A Perfect Weekend in Newcastle: Itinerary & Best Things to Do

London is not the only city break in England. Vibrant Newcastle upon Tyne, the jewel of the northeast, is a perfect destination for a fun-packed weekend city break or UK staycation.

The main challenge of spending a weekend in Newcastle is deciding what to do. Hit the ground running in the so-called hipster capital of the north with my 3-day Newcastle itinerary.

This includes the best things to do in Newcastle whilst making the most of the coastline on its doorstep. In this guide, you will also find tips on how to get to Newcastle, how to get around and where to stay.

bridges across the river tyne seen during a weekend in newcastle

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Why I Loved My Weekend in Newcastle

Newcastle is one of my favourite UK city breaks.

It’s compact, is served by excellent transport links and has a historic Georgian core. The city is also home to a thriving cultural and foodie scene and boasts a rejuvenated quayside punctuated by a series of elegant bridges.

If that’s not enough, Newcastle is within easy reach of several outstanding beaches and the wild Northumberland countryside and makes an excellent base for day trips to the historic city of Durham or the vestiges of Hadrian’s Wall.

My 3-Day Newcastle Itinerary in a Nutshell

Structure your weekend in Newcastle with my tried and tested itinerary. This will help you explore the city’s landmarks, make the most of the glorious coastline on its doorstep and take a day trip to Durham.

  • DAY 1: City walking tour; Walk from Tynemouth to Whitley Bat
  • DAY 2: Angel of the North; Day Trip to Durham
  • DAY 3: Walk from Warkworth to Alnmouth
narrow street with georgian buildings in newcatle upon tyne
grey stone carving of mythical creatures on exterior of building

Newcastle Weekend Itinerary: Day 1

The first day of your weekend in Newcastle starts with a self-guided walking tour of the city. In the afternoon, take a short train journey to Tynemouth for an easy walk along Northumberland’s spectacular coastline.

Your day will end with a well-deserved supper at the best fish & chips restaurant in the UK.

For me, there is no better way to quickly get to know a city than to pound its pavements. I’ve done this across the globe, from walking along Kraków’s Royal Road to strolling the vibrant streets of vibrant La Boca, Buenos Aires.

Where possible, I prefer to seek out a guided city walking tour. But as I visited Newcastle in the era of Covid-19, these were not an option, so self-guided it was.

This Newcastle self-guided walking tour is two miles, starting at Newcastle railway station and finishing at the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Although you can complete this walk in less than one hour, I recommend a more leisurely pace, stopping to see Newcastle’s iconic landmarks along the way.

To follow this map or send it to your phone, click on this link or on the image.

MAP OF A SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR OF NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
Self-guided walking tour of Newcastle upon Tyne (click on image for interactive map). Map data @ 2024 Google

Start at Newcastle’s railway station.

Opened in 1850, the award-winning, neo-classical grandeur of the station building reflects Newcastle’s status as an industrial powerhouse.

vaulted ceiling and interior of newcastle railway station

In the 19th Century, shipbuilding and the wool trade were thriving and the River Tyne was a major trade artery. Much of the vast quantities of coal mined in pits in the surrounding area also passed through Newcastle Station.  

Across the road from the train station is the imposing St. Mary’s Cathedral.

statue of basil hume outside front of st marys cathedral in newcastle

It was designed by Augustus Welby Pugin, better known as the architect responsible for the Palace of Westminster, one of London’s most recognisable landmarks. This Catholic cathedral was completed in 1844 and features remarkable stained glass in its east window.

The cathedral’s somewhat unloved garden is dedicated to Cardinal Basil Hume who was born and grew up in Newcastle.

Five minutes walk from St. Mary’s Cathedral is Stowell Street, the centre of Newcastle’s Chinatown. Founded in 1972, Newcastle’s Chinatown is relatively young, but the city is now home to the sixth-largest Chinese community in Britain.

