Attractions in the North East

Polly Checkland Harding

Our guide to the best attractions in the North East of England includes no fewer than three galleries with collections of Designated national importance. Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, the Bowes Museum in Durham and The Shipley all hold this prestigious status: here you’ll find an incredible selection of Victorian art, a truly magnificent building and one of the most ambitious collections of contemporary craft outside of the capital. Not to be outdone, Durham’s cathedral and castle both form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while the National Glass Centre shines a fascinating light on the history of this craft and its significance for the city of Sunderland. To discover the North East’s historic link to George Washington, and where to go for an immersive experience of life in the North over the last century, read on.

Our top picks

Newcastle Castle

Newcastle Castle, The Black Gate, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1RQ - Visit now

This is the edifice from which the city of Newcastle (‘new castle’) got its name. A 12th century defensive fortress, added to over the centuries, Newcastle Castle is steeped in history and grandeur, with a 43 foot high Great Hall and stunning views across the city.

Newcastle Castle
Courtesy of Newcastle Castle

The National Glass Centre

The National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, SR6 0GL - Visit now

Explore the history of glassmaking in Britain, and Sunderland’s rich glassblowing heritage in particular, at the National Glass Centre, as well as enjoying demonstrations from the skilled team and exhibited work from some of the world’s best glass and ceramic artists.

The National Glass Centre
National Glass Centre

Bowes Museum

Bowes Museum, Newgate, Barnard Castle, DL12 8NP - Visit now

Situated in the town of Barnard Castle, County Durham, the Bowes Museum combines an astonishing historic building with a nationally-significant art collection.

Bowes Museum
Bowes Museum

Seven Stories

Seven Stories, 30 Lime Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2PQ - Visit now

Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle, is dedicated to bringing stories for children to life through exhibitions and events. There’s an on site bookshop and cafe, as well as an extraordinary archive of children’s literature.

Seven Stories
Courtesy of Seven Stories

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral, The College, Durham, DH1 3EH - Visit now

Part of the Durham UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with Durham Castle, Durham Cathedral has been in daily use for 900 years, contains the remains of two saints and was dubbed ‘the best cathedral on Planet Earth’ by Bill Bryson. Climb the 325 steps up the cathedral tower for incredible views across the city.

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral

Laing Art Gallery

Laing Art Gallery, New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8AG - Visit now

Founded by the owner of a thriving wine shop and beer bottling company, important gifts and bequests from prominent public figures and successful industrialists helped to build a collection at Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle that’s now of Designated status, with Victorian art particularly well represented.

Laing Art Gallery
Courtesy of Laing Art Gallery

Assembly Rooms Theatre

Assembly Rooms Theatre, 40 North Bailey, Durham, DH1 3ET - Visit now

This historic theatre in Durham was built in the 18th century and formerly used as a ballroom. The Assembly Rooms now hosts touring productions and work by its resident theatre companies, and was extensively refurbished in 2019.

Assembly Rooms Theatre
Assembly Rooms Theatre Durham

Washington Old Hall

Washington Old Hall, The Avenue, Washington, Sunderland, NE38 7LE - Visit now

Located in the village of Washington outside Sunderland, manor house and National Trust property Washington Old Hall incorporates part of the medieval home of George Washington’s ancestors.

Washington Old Hall
National Trust

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, SR6 0GL - Visit now

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021, the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art is one of the oldest contemporary art galleries in Britain. Occupying 3,000 square feet inside the National Glass Centre, the gallery showcases work from both new and established artists in its changing exhibition programme.

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art
Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art

Tyneside Cinema

Tyneside Cinema, 10 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6QG - Visit now

The leading independent cinema in the North East, Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle screens the best new releases from the UK and internationally in historic Art Deco surrounds, as well as hosting a programme of regular live events.

Tyneside Cinema
Courtesy of Tyneside Cinema

Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Garden

Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Garden, Burdon Rd,, Sunderland SR1 1PP, SR1 1PP - Visit now

Discover a museum exploring Sunderland’s history, critically-acclaimed art exhibitions and a tropical winter garden – all under one roof.

Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Garden
Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Garden

Durham Castle

Durham Castle, Palace Green, Durham, DH1 3RW - Visit now

Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, Durham Castle has been continually occupied since the 11th century and is now a part of Durham University. Discover the fascinating history and collections of this historic building.

Durham Castle
Durham University

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead Quays, Gateshead, Newcastle on Tyne, NE8 3BA - Visit now

This premier international centre for contemporary art occupies a former flour mill on the banks of the River Tyne in Newcastle, and hosts exhibitions by the world’s leading artists.

Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Image courtesy of the Baltic.

Beamish – The Living History Museum of the North

Beamish – The Living History Museum of the North, Regional Resource Centre, Beamish, DH9 0RG - Visit now

Beamish is an open air, living museum that tells the story of life in the North of England through a 1900s town, colliery and pit cottages, 1940s farm and Pockerley Old Hall, which dates back to the 1820s. There are even traditional shopping and dining options, as well as a railway station and tramway.

Beamish – The Living History Museum of the North
Beamish – The Living History Museum of the North

Shipley Art Gallery

Shipley Art Gallery, Prince Consort Road, Gateshead, NE8 4JB - Visit now

The North’s leading gallery of craft and design, The Shipley holds a collection of Designated national importance, including 800 paintings and works on paper, as well as one of the best contemporary craft holdings outside of London.

Shipley Art Gallery
Courtesy of Shipley Art Gallery

Where to go in North East

North East
Museum
Museum of Archaeology

Durham University’s specialist museum showcases an exhibition which ranges from the prehistory to modern times, charting the history of Durham.

North East
Museum
Oriental Museum

Durham University displays a devoted exhibition, looking at the art and archaeology of the great cultures of Northern Africa and Asia.

Ryhope Engines Museum
Sunderland
Museum
Ryhope Engines Museum

The Ryhope Engines Museum is a volunteer-led museum that preserves the history of the pumping stations that provided Sunderland with fresh water and helped combat disease.

The National Glass Centre
Sunderland
Tourist Attraction
The National Glass Centre

The National Glass Centre tells how glass, a delicate and light material, came to be such a large part of Sunderland’s stature and history.

Bowes Railway
Sunderland
Tourist Attraction
Bowes Railway

A unique historical site showing the story of the railways from George Stephenson until the beginning of deindustrialisation in the 1960s and 1970s.

Locomotion
Durham
Museum
Locomotion

Locomotion is a railway museum found in Shildon, known as the world’s first railway town, telling the historic story of train travel.

Bowes Museum
Durham
Museum
Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum is the North of England’s Museum of Art, Fashion and Design, with a collection that includes art, ceramics and textiles.

The Discovery Museum
Newcastle
Museum
The Discovery Museum

Newcastle has been a place of innovation for centuries with inventions that have shaped the world and, in a building that started as an office for the Cooperative society, you can discover it all in one of Newcastle’s science museums – The Discovery Museum.

North East Visitor Guides

Walks in Sunderland
Walks in Sunderland

A cultivated array of walks and cultural spaces to visit, with nods to local history, sporting events, landmarks and heritage.

Walks in Durham
Walks in Durham

A curated guide on where to walk in Durham, featuring riverside routes, easy ambles, sought-out hikes and marked cultural stopping points.

Walks in Newcastle
Walks in Newcastle

A guide to the most attractive, rewarding and beautiful walks in central Newcastle and the landscape beyond.

The Kingslodge Inn
Hotels in the North East

To make life easy when it comes to booking your stay, here’s our guide to the best hotels in the North East of England.

The Grainger Market
Shopping in the North East

Our guide to the best shops in the North East of England, including independents, boutiques and markets in Durham, Newcastle and Sunderland.

Society Manchester
Spotlight on

Beer Gardens in Manchester & Salford

Make the most of the sun in one of Manchester's many top-notch beer gardens.

Take me there

Culture Guides

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
Cinema in Manchester and the North

From the latest installment in the Mad Max franchise, to silent movie masterpieces we highlight the best new releases and big screen classics showing near you this month.