Museums and attractions
There are many museums in Tyne and Wear, with exhibitions ranging from science and technology to local history. We’ve listed the local museums below so please read on for more information. The exhibitions change regularly, so visit the museums’ websites or contact them directly to see what’s on before you visit .
Arbeia, South Shields Roman Fort shows what daily life was like for those living at the Fort. It has full scale reconstructed Roman buildings: a West Gate, soldiers’ barrack and Commanders’ house for you to explore, giving a flavour of life at the fort. The museum showcases objects found at Arbeia, like weapons, armour and jewellery. You can discover how the Romans buried their dead and see tombstones and inscribed altars found at South Shields. With a seasonal programme of events. Donations welcome, admission free.
A magnificent French chateau created in the late 19th century by John and Josephine Bowes, housing internationally renowned collections of European fine and decorative arts spanning five centuries.
The railway is a volunteer led registered charity, aiming to preserve the unique rope hauled inclines colliery workshops and railway line, built in 1826. Take a guided tour of the railway site at 10.00am & 3.00pm or take a self-guided tour. See mining displays and blacksmithing demonstrations as well as diesel shunting. There is a variety of events programme throughout the year.
The Castle is a Norman Fortress with a remarkable history. The area around the Castle is known as Old
Newcastle, because it is the heart of the medieval town, including the old market areas. The main landmark other than the Castle is St Nicholas Cathedral. Once the ‘Great Tower’ at the centre of the 12th century Castle, the Keep was used as a royal residence and a centre for the defence of the North of England. It later became a county prison
and a place of execution. Today it is one of the best preserved castle keeps in England. There is also the Black Gate.
Discovery Museum explores life in Newcastle and Tyneside from our renowned maritime history and world-changing science and technology right through to fashion through the eras and military history. The museum has lots to offer audiences of all ages with many interactive displays, which makes it a great place to learn and have fun. Admission to the Discovery Museum is free.
Life Science Centre (Centre for Life) is a lively experience which aims to encourage questions about the world we live in. Attractions include interactive exhibitions and live demonstrations. There is an entrance fee.
Great North Museum: Hancock has collections from the Hancock Museum and Newcastle University’s Museum of Antiquities, the Shefton Museum and the Hatton Gallery. Highlights include a large-scale, interactive model of Hadrian’s Wall, major new displays showing the wonder and diversity of the animal and plant kingdoms, spectacular objects from the Ancient Greeks and mummies from Ancient Egypt, a planetarium and a life-size T-Rex dinosaur skeleton. It also has the Hancock Library with collections on the history and heritage of the Northern Region, Roman Britain and Hadrian’s Wall, as well as archaeology and natural history Free entry (donations welcome).
Hetton Colliery Railway 200 (HCR200) is a registered charity established to promote the educational, cultural and historical importance of the Hetton Colliery Railway.
Hylton Castle is a historic landmark near Sunderland that was built by Sir William Hylton, shortly before 1400. This distinctive and highly decorative gatehouse-tower style castle makes for an exciting sightseeing trip, as you uncover the history and heritage of the North East.
Jarrow Hall is a museum dedicated to exploring the life and legacy of Bede, alongside an Anglo-Saxon farm and coffee shop. Set across 11 acres, the farm houses features over 70 rare-breed and rescued animals and reconstructed Anglo-Saxon dwellings. There is an entrance fee.
Monkwearmouth Station Museum is now closed.
Newcastle United Museum & Stadium Tours features photographs and memorabilia from across the years. For an extra charge you can have a guided tour of St. James Park, which takes you on a journey of the history of Newcastle United Football Club. You can see the changing rooms, the Media Suite, the dugouts, and get to see how it feels to stand right by the pitch. There is an admission fee.
You can watch many films for free on their website, looking back at how things used to be in Newcastle. They currently hold around 30,000 items, from 1900’s to the present. They cover a range of subjects, including rural and urban life, industry and agriculture, family life, holidays and leisure, and wartime in the region, as well as a range of styles such as documentary, advertising, amateur footage, newsreels, animation, regional television news and educational material.
The Oriental Museum is devoted entirely to the art and archaeology of the great cultures of Northern Africa and Asia. There is a very small admission fee.
Segedunum Roman Fort is the most excavated fort along Hadrian’s Wall and also has a large interactive museum, which aims to show what life was like in Roman Britain. There are several permanent displays, including a Roman Gallery, Hadrian’s Wall and a 35m Viewing Tower delivering spectacular views across he site and wider area. With an annual programme of exhibitions and events. Admission charges apply, children under 16 go free.
South Shields Museum and Art Gallery explores the history of South Tyneside through art and interactive exhibits. There are permanent displays as well as regular temporary exhibitions. Free entry.
Stephenson Railway Museum is home to historic railway exhibits from the early days of the steam railway right up to the present day. You can take a ride on a real steam train or diesel engine on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. Please check their website for museum opening times and train times. They run special events in December where booking is required. Free entry. Donations welcome.
Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens combines a museum showing the history of the city, an art gallery, exhibition space and Winter Gardens. Free entry.
Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums is a major regional museum, art gallery and archives service. They manage a collection of nine museums and galleries across Tyneside and the Archives for Tyne and Wear. Many of these museums and galleries are free to visit. The individual venues are listed in this section and the Art Galleries article of Information Now. They also organise an annual free late night opening of cultural venues in Newcastle and Gateshead called The Late Shows. Free entry to most of their venues.
Tyne & Wear Archives is part of TWAM and is the largest archives in the North East. They store many historical records and can assist you with your own research. There is a public search room where you can carry out your own research. Free entry.
The Victoria Tunnel runs beneath the city from the Town Moor down to the Tyne. It was built in 1842 to transport coal from Leazes Main Colliery to riverside jetties ready for loading onto ships. In 1939, it was converted into an air-raid shelter to protect hundreds of Newcastle citizens during World War II. Tours must be booked in advance.
Washington ‘F’ Pit houses a Victorian steam engine, engine house and headgear. They are preserved as a monument to Washington’s coalmining heritage that reaches back over 250 years. Washington ‘F’ Pit is open seasonally. Check their website for more details. An online tour is available
100objectsNE.co.uk is an online interactive exhibition providing you with the opportunity to view and explore the history of the creativity and innovation of the North East, as told through a ‘virtual exhibition’ of 100 objects held by museums, galleries and archives across the North East. Together the stories these objects tell us illustrate the richness that comes from this region and its peoples, such as the creation of railways, the flourish of artistic life, the drive for social reform, and the sheer breadth and quantity of world renowned inventions.
Many of the local museums are known Safe Places. Where people with learning disabilities and autism can go to get help if they’re worried, have lost something, or just need reassurance from staff at the Safe Place. Safe Places will have a yellow sticker in the window or on the door. For more information about safe places please visit our article on learning disabilities and autism.
Last updated: October 15, 2021