If you are a football fan, why not take the opportunity to take a peek at St. James’ Park, home to Newcastle United Football Club, and immediately north of Chinatown? Otherwise, walk a few minutes west to Grey’s Monument, at the heart of Grainger Town, Newcastle’s historic heart.

Rising 135 feet above the northern end of Grainger Street like a giant exclamation mark, this is a monument to Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, who was Prime Minister between 1830 – 1844.

greys monument and georgian buildings in newcastle england

Although he is perhaps better known for lending his name to the fragrant Earl Grey tea, he was instrumental in passing the Great Reform Act of 1832, which indirectly led to the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire a year later.

Grey Street, stretching south from Grey’s Monument, is said to be one of the finest streets in Britain. Shaped by neo-classical design, Grey Street features a sweeping curve of Georgian buildings and includes the Theatre Royal.

Your next stop is Newcastle Cathedral.

One of the oldest buildings in Newcastle, St. Nicholas Cathedral’s striking lantern tower and spire was used for many centuries as a navigation point for ships using the River Tyne.

statue of queen victoria in front of newcastle cathedral

Outside the cathedral is a bronze statue of Queen Victoria in her full regalia as Empress of India.

A few minutes south of the cathedral is Newcastle Castle.

Novum Castellum or ‘new castle’ was built in the 11th Century on the site of a Roman fort overlooking the river. However, this wooden Norman castle has not survived and the stone castle we see today was built in the late 12th Century by Henry II.

The Black Gate, comprising two towers and a connecting passage, was a later addition.

Continue walking toward the river and the High Level Bridge.

walkway of iron and concrete suspension high level bridge in newcastle

Opened in 1850, this was the world’s first combined railway and road bridge and was used for transporting coal. Designed by the famed railway engineer Robert Stephenson, also responsible for the Royal Border Bridge in Berwick Upon Tweed, the High Level Bridge carried trains between London and Edinburgh until 1906.

Today, it is now used by trains going towards Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

Crossing the High Level Bridge to Gateshead on the opposite riverbank gives you one of the best views along the River Tyne.

series of bridges across roiver tyne in newcastle england

Immediately to your left is the low-lying, colourful Swing Bridge, spanning the point in the river where the Romans built their first bridge 2,000 years ago.

Next up is the Tyne Bridge.  Opened in 1928, this iconic arch bridge was built by the same company that built another of the world’s iconic sights, Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Finally, in the near distance is the newest of Newcastle’s bridges, Gateshead Millennium Bridge. In a move from the functional to recreational, this striking structure, echoing the shape of the Tyne Bridge, is a bridge of its time, transporting not coal but people on a night out.

curved arch of newcastles milennium bridge and buildings along the riverfront

Once you reach Gateshead, helpful signs will guide you west towards the Glasshouse International Centre for Music, housed within a gracefully curved glass and stainless steel shell. 

Continue along South Shore Road and you will reach the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Formally one of several flour mills that lined the River Tyne, the building now houses a changing programme of art exhibitions and events.

You are now at the end of your Newcastle self-guided walking tour. All that remains is to cross the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and grab lunch at one of the cafes and restaurants that line the lively Quayside.

globe sculpture on newcastle quayside with baltic building in background

The Northumberland coast is blessed with beautiful beaches and is punctuated with historic castles. And the good news is that you don’t have to travel far outside Newcastle to visit these.

This easy three-mile coastal walk from Tynemouth to Whitley Bay starts with a ruined castle and priory and ends with (officially) the best fish and chips in the UK. A warning though; at some points, you may feel like you’ve stepped into the lyrics of Dire Straits’ Tunnel of Love. If you are a Dire Straits fan, it could be a dream come true.

Tynemouth and Whitley Bay are both served by Tyne and Wear Metro system. The journey time from Newcastle Central to Tynemouth is approximately 30 minutes.

Exit Tynemouth’s lovingly restored Victorian Metro station and make your way through the charming town to the seafront.

This is the British seaside at its best, with a powder-soft golden sandy beach and a range of attractions to suit all.

