Newcastle is bursting with hidden gems, I could write a book on all the cute little coffee shops, independent businesses and quirky buildings that are just waiting to be discovered off the beaten track. Although, seeing as this blog post has been sat in my draft folder for weeks, a book may be a bit ambitious! Instead, here are five of my favourites, I’ll keep the others under my hat for now but would love you to add your suggestions in the comments box at the end.
This tiny bar and live music venue is probably one of Newcastle’s best kept secrets. It’s easy to miss as it’s located in a basement beneath the Grainger Market with a discreet door on Nelson street and hardly any signage. The American dive bar influence is clear to see at Billy Bootleggers, they even sell homemade moonshine! The free gigs are usually rockabilly or blues bands, I’ve even seen guys playing the washboard and there’s always a great vibe . There really isn’t anywhere else like it in the Toon!
Whenever I want to escape the hustle and bustle in Newcastle city centre I make a bee line for the quaint coffee rooms that occupy the second floor of the Tyneside Cinema. I think it’s often overlooked because unlike the Tyneside Bar Cafe it’s not visible from street level. With its art deco interior and simple hearty menu it feels like stepping back in time. In fact, judging by old pictures I’ve seen, the place hasn’t changed much since the 1930’s – and that’s exactly why I love it!
Another historical building that offers a sanctuary in the city centre is the beautiful Lit & Phil. This independent library is the biggest outside of London but it’s more than just a place to borrow books. The stunning Georgian building beside Newcastle’s central station is also used as a venue by a wide variety of groups and there’s a thriving events programme. One of the best things about the Lit & Phil is its massive music library, if you’re in to the vinyl revival you will be in heaven with over 10,000 LP’s available. It never ceases to amaze me how many Geordies haven’t even heard of this place despite its prominent position in the heart of Newcastle. It’s free to pop in and take a look around but if you want to visit regularly it’s best to become a member.
I first discovered this Aladdin’s cave of all things vintage and retro on Instagram. It didn’t take me long to hunt it down on Warwick Street in Shieldfield and I haven’t stopped raving about it since. The cavernous store is filled to the brim with gifts, clothing and homeware from decades gone by. You can also shop for unique products from up and coming local designers. There’s beautiful handmade jewellery from Appliqué Originals, pretty house plants from MIA Loves and original artwork from Amy Pearson Design, to name just a few. It’s dog friendly too (see if you can spot Pat in the pic above)! Flea Circus is on the outskirts of the city centre so you’re unlikely to stumble across it on a shopping trip but it’s well worth seeking out the treasure trove for a good old rummage!
Nestled beneath one of the railway arches on Stepney Bank in the thriving Ouseburn valley is Arch2, a microbrewery and kitchen that is quite possibly one of the coolest places to eat and drink in Newcastle! The small beer garden with its cosy fire pit sits side by side with the Indian street food kitchen Thali Tray. Each tray is made up of six compartments in which you are served two different curries, naan or puri bread, soyawadi tikka skewer, cardamom tumeric rice, lime pickle and fresh chillies. Prices start from £8 which is a bargain! It’s all pretty fiery but you can always wash down your food with a pint from Arch2. I would highly recommend stopping by on your next venture in to Ouseburn.
Don’t forget to share your favourite hidden gems in Newcastle by leaving me a comment!