One of the most fascinating things about the UK’s historic cities is the way they mix the new with the old. Newcastle is, in my opinion, among the very best places to experience this, home to ancient monuments and modern marvels alike.
So, I think if you’re planning a trip there it’s only natural to organise seeing a few of these – especially if this’ll be your first visit. What I recommend is taking yourself on a little guided tour through Newcastle’s past, starting with some of the most iconic modern monuments and working your way back through the ages.
I’ve suggested a few places to visit below, while in broader terms of your trip I think it’s worth booking hotel accommodation in central Newcastle to make sure you’re within easy reach of all the most exciting buildings.
1) Gateshead Millennium Bridge
First on my list is the spectacular Gateshead Millennium Bridge, which holds the distinction of being the first and only tilting bridge in the world. Of course, it has a functional purpose too, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to flit easily between Newcastle and Gateshead, but this doesn’t detract from the sheer artistry of its design.
Opened in 2001, the bridge is stunning no matter what time of the day you visit. It’s particularly scenic at night, when it’s lit up beautifully so that the Tyne flowing beneath it takes on a mirror-like sheen – but I reckon you should do your best to see it when it tilts.
When exactly you can do this depends on both the season and the timing of ships that need to pass under the bridge, so it’s best to check the website for specific tilt times. Until September 30th, it’s scheduled to tilt at midday each day.
2) The Angel of the North
Next on my list is the Angel of the North, which is an attraction you really shouldn’t miss. And, in fact, if you’re driving to your destination it’s pretty hard to, since it’s next to the A1 and seen by around 90,000 drivers a day.
Installed in 1998, the Angel of the North is imposing, awe-inspiring, arresting. To be honest, given it has a wingspan that equals a jumbo jet’s, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t. 20 m high and 54 m wide (wings included), the Antony Gormley-designed angel is made from a whopping 200 tonnes of steel.
3) Grainger Town
Back in the heart of Newcastle is the wonderful Grainger Town. This is an area full of classical architecture of New Castle designed by Richard Grainger, with much of its dating back to the 1830s.
What I love about Grainger Town is not only that there’s so much to see, but also that it’s located so centrally, proving that Newcastle’s history is every bit a part of the city as its modern life. The area includes Grainger Street, Grey Street, Theatre Royal, Grainger Market and Grey’s Monument – be sure to check out them all.
4) Castle Keep
Last up we have the historic Castle Keep – a grade I listed building and one of the very finest Norman stone keeps standing in England today. Like Grainger Town, the keep is in the heart of the city, and is a must-visit.
While exploring the keep, make sure you climb to the very top. By doing so, you can get some absolutely spectacular views of the city and the river. In terms of how this attraction helps you build a picture of the city’s history, it stands on the site of an old motte and bailey Norman castle – and it was from this that the city took its name.