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Old Castle and Black Gate, Newcastle

Old Castle and Black Gate, Newcastle - card posted 1904

Lively home of the 'Geordies'

by Jo Liddall

The first thing that strikes you about NewcastleGateshead is the sheer energy that is bouncing around these two cities. The reason for all this? An incredible mix of new developments, ground-breaking designs, innovative restorations and a surge of creative talent, which has seen this region move from interesting to exhilarating.

Lying close to England’s north-eastern coast, the two cities sit side by side, divided only by the River Tyne. This is a great place for walking around and exploring. First head down to the Quayside area, for a view of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge (it closes like a winking eye to allow ships to pass), meander amongst the street art and perhaps enjoy a light lunch in one of the bars or restaurants.

Across the bridge lies the Gateshead Quays and the most exciting new development of the moment, Baltic, one of Europe’s largest contemporary art spaces. This former flour mill has been cleverly restored to house five galleries, a cinema, library, as well as two cafes and a rooftop restaurant offering the best views of the city. Wander here at night and the galaxy of coloured lights that adorn both the bridge and quaysides is captivating.

Grainger Street, Newcastle

Grainger Street, Newcastle - card posted 1902

Situated right in the heart of Newcastle, the historic area of Grainger Town is where you go to enjoy beautifully restored Georgian architecture, grab a coffee and people watch. This is also the ideal starting place for a spot of shopping. Trendy British clothes shops are clustered around here and close-by, Grainger Market offers the opportunity to pleasantly spend an hour or so sifting through stalls selling CDs, books, clothes and specialist foods.

Shopping is something of a passion in NewcastleGateshead. The sheer size and variety of the numerous shopping centres means you need to do some careful planning if you want to visit them all. In Eldon Square you will find over 140 shops including two of the countries best known department stores. Linked to Eldon Square is Eldon Garden, where the emphasis is on designer brand clothing. You will need some stamina if you plan to visit the MetroCentre in Gateshead, too. There are few shopping centres in Europe that are this large.

However MetroCentre goes beyond the usual shopping experience: try the indoor theme park, catch a movie at the eleven-screen cinema or go bowling.

Back in Newcastle, one of a kind is The Biscuit Factory, Europe's largest commercial arts base, where hundreds of items of art - paintings, prints, ceramics, glass, sculpture and furniture- by national and international artists are on sale. It’s a real magnet for artists and art lovers and a cool place to eat and relax.

The locals, known as Geordies, are legendary for having an excellent sense of humour, a zest for life and a determination to have plenty of fun, which is why you’ll find the city’s nightlife buzzing. I can remember being astounded on my first night out in Newcastle by the variety of restaurants and bars the city had to offer and even more surprisingly the large number of people filling them. Knowing where to start is difficult, though most people seem to head for the Quayside and its plethora of restaurants and bars. Venture out to the suburbs and you’ll find some laid-back stylish bars and restaurants along the Osborne Road in Jesmond. Hidden away in Newcastle’s centre, around Stowell Street, is Chinatown, a great place for an authentic Chinese meal. Head back to this area on a Sunday lunchtime and call into the Blackfriars Café Bar who host an excellent Sunday jazz lunch.

There’s good theatre here too, from cutting-edge dramas at Newcastle Playhouse and Live Theatre, to major productions by Opera North, Ballet Rambert and the Royal Shakespeare Company to name just a few, which show at the Theatre Royal. City Hall in the Haymarket district has a great reputation for comedy and music, as does Hyena, a premier comedy venue.

A pleasing way to spend your ‘morning after the night before’ is to meander through Jesmond Dene, a tranquil Victorian park complete with waterfall and watermill and on to Armstrong Bridge, where every Sunday morning an art market is held. Have a last minute cultural fix with a visit to the Laing Art Gallery, for both historical and contemporary exhibitions and get out to see the famous Angel of the North sculpture, the largest piece of public art in the world. Time to spare? Then hop on a train and in a little over ten minutes you can be in the historic city of Durham, with its cobbled streets and fabulous cathedral and castle, together designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Getting to Newcastle couldn’t be easier: fly direct from cities including Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Prague, Oslo and Barcelona or take a ferry across the North Sea from Amsterdam, Kristiansand, Gothenburg, Bergen, Haugesund and Stavanger.

King Edward VII Bridge, Newcastle

King Edward VII Bridge, Newcastle - card posted 1906

Old Counties and Islands


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