When visiting Newcastle upon Tyne (the actual official name of Newcastle) there are so many popular tourist attractions to explore, dishes to taste, and nightlife to enjoy. Does all the fun have to cost you money? What if you are looking for some free things to do in Newcastle upon Tyne. Are there any? And are they worth it? The answers to those questions are no, yes, and yes!
Newcastle upon Tyne is loaded with great free museums and art galleries such as Discovery Museum and Shipley Art Gallery, but there are some must-see ones to check out on the list below. There are also beautiful cathedrals like St. Mary's Cathedral with its stunning stained glass windows. Or maybe you prefer the open spaces of a great park – Newcastle upon Tyne has those too.
But before we get you going on your "free"-dom quest, let's get your luggage stored in a safe and secure luggage storage service here in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Jesmond Dene Park
Escape from the lively and vibrant city of Newcastle without ever leaving the city. In the northeast suburb of Jesmond is where you will find this magical place with its play park, a ton of grassy area, woodlands, and a picturesque old ruined mill hiding in the trees. If you have the kids with you they will love riding the land train or petting alpacas, pot-bellied pigs, and other animals at "Pets Corner" (free for kids).
This "sanctuary" of peace is traversed by the River Ouseburn and provides an important habitat for many animals including the kingfisher. You can enjoy performances at the open-air theater, sit and relax at one of many cafes, or walk the paths and bridges to the waterfall. The parking is limited but it is easy to get to by public transport.
Winner of "The People's Choice" two years in a row has made this one of Britain's top 10 parks. The Victorian park has plenty to offer visitors, including ornamental gardens, public sports facilities, bowling greens, woodlands, and a lake. The kids will love the play areas where they can get lost in the maze and chat with the parrots in the pets corner.
Situated in the heart of Gateshead on East Park Road, this is a great park for the whole family, or a romantic lunch and to check out the view from the fairy tale mansion house Saltwell Towers. If you are a foodie, check at the visitor centre for the monthly Low Fell Food Market, when the best Newcastle street food stalls in the region come together for the day.
Not very often does a street make a list like this, but Grey Street is a special place in Newcastle upon Tyne. Near Newcastle Central Station, it is one of the most architecturally significant streets in the city. Dating from the 1830s, Grey street is now the place to be with high-end restaurants and upmarket wine bars. The street runs from Grey's Monument to the Mosley Street junction, running past the Theatre Royal.
The street is voted as the best street in the United Kingdom on a regular basis. As you wander down the street and check out all the neoclassical buildings, you can get a sense of the once-thriving business center it used to be. The ghosts of the past would be very surprised to see the tourists sitting around and dining alfresco today on one of the UK's most Instagramable streets.
Right in the center of Newcastle, you find the city's oldest park. It is one of the best places to relax, with plenty of benches spread throughout the park, and a manmade lake that was originally intended for boating and ice-skating. The lake is now always fully stocked for fishing by the Leazes Park Angling Association.
In the north woodlands is a great play area that is separated into two parts for children of all ages to enjoy. The entrances have beautiful ornate gateways, and there is a touching memorial garden. Besides the park, you will also find St. James' Park, the football (soccer) stadium for Newcastle United.
The Great North Museum
The Great North Museum is the perfect activity for kids and grownups, with a combination of permanent and changing exhibits. For young kids 5 years and under, there are fun activities in the Mouse House area. The "Living Planet" is another hit with the kids as they explore wildlife and their habitats. Other areas include ancient Egypt (with Mummies), art, and archeology from the Greek and Etruscan and other world cultures.
The Hadrian's Wall permanent exhibits are a great way to learn about the history and importance of Newcastle upon Tyne. As a bonus, you can talk a walk through the Newcastle University grounds which are located beside the award-winning museum. All exhibits and events are free but they do ask for you to donate a minimum amount of £5 to keep things running. Be aware that only disabled parking is available at the museum, but there is easy access by public transport.
Bessie Surtees House
A splendid example of Jacobean architecture, this house was the sight of a romance story that rivals Romeo and Juliet's. Elizabeth "Bessie" Surtees was the daughter of a wealthy banker and the most popular woman in the city, while her suitor, John Scott, was a coal miner. Both families disapproved of the romance. You can come and see the famous first-story window she climbed out of to elope with her love.
