Newcastle, England, UK cruises

In northeast England, Newcastle stands across the River Tyne from Gateshead, joined by several bridges. Once known for shipbuilding and coal, today’s city has a lively buzz and a thriving arts scene.

Seek out Segedunum, the Roman fort that once guarded the eastern extremity of Hadrian’s Wall. You’ll find it around three and a half miles east of Newcastle city center in Wallsend, a town whose name is no coincidence. The best place to appreciate this impressively excavated site is from its 100-foot-high viewing tower, where outlines of barracks, stables, the headquarters building and the commander’s house are all visible. The site also includes a life-size reconstruction of part of the wall, next to an original section over 250 feet long.

Slightly closer to the here and now is the Beamish Museum south of the city center, which leads you on an open-air journey through the history of northeast England. Here, Pockerley Old Hall transports you back to the 1820s, before you step into a colliery, a town and a rural village from the 1900s. Steam engine and tramway rides are among the other period attractions on offer, while a 1940s farm reveals life on the Home Front during World War II.

Back in the city center, imagine the nights of the Blitz as you enter the Victoria Tunnel that runs nearly two and half miles beneath its streets, and which became shelter for thousands of residents with every air raid siren. It was actually built as an underground wagon route and, from the 1840s to the 1860s, provided a handy link for transporting coal between the Spital Tongues Colliery and ships on the Tyne.

Vital to Newcastle’s industry for centuries, the Tyne River is also its aesthetic centerpiece, not least because of the bridges that link it to Gateshead. Probably the most eye-catching of these are the 1928 Tyne Bridge, whose arch reflects on the water’s surface, and the more futuristic curves of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, whose entire structure tilts to allow boats to pass.

In all likelihood, you’ll be drawn to the Quayside district, filled with eateries and galleries. The BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art ranks highly on most “to-do” lists. Inside the massive converted mill, cavernous spaces now host exhibitions by modern artists, photographers and designers from around the world. Almost next door, Norman Foster’s mesmerizing curved glass design has ensured that Sage Gateshead is not just a state-of-the-art music venue, but also a gleaming modern symbol of the city.

Other impressive buildings in the heart of the city include St. Nicholas’ Cathedral, noted for its fifteenth century lantern tower, and the Castle, Newcastle, a medieval fortress with an imposing Keep and Black Gate. If you’re a sports fan, don’t forget to visit St. James’s Park, home of Newcastle United Football Club.

Admire Grey’s Monument, the 130-foot-tall tribute to the second Earl Grey for passing the Great Reform Act of 1832 during his time as Prime Minister. Or seek out a more recent and already-iconic landmark beyond the city: Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North, standing 66 feet tall with outstretched wings that measure 177 feet across.