The Tyne Bridge zips by as your East Coast train sweeps across the river into north-east England’s raucously hip capital city. Where Hadrian’s Wall once kept out rowdy barbarians, the passionately independent locals will welcome you to their lively riverside city in true Geordie spirit.


Take a stroll down the glass-roofed, Edwardian Central Arcade to browse boutiques selling designer labels and musical instruments. The arcade is in the heart of elegant Grainger Town, where you can pick up high street fashions in carefully restored Georgian and Victorian townhouses. Let a bus whisk you off along the riverbank to grab a bargain at Royal Quays, an outlet mall with up to 40 per cent discounts.


Seemingly impervious to the sometimes biting North Sea winds, locals embrace the manic party atmosphere of the night life in the town centre. Join them with a Newcastle Brown Ale, known simply as ‘broon’. There’s a more relaxed vibe down at the Quayside where the BALTIC contemporary arts centre provides an impressive backdrop to evening drinks. If you’re in the mood for music, take in one of the concerts nearby at the undulating glass Sage Gateshead arts centre.


Gooey cheese and onion Pan Haggerty (like a Geordie potato dauphinoise) is dished up alongside local game in the simple dining rooms of the smart Jesmond district. For a quick bite, head to one of the buffet-style canteens near the football stadium in Chinatown. They stay open late to catch a lively nighttime crowd. Enjoy the continental feel in the Quayside promenade where you can sit outside riverfront bistros to dine al fresco when the sun comes out.


Look out for ghosts as you climb the narrow medieval staircase to the top of the Castle Keep that gave the city its name. Younger children love to get their hands on the exhibits at the Life Science Centre. The hours will fly by as they make and test their own paper aeroplane designs or watch a show in the 4D theatre. The Discovery Museum tells Newcastle’s story from the days when the city’s ships set out to explore the world’s oceans.