Once one of the largest fortified areas in England and with a sensational position overlooking the North Sea and the Tyne, Tynemouth Priory and Castle is well worth visiting.

The headland at Tynemouth was home to a community of monks, and Tynemouth Priory is what remains of a Benedictine monastery that was founded in the 11th Century.

After Henry VIII shut down the monastery in 1539, the site continued to be occupied and Tynemouth was a major fort defending the mouth of the River Tyne.

After you have finished exploring Tynemouth Priory and Castle, follow the coast north. As you leave town, there’s a great view back towards the priory and castle with King Edward’s Bay in the background.

As this is a coastal heritage trail, frequent information boards highlight the culture and history of the area.

Passing by Tynemouth Park & Boating Lake and St. Georges’ Church, you’ll reach Cullercoats.

sheltered bay at cullercoats

With its small, sandy crescent-shaped beach backed by small cliffs and its artistic vibe – the town has been a popular place for artists – Cullercoats is somewhere you might be tempted to linger for a coffee or a cold beer. Try the “Sea You There” café and restaurant on the seafront.

Continue along the coastal road until you reach Whitley Bay.

broad sandy beach approaching whitley bay

Although I found Whitley Bay the least attractive of the three towns on this walk, it is home to Spanish City, straight out of the lyrics to Tunnel of Love.

A plate of fish and chips is one of England’s iconic meals, and here you will find Trenchers, voted the Best Fish & Chips Restaurant in the UK in 2020.

Isn’t this the perfect end to your first day in Newcastle upon Tyne?

a plate of fish and chips

Newcastle Weekend Itinerary: Day 2

Day two of your weekend in Newcastle will take you on a day trip to the historic university city of Durham via Antony Gormley’s iconic Angel of the North.

The quickest way to get from Newcastle to Durham is by train. However, you will only get a fleeting glance of The Angel of the North out of the train’s window.

Although it is a longer journey, I recommend travelling between Newcastle and Durham by bus as this also stops at The Angel of the North.

The 21 Angel Bus, operated by Go North East, runs between Eldon Square and the Angel every ten minutes in peak hours. The journey time is around 25 minutes. The bus then continues to Durham, a 40-minute journey from the Angel.

Buy an All Zones Day Ticket from the bus driver to cover all journeys

THE ANGEL OF THE NORTH

No Newcastle itinerary would be complete without paying your respects to the Angel of the North. With its monumental outstretched wings guarding the valley below, the Angel of the North is an unforgettable sight.

statue of the angle of the north

Let’s take a look at the facts and figures.

This piece of public art is 20 meters in height and those wings stretch for 54 meters tip to tip. Erected in 1998, it is the largest sculpture in Britain.

But it is more than just an imposing sculpture; it’s an angel with a meaning. The demise of the shipbuilding industry and the closure of coal mines led to a decline in the fortunes in this part of England, with power and relevance shifting to the south of England and London in particular.

Antony Gormley had three intentions for his statue:

  • To recognise the sacrifice of the miners who had worked beneath the site of its construction for 200 years
  • To represent the transition from an industrial to an information age
  • To serve as a focus for our evolving hopes and fears

Entry to see the Angel is free

There are few amnesties other than a small car park and a van selling coffee and snacks

If there is a sudden downpour and, like me, you don’t have a car, there are few places to shelter from the rain. I took refuge in a disused bus shelter on the opposite side of the main road!

A SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR OF DURHAM

Named by The Independent as one of the best cities in the world to visit, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Durham has an immediate charm. Situated on the banks of the picturesque River Wear, home to an imposing castle and an impressive Romanesque cathedral, and laced with cobbled streets, it has it all.

woman walking along cobbled street in durham

The best way to see the best of Durham in one day is to take a self-guided walking tour.

This Durham self-guided walking tour is just over one mile in length, starting at Framwellgate Bridge and finishing at Durham Market Place. Although you can complete this walk in as little as 30 minutes, I recommend a more leisurely pace, stopping to see the sights along the way.

