Newcastle is a city that's really close to our hearts. There are many places that we love in Newcastle....
For music and nightlife:
Morden Tower is a beautiful tiny old room in a small tower which is part of the old city walls. It's tucked away behind China Town, and if you're lucky enough to watch a gig here, it's always an intimate and unique experience.
RPM in the centre of town is a great little record shop, often hosting intimate in-store gigs and staffed by friendly, helpful folk.
Please don't be fooled by the media's portrayal of the North East, you can avoid the areas of visiting stag and hen parties easily enough. The leafy area of Ouseburn is one such place to do this. Here, you will find some of the best live music as well as beer, ale and cider festivals, music weekenders and plenty more.
For a pre-gig-going bite to eat here you can't go wrong with a cheese burger or chilli at The Cluny. The Cumberland Arms here is also great pub serving real ales with open fires and plenty of folk sessions and local bands playing upstairs. Every so often the place can be taken over by Ukelele players or sword dancers and there's always a warm atmosphere. After a swift walk down the Quayside you may find yourself at the Tyne Bar, nestled under one of Newcastle's many bridges and serving a great selection of beers, it also hosts some great gigs, a free jukebox and y'know, the staff usually smile. Atop the hill there is also the Free Trade Inn which has the best views in the city, covering both banks of the river and all the bridges in between, but also boasts great beers and a decent jukebox.
If you are in the centre of an evening though, the Forth, Tilleys and the Head of Steam are probably your safest bets, all serving good real ales, ciders and posh lagers, and the latter having a venue or dancing space downstairs and a 3am license on weekends.
Take the metro down to the coast and visit the fishquay in North Shields. From there you can walk along the coastline towards Tynemouth, the pier and the beautiful beaches of King Edwards Bay and Longsands as well as the ancient Priory.
Closer to home, have a wander around Grainger Town, the historic heart of the city, focussed around Grey Street, Grainger Street and Clayton Street for some beautiful 19th century architecture. The Theatre Royal is particularly impressive and the Grainger Market is an Aladdin’s cave of Geordie commerce but it’s all worth a look. If you’re put off by the hordes of shoppers though, the quayside is worth a visit for the bridges and its interesting mix of ramshackle old streets and brand new developments. The Crown Posada is well worth popping into for a pint if you’re down that way as it’s the second oldest pub in Newcastle and really feels it too.
If you’re around central station, the Lit and Phil society is a beautiful 200 year old library that is perfect for either leafing through the old books, or just sitting with a cup of tea and gathering your thoughts.
For something a bit greener, Jesmond Dene and Heaton Park are a little way outside the centre, but are fantastic for relaxing on a sunny day.
Further afield, the hills and forests of Northumberland begin just beyond the northern city boundaries, and provide a wonderful backdrop of sparsely populated wilderness if the outdoors is your thing. A day trip to the little market town of Alnwick is highly recommended and not just for Barter Books, the beautiful converted train station that is now one of the largest second hand bookshops in the country. You can easily lose a day in there without noticing.
The Blue Bunny Cafe near Haymarket in the city centre does a fine fix-me-up full English.
Sambuca is a great local Italian restaurant down the coast, so great that there's 3 in North Shields fish quay and they're always busy. The staff are friendly and it's so cheap it's unbelievable. You can guarantee most times there'll be someone standing on a chair and the whole restaurant will sing happy birthday.
Pani's in Newcastle city centre is also a great little restaurant with the character and charm that all your big chain restaurants lack and the food is incredible. You can also brush up on your Italian while you are there as they hold lessons in one half of the restaurant while you dine.
Gospada is also a particular favourite in winter if you’re looking for some hearty and hot Polish food to keep the cold at bay. If you like curry, take a short taxi ride out to the Kormal in the west end as you’ll struggle to find a better curry house anywhere.
There are plenty of free art exhibitions in Newcastle in places like The Laing, The Biscuit Factory and The Baltic - where you will also find beautiful views over the river Tyne. The Side Gallery is tucked away on the way down to the quayside, but generally has some lovely work by local artists and is worth seeking out.
Back in the centre, the Tyneside Cinema is a great place to avoid popcorn munching throngs, and enjoy a bottle of wine with your movie, and the Star and Shadow Cinema in Ouseburn is another hidden gem, combining a cinema, venue space and bar with events covering everything from film, music, performance art, poetry and pretty much anything else you could think of. It’s entirely volunteer run and it’s well worth checking out their website listings to see what’s going on.
The album, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home, is out now on Bella Union.