DAY 1

10:00 A far cry from its reputation as a grim, industrial, coal mining city, Newcastle is smart, sophisticated and packed with culture and entertainment.

Start your day with a good northern fry up at Kafe Neon (full English breakfast £4.50) to steel you against the cold.

11:00 Get your bearings with a walk over one of Newcastle’s most famous landmarks, the Tyne Bridge, which crosses the River Tyne in the centre of the city.

There are a cluster of other bridges nearby, including the award-winning Millennium Bridge, nicknamed the Blinking Bridge because it opens like an eyelid to let boats pass.

12:00 The Laing Art Gallery is packed with collections of world-class paintings and sculptures which you can see free of charge. Go and admire the Henry Moore and Paul Gauguin works.

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14:00 Get stuck into a hefty portion of mussels or fish and chips from great-value seafood grill The Big Mussel (mains from £5.50 before 7pm. The atmosphere here is laid-back and cheerful.

15:00 Fancy delving into a bit of northern history? Visit the Castle Keep (entry £4), which was built by Henry II between 1168-1178, and is one of the best-preserved examples of a Norman keep in England.

16:00 While you’re there, stop by Newcastle’s iconic Black Gate. The last addition to the medieval castle defences, it was added by Henry III in 1250.

17:00 Just a few hundred metres away is The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, England’s most northerly cathedral. Inside are beautiful stained glass windows from the late 19th century.

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19:00 Treat yourself to a slap-up dinner at The Cherry Tree (mains from £11.50) where the meaty menu offers crispy belly pork, five-spice roasted duck and a rib-eye steak for two to share.

21:00 The city’s nightlife is notoriously raucous, so after filling your boots, join the revellers down at The Quayside, where every chain bar in England seems to be represented.

Want a dirty, boozy evening of Aftershock shots and two-for-one blue WKDs? Head to branches of Pitcher and Piano, Wetherspoon’s, Tiger Tiger and The Slug and Lettuce.

All will be jam-packed on a Saturday night, but if you’d rather drink somewhere a little less generic, opt for World Headquarters (admission £5, drinks about £3), where alternative DJs and bands play until 5am.

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DAY 2

10:00 After a good night’s rest at cosy B&B The Cumberland Arms (double rooms from £80pn based on two sharing) get stuck into their continental breakfast to ready you for the day ahead. 

11:00 Start off your day’s adventures with a meander round the Sunday Quayside Market, where you can pick up quirky threads from local designers, jewellery and artwork from the stalls along the waterfront.

12:00 If you’re after somewhere a bit out of the ordinary for a leisurely lunch, head to Blackfriars (mains from £9, which is set in a former 13th-century Dominican Monastery.

Quintessentially British dishes are what this restaurant does best, so tuck into bangers and mash with onion gravy or North Sea fishcakes.

13:30 You’ll soon notice that Geordies are football mad, and naturally their loyalties lie with Newcastle FC.

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Take a tour of the football clubs stadium, St James’ Park (£10) to see the dugouts, players’ changing rooms and the views from the highest point in the venue.

13:00 If that’s not enough footie for you, make your way to the Life Science Centre (entry £7.95) for a go on the Motion Ride, a simulator that lets you ‘feel’ what it’s like to score a goal at St James’ Park.

17:00 It might be a little out of your way, but a quick drive on the A1 to see the famous steel sculpture, Angel of the North, has to be squeezed into your weekend, and now’s a good time.

At 20m tall and weighing 200 tonnes, it’s an impressive sight. Geordies also call it the ‘Gateshead Flasher’ because of its posture.

18:00 Hungry? Stop in at The Living Room (mains from £9.50) for a reliably decent gourmet burger and a few glasses of wine.

19:00 Then finish off your weekend with a few belly laughs at Jongleurs Comedy Club, where top UK comedians crack jokes that are the perfect combination of obscene and offensive, but still hilarious.

Trains run from London King’s Cross to Newcastle from £68.50 return.

See: thetrainline.com

Photos: TNT, Getty, Thinkstock