To follow this map or send it to your phone, click on this link or on the image.

MAP OF A SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR OF DURHAM
Self-guided walking tour of Durham (click on image for interactive map). Map data @ 2020 Google

The 21 Angel Bus from Newcastle and the Angel of the North terminates at Durham’s bus station, from where it’s a 3-minute walk to the River Wear.

Take the steps down to the riverfront at Framwellgate Bridge, an arch bridge dating from the 1400s and walk south along the river.

From the riverbank, there are the best views of Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral. Expect multiple photo stops!

durham castle reflected in the water of river

Cross the river at Prebends Bridge, and make your way past the university buildings – Durham is one of the top universities in the UK – to Durham Cathedral.

old pale blue painted houses in durham england

Durham Cathedral is a monumental structure, considered by many to be the finest example of Norman church architecture in England,

It is also the final resting place of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede, the 8th-century Northumbrian monk responsible for writing Ecclesiastical History of the English People, chronicling the development of early Christian Britain.

carved coloured marble pulpit in durham cathedral
gothic interior of durham cathedral with larke rose window

As you exit the cathedral, stop to take a look at the Sanctuary Knocker, perhaps the most photographed door knocker in Britain.

elaborate door knocker at durham cathedral

In The Middle Ages, those who had ‘committed a great crime’ could touch the knocker to be granted 37 days’ asylum within the cathedral. At the end of that time, they had to choose between standing trial or voluntary exile.

Although the knocker on Durham Cathedral’s North Door is a replica – the original is on display in the Cathedral’s museum – it’s still pretty cool.

Although entry to Durham Cathedral is free, a voluntary donation is encouraged.

The museum and North West Tower are subject to an entrance fee.

Durham Castle has been occupied continuously since the 11th Century and is now home to Durham University students.

pathway leading to gateway of durham castle with a turret

Durham Castle is open for guided tours throughout the year in the afternoons during academic term and mornings and afternoons during university holidays. You can check dates and book your tour here.

Make your way now to Durham Market Place. Once the medieval core of Durham City, its marketplace is dominated by the Town Hall, Guildhall and the city church of St. Nicholas.

Newcastle Weekend Itinerary: Day 3

The easy six-mile walk from Alnmouth to Warkworth is considered to be one the best in Northumberland.

Featuring broad, sandy beaches, a castle, rolling countryside and attractive villages, it will take you three hours upwards to complete. Leave enough time to explore Warkworth, Alnmouth and Warkworth Castle.

A WALK FROM WARKWORTH TO ALNMOUTH

Warkworth is a picturesque Northumbrian village on the River Coquet, which is largely untouched by tourism. The Parish Church of St. Lawrence sits on the banks of the river and Warkworth Castle towers over the top of the village’s gently sloping main street.

Once the home of the Percy Family, who now live in neighbouring Alnwick Castle, Warkworth Castle, Warkworth Castle is thought to date from around 1200 and is one of the largest, strongest and most impressive fortresses in Northumberland. On the nearby riverbank are the remains of a chapel carved directly out of the cliff rock, known as The Hermitage, accessible only by boat.

Once a busy local port and shipbuilding centre, Alnmouth’s estuary is today used by small fishing and pleasure boats.

If truth be told, there’s not a lot to see and do here, but Alnmouth is a pretty village that has a large sandy beach and a handful of decent pubs. And what’s better than a cold beer at the end of your walk?

I did the walk from Warkworth to Alnmouth but, with the benefit of hindsight, it may be easier to do it in the opposite direction as the signposting is better.

Learn from my mistake and check the tide times. At low tide, you can walk across the estuary at Alnmouth; at high tide, you will need to walk around it.

Alnmouth is on the east coast railway line, linking Newcastle to Edinburgh. There is no train station at Warkworth.

To travel between Alnmouth train station and Warkworth, take the X18 bus, operated by Arriva North East. Both trains and buses are less frequent on Sundays.

