraction for visitors of all ages. Tourists can spend hours roaming through the castle rooms and climbing the towers to enjoy incredible panoramic views, all the while learning about the history of this incredible castle. The most notable aspects of the castle that have stayed intact are the black gates at the entrance and the castle keep, which is the main stone tower that tourists can venture up.
Visitors can opt to take a self-guided tour or book a tour with a guide. The castle is open every day, with the last entry being allowed around 3:30–4:00 p.m. You can buy refundable tickets in advance here.
Spend a Day at the Discovery Museum
The Discovery Museum is one of the most interesting museums in the city. It is both a science and local history museum that boasts fantastic exhibitions and interactive areas for the young and the young at heart. One of the more interesting permanent exhibits is the ship Turbinia, the world’s first turbine-powered ship and the fastest boat in the world during its time.
The ground floor of the museum has an exhibit that teaches visitors about what life in the area was like during Roman times. As you move up to the first floor, you’ll learn about maritime and military history. One of the more popular exhibits is the interactive Science Maze and the PLAY + INVENT space where families can get creative. There is much, much more to discover at this museum, so make sure to pack a lunch for the day or head over to the on-site café on the second floor for a bite to eat.
Visit the Great North Museum
If you are looking for free things to do in Newcastle upon Tyne, then make sure to head to the Great North Museum!
This fantastic museum showcases ancient civilizations and natural history, offering exhibits for those with all interests. Kids will love the dinosaur area as they can see dinosaur bones and replicas. The planetarium is sure to stimulate the mind, and visitors can also learn more about Roman-era life in the area through the Hadrian’s Wall exhibit. There are plenty of activities and workshops in the museum as well that are great for kids and adults.
The Great North Museum is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you enjoy your visit, don’t forget to donate so this can remain a free activity for locals and tourists!
Take a Tour of the Victoria Tunnel
Are you looking for a unique and fun thing to do in Newcastle upon Tyne? Well, did you know that underneath the city, there is a subterranean wagonway that dates back to 1839? We bet you didn’t. The well-intact Victorian Tunnel used to run coal from the Town Moor to the River Tyne. After being abandoned, it was reopened during World War II as an air raid shelter. The tunnel is about 2.4 miles long and, at its deepest, reaches 85 feet deep. Today, the tunnel is an oddity for visitors to tour and learn more about its interesting past.
A trip to this unique attraction is both fun and factual as the guides are knowledgeable and have a great sense of humor. Tours must be booked in advance, and visitors can choose which tour they would like to go on. If you would like a shorter tour that touches on an introduction to the tunnel, book the 80-minute tour. For a more in-depth visit, book the two-hour tour, which takes you further into the tunnel. During your visit, keep an eye out for paranormal activity; other visitors have spotted some pretty spooky things!
Go for a Stroll in Exhibition Park
Another great place to visit in Newcastle upon Tyne is the beautiful Exhibition Park.
This stunning green space offers plenty to see and do. Visitors can stroll along the paths lined with tall trees and lush grass over to the Victorian bandstand. There is a lake filled with swans and ducks where small electric boats can be rented. Bring a picnic along with you, or head over to Wylam Brewery beside the Boat House to sample some refreshing pints. If you happen to be staying in a hotel near the park, consider taking your morning runs through the park and using the free outdoor gym equipment. Other attractions in the park include a café, a playground, tennis courts, two croquet lawns, and a skate park. Exhibition Park is also home to Loosefest, a large music festival that takes place in the summer.
Check out the Life Science Center
Visitors with children interested in museums have to check out the Life Science Museum. It is a must-see in Newcastle upon Tyne for little ones.
This large-scale museum houses plenty of activities, from open-air ice rinks to planetarium shows, workshops, and more. On the ground floor, there is a massive space area where kids can dive into interactive areas like a space center, mission control, and a creativity area. The museum also hosts Relaxed Sundays, where the museum becomes a dedicated quiet zone; those with autism, sensory disabilities, and other disabilities can come and join in on the fun in a relaxed setting. The Life Science Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Take a Day Trip to the Beamish Museum
Located roughly a 30-minute drive from Newcastle’s city center is the incredible open-air living museum dedicated to showcasing Victorian and Edwardian life.
This is a great place to visit for families. The Beamish Museum was the first of its kind in England designed so that visitors could touch and feel history. There are old trams and buses to ride on, and the countryside area displays old train tracks and stations to represent the industrial revolution era. Visitors can explore a 1950s and 1940s farm, along with little villages and cottages depicting life in the 1820s. Enjoy fish and chips at one of the restaurants, or head over to the Tea Room to warm up with a cuppa. There is so much to see and do at this active museum that it’s easy to spend a full day here.
Explore the Ruins at Segedunum Roman Fort & Museum
At the start (or end) of Hadrian’s Wall sits Segedunum, an excavated Roman fort that allows tourists to step back to a very different time.
