Things to do in Newcastle, England: One day three ways

The industrial grime has gone and in its place are hip cafes, great art and architecture and a wealth of history.

PENNY PINCH

Newcastle has cast off its gritty northern image and emerged as a hip, cultured city. Check out the sexy Gateshead Millennium Bridge (gateshead-quays.com; free), which gazes like a Cyclops eye over a revamped riverfront. Then head up Grey Street to admire Georgian architecture and enjoy brunch at Blake's Coffee House (blakescafes.co.uk; $20). Wander through the shopping district towards Laing Art Gallery (twmuseums.org.uk; free), the region's premier art collection. Then learn how Newcastle developed as an industrial and engineering centre powering the British Empire at the terrific Discovery Museum (twmuseums.org.uk; free). Tuck into British seasonal cuisine at Blackfriars (blackfriarsrestaurant.co.uk; $27 two courses) in an old Dominican friary. For a late night, weekend-packed Digital (yourfutureisdigital.com; from $5) has one of England's best sound systems. Sleep at Waterside Hotel (waterside-hotel-newcastle.co.uk; from $77 including parking and Wi-Fi), where rooms are compact but well-presented.

TOTAL: $130

EASY DOES IT

Get fine views from the Norman castle (castlekeep-newcastle.org.uk; $7) that gives the city its name. Head along the river to admire Millennium Bridge and The Sage Gateshead concert hall (thesagegateshead.org; tickets from $18), where you could take in an evening performance. Further along, BALTIC Centre (balticmill.com; free) is a rival to London's Tate and features changing exhibits of modern art. Then catch the train to lovely market town Hexham for a  country-style lunch at Bouchon Bistrot (bouchonbistrot.co.uk; $24 two courses) before exploring magnificent Hadrian's Wall on the AD122 bus (simplygo.com; $21). Returning to Newcastle, have an ale at Centurion Bar (centurion-newcastle.com; $5) in the train station. Dine at suave restaurant and piano bar the Living Room (thelivingroom.co.uk; $23 two courses). Retire to Malmaison (malmaison-newcastle.com; from $142), a trendy riverside hotel decorated in dramatic colours overlooking Millennium Bridge.

TOTAL: $240

SPLASH OUT

Tom Keating Tours (tomkeating.net; $223) provides a top blue-badge guide for an insightful half-day walk outlining Newcastle's history and recent regeneration. Lunch at popular Scrumpy Willow (scrumpywillowandthesingingkettle.co.uk; $18), an organic eatery with outstanding vegetarian and vegan nosh. In the afternoon, head to Great North Museum, (greatnorthmuseum.org; free) for eclectic natural history and archaeology displays, and an interactive recreation of Roman Britain. Then shop. Biscuit Factory (thebiscuitfactory.com) is the largest commercial art space in Britain, tempting with drawings, sculpture, furniture and glassware. Have a cocktail with spectacular river views at Pitcher & Piano (pitcherandpiano.com; $13) and dine at Michelin-recommended Cafe 21 (cafetwentyone.co.uk; mains $36) on venison with wild mushrooms, followed by mango tarte tatin. Sleep at Jesmond Dene House (jesmonddenehouse.co.uk; $215), a lovely Arts & Crafts property with luxurious bathrooms, set in green space just beyond the city centre. 

TOTAL: $505

The writer travelled courtesy of One North East and Emirates Airlines.