I lived in Newcastle for three years as a student and some of my best friends still call it home. Here’s how I would spend one day on the Tyne.
10am: Get your brunch on at the Butterfly Cabinet
The Butterfly Cabinet is a Heaton institution, with queues for a table often winding down the street on a weekend. It would be easy to pass it by, and from the outside it doesn’t look like much, but it’s hard to find a better breakfast in the whole of Newcastle. The pancake stacks rival any American diner, the salmon Benedict is second to none and the eggy bread (add bacon for the full experience) will give you childhood nostalgia by the bucketload. The lunches at the Butterfly Cabinet are also excellent, but it’s the breakfast menu that draws in the crowds. There are a number of vegetarian and gluten-free options on the menu as well, meaning that anyone can find their perfect brunch here. Everything – from the strawberry hot chocolate to the quadruple-decker sandwiches – are made with the best ingredients, the most wonderful flavours and a whole lot of love.
10:30am – Stroll along the quayside
The quayside is home to a whole lot of iconic Newcastle spots: the Tyne Bridge (of course), the Sage (a concert venue that kind of looks like a giant mirrored slug) and the Baltic (an art gallery in an old flour mill); as well as a whole bunch of bars, cafes and restaurants. There is no better way to spend a sunny Toon morning than walking along the river. You can even cross one of the 7 bridges if you like – and you might be lucky enough to catch the Millenium bridge in mid swing. If you are on the quayside on a Sunday, you can take a detour through the quayside market which sells a great range of arts, crafts and local organic produce.
12:00pm – Be spoilt for choice at Grainger Market
When I first discovered Grainger Market, I was like a kid in a sweetshop. This massive market – hidden away under old railway arches – is a food lover’s paradise and contains everything from butcher shops selling exotic meats, to French bakeries to a mini Chinese supermarket. Grainger Market also sells books and clothes and alcohol, but the main reason to come here is the food. For responsible foodies: try the French Oven Bakery – they bake everything within a mile of the market and donate all unsold stock (including their amazing beetroot sourdough) to a local homeless charity. My top three favourite Grainger Market dishes are – in no particular order – mixed dumpings from Nan Bei dumpling bar, giant hand-tossed pizza from Slice and salted caramel cupcakes from Pet Lamb Patisserie. Most things at Grainger Market at delicious, a lot of it is locally sourced and everything is very reasonably priced.
1:30pm – Treat yourself at the Brownie Bar
If you aren’t completely stuffed from Grainger Market, head into Eldon Square for dessert. Hidden away in a corner of this huge shopping centre are some of the best brownies you will ever eat: massive, chocolate-y slabs with a range of delicious toppings (white chocolate and pistachio is my favourite). The Brownie Bar also sells blondies as well as the ‘Corker’ – a brownie baked into a cookie – but it’s the brownies that really shine. Buy two: eat one now and take the other home for later.
2:30pm: Learn something new at the Discovery Museum
I actually helped create a tour for this museum as part of my degree (I highly doubt they still use it but it was about boats and it was extremely entertaining if you happen to be 4-6 years old) so at one point I was a regular visitor at the Discovery Museum. I can’t recommend it enough for both adults and kids: it’s interactive, it’s educational, it’s free and it’s located in a beautiful Victorian building right near the city centre. The ground floor of the museum contains the Turbinia: a full-length steam powered ship that was once the fastest in the world, but it’s the upper floors where things get fun. The exhibitions change all the time, but the permanent collections are always worth a visit: the science maze is full of interactive games that are definitely aimed towards kids but are still super fun for adults, and the Newcastle Story is a literal walk through time to learn about the history of the region. I came away feeling like I had learned something new and I had fun doing it – bonus!
4:30pm: Take a walk down Britain’s most beautiful street
And that’s not just me saying it: Grey Street in Newcastle has been voted BBC Radio 4’s most beautiful street in Britain. 40% of the buildings on this street are listed, and as you walk down towards the river you can really get a feel for what Newcastle was like in days gone by. The whole area between Northumberland Street and the Tyne Bridge is worth a stroll; and you can’t leave Newcastle without seeing the massive sandstone columns at the Theatre Royal or craning your neck to take a look at Grey’s Monument.
6:00pm: Be a fat hippo at the Fat Hippo Underground
True to its name, the Fat Hippo (and its equally delicious little brother – the Fat Hippo Underground) is all about gluttony. It would be so easy to miss this place: it’s literally a single door with a neon sign and it isn’t much too look at inside either, with decorations more suited to a bomb shelter than a popular restaurant. But once the food comes out everything changes. Picture deep fried mac and cheese balls followed by burgers so big they are almost a struggle to eat (I am talking double 4oz patties with pulled pork, cheese and bacon), a huge side of hand-cut fries and a milkshake thick enough to hold it’s own shape without a glass. If the Fat Hippo started putting calorie counts on its menu we would all be in big trouble. Thankfully though, the food isn’t only big but it’s good, with really interesting combinations of toppings (pb & bacon jam anyone?) as well as the classic bacon and cheese. Bear in mind that Fat Hippo Underground is tiny, so be prepared for a wait, especially if you go for the 3 courses for £12.90 during Hippo Hour (ha).
8:00pm: Stop for cocktails at the Botanist
The Botanist – on Monument Mall – is probably the prettiest cocktail bar in Newcastle. For one thing, the decor is absolutely beautiful; with domed ceilings, an abundance of twinkling lights and an actual tree inside. The food, the cocktails, the live music, the views over Grey street – its all just perfect. Like the Fat Hippo, the Botanist offers the classics with a twist – a lot of their cocktails have a floral or herbal edge to match the botanical theme, and you can even order some of the cocktails in a watering can! Make sure to try the Basil Crush, Thyme for Cherry and Thai Chilli Crush cocktails for a refreshing blend of sweet and savoury with a nice alcoholic kick. And, if by some miracle you are still hungry, the Botanist does incredible desserts including a strawberry-brownie kebab and some of the best rice pudding you could hope to find.
Alternatively: catch a show
If you aren’t in the mood for cocktails, Newcastle has some incredible venues for music, theatre and comedy. Here are some of the biggest shows coming up in the next month:
- Ricky Gervais and Jimmy Carr are performing at Newcastle City Hall in June
- Iron Maiden is playing at Metro Radio Arena (as is the live version of Mrs Brown’s Boys
- Chase and Status will be at the O2 Academy on May 27th
- Sheridan Smith stars in ‘Funny Girl’ at the Theatre Royal
- Or catch some comedy at The Stand – you might get a big name practicing new material before they go on tour for an absolute bargain price
One quick tip for visiting Newcastle:
If I can give you one piece of advice for visiting Newcastle (or anywhere else for that matter) it’s this: please don’t try and do the accent. It’s not funny, it’s not accurate, no one talks like that and we’ve heard it alllllll before. And on that note: howay then pet, what are you waiting for? Get yerself to the Toon!