North East England is a region filled with unmissable experiences and breathtaking beauty. We’ve got vibrant cities, gorgeous coastal scenery and plenty of stunning countryside too. This often-overlooked corner of the country has plenty to offer. In this post, I’ll be looking at some of the most unmissable things to do in North East England.
If you’re into history and adventure or are interested in the North East’s unique culture, you’ll love it here. You can immerse yourself in the rich history of Durham Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 11th century. If exploring is more your thing, you can’t beat a wander along the Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne. A visit to the iconic Tyne Bridge is a must, as is the chance to indulge in the city’s vibrant nightlife.
It’s not all landmarks and parties though. Nature lovers have plenty to get stuck into here as well. The North East is home to the rugged beauty of the Durham Dales and Northumberland National Park, with its rolling hills, ancient woodlands, and quirky villages.
On top of all that, North East England is also home to unique culinary delights. You’ll want to try out the region’s famous parmos and fish and chips for a true taste of the area.
Although I’m a bit biased, there are some unforgettable adventures to be had in North East England. With its diverse attractions and warm hospitality, the region has something for everyone.
Unmissable things to do in North East England
The North East is a fairly compact region. However, there’s plenty of variety packed into the area. Miles of glorious coastline to the east mixed with unspoilt countryside to the west make the region pretty special. There’s also loads of interesting history and culture to unpick in the North East, plus we’re a friendly bunch!
You’ll find plenty of things to do in North East England, but here are some of the best starter activities. If you’ve never been to the region before, these are a few of the unmissable things to try and do on your visit.
Historical landmarks and attractions
One unmissable port of call is Durham and in particular Durham Cathedral. This magnificent cathedral is a masterpiece of Norman architecture with stunning stained glass windows and intricate stone carvings. You can go on a guided tour to learn about its fascinating history and explore the cloisters, and chapels. There’s also Durham Castle nearby to explore.
The Tyne Bridge and the Angel of the North are two iconic landmarks of the region. If you get the opportunity, you should try to visit them both. Driving across the Tyne Bridge for the first time is quite the experience!
Another must-see historical landmark is Hadrian’s Wall, built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD. Stretching across the countryside, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers breathtaking views and a glimpse into the North East’s ancient past. You can take a walk along the wall and imagine what life was like for the Roman soldiers stationed here.
To the far North East, Alnwick Castle can give you a taste of medieval England. It’s one of the largest inhabited castles in the country and has amazing grand halls and magnificent gardens. Alnwick Castle also puts on a range of thrilling medieval reenactments and falconry displays throughout the year.
If you’re that way anyway, you can pay a visit to Lindisfarne, which isn’t too far from Alnwick. Otherwise known as Holy Island, this tiny tidal island is only accessible at certain times of the day but is packed with historical and cultural significance.
Outdoor activities and natural beauty
North East England is blessed with gorgeous natural landscapes that are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. The Durham Dales are located in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They offer breathtaking scenery with rolling hills, picturesque dales and cheerful market towns. Explore the rugged terrain by foot or bike, and don’t miss High Force, one of England’s most impressive waterfalls.
For a true wilderness experience, head to Northumberland National Park. It’s one of my favourite places in the area. Covering over 400 square miles, it’s home to diverse wildlife, ancient woodlands, and panoramic vistas. You can hike along the Hadrian’s Wall Path, go birdwatching in the Cheviot Hills, or take in the night skies in the Dark Sky Park, one of the best places in Europe for stargazing.
If you’re looking for adventure, North East England has plenty to offer. You can try your hand at kayaking or paddleboarding at any number of spots along the coast, although Tees Barrage is probably a good place to start if you’re not experienced on the water. Rock climbing in the Northumberland countryside or Durham Dales is also an option for adventurers.
For a unique coastal experience, head to Seahouses on the coast and take a boat trip to the Farne Islands, where you can see thousands of seabirds, seals, and even dolphins. The puffins are a particular highlight!
Cultural experiences and festivals
The North East is known for its vibrant cultural scene, with a rich heritage of art, music, and theatre. Visit the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, housed in a converted flour mill on the banks of the River Tyne. You can explore the ever-changing exhibitions and enjoy panoramic views of the city from the rooftop restaurant. It’s a great place to take the kids for a day out too!
For music lovers, the Sage Gateshead is a must-visit. This iconic concert venue hosts a wide range of performances, from classical concerts to jazz, folk, and world music. There are a variety of seasonal music events and festivals to enjoy year-round, so check out what’s on before you go.
