visiting newcastle

Top 15 best attractions in Newcastle

Welcome to Newcastle upon Tyne! If you follow the list below, expect to travel to Roman Britain and back to the modern day to experience all the 15 best tourist attractions in Newcastle.

1) Newcastle Castle

What is it? A 12th-century Norman fortress that Newcastle was built around and took its name from in the middle of the city.

Why should you go? To discover the city’s early history and enjoy scenic views of the riverside and bridges from the rooftop. Near where Newcastle faces Gateshead in North East England, the northern outskirts and fortifications of the Roman Empire would be. Enter through the Black Gate and explore the Castle Keep to learn who lived here over the centuries. The Great Hall, where King Edward I would sit in 1292, is the highlight. Unveil weird medieval mysteries like a local tale of a flying donkey, and notice how development transformed the rugged castle walls by railroad to support Tyneside’s thriving coal, iron, and shipbuilding industries.

Perfect for: families, couples, history buffs

2) Hatton Gallery

What is it? A low-key modern art gallery tucked in the middle of Newcastle University campus holding big names and frequented by art students.

Why should you go? To wonder at Kurt Schwitters’ bizarre Merz Barn Wall artwork, a top draw since 1965, and flagship postwar British modernist art. Discover the epic story of the famous abstract mural by Schwitters that could have ended up in Tate and the pieces of junk it’s made up with. While Kurt Schwitters was a German in British exile, his fellow modernist masters of British origin are Francis Bacon, Richard Hamilton, the pop-art pioneer, and William Roberts, to name just some. Their works are organized in changing exhibits. While you explore what’s on, mingle with students of the vibrant Fine Art department whose works are also on display. The Hatton Gallery is one of the most popular things to do in Newcastle.

Perfect for: couples, art lovers

3) St. James’ Park stadium

What is it? A home stadium of the Newcastle United Football Club since 1892 that lets visitors on the behind-the-scenes tour.

Why should you go? To access all areas and imagine what happens beyond the St. James’ Park’s stands on a match day. The tour will take you from one of the highest points of the stadium to the pitch level, including a strut down the tunnel, into the media suite and private boxes, and, of course, into the home dressing room. On top of that, get your binoculars, helmet, and high-visibility jacket to walk the stadium’s roof 150 ft above the ground. This is what they sensibly call ‘a Magpie’s view’ of the arena and the surrounding cityscape. It can be an exciting urban adventure, even for those who are not avid football fans.

Perfect for: families, couples, football fans

4) Discovery Museum

What is it? A museum that celebrates the social history, science, and technology of Newcastle and Tyneside since 1934 and the UK’s first science museum outside London. 

Why should you go? To discover how Newcastle pioneered in shipbuilding and heavy engineering and gaze at scientific inventions by the prominent locals. See the iconic Turbinia by Charles Parsons, the world’s fastest steam-powered ship back in 1897. Working steam engines as well as the Swan’s light bulbs are featured in the popular Science Maze gallery, luring small and big kids alike into science via interactive displays. Trace the development and lifestyle of the area around Newcastle from the Roman times till nowadays and how migration shaped Tyneside in the 20th century.

Perfect for: families, kids, couples, history buffs

5) The Biscuit Factory 

What is it? An independent contemporary art gallery that displays and sells artworks, often with a North East and Newcastle connection, by local and national artists.

Why should you go? To browse a collection of works that mixes mediums in the exhibition space and watch artists creating their jewelry, ceramics, paintings, and whatnot in basement studios (and buy a piece as a keepsake). What is now the UK’s largest commercial art, craft, and design gallery was a biscuit factory warehouse back in the Victorian era, hence the appetizing name. Speaking of biscuits, climb to the rooftop cafe with panoramic views of the vibrant Ouseburn cultural quarter. Baked goods there are artisanal and local, as are the varied artworks downstairs.

Perfect for: couples, art lovers, foodies

6) The Great North Museum: Hancock

What is it? A natural history museum established during the British Empire’s heyday and brimming with artifacts from former colonies.

Why should you go? Multiple reasons. First, to discover Newcastle’s Roman ties via a large-scale model of Hadrian’s Wall and finds from the area. Second, to explore world cultures via less ancient overseas exhibits from the once colonial countries. Third, to see what’s left of Northumbria, the powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom in what is now Northern England, after the Romans left Britain for Italy in 410 AD. The fossils gallery, the planetarium, and the space for under 5s who may find British history overwhelming make the Museum a truly family attraction in Newcastle.

Perfect for: families, kids, couples, history buffs

7) Newcastle Cathedral

What is it? A spiritual landmark of Newcastle’s medieval quarter since 1180 and the UK’s only cathedral dedicated to St. Nicholas.

Why should you go? To discover 900 years of Newcastle’s history by getting to know its main cathedral. Crowned with an iconic lantern tower to navigate the ships on the River Tyne since the 15th century, it lets you step inside and climb upstairs, with a stop-over at the ringing room, in spring and summer. Atop the stately roof, take in the unique aerial view of the city and learn how a quick-witted mayor of Newcastle saved the venerable landmark from destruction by Scottish invaders in 1644. When down, feast your eyes on the magnificent stained-glass windows and Quire and High Altar from the 1880s, that adorn pointy gothic interiors.

Perfect for: families, couples, history buffs

8) Life Science Centre

What is it? A real-life science village, with even a clinic aboard, a family attraction in Newcastle.

