Newcastle, a city located in the northeast of England, is known not only for its liveliness, but also for its diversity of culture, attractions and activities. The old town cleverly combines modernity with its old-school character. It is home to some of the most admirable streets in the UK, surrounded by stores, markets, theaters, galleries, clubs, pubs and more. The town’s residents, who call themselves Geordies, are proud of their town. Some of them are fans of the local beer (ale) or die-hard soccer fans of the local team. Characteristically, they are known for being tough and speaking an unusual accent that is hard to understand. They also add to the charm of the city, which makes the atmosphere special.
Tip 1: Millenium Bridge
Just like the striking tower of the cathedral, the seven bridges over the River Tyne characterize the cityscape of Newcastle upon Tyne. Among them is the High Level Bridge, which was built in the middle of the 19th century. The newest and most modern bridge in the city was opened in 2001. The Gateshead Millennium Bridge is the first tilt bridge to rotate around its longitudinal axis to allow ships to pass over the river. The pedestrian bridge connects Newcastle upon Tyne with the town of Gateshead and the concert hall “The Sage” located there.
Tip 2: Grainger Market
What would a city break to the UK be without shopping? Newcastle has the usual high street stores and Europe’s largest mall (which is just outside the city) as well as two very cute old shopping centers right in the heart of the city. Grainger Market is not far from the Greys Monument and is home to one of England’s oldest Marks & Spencer. The 19th-century indoor market is also home to lots of fruit & vegetable stores, street food stalls selling delicacies from around the world, a sugary cupcake bakery, vintage stores, record stores and second-hand bookshops. An old scale is still in operation and those who dare can be weighed for 50p. I could have spent ages here watching the hustle and bustle on and between the aisles and munching my way through all the goodies.
The second gem, not far from Grainger Market is the Central Arcade. The old Victorian covered shopping street is quite hidden, but definitely worth a visit just for the pretty architecture and the many details. Here you’ll find a few small boutiques and a music store.
If you are in the area anyway, you should make a small detour to the High Bridge Quarter. There are some nice vintage stores, a modern gallery, a comedy club and several old pubs.
Tip 3: Newcastle Castle
Newcastle Castle is a medieval fortress in Newcastle upon Tyne, to which the city owes its present name. The most important buildings of the castle still standing today are the donjon, called Castle Keep, and the fortified barbican called Black Gate.
The castle is located in the center of Newcastle, east of the main train station as well as immediately adjacent to the High Level Bridge. The castle tower can be climbed and offers a wonderful view of the River Tyne and its bridges, Newcastle Cathedral and the train station from its battlements. But the beautiful view is not all that Newcastle Castle has to offer: Allegedly, the castle is haunted not only by many tourists, but also by ghosts. The old walls are even the object of many paranormal investigations!
Tip 4: St Mary’s Cathedral
The Cathedral Church of St Mary is a Catholic cathedral located in the heart of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in the Granger Town district. This church cannot be called old; it was built in the middle of the nineteenth century. But it is the tallest church in the city, and its 70-meter tower is as iconic as the Cathedral of St. Nicholas or the Millennium Bridge.
In 1838, a plenary meeting of Newcastle’s resident Catholics decided to build a large and beautiful church that would “honor our faith, beautify the city, and accommodate twelve hundred people.” There were not many Catholics living in Newcastle, and the decision to build such a large church was a testament to their faith. A fundraising campaign was announced, and by 1842 enough money had been raised to buy a site and invite an architect. It turned out to be Augustus Pugin, known for his work on the Houses of Parliament in London. His conversion to Catholicism deprived him of many commissions, but secured him commissions from the Catholic Church.
In 1842, Pugin came to Newcastle and shortly thereafter presented his project. The church building committee’s funds were limited, but after much discussion they agreed on the cost and largely accepted the project. The tower and spire had to be abandoned. The church was opened in 1844. After the establishment of the Diocese of Hexham in 1850, the church became a cathedral church, and in 1860 the name was approved in honor of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The money bequeathed to the church was used for the completion of the tower and spire in 1870.
Tip 5: Gray’s Monument
Gray’s Monument is a monument to Charles Gray, 2nd Earl of Gray, erected in 1838 in the center of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. It was erected in honor of Earl Grey for passing the Great Reform Act of 1832 and stands at the beginning of Grey Street. It consists of a statue of Lord Grey standing on a Roman Doric column on a base of local sandstone, and is 135 feet (41 m) high overall. The column was designed by local architects John and Benjamin Green, and the statue was sculpted by sculptor Edward Hodges Bailey (creator of the Nelson statue in Trafalgar Square in London).
The monument is the namesake for the Monument Underground station, the Tyne and Wear Underground station directly below it in the Monument Mall shopping center, and the Monument local authority. The surrounding area is known simply as Monument.
A spiral staircase leads to a viewing platform at the top of the monument, which is sometimes open to the public. Old photos show that the monument originally stood on a security island and was surrounded by a railing. This railing no longer exists, and the area around the monument is now a pedestrian mall with numerous stores, including some independent businesses and some fine designer boutiques.
The wide base of the monument is a popular people-watching spot and often serves as a meeting place for street musicians, religious figures, and political activists / protesters.