"As a destination, NewcastleGateshead is going from strength to strength, with world-class cultural, sporting, historic and artistic highlights all adding up to five stars for effort."

At a time when many cities in the UK would receive a school report reading 'could do better', Newcastle's would likely read 'a well-rounded student'.  Sure, it would also have the odd reference to a cheeky personality and a keen sense of fun - not to mention that it's always hanging around with its best pal, Gateshead - but, all in all, it would certainly be something for its parents to be proud of.

Its residents are just that - and rightly so. As a destination, NewcastleGateshead is going from strength to strength, with world-class cultural, sporting, historic and artistic highlights all adding up to five stars for effort. And that makes it well worth a weekend's field trip...

Creature comforts

First things first: any good adventure needs a comfortable place to stay. Newcastle has a plethora of hotels, whether you're after home comforts or indulgent luxury. If you lean towards the latter, head to Hotel du Vin on the north bank of the Tyne. Situated in the former headquarters of the Tyne Tees Steam Shipping Company, the building has been lovingly converted into a gorgeous hotel which, as the name suggests, puts as much importance on a fine glass of wine as it does a good night's sleep. The rooms are stylishly decorated and come complete with Egyptian cotton sheets, powerful drench showers and hand-sprung mattresses. Venture out of your room and you'll find the Bistro du Vin serving French-inspired fare, and a wine cellar and 'bubble bar' that showcase the hotel's raison d'être.

Once you've settled in, it's time to explore. The city (Newcastle) and town (Gateshead) face each other across the River Tyne, and are connected by no fewer than seven bridges - making a weekend of popping back and forth no trouble at all.

Culture vultures

Art and culture are big business in the area these days. Sited on the south river bank in Gateshead, the old Baltic flour mill was transformed into the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in 2002. Almost 10 years on, the project goes from strength to strength, and will also host the prestigious 2011 Turner Prize later this year. Upstairs on the sixth floor, the rooftop restaurant (cannily named SIX) offers great views across the city alongside fantastic modern British cuisine.

Elsewhere, the Great North Museum, which underwent a huge £26 million refurbishment in 2009, has attracted over a million visitors since re-opening its doors. With everything from Egyptian mummies and dinosaur skeletons to a planetarium and a scale model of Hadrian's Wall, hours can be spent exploring this fascinating Aladdin's cave.

If you have ambitions for the type of therapy that only pavement-pounding can provide, you won't be disappointed. Something of a shopping mecca, Gateshead's Metrocentre has long been considered the area's top spot for dancing the retail rumba. However, having recently undergone a massive £170 million expansion, the Eldon Square shopping centre at the heart of the city is now giving the Metrocentre a run for its money. Once there, you'll find an array of brands for every budget, from Topshop to Tag Heuer.

If all that spending has left you hankering for sustenance, there are hundreds of choices for a bite to eat. Popolo is a cross between an Italian café and a New York bar, and has a great bar menu at bargain prices. If you're nearer the quayside and want fancier fare, Café 21 is the homestead of Terry Laybourne - one of the north-east's most celebrated chefs - and boasts a menu packed with delicious fresh and locally sourced cuisine.

Rhythm and rock

As with all quintessentially cool northern cities, music plays a big part in Newcastle's offerings. The area boasts a stellar cast of homegrown musical talent - from disco diva Cheryl Cole to rock legends The Animals, Brian Johnson of AC/DC and modern indie kings, Maxïmo Park.

As for where to catch music in the making, The Sage Gateshead is a stunning purpose-built venue that sits on the south bank of the Tyne. A bulbous glass tunnel, it opened in 2004 and brings all kinds of performers to the area, from classical orchestras to contemporary balladeers I Am Kloot.

The Metro Radio Arena is the place to see big names, while smaller venues like the O2 Academy and The Cluny (see panel, right) will showcase up-and-coming favourites. If, for you, music is more about the beats, head to Digital - the city's biggest super-club where nights effortlessly meld into mornings with many an enthusiastic shape thrown on the dance floor.

There are also the Geordie classics that can't be missed on a trip to the city. A passing nod towards the Toon Army's beating heart at St James' Park, where black and white stripes are king, is a must. There's also the Tyneside Cinema, perfect for when the weather disappoints, and the Life Science Centre, which brings science to life in ever-more imaginative ways.

It's safe to say there is no shortage of things to see and do on a trip to NewcastleGateshead - in fact, you're more likely to find yourself hard-pushed to squeeze everything in. And don't worry about searching for a good excuse to treat yourself to a mini-break. As the nation's favourite Geordie lass might put it: 'Because you're worth it.'


For more information, visit newcastlegateshead.com

Night fever

Newcastle's bars and clubs have earned it numerous accolades - including being voted the third best place in Europe for a night out, according to a 2010 Trip Advisor poll. So, what are you waiting for?

Tup Tup Palace

Indoor waterfalls, a real flame wall, a sunken bar... the Tup Tup Palace is far from a shy and retiring watering hole. This is a celebrity favourite and the ideal place for a night of cocktails and people-watching.

INFO: tuptuppalace.com

The Centurion

Located in Newcastle Central Station, The Centurion was originally built in 1893 as a plush lounge for first-class passengers. Adorned with exquisite wall tiling and an abundance of vintage charm, it's a must-see destination.

INFO: centurion-newcastle.com

The Cluny

If your idea of a night out wouldn't be complete without the buzz of amps and the thump of drums, head to The Cluny. The city's best-loved live music spot, it boasts an eclectic mix of gigs and an extremely well-stocked bar.

INFO: thecluny.com


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