Why should you go? To travel the universe in the immersive planetarium, packed with state-of-the-art technologies like Digistar 7, and take part in a handful of other space, climate change, human biology, and engineering-themed imaginative activities as a family — all hands-on and fun, yet educational and based on correct science. If under 7s are with you, grab a so-called discovery backpack, an age-specific kit for them to connect to nature and natural forces while indoors. Borrow colored filters and glasses from your little one to see the rainbow and experience the Overview Effect when looking at the 7-meter-diameter Gaia artwork, as astronauts do.

Perfect for: families, kids, couples

9) Victoria tunnel

What is it? A Victorian-era coal wagon way in Newcastle that served as an underground air-raid shelter during World War II, now open to visitors on guided tours.

Why should you go? To hear the industrial and the WWII past echoing in the historic tunnel that stretches over two miles under Newcastle. Imagine coal-filled wagons rumbling through it in complete darkness, from the pit mouth to the river Tyne. Next, the air-raid sirens and the sounds of air bomb explosions will follow. A disturbing immersive experience! Guided by the commentary on your walkthrough, visualize the Newcastle sights above the ground and how they constructed the tunnel back in 1842, diligently yet surprisingly fast for the time.

Perfect for: families, couples, history buffs

10) Literary and Philosophical Society

What is it? An ‘exquisite secret library’ established in 1793 and frequented by inventors, visionaries, and literature types like Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde, and Gertrude Bell.

Why should you go? To get a real feel of a Victorian-era’ conversation club’ headquarters and learn how it turned into an independent library with 170,000 plus books, the largest one outside London. Not only they held cerebral conversations, but they also showed off scientific breakthroughs here. Say, the Swan’s lightbulb was lit for the first time during a lecture at the Lit & Phil in 1879. Apart from Joseph Swan, Charles Parsons, Robert Stephenson, and Lord Armstrong would take part. After the free tour, stay for people-watching as the enlightened old souls keep coming for a good read and chat under the spectacular ceiling.

Perfect for: couples, history buffs

11) BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

What is it? A contemporary art gallery in a former flour mill building in Quayside, the largest outside London, regular museum-goer-friendly and with no permanent collection.

Why should you go? To experience head-turning visual arts by local, national, and foreign artists. Baltic Gateshead hosts headline-grabbing events like Hew Locke’s The Procession installation, being second to Tate Britain to stage it. There are four floors of art, from solo exhibitions on colonialism to North East landscape-themed group exhibitions of the local artists. If puzzled by what you see, ask the Baltic crew to comment on an ambiguous artwork. Before or after the art-looking, take a scenic glass lift to the famous terrace and viewing box on the top level for a bird’s view of Quayside. Besides, kittiwakes holiday here in the summer, and you can meet them on a free tour.

Perfect for: families, couples, art lovers

12) Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum

What is it? The most excavated Roman fort along Hadrian’s Wall, built in 122 AD to accommodate 600 Roman soldiers, with a revealing section of the wall’s eastern end still intact.

Why should you go? To see the UK’s only reconstruction of a Roman bathhouse in full scale and how high and thick Hadrian’s Wall was at the time of Emperor Hadrian. Climb the viewing tower to observe the archeological site and learn how the area changed over time when coal miners and shipbuilders took over. Apart from the living quarters, granary stores, walls, and gateways, there was a hospital in Segedunum. For more on the fort’s layout and life at the frontier of Roman Britain, get a free audio guide and walk the sprawling grounds.

Perfect for: families, couples, history buffs

13) Arbeia South Shields’ Roman Fort

What is it? A Roman fort built in 160 AD at the mouth of the River Tyne to be a significant military and supply base and support all the forts along Hadrian’s Wall while guarding it from the seaside.

Why should you go? To get an intimate experience of how Romans would live far away from the Mediterranean, in Roman Britain. Arbeia is famous for its UNESCO-featured lifesize reconstructions atop vestiges of the original Roman buildings, furnished and decorated. In the gatehouse, follow the guards’ views down the River Tyne. At the soldier’s barracks and officer’s house, notice the difference in lifestyles that 600 soldiers and officers would lead together with their families. Among the finest excavated items on display are the UK’s best preserved Roman chain-mail shirt and the original Regina tombstone, so important that the British Museum holds its copy.

Perfect for: families, couples, history buffs

14) Shipley Art Gallery

What is it? One of the major British design museums outside of London, famous for paintings from Britain and beyond and contemporary craft of the UK. Joseph Shipley and Henry Rothschild’s private collections are at the core.

Why should you go? Firstly, to browse Henry Rothschild’s eclectic studio ceramics collection, driven by his enduring passion for ceramics and discovering new pieces since the 1950s. Secondly, to see William Irving’s Blaydon Races painting, emblematic for a north-eastern museum and local Newcastle United fans. Thirdly, to check out the finest collection of works by 16th and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish artists in the UK. As for the storied British craft and design, feast your eyes on Sowerby’s and Davidson’s glassware sampling, the most impressive in the whole UK.

Perfect for: families, couples, art lovers, history buffs

15) Laing Art Gallery

What is it? A flagship art gallery in Newcastle that mixes the biggest names with celebrated north-eastern artists. 

Why should you go? To take a history lesson and see Newcastle in watercolors, changing over the centuries, and discover regional decorative arts. Look out for George Clausen’s Stone Pickers painting, one of the first five to enter the Gallery in 1907. Fun fact: open in 1904, it had nothing to exhibit but the wood shavings, and they were a tremendous success. So are the landscapes by John Martin, works by John Charlton, and Ralph Hedley and Gerrard Robinson’s woodcarving. While browsing their artworks, admire Beilby enameled glass and Maling pottery, too. Did we mention JMW Turner and Joshua Reynolds?

Perfect for: families, couples, art lovers, history buffs

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