Mummies from ancient Egypt, a virtual Hadrian’s Wall and a life-sized T-Rex? They're all at Newcastle's Great North Museum. Although it’s set over three sites in Newcastle, it’s the Great North Museum: Hancock that draws the biggest crowds. Purpose-built in 1884 (and formerly called the Hancock Museum) this Victorian masterpiece is free to enter, but for an extra £1 you can take a sparkling trip through space in its planetarium. Nestled on the campus of Newcastle University, the focus here is natural history and, while you’ll find all the usual stuffed animals, the overall experience is far from stuffy. A £26 million redevelopment in 2009 brought with it the name-change and some highly interactive features to make history fun for the kids. But there’s still plenty to keep the grown-ups engaged, including a variety of items, from dinosaur fossils to the Middlesbrough meteorite (found on some railway sidings in 1881).
With so much to see you could easily spend the whole day here. But why not turn your museum visit into a whole weekend of culture by checking into one of our Newcastle hotels? Luckily there’s a Premier Inn near the Great North Museum that’s perfect for exploring the city’s other cultural hot spots.
Prepare to have your minds well and truly blown at the sprawling Living Planet gallery on the ground and first floors. Among the wonders of the natural world on display are a life-sized cast of an African elephant, the scarily real-looking great white shark and Sparkie, Newcastle’s famous talking budgie (now, sadly, stuffed).
The Hadrian’s Wall gallery, also on the ground floor, features a wealth of fascinating archaeological finds from across the 73 mile stretch of Hadrian’s Wall. Kids will love the virtual model that spans the length of the gallery, giving you a real sense of the sheer scale of the Wall. Fossil Stories has the full-size T-rex skeleton as well as fossil trees and live animals, while you’ll find Ancient Egyptians on the first floor. There are two seriously creepy mummies here - one has the lid open to display the shrivelled remains of the Egyptian princess Irt-irw.
Set across three sites in Newcastle, the Great North Museum is one of the most-visited attractions in the North East - here’s more details of some of the important info you may need for your visit.
You’ll find the museum at Barras Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4PT and the telephone number is 0191 208 6765. Admission is free and it’s open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm and at weekends from 10am to 4pm. The museum is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and on New Year's Day.
Lockers are available to use at the front of the museum for a minimal, non-refundable cost. The planetarium