The love story and John's rise to prominence are documented in the exhibits contained within this beautifully preserved period interior of the house. You will find the famous house located on Sandhill just off the Tyne Bridge. This is one Newcastle story that will tug at your heartstrings.
Segedunum Roman Fort & Museum
Out to the east of Newcastle is where you will find this amazing stronghold built in 122 AD. This area of Hadrian's Wall is the most excavated along its 73-mile length and offers one of the best views from the top of the viewing tower. The large interactive museum has great programs for kids and adults.
There is a reconstructed Roman bathhouse, one of the best standing sections of the wall, and the only ancient stone toilet seat in Britain. The fort and museum are completely free for children under 16 years old, and adults are asked for a minimum donation to enter. The donation is not really that much, and it is so worth it to see one of the oldest toilet seats in the world.
Laing Art Gallery
The Laing Art Gallery, near Northumberland Street, is one of those special museums that take pride in their national talent. It does have an impressive collection of international modern and contemporary art, but they showcase British oil paintings, watercolors, and ceramics. It also has excellent exhibits of silver and glassware produced in Newcastle upon Tyne.
The art gallery hosts some very special events like art classes for primary and secondary school kids, weddings, and social and corporate meetings. There is even an area where kids under 5 can dress up, run around, and explore. Although it is free to enter, some events do have a fee, and they always appreciate donations.
A farm with a purpose is what Ouseburn Farm is. It is a working farm that helps children (and adults) learn how a farm works while having fun. There is a host of the usual animals for you to pet like sheep, cows, goats, and pigs, but there are a few special ones like tortoises and chinchillas. And keep an eye out for one of their food festivals where the food vendors from the northeast serve up some fantastic eats.
Ouseburn Farm works with those who have special needs too, with animal, kitchen, creative, and garden workshops that help them learn skills and build confidence. Located under three spectacular bridges in Ouseburn valley, getting there is easy. You can take public transit but it is also within walking distance along the Quayside as it is only a mile from the Newcastle city centre.
The BALTIC Contemporary Art Gallery
The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art sits near the Millennium Bridge with almost 28,000 square feet of exhibition space. You can experience the art gallery, special talks, live performances, and free workshops for kids. The contemporary art exhibitions are constantly changing, showing international as well as local attractions.
The BALTIC Centre has proudly hosted many special events such as the prestigious Turner Prize. Walking the Quayside, it is impossible to miss the impressive building as it towers over the south bank of the River Tyne.
Rising Sun Country Park
If you are looking to escape the rush of city life in the city centre, head to the Rising Sun Country Park in North Tyneside. The park stretches for 162 hectares and is an oasis of green spaces, woodlands, and lovely ponds. There is a lake in the center which has been designated as a Local Nature Reserve, and as such has an abundant amount of wildlife.
The park has an extensive network of trails and paths where you can enjoy a stunning walk, go for a bike ride, or ride a horse. There is a countryside centre and farm, as well as a hide for bird watchers. For the kids, there is a great play area with a water play feature when it gets hot. If you are not into physical activity, you can sit on the terrace of the park cafe and enjoy the view.
Quayside Sunday Market
The Quayside Sunday Market has been a tradition in North East local culture for over 300 years. The market features independent traders from not just Newcastle upon Tyne but the entire region. They come to sell their wares, and you will be able to find anything from artwork, handmade jewelry, toys, clothing, and so much more.
If the bustling and lively atmosphere is not enough to get you there, how about some entertainment that is completely free? Street artists and buskers show off their skills creating a warm, fun, and friendly atmosphere the North East is known for. If you get hungry there are food trucks and produce vendors selling sweet and savory treats to curb your appetite. It is easy to find too, on the River Tyne just near the Tyne Bridge.
The Newcastle Mela is a festival that only happens once a year. But if you happen to be in Newcastle upon Tyne on the August Bank Holiday weekend then you need to check it out. The festival celebrates Pakistani, Bengali, Indian, and other South Asian cultures. From live music, traditional cuisine, and fine art, this is a must-visit place for all travelers. The festival has been educating and entertaining the Nort East for over 25 years.
Things to Do in Newcastle City Centre and Beyond
There is so much more to explore and discover, and these are just the best free things to do in Newcastle upon Tyne. We know that not everyone has the same taste, but you have to admit, the 2000-year-old toilet seat makes this a winning list on its own.