It also has pristine pavements, shiny buildings, pricey drinks and European funding, which has led to its latest rash of superimposed ‘culture’.
Whether it’s the Angel of the North, the Blue (but it’s grey”) Carpet or Sir Norman Foster’s Sage Music Centre, Newcastle has developed an identity beyond football and short-skirted ladies. But don’t despair – the city is still as much about having a good time as ever.
Getting your bearings
Newcastle is the largest city in the north-east of England, sitting on the opposite bank of the River Tyne from Gateshead. The city is extremely well connected by rail, the A1 motorway, a coach station and an international airport.
Walking is the easiest way to get around once you’re in Newcastle, but use the Metro to get to the suburbs; it’s safe, clean and very reliable. The most central Metro stop is Monument.
WORTH A LOOK
The heart of modern Newcastle is the newly developed quayside. Newcastle and Gateshead are linked by seven bridges whose proximity form a dramatic collage and perfect material for amateur photographers. The newest, the Millennium Bridge, which revolves in a ‘blinking’ motion, links the best Pitcher & Piano bar in the country with the Baltic contemporary art centre. The latter was formerly a grain house and now provides excellent views of the Tyne, but its exhibitions often draw a disappointed ‘so what?’ reaction. There are echoes of Sydney Harbour in the Tyne Bridge and the recently opened Sage Music Centre, although perhaps the most impressive feature of the quayside is the 19th century High Level Bridge.
It’s worth seeing a little more than just the city centre. Newcastle’s a great hub from which to get to the desolate remains of Hadrian’s Wall, where you can walk or investigate the ruins.
The Northumberland coast
As impressive as Hadrian’s Wall is the north-east coast, famed for its beautiful, sandy coastline, especially at Tynemouth, venue for the annual British Cup surfing competition. Dotted about the county are many castles such as Alnwick, which featured in the Harry Potter films, and Bamburgh, which sticks out dramatically over the fairytale crags and white sands.
We’ve come so far only to hiccup at the end. Newcastle is famed for drinking and the notorious Bigg Market is still going strong, while the more sophisticated Central Station area, the pricier Quayside and the gay Pink Triangle are also good for supping. If you’re lucky and happen to hit some good weather, Osborne Road in Jesmond is a plum choice. There are numerous bars running along the strip and they all have beer gardens from which to have a look at the passing lads and lasses.
As you’ll discover, Newcastle isn’t all beer and football, but the two are close to the heart of most Geordies. Just beware of overdoing it or you could end up at the fabled Newcastle Brown Ale ward of the city’s General Hospital.
Bonus points for: Being easy to get around
Loses marks for: Huge queues for some bars
Check out: www.thenortheast.com