A mix of old and new, medieval and urban, from crumbling castles to boutique hotels and elegant restaurants; the city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne exudes elegance and strength at the same time. It is a student town with a lively nightlife that still retains its traditional heritage, and the diversity can be observed while walking through this gorgeous Victorian city.
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is a port city in the Northeast of England, on the Northwestern bank of the River Tyne. It was founded in the 2nd century as a Roman fort called Pons Aelius, and then later got its current name from a wooden castle built in the city in the 11th century. The castle was later rebuilt again in stone, and it stands till today– the oldest structure in the city. The locals of Newcastle are called Geordie, which also refers to their local dialect.
With only 24 hours to explore the city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne– I wanted to take a walk into the olden times of the city, while exploring its modern elements as well. With such limited time, I had to miss out on many other places to explore around the city, including Gateshead and the areas further up the River Tyne; as well as the famed Hadrian’s Wall. That will be for another time.
Newcastle in 24 Hours
I arrived in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne the night before, and spent the night in the city before waking up early the next day for a full’s day exploration. The best way to start the day is a lovely morning walk by the river.
Gateshead Millennium Bridge
This award-winning foot and cycle bridge spans the River Tyne– with Gateshead’s Quays on its south bank, and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s Quayside on its north bank. It is said to be the world’s first and only tilting bridge, and therefore is a local tourist attraction. It is impossible to miss it while walking along the river, as it is such an architectural marvel.
Walking from the River Tyne towards the city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, I came across the medieval castle that gave the city its name. Dating back to the 11th century, the only buildings left of the fortress are the Castle Keep, the castle’s main tower; and the Black Gate, its gatehouse.
The Castle Keep:-
The Castle Keep was initially made of wood and built by Robert Curthouse, the eldest son of William the Conqueror. It was later rebuilt in stone by King Henry II. The tower is several stories high, and the floors are connected by a spiral staircase. There are also many small chambers and walkways within the castle walls, and walking through it can be pretty eerie– after all, the Castle Keep is believed to be haunted. Head to the top for views of the city.
The Black Gate:-
The castle’s gatehouse was added by King Henry III in the mid 13th century. Houses were eventually built along its passageways, and it became a slum settlement in the 19th century. Most of Black Gate has been restored in recent years, and though there is not much to see– I took a walk along its drawbridges, and peeked into the vaulted guardroom in its towers.
Cathedral Church of St Nicholas
It was almost noon when I finished exploring the castle, and a short walk north took me to the gorgeous Newcastle Cathedral. The church was built in the late 11th century, about the same time as the castle. It was destroyed and reconstructed several times throughout the years; and became a cathedral in the late 19th century, named after St Nicholas.
The cathedral’s most outstanding feature is its lantern spire– which was used as a point of navigation for ships passing the River Tyne. Like all beautiful European cathedrals, I took time to admire its stained-glass windows, intricate carvings and memorials.
Towards the afternoon, I made my way to Grainger Town, the historic center of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. This is the place to see the finest buildings and streets in the city– including Grey Street and the Theatre Royal, which I visited. The 450 buildings within the 36 hectares of Grainger Town were developed in the early 19th century by builder, Richard Grainger.
Grey Street is believed to be one of the finest streets in England, and is filled with boutique fashion and jewellery shops. The buildings are mainly Georgian architecture from the 18th and early 19th century. The stunning Theatre Royal is located along this street. I had a lovely stroll along Grey Street, admiring the beautiful row of buildings while people watching.
This monument is located at the head of Grey’s Street, in the center of the city. Built in 1838, Grey’s Monument was dedicated to Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey– whose statue stands atop the 40m column. People hang about at the base of the monument; so it is possible to sit, chill and people watch. Occasionally, there will be a busker or two, entertaining the crowd with their music.
From Grey’s Monument, I walked along the shopping central area of Blackett Street that leads to Newcastle’s Chinatown. It is also located within the area of Grainger Town. The Chinese Arch, which is a fixture of any Chinatown anywhere in the world; is located at the northern end of its main street, Stowell Street. I stopped by one of the many Chinese restaurants in the area for a late lunch.
While you’re in the Chinatown, don’t forget to look out for the broken-down sections of the Newcastle Town Wall. It was built in the 13th century as a defensive wall surrounding the town, but large amounts were demolished a few centuries later. The longest remaining section of the wall is found in the Chinatown area.
St James’ Park
Just a short walk from Chinatown’s Stowell Street is St James’ Park, the home of football club Newcastle FC. The stadium has been used for football since 1880, before being taken over by Newcastle FC in 1892.
The stadium was closed when I arrived in the late evening, so I just made a quick visit to the gift shop.
At the End of the Day
By the time I returned to my hotel along the River Tyne, it was already dark. I had the opportunity to see the Gateshead Millennium Bridge light up in many colors and illuminating the night sky. It was a beautiful last view of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.