If you’re visiting in the summer, make sure to check out the Durham Miners’ Gala, a traditional celebration of our region’s mining heritage and cultural identity. Known locally as The Big Meeting, it’s an annual event that celebrates our roots, the values of working-class life and our solidarity with the international community. Everyone is welcome to join in with the colourful procession, watch the brass bands, and soak up the festive atmosphere.
Another highlight is the Great North Run, the world’s largest half-marathon, which takes place in Newcastle every September.
No visit to North East England is complete without trying the region’s famous culinary delights. Start (or end the night) with a parmo, a local speciality that consists of a breaded and deep-fried chicken breast, topped with bechamel sauce and melted cheese. It’s a true indulgence and a favourite among us locals. It’s unbelievably bad for you, but it tastes amazing.
Also, you can’t visit the North East without indulging in some fish and chips. Head to the coast and enjoy freshly caught fish, perfectly crispy chips, and either mushy peas or curry sauce to go with them.
My advice would be to get them from literally any of the small towns along the East Durham coastline. Don’t fall into the Whitby trap. Gorgeous place, but it has massively overpriced fish and chips.
Unique towns and villages
North East England is punctuated with loads of charming towns and villages that are worth exploring. Check out the picturesque village of Blanchland, nestled in the North Pennines. It’s packed with stone cottages, a medieval abbey and peaceful surroundings.
Another gem is Tynemouth, which has beautiful beaches, and Beamish, where you can visit the North East of years gone by at the Beamish open-air museum. Whitby and Staithes are also worth a visit, but they’re a bit further afield in North Yorkshire.
If you’re a fan of the TV series “Vera,” you could visit towns like Hexham, Whitley Bay and Middlesbrough. These are just some of the settings for the popular crime drama. Some notable locations from the show include the Transporter Bridge and Tees Barrage.
You can also check out the raw coastal fury of Hartlepool Headland and enjoy the spectacular North Sea waves crashing over the breakwater. Cold, but breathtaking! If you go there in the summer, you’re likely to see dolphins there too.
Shopping and markets
North East England has several shopping options, from high-end boutiques to busy indoor and outdoor markets. In Newcastle, visit Eldon Square shopping centre, for plenty of high-end stores and independent boutiques.
If you’re heading up here during the festive season, don’t miss a trip to see the Christmas window at Fenwick. It’s a historic department store that’s been a Newcastle institution since 1882. There’s also the MetroCentre Gateshead, a massive mall complex which is home to just about every shop you can think of.
For some quirkier shopping, check out the Grainger Market in Newcastle. This covered market is over 180 years old and is home to a variety of stalls selling fresh produce, gourmet food, clothing, and crafts. It’s a great place to pick up some local treats and souvenirs.
For antiques and vintage treasures, head to the Quayside Sunday Market in Newcastle. You can browse the stalls, hunt for bargains, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of this bustling market.
Places to stay
North East England has plenty of unique places to stay to make your visit memorable. For a touch of luxury, you could book a stay at the historic Lumley Castle in County Durham. This 14th-century castle offers elegant rooms, fine dining, and even ghost tours if you’re brave enough to explore its haunted corridors.
If you fancy a more rustic experience, you could stay in a traditional Northumberland log cabin or cottage. Many of these cottages have been lovingly restored with cosy interiors, stunning views and easy access to the region’s natural beauty. Staying in a log cabin in the middle of Northumberland National Park is a gorgeous experience.
You could even book a stay in a yurt or a shepherd’s hut in the Northumberland countryside. There’s nothing quite like waking up in the forest and spending your evenings stargazing by the campfire.
Transport and getting around
Getting around North East England is pretty easy. The region is served by Newcastle International Airport, which offers flights to domestic and international destinations.
Newcastle Central Station is a major train hub with regular services to cities across the UK. From here, you can easily explore the region by train, with frequent services to Durham, Alnwick, Teesside and other popular destinations. Train travel is pretty expensive at the moment, so it’s worth planning ahead if you’re thinking of visiting by rail. There’s also the Tyne & Wear Metro, which links several towns across the counties of Tyneside and Wearside for fast travel.
To explore the countryside and visit more remote locations, you’ll need a car. North East England has a well-maintained road network, but you’ll want to check your vehicle and directions carefully if you’re heading a bit deeper into the countryside. Still, if you’re driving you can explore at your own pace and discover hidden gems off the beaten path.
Must-visit destinations in North East England
North East England has so much to offer, from its rich history and stunning landscapes to its vibrant cultural scene and delicious food. As a native, I’m a bit biased, but I’d recommend visiting our friendly region to anyone.
Don’t miss out on the unmissable things to do in North East England – it’s a destination you won’t soon forget.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you gave it a share or a pin on Pinterest. You might also enjoy this post on hidden gems in North East England, as well as this guide to planning a Disney World holiday.