Talk of the Northern Powerhouse will translate into action this summer when the port city on the Tyne comes alive with a showcase of northern British innovation.
Established by the Romans, Newcastle underwent several transformations before prospering in the Victorian era as a centre for industry. Swan and Edison’s early lightbulbs, Stephenson’s Rocket and the world’s first steam turbine-powered ship all originated here. But since the unveiling of The Angel of the North statue 20 years ago, the Georgian and Victorian buildings have increasingly become home to the culture, cuisine and craft beers of an evolving city.
What to do
First, check out the programme for the Great Exhibition of the North, running from 22 June to 9 September. All events, exhibitions and street performances are based at three event hubs linked by three trails exploring themes of art, design and innovation. The Quayside, home to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, hosts two hubs: the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, and Sage Gateshead concert hall. The third is based at the Great North Museum, at Barras Bridge. Head to BALTIC’s fifth-floor viewing box to see the spectacular cityscape.
Where to eat
The Grainger Market, a Grade I-listed building, is the city’s original covered market dating from the 1830s, and located close to the central statue of Earl Grey (of tea fame). It dominates the city centre and is home to the original Marks & Spencer Penny Bazaar plus a host of street-food eateries.
Blackfriars Restaurant is a historic eatery with a locally sourced twist on modern British fare. Set in a medieval friary, it is said to occupy the oldest dining room in Britain. Start with a bottle of Puffing Billy smoked black bitter from the city’s Wylam brewery in the bar before heading to the restaurant to tuck into roast pan haggerty, a Geordie take on bubble and squeak, served with a fried duck egg. The early dinner (5.30-7pm Monday to Friday) has two courses for £18.
© Blackfriars Restaurant
Where to stay
Motel One has taken an old industrial building and given it a modern design twist to create a city-chic hotel in the heart of the nightlife district – at a budget price. Rooms from £59.
Hotel Indigo is a boutique property within easy walking distance of the central train station. Images of the reborn city by local artists adorn the walls, while the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar and Grill offers an all-day menu. Rooms from around £100 – but Boundless members enjoy a discounted rate (see below).
© Hotel Indigo
What to do
Take a stroll along the banks of the Tyne, essentially the stretch from the Malmaison Hotel to the Hotel du Vin. This public space will play host to free events during the festival as well as pop-up gardens and fountains. Take in views across the Millennium Bridge to Sage Gateshead and BALTIC – if you can catch this spectacular bridge at ‘tilt’ time, it’s a beautiful and technologically marvellous event. Carry on over the Glasshouse Bridge into the arty Ouseburn district for interesting independent galleries and cafés to explore away from the corporate chains of the city centre.
Where to eat
Pink Lane Coffee, tucked down a little side street near the station, is a great little place for breakfast, especially for coffee lovers. Choose your latte from traceable coffee beans to accompany freshly baked pastries.
The Tyneside Cinema is an art-house favourite and the adjoining café-bar serves a great daytime menu, including brunch and afternoon tea, plus daily specials. It hosts live music and regular screenings of cult films.
The early-evening cocktail club at High Bridge-based bar and restaurant Pleased to Meet You is pure indulgence. There’s a huge menu of cocktails, craft ales and world whiskies, plus over 50 gins. Try a Bramble Gin Liqueur with Sicilian lemonade and blackberries. Afterwards, head next door to the candlelit restaurant for a slap-up supper.
“The Victoria Tunnel tour, which takes you under the city, doesn’t get much publicity but it’s really fascinating.”
Emma Stockwell, Hotel Indigo