Visitors can explore the ruins of the Roman baths and the foundational outlines of this once-great fort. The museum offers insight into the construction and history of the fort and wall, along with digital reconstructions of what the fort used to be like. Visitors can also learn about what life was like for Roman soldiers, who were hundreds of miles away from home, to guard the wall and border.
The Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tourists can enjoy a free audio guide of the excavated fort by downloading the Geotourist app on their phone.
Go for an Evening Stroll at Saltwell Park
Saltwell Park is a large Victorian Park located south of Newcastle upon Tyne in Gateshead.
The most notable feature of this park is the stunning Gothic-style mansion and gardens. There are plenty of activities to do here as well, like pedal boating on the lake, picnicking on the large open grass area, walking among the cherry trees, and visiting the animals at the zoo. Saltwater Towers, the Gothic mansion, regularly hosts art exhibits, and visitors can stop into the tea room for an afternoon nibble or opt to explore the ornamental Victorian gardens. At night, the mansion comes to life with dramatic lighting accenting its incredible design. The park also has basketball and tennis courts, along with football pitches.
Go Shopping on Northumberland Street
If you’re looking to update your wardrobe and go for a shop, there is no better place to do this in Newcastle upon Tyne than Northumberland Street.
This popular shopping street is dotted with plenty of familiar stores, such as Primark, TK Maxx, and H&M. There are also a few vintage and boutique stores to pop into and browse. The area also has plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafés to relax in after a day of roaming through stores.
Catch a Race at Newcastle Racecourse
Horse racing is one of Britain’s favorite sports, so why not catch a race while you’re visiting Newcastle?
There are many races throughout the year to check out, and attending the races can be great fun. Visitors can place bets on certain horses and cheer them on from the stands. You can view upcoming races on the Newcastle Racehorse website. While there is no dress code requirement for the grandstand area, remember to dress for the weather, and if you want to dress up a bit nicer, that’s okay, too!
Marvel at Gothic Revival Architecture at St. Mary’s Cathedral
If you are sightseeing in Newcastle upon Tyne, don’t forget to visit St. Mary’s Cathedral on Clayton Street. This 19th-century grade 1 listed cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic revival architecture, and outside the cathedral sits a monument dedicated to Cardinal Basil Hume. The monument was first opened in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II.
Inside the cathedral, visitors will experience a peaceful ambiance filled with gorgeous stained glass windows and grand archways. Magnificent neo-Gothic–style wall and floor tile work surround the detailed altar carvings and large windows, creating an awe-inspiring space. The cathedral was designed and built by the famous Victorian architect Augustus Welby Pugin, who also famously designed the Houses of Parliament interior at Westminster.
Enjoy the Rides at Ocean Beach Pleasure Park
A short 25-minute drive from the center of Newcastle sits a fun-filled theme park that is a great date night and family outing spot.
Ocean Beach Pleasure Parks has plenty to do for the young and the young at heart, from indoor laser tag to carnival games, arcades, bowling, and tons of rides. In the colder months, the park transforms into a winter wonderland, where visitors can enjoy holiday-themed drinks and food and go ice skating under twinkling Christmas lights. A visit to the theme park is sure to bring out your inner kid and tucker out any kids you do have with you!
Go Clubbing on the Diamond Strip
The benefit of Newcastle upon Tyne being a university town is that there is no shortage of places to party.
One of the most popular clubbing areas in the city is on the Diamond strip. Here, the nightlife is always bumping, and visitors can dance the night away at one of many clubs. Jump in the ball pit at Howlers, enjoy a cocktail at ChachaBuchi, or hit up the dance floor at Flares Newcastle.
Go Bar Hopping in Quayside
If clubbing isn’t your style, don’t fret! There are plenty of good bar hopping areas for those who enjoy a more laid-back atmosphere.
Quayside is a fantastic area packed with plenty of bars to spend an evening unwinding. Start the crawl off on the edge of the Quayside area with a pint and a bite to eat at the Bridge Tavern. Other bars in this small area include the Hard Rock Cafe, Slug & Lettuce Quayside, The Hooch, and the Urban Garden by Brewdog.
Browse Through Farmers Markets and Flea Markets
Are you wondering what to do in Newcastle upon Tyne on a lazy Sunday morning? Well, start your day off with a cup of coffee and a leisurely stroll through one of Newcastle upon Tyne’s farmer or flea markets.
The Quayside Sunday Market, located near the Tyne Bridge, is a classic for snacks and produce. There are also loads of craft stalls and odds and bobs to sort through in this open-air market. Grainger Market is an indoor marketplace that dates back to 1835. Here, visitors will find vintage clothes, fresh produce, meats, and over 100 different vendors. Any of these markets is sure to offer some unique gifts and trinkets to bring home as souvenirs.
If happen to visit Newcastle between December 2nd and December 24th, make sure to visit the Newcastle Christmas Market in the city center for some holiday spirit (pun intended.)
Visit the Biscuit Factory
This contemporary art gallery is located in an old biscuit warehouse and is the largest commercial art, craft, and design gallery in England.
