How to spend 48 hours in Newcastle
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Newcastle has earned itself a bit of a reputation.
It’s famous for its amazing atmosphere and being a cheap night out — so ideal for stag and hen dos. Not only that, the hit reality show “Geordie Shore” did a good job of putting Newcastle on the map as a party city.
That’s not all bad, of course. Who doesn’t love a good night out? That said, as a northeastern lad born and bred, I feel like it’s my duty to give you an insight into our beautiful city and prove that there’s more to it than just drinking and partying.
Howay then, let’s dive in.
You’d be right in thinking that Newcastle is far from everywhere. In fact, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam are closer to London than Newcastle is. That said, there are plenty of relatively quick, cheap and easy options to get you to the Toon from wherever you are in the country.
Newcastle Airport (NCL) is well connected to the rest of the U.K. There are direct flights to Heathrow (LHR) with British Airways, Belfast (BFS) and Bristol (BRS) with EasyJet, Aberdeen (ABZ) and Exeter (EXT) with Loganair and Southampton with Eastern Airways and Loganair.
Newcastle is on the East Coast mainline route from London up to towns and cities across Scotland. The line is operated by LNER, which has just rolled out a new fleet of state-of-the-art Azuma trains, which means the journey can now be as quick as just two hours and 48 minutes. There are also direct services to other towns and cities across the country including Manchester, Birmingham and even as far as Plymouth in the West Country.
When booked far enough in advance, you can bag a return from London to Newcastle for just £59 return.
The A1(M) out of London heads directly north-west out of the capital and snakes its way all the way up to Newcastle. Roughly speaking, you’re looking at a drive time of anywhere between just over five hours, up to a max of about seven or eight depending on how bad the traffic is and how often you stop.
Where to stay
Like many cities, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to where to stay.
Two of the big three hotel chains have hotels in the city centre of Newcastle — Hilton and IHG. However, one hotel in particular really stands out from the crowd. Technically not even in Newcastle, the Hilton Gateshead is in a prime position overlooking the iconic Tyne Bridge and the city of Newcastle. If you like a room with a view, then look no further.
Nightly rates for September start at around £60 or 20,000 points for Hilton Honors members.
Roomzzz in Newcastle is perfectly located. It’s round the corner from the main railway station and only a few minutes walk from the bars, restaurants and stunning river views of the Quayside. Roomzzz is a beautifully designed aparthotel with a difference. You get all the benefits and freedom of living in an apartment like a fully equipped kitchen and space to work, but with added hotel perks like daily housekeeping, complimentary grab-and-go breakfast and a 24-hour reception desk.
Oh, and the views from some of the rooms are rather spectacular.
Rooms start at around £56 per night.
Hotel du Vin in Newcastle is one of 19 unique properties belonging to the same group of boutique hotels located around the U.K. It’s situated a little farther out of town than the others, but this Edwardian building on the banks of the Tyne really is worth going the extra distance for. Each of the property’s 42 rooms and suites has their own individual style and character. From deep, free-standing baths, powerful showers to fine Egyptian linen and hand sprung mattresses, you’re sure to feel refreshed and relaxed at the Hotel du Vin.
If you’re a foodie, then the hotel’s bistro will have your mouth watering with its classic French meets modern British menu.
Rooms start at around £75 per night.
Things to do
Newcastle city centre is compact and getting about doesn’t require public transport. There is a Metro system with a few city centre stops, but it’s mainly to link the airport, the city centre, the North Tyneside coastline and Sunderland to the south-east.
The Toon is a very green city, with lots of outside space. The most famous of all is Town Moor — one of the biggest urban park areas in the U.K. At over 1,000 acres, it’s bigger than Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath in London put together. It’s great for running, picnicking or just going for a post-brunch stroll. It’s also home once a year to Europe’s biggest travelling funfair — The Hoppings.
If history is your thing, then you absolutely must hit up the Victoria Tunnel. It’s a 19th-century coal wagonway and WW2 air-raid shelter deep underneath the city.
For those not-so-sunny days, the city has plenty of attractions to keep you occupied indoors. The Sage and the Baltic are landmark venues on the Gateshead side of the Tyne. The former is a stunning music and concert venue and the latter is a major international contemporary art gallery, both of which are well worth a visit. For kids (and grown-ups), the Life Centre promises an educational yet fun-filled, hands-on day out for all the family.
Rising above the city is the impressive St James’ Park stadium — home to Newcastle United. Tours are available of this magnificent feat of engineering, in all its whopping 52,404-capacity glory. Even on non-match days, you can feel the electric atmosphere in the air as you wander around the ninth biggest stadium in England.
Shoppers, rejoice. Newcastle has its fair share of high-end and high street names where you’re sure to spend a few hours and more than a few pounds. The main shopping street, Northumberland Street, is home to the original department store, Fenwicks. The Harrods of the North, if you will, is a maze of designer labels, make-up and more. Its newly opened food hall is worth a visit on its own with a European-style delicatessen and a huge selection of wines and gins from around the world.
Afterwards, sit down, relax and indulge in fine meats and wines at the Porterhouse Butcher and Grill. If you’re visiting at Christmas, be sure not to miss the festive spirit of the famous Fenwick’s Christmas window display, which attracts families from miles around.
Coffee, brunch and evenings out
If like me, you’re a coffee lover, you’ll want to know the best non-chain places to get your caffeine fix. I was recently introduced to Laneway & Co by a friend who knows more about coffee than I do. The coffee, as you’d imagine, was delicious and the aesthetic and atmosphere really give this place an edge.
As the best coffee shop in the northeast as well as being in the top 50 coffee shops in England, Flat Caps Coffee should also definitely be on your list.
For a hearty brunch, I’d recommend The Biscuit Factory — the U.K.’s largest contemporary, craft and design gallery, and Horticulture — a relatively new kid on the block with a vegan hash to die for and more than 40 espresso martinis to choose from come the evening.
As a busy day closes, make time to have a quick wardrobe change before heading to the Quayside with its bars and restaurants galore. There are so many places to choose from you’ll have a hard time fitting them all in, in just 48 hours. The shortlist includes Aveika and Babucho, which are popular favourites among locals for a slap-up dinner. The latter is a New York-style brasserie where the Sunday roasts are delicious. The former is a contemporary Japanese restaurant where the tagline is “Dine, Drink, Dance” — your one-stop-shop for an evening out on the town.
Bias aside, Newcastle really is a city like no other. From gastronomy to shopping, nightlife to culture and the arts, it really has something for everyone. What sets it apart, though, is the unmistakable Geordie friendliness and charm which you just don’t find anywhere else. And 48 hours won’t be enough, I promise.
Featured photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy
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