Expert insight

Spotlight on Newcastle: The jewel of the North

1 February 2019

It has a reputation for friendliness but when it comes to business Newcastle is serious – and thriving.

A small but lively city (population is less than 300,000), Newcastle's name came from the 12th century "new castle" which replaced a century-old wooden one. Wool trade, mining and shipbuilding later cemented Newcastle's industrial reputation but now 7,000 businesses as varied as Virgin Money, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé and Siemens are based here.

FTSE 100 software company, Sage Group, has been head-quartered in Newcastle since it was founded almost four decades ago. In fact, the tech and knowledge intensive sectors are driving economic growth, employing more than 27,000 people in the surrounding region and with a turnover of £1.25bn.

Banking and professional services are rooted, more than 145 contact centres employ 40,000 agents, and the wider region has the highest concentration of employees in financial, legal and accounting activities in the UK.

In May 2018 the ONS revealed the employment rate in the North East hit a record high on 73.6 per cent, up two per cent on the previous year, but still below the UK average. For businesses looking to relocate, Invest Newcastle offers bespoke packages and the city centre's accelerated development zone (ADZ) offers three prime centre locations, spanning 22 hectares, for mix used development.

Hot areas

The city is famed for its iconic arched Tyne Bridge, St James Park foot-ball ground, and the Geordie nightlife. The city centre buzzes day and night thanks to its mix of restaurants, bars, shopping, and offices while Quayside draws locals and tourists alike for riverside views and eateries. Grainger Town, in the heart of Newcastle, where two fifths of buildings are listed, has enjoyed resurgence. Upmarket Jesmond offers a plentiful supply of good restaurants and bars. It's popular with commuters, being less than 10 minutes from the centre, and a destination for retail therapy thanks to its numerous boutiques. Gosforth bustles with independents. Culture lovers flock to Ouseburn a former industrial area brimming with creativity, artists and musicians.

Hotels

On the banks of the Tyne, the 42-room Hotel du Vin radiates modernised interiors within sympathetically refurbished red brick Edwardian finery that once belonged to the Tyne Tees Steam Shipping Company and the meetings maximum capacity is 80 theatre style.

Sandman Signature too has its heart in the city – the building was once home to the former Scottish & Newcastle Brewery. It has 170 rooms that include kitchen facilities are perfect for longer business trips.

The Vermont hotel combines 1930s grandeur with elegance and luxury. Set in the former County Hall for Northumberland next to the Castle Keep, it boasts 11 serviced apartments, in addition to spacious suites, bedrooms and dining. Its owners, who recently bought and refurbished the city's Victorian grand County Hotel, have also announced plans to turn the a former Premier Inn into 'the most luxurious hotel in Newcastle'

Innovative event space

The Assembly Rooms, one of Newcastle's oldest and grandest Georgian buildings, accommodates conferences with up to 550 guests. For a more artisan approach don't miss The Biscuit Room – the UK's largest independent commercial, art, craft and design gallery, set in a former biscuit factory – which can be hired for events and comfortably seats 300.

Check out the eight modern conference suites at the Life Centre. Sited on a science campus and run by a charity, it ploughs income from conferences back into research including for the NHS. It features a maximum meeting capacity of 350.

South of the city, the Newcastle Gateshead Marriott Hotel MetroCentre offers 519sq m of event space over nine rooms.

Restaurants

Kenny Atkinson's House of Tides is the city's only Michelin-star restaurant. Set within a Grade 1 listed former merchant's townhouse on the historical Quayside it offers a multi-course tasting menu.

Former Masterchef finalist Dave Coulson has produced an experimental-British cuisine gem in Peace and Loaf. Think fine dining – but fun. The Patricia is a recent addition to the local scene, offering seasonal dishes in a relaxed setting by ex-River Café chef Nick Grieves. The Narnia-like Botanist with its menu of hearty fare served under a domed glass ceiling and (wait for it) a massive tree is renowned for its famous hanging kebabs.

The much-loved Cook's House, which was set in a converted shipping container, is set to reopen in new Ouseburn premises in time for Christmas.

Transport

Newcastle railway station is served by all LNER services on the Kings Cross to Edinburgh route, with a fleet of 'bullet' trains from Japan's Hi-tachi set for introduction next year – travelling time will be 2 hours and 47 minutes hours to London Kings Cross and 1 hour 30 minutes to Edinburgh from Newcastle.

CrossCountry also runs to Scotland, plus Birmingham and the southwest, with other operators providing local and Liverpool/Manchester-bound services. The Metro light rail gets you from city centre to the airport in around 25 minutes. Emirates flies direct to Dubai (shortest flight time is 7 hours and 15 minutes) the airport is well served by low-cost carriers, with long haul connections also available from BA via Heathrow, Air France via Paris and KLM via Amsterdam. For those that cycle Newcastle offers Mobike to get you round the city, while Uber costs from the airport to the station start from £18.

Arts and culture

Walk across the Tyne on the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, winner of the Stirling Prize for architecture in 2002, to the Baltic Centre for Con-temporary Art. Set in a converted flourmill it offers a frequently changing programme of exhibitions.

The Norman Foster designed glass and metal Sage Gateshead is as much a draw for architecture fans, as it is those of music and the per-forming arts. South of Gateshead, Antony Gormley's Angel of the North has become an iconic welcome overlooking the A1 into Tyneside.