Art enthusiasts can browse through lovely handmade jewelry, paintings, and crafts for sale. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea at the café before joining in on a crafts workshop. During the holiday season, the Biscuit Factory has special events and workshops that are all holiday themed, along with evening shopping hours to pick out something unique for your loved ones. Even if you’re not a huge art person, the collection of independent works here is fun to browse through and often thought-provoking for modern times.
Go to Gibside
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Newcastle upon Tyne is located just outside the city.
Gibside is a massive 18th-century estate with incredible walled gardens, expansive walking paths, a large mansion, and a spectacular church. Visitors can explore over 600 acres of Georgian-style gardens and landscapes that lead them through tall woodland areas, through a valley, past the stables, and to the Palladian chapel. Play a game of frisbee golf or head over to the zip line to let the kids swing and play. The estate also boasts a café, a secondhand bookstore, table tennis, a greenhouse, and much more. This is a great place to spend the day out in nature and away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
Gibside is located about a 20-minute drive from the center of Newcastle. It can also be reached by bus from Eldon Square.
Go Hiking at Northumberlandia
Just north of Newcastle upon Tyne sits an incredible 1.5 million tons of earth that have been molded into a huge land sculpture shaped like a reclining female figure.
Northumberlandia, also referred to as the Lady of the North, was completed in 2012 and offers tourists and locals plenty of footpaths to hike on. The sculpture sits about a hundred feet high and offers viewpoints into the Shotton Surface mine. The area features many moderate footpaths for hikers of every fitness level, and all the trails are well marked and level. Visitors can enjoy sweeping panoramic views from one of the viewpoints or take a leisurely stroll through the woodland area. There are also picnic tables, ponds, and a café. This is a truly unique Newcastle attraction that shouldn’t be missed.
Venture Out of the City to See the Angel of the North
One of the most unique attractions in Newcastle upon Tyne is the Angel of the North statue created by Antony Gormley.
The statue is said to be the largest angel statue in the world and sits on a former colliery in Gateshead. Visitors will be amazed at how large this statue actually is. Its wingspan is larger than a Boeing 757 aircraft, measuring roughly 54 meters wide, with a total height of 20 meters. The Angel of the North overlooks a unique topography and draws in thousands of tourists every year. It can be seen from miles around but should be seen up close and personal to truly appreciate this great piece of art.
Visitors can reach the parking lot of the statue in about 15 minutes by car or take the direct bus from Eldon Square Bus Station.
Go for a Swim at the City Baths
A great activity in Newcastle upon Tyne during a hot summer day or a cold rainy winter afternoon is a visit to the Newcastle City Baths.
This large complex offers plenty of aquatic activities for tourists. Take a dip in the swimming pool, then relax in the sauna. The Turkish baths offer a spot for visitors to soak and enjoy the benefits of the heated pools. Afterward, an ice bucket shower helps to release toxins. There are also spa services offered, allowing visitors to indulge in a facial or a massage.
Stroll Through the Shops at Central Arcade
Located in the historic Grainger Town, the Central Arcade shopping center is one of the most beautiful buildings to browse through.
Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, you should definitely visit this attraction strictly for its incredible architecture. Its iconic glass vaulted ceiling offers plenty of natural light that accentuates the stunning tile work and mosaic floors. Stained glass windows offer bursts of color in the space, while wooden carvings and signs create an Old England feel. There are plenty of boutique shops to browse through in the mall, along with some familiar names as well. Afterwards, make sure to head over to Grey’s Monument next door to check out this incredible tall column monument dedicated to the second Earl Grey.
Visit the Laing Art Gallery
If you are looking to visit some museums while in the city, you should not skip the Laing Art Gallery.
This gorgeous gallery features 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century European watercolor and oil paintings set in a stunning studio space with large vaulted ceilings. Newcastle upon Tyne was one of the largest glass-making hubs in the world in the 19th century, so also on display are glass artworks by William Beilby, as well as other ceramic pieces. The museum also has many temporary exhibits. Entrance is free and is a great way to spend an afternoon. After seeing the paintings, visitors can grab a bite to eat or a drink at the café or purchase a souvenir at the gift shop.
Visit the BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art
Another fantastic art museum to visit in Newcastle upon Tyne is the BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art, located along the River Tyne in Gateshead.
The museum has no permanent exhibitions but instead has a constant rotation of contemporary works and exhibits. Entry is free, and visitors can enjoy browsing through hundreds of works by artists from all over the world. After a wander around the exhibits, head up to the restaurant located on the top floor to enjoy a meal with fantastic views of the river and Newcastle. The museum also houses a lovely café with outside seating, as well as a sensory room for little ones, a learning center, and plenty of workshops.
So now that you have seen the best of the best that Newcastle upon Tyne has to offer, you might be wondering how you can pack it all into one holiday. It isn’t a question of quantity but of quality, and all of these fantastic attractions offer you just that. So don’t fret about what you cannot fit into your schedule. Instead, enjoy what you can and remember you can always come back again!