Downtime as a student isn’t just about boxsets and takeaways; it’s an opportunity to broaden your horizons, get together with your mates and experience something new. Newcastle is known for having one of the most vibrant arts and culture scenes in the UK, with plenty of options for students looking to make the most of their time here.

So whether you want to catch an art show, get a flavour of local history or see your favourite festival acts, here are our favourite cultural hotspots in Newcastle and beyond.


The Late Shows

Every year, Newcastle and Gateshead host The Late Shows, a culture crawl taking in some of the city’s most exciting and unique art studios, galleries and historical buildings. Head down on the Friday evening to tour Ouseburn, known as Newcastle’s arts district, where local artists open up their studios to the public.

Take part in workshops, silent discos and live music, with venues including The Biscuit Factory, Star and Shadow Cinema and even Ouseburn Farm.  Usually held in May, it’s completely free and a great way to catch plenty of art and culture without breaking the bank.

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

Fans of modern art will flock to the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art is the UK’s largest dedicated contemporary art institution, housed in a former flour mill right on the banks of the Tyne.

Exhibition tours are held daily, giving you an expert view of the latest works on display. For some of the best views of Newcastle and Quayside, head up to the Level 5 viewing gallery, where you can see the whole city illuminated at night. Entry is free, and with the gallery simply an easy stroll from Newcastle’s Quayside and across the iconic Millennium Bridge, it’s a must for a post-lecture visit.

Sage Gateshead

A music-lover’s paradise, Sage Gateshead is one of the most iconic buildings in the region, boasting some of the largest performance spaces in the UK. From major international acts to classical orchestras such as the Royal Northern Sinfonia, every musical style and genre is on offer.

The venue also offers a range of festivals and events throughout the year, such as Folkworks, a festival of performances, workshops, summer schools and more.


Discovery Museum

Famous for being the first science museum outside of London, the Discovery Museum tells the story of Newcastle’s scientific and engineering legacy. From Turbinia, the steam-powered ship that was once the fastest in the world, to the Story of the Tyne gallery, the museum is a treasure trove of artefacts and stories about the history of the region.

The Discovery Museum is also known for its unusual exhibitions, from LEGO recreations of famous landmarks, to photography portraits. Located in the heart of Newcastle, it’s ideal for a day of culture around town. Like most museums in the UK, entrance is free.

Great North Museum: Hancock

Newcastle’s museum of natural history, archaeology, geology and world cultures offers a huge range of activities for all interests. From talks and exhibitions to workshops and late night openings, it has something for everyone.

The Hancock Museum also has its own Planetarium, offering local shows and talks exploring the cosmos and our knowledge of the Universe.

Newcastle Castle

Ever wondered how Newcastle got its name? Built on the site of a Roman fortress and intended primarily to defend the city, Newcastle Castle shows medieval military architecture at its finest.

The castle is open to the public daily, allowing you to explore the Castle Keep and thirteenth century Black Gate for yourself. Only a stone’s throw from Newcastle Central Station and a short walk from the Quayside, it’s the perfect stop on a historical tour through the city.


Mouth of the Tyne Festival

Held every July in the picturesque coastal town of Tynemouth, the Mouth of the Tyne festival brings together musicians, artists and performers from across the world. Venues include Tynemouth Priory, famous for being the site of multiple Viking raids and the burial place of the ancient kings of Northumbria.

The festival is a great way to explore what the North East coast has to offer, with most venues only a metro ride away from Newcastle city centre. Previous headliners have included Elbow, James Bay, Paloma Faith and more.

This is Tomorrow

Taking place during May in Exhibition Park, in the heart of the city, This is Tomorrow is one of the region’s newer music festivals. Featuring big name acts as well as local up and coming bands, it’s the perfect way to get a flavour of Newcastle’s buzzing music scene.

Tickets often get snapped up quickly, so make sure you book in advance to make the most of the three-day festival.


For a blend of history, storytelling and performance, head to Kynren, an epic festival performed every Saturday from August to September. The performances tell the history of England through exciting battle scenes, plays, and even jousting, all set to music specially composed for the festival.

Staged in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, it’s consistently named as one of the best cultural attractions in the North East, and is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of the area.

Want to know more about student life in Newcastle and what it has to offer? Check out our advice hub for more info.