Its vibrant arts scene and gritty industrial heritage have seen the city emerge amid global competition as the place to visit in 2018, writes Joe Zadeh
For many years, Newcastle was known as a ‘party city’. A place for stags and hens to spend their weekends, or football fans to enjoy a few beers. It’s easy to see where that party reputation came from: at any given time the city is bristling with energy and activity, with an abundance of pubs and clubs that create an infectious and jubilant atmosphere.
But to call it a ‘party city’ also criminally undersells this Northern beacon, because it is brimming with culture, arts, adventures, cuisine and creativity that just begs to be explored. Last year, Rough Guides named Newcastle the top destination to visit in 2018, ahead of New Orleans, Chile and Valletta (one of the 2018 European Capitals of Culture). It may have surprised the world, but it didn’t shock the Geordies.
To get your bearings in Newcastle, the best place to start is on the Quayside, down by the River Tyne. Over the years, these river banks have been wonderfully modernised, transforming the area from its proud industrial past while still retaining much of the Georgian architecture of its heritage. Here you will get your first glimpse of the famous seven bridges of Newcastle, ranging from the iconic Tyne Bridge to the more futuristic Millennium Bridge. They are quite the vision when seen at night.
Cross over the Millennium Bridge to the Baltic Centre, an old flour mill that has been transformed into a hub of contemporary arts. Over the years, it has hosted exhibitions with huge art names such as Nan Goldin and Chris Burden, and hosted the Turner Prize in 2011. Next door is the curved steel monolith that is Sage Gateshead, a prestigious live music venue where you can catch everything from Norwegian classical to art rock.
When you’re down on the Quayside, neither art, food or drink are ever far away. Beneath the Tyne Bridge on the Gateshead side there is the newly opened By the River Brew, a “shipping container village” that hosts 15 independent street traders selling everything from pizza, oysters, tacos and burgers, to ice creams, cakes, crêpes and waffles. But if you’re looking for something a little more luxurious then try House of Tides, a family-run Michelin-starred restaurant that prides itself on using local ingredients.
No matter where you walk in Newcastle, the history leaps out at you – in the 12th-century castle that gives the city its name and the 1930s Tyneside Cinema in the city centre. One of the best ways to see this is on one of the many walking tours. Iles Tours provide a trip to remember, taking visitors to the castle, up Grey Street and past the many churches, while telling the story of how Victorian entrepreneurs turned this city into an industrial powerhouse.
For the past few months, Newcastle has been celebrating The Great Exhibition of the North, a summer-long feast of activities that encourage pride and appreciation for the creativity, ingenuity and authenticity of Northern England. When you spend a holiday in this city, you can see just why. ABTAmag.com