How to get to Newcastle

BY TRAIN

Newcastle upon Tyne is served by LNER trains which have frequent direct train services between London King’s Cross and Newcastle Station leaving every half hour. The journey takes around 3 ½ hours. Book tickets in advance for the best fares.

If you are short on time, Newcastle is one of the easiest day trips from Edinburgh by train.

Newcastle railway station is centrally located, a five-minute walk from the castle from which the city derives its name, and a ten-minute walk from Grey’s Monument in the heart of the city centre. The quayside is also around ten minutes on foot.

>>> CHECK TRAIN TIMES & FARES TO NEWCASTLE HERE

BY BUS

The National Express bus service between London Victoria Coach Station and Newcastle upon Tyne Coach Station is a cheaper option, but at 6 ½ to 8 hours takes considerably longer. 

BY PLANE

Newcastle upon Tyne also has a regional airport, located just over six miles northwest of the city centre.

BY CAR

If you are driving, the A1 motorway will take you to Newcastle by road.

archway of wrought iron bridge in newcastle

Getting Around Newcastle and Beyond

As Newcastle city centre is compact, it is easy to explore on foot. However, if you need to venture further afield, it is easy to get around, thanks to an excellent public transport system.

In addition to buses connecting Newcastle to surrounding destinations, the city has a Metro service. This two-line light rail system links central Newcastle with the airport, beach towns and Sunderland.

Single tickets are available from machines at the Metro stations. Price is dependent on how many zones you are travelling through.

Alternatively, day tickets are available which may be cheaper and more convenient.

  • Metro day ticket – allows unlimited travel on Metro, Shields Ferry and local rail services (Newcastle to Sunderland).
  • Day Rover ticket  – allows unlimited travel on most public transport within the Tyne & Wear region.

 

Where to stay in Newcastle

Newcastle is blessed with a good selection of places to stay. I recommend picking a place near the quayside.

Staybridge Suites

I stayed at this aparthotel, one block from the quayside, which is part of the IHG Group. Keenly priced, squeaky clean, a well-equipped kitchenette, free in-house laundry and super-friendly staff make this my top choice of place to stay in Newcastle.

Complimentary breakfast and tea and coffee too.

>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK

Premier Inn Newcastle City Centre (Millennium Bridge)

Close to Staybridge Suites, friends have highly rated this Premier Inn.

>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK

Malmaison Newcastle

Another recommended hotel, right on the quayside

>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK

>>>None of these takes your fancy? Find other great accommodation deals in Newcastle.

Solo Travel in England

England is one of the best places to travel alone in the world, especially if you are a first-time solo traveller.

From dynamic cities to seaside towns and rolling hills, England offers a vast variety of places to visit. Like bees to honey, most visitors head to London, but the country is so much more than its capital. 

It is an English-speaking country, making it an easy destination for visitors from Australia, the US and many European countries.

Public transport is well developed with extensive and frequent rail links across much of the country.  Coaches or local buses usually serve places that don’t have a train station nearby. 

English people are generally friendly, especially in the north of the country and outside of the main cities. Although Londoners have a reputation for being standoffish, in my experience this is overstated and people will usually try to help you.

As a popular solo travel destination, it’s relatively easy to meet other travellers in England, particularly in the main cities.

If You Have More than 3 Days in Newcastle

The only downside of spending 3 days in Newcastle is that a weekend is unlikely to be enough time to cover everything that you want to see.

If I had more time there, I would have explored some of the forts along Hadrian’s Wall. This takes more planning without a car, but thanks to the AD122 bus it is perfectly doable.

Alnwick Castle is another good day trip from Newcastle and if you have a car, visiting the Holy Island of Lindisfarne would be one of my top choices. Alternatively, why not spend a day in the historic town of Berwick, just south of the Scottish border?

However you spend your weekend in Newcastle, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time in one of the friendliest and most vibrant cities in England.

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.