From the rejuvenated waterfront party zone to the handsome central shopping streets and up-and-coming Gateshead just south of the river, there’s a sense of historic grandeur mixed with irrepressible youth.
Picture Newcastle, and the image that springs to mind is likely the Tyne Bridge – an epic arched structure of steel girders based on the design of Sydney Harbour’s famous coat hanger.
Running alongside it – and affording excellent views of the Tyne on the journey into Newcastle’s central station – is the double-tiered High Level Bridge, built to carry the East Coast Main Line on its way to Edinburgh.
Of the seven bridges clustered along this short section of the Tyne, the other one worth a look is the Millennium, or Blinking Eye, Bridge (main image).
Constructed as part of a regeneration project for the Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside, this clever design opens like a winking eye to allow ships to pass underneath.
The Millennium Bridge links the bar-lined boardwalk along the Quayside on the north of the river with the arts and entertainment venues across the Tyne in Gateshead.
Take time to wander along the waterfront, pausing to gaze across to the stocky grain store that now houses the Baltic modern art gallery and the futuristic curves of Norman Foster’s Sage live music venue.
It’s worth checking out what’s on at Baltic. There are no fixed exhibits, but the gallery attracts installations by some of the world’s leading contemporary artists.
City of angels
Antony Gormley’s immediately recognisable Angel Of The North statue stands sentinel over the A1 about 8km south of Newcastle.
Whether you’re arriving by train or on the main road from London, watch out for the panorama of the world’s most-viewed work of art.
The rust-coloured, 20m structure caused quite a stir when it was unveiled in 1998, at a cost of £1 million. But the benevolent presence of the angel with its gravity-defying, outstretched wings soon won over the Geordies, who – with their characteristic good humour – affectionately nicknamed it the Gateshead Flasher.
» Claire Goodall travelled with National Express East Coast
The ex-newcastle factor
The sexiest woman in the world (according to FHM) was born and raised in Newcastle, before shooting to fame in Popstars: The Rivals. Several Girls Aloud albums, one footballer hubby and an X Factor contract later, Cheryl Cole is the darling of gossip mags the world over.
It’s not just the Tyne Bridge that has links Down Under. I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! presenting duo Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly started out their careers as PJ and Duncan on kids’ TV show Byker Grove, set in the eponymous Newcastle suburb.
Acca Dacca frontman Brian Johnson grew up in Gateshead, and was a founding member of glam rock band Geordie before he auditioned to replace Bon Scott in the line-up of Australia’s best-ever rock group.