Also known as Newcastle upon Tyne, this city in North East England is a large and vibrant urban space with a distinctive identity. Known for its iconic nightlife scene, industrial background, signature brown ale, friendliness of the locals, and Geordie dialect, Newcastle also boasts a rich cultural history. Its museums offer diverse opportunities to get immersed in the past, embrace classic and contemporary art, get acquainted with scientific discoveries, and explore the industrial heritage — not to mention the city’s impressive architecture.
1. Discovery Museum
Expect to spend a few hours at this spacious museum that is considered to hold the finest collection beyond London on developments in science, technology, and industry – with a strong local focus. Both educational and entertaining, Discovery caters to all audiences — adults and kids, maritime history buffs, and science geeks. The collection’s highlight is Turbinia, the 34-meter steam-powered ship that was the fastest in the world until 1899. The interactive Science Maze, steam engine models, and a few sections on Tyneside’s industrial, military, and social past are just as exciting.
Address: Blandford Square, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4JA
2. Laing Art Gallery
Located in a historic Baroque building with Art Nouveau elements, the Laing opened in 1904 and now houses a sizeable collection of British oil paintings, watercolors, ceramics, silverware, and glass. Check out the artworks by John Martin, the artist who was born and bred in the North East of England, and see the works by Paul Gauguin, Joshua Reynolds, and Edward Burne-Jones, Newcastle silver, Beilby enameled glass, and Maling ceramics. Add to this a small collection of sculptures, some Japanese prints, some wood engravings, and a growing selection of contemporary art — and you’ll get a very fine art museum of both national and international significance.
Address: New Bridge Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 8AG
Cost: free, but the admission fee is charged for entry to some exhibitions (usually about £9-£12)
3. Seven Stories – The National Centre for Children’s Books
Based in a renovated Victorian mill by the Quayside, a hip former industrial area, Seven Stories is the first and only museum in the UK entirely concentrated on British children’s books. The space hosts a permanent collection of books by over 250 authors and illustrators, several rotating exhibitions all year round, and a series of educational events and creative workshops for kids and grown-ups. Daily storytelling sessions are a huge hit, interactive objects are fun for toddlers, and older children who love reading and are interested in the ways books and stories are created will certainly enjoy the experience – as well as their parents who wish to expand their imagination and have fun with the kids.
Address: 30 Lime St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PQ
Cost: free (but some events are paid-for, prices vary)
4. Great North Museum: Hancock
Established in 1884, the Great North is one of the top Newcastle’s museums, with a comprehensive collection of objects focused on natural history, archaeology, geology, and world cultures. The building sits atop a WWII air raid shelter opening. Inside, from fossils and Hadrian’s Wall to the nature of Northumbria and a planetarium, there is something to explore, marvel at, and even play with (for the younger visitors) in every room. Among the items on display are a life-size cast of an African elephant, two Egyptian mummies, a full-size T-Rex replica skeleton, and a wombat that is believed to date back to the 18th century and to be the first specimen of its kind to ever reach Britain.
Address: Barras Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4PT
5. Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
The BALTIC’s iconic building, a converted flour mill, is one of the Quayside’s landmarks, signifying the transformation of a run-down industrial area into a trendy district with award-winning architecture. While there is no permanent collection, the center is home to a series of constantly rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as workshops, talks, and interactive events. Using different mediums, the artists whose works are on display explore matters of identity, gender, class, conflict, past, and future. And if you’re not exactly into contemporary art, it’s worth visiting just for the views of the cityscape, the river Tyne, and the bridges from one of the glass lifts or the top floors.
Address: South Shore Road, Gateshead NE8 3BA
6. Newcastle Castle
Built on the site of a Roman fortress that gave the city its name, Newcastle Castle is over 800 years old and includes the Castle Keep (tower) and the Black Gate (gatehouse). Over the centuries, the Castle has been used as a fort, a prison, a Sheriff’s office, and an air raid shelter, among other roles; whereas currently, it is much more than a historic structure, but is also a venue for talks, film screenings, gigs, and theatre performances. Climb to the roof of the Keep for the fantastic views of the Tyne, find your way through the maze of passageways, stairs, and chambers, and learn about the grim and gory history of Northern England.
Address: The Black Gate, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1RQ
Cost: adults: £9.95, children: £6.50
7. Hatton Gallery
Founded in 1925, Newcastle University’s art gallery hosts a diverse collection with over 3,000 works from the 14th to the 20th centuries. The centerpiece is the Merz Barn Wall, an assemblage of found objects incorporated into a wall and covered with paint and plaster. This art object is part of a construction that was created by the German artist Kurt Schwitters in 1947-48 in an actual barn and relocated to the gallery in 1965. Works by Francis Bacon, Prunella Clough, Thomas Bewick, Richard Hamilton, and Patrick Heron – to name just a few – are also on display. The gallery organizes artist and curator talks, student art shows, and other events, including family-oriented ones.
Address: Kings Road, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU
8. Ouseburn Farm
A real urban farm in the heart of Newcastle, Ouseburn Farm is a community-led charity project in a unique location under three bridges — with a quaint garden, vegetable patches, and a range of animals from pigs, sheep, and goats to chickens, ducks, and even reptiles. Particularly loved by the kids, this initiative offers its visitors an opportunity to get to know where food comes from, interact with nature in an urban environment, and learn to care for it. Animal feeding and petting sessions take place on a regular basis. Besides, there is a lovely little cafe on the premises that serves treats made onsite from locally sourced ingredients, including the freshest salad, gorgeous brownies, and herbal teas.
Address: Ouseburn Farm, Ouseburn Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PA, United Kingdom
Cost: free (but some events have an admission fee)
9. The Biscuit Factory
This spacious contemporary art gallery is based in a former warehouse that was built in 1870 and, until 2002, was used to — you guessed it — manufacture biscuits. Set across two floors, the gallery claims to host the largest collection of commercial art, crafts, and design objects in the UK. Over 200 artists exhibit their work here each season, and you can actually buy something – be it a painting, a sculpture, jewelry, or homeware. The space itself, light and airy, with the original brickwork and beams, is utterly enjoyable for fans of old industrial architecture converted into bohemian structures. Not to mention the Factory Kitchen Cafe, the place to go for brunch with its roof terrace, greenhouse, and mesmerizing views of the valley — and delicious eggs Benedict.
Address: 16 Stoddart Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1AN
10. Arbeia, South Shields Roman Fort
Feeling a bit tired of the city but can’t be bothered with a long trip? Arbeia, a Roman fort in South Shields, is easily accessible by train from Newcastle in under an hour. It is a great open-air museum for lovers of all things Roman and ruined (plus, it is by the seaside). Back in the day, the fort guarded the main sea route to Hadrian’s Wall and was a key garrison and military supply base to other forts along the Wall. Today, the fort’s remains, the reconstructed buildings on the site, including the soldiers’ barracks, and the local museum form an atmospheric environment that gives a pretty good idea of what life was like in a military setting in Roman Britain.
Address: Baring St, South Shields NE33 2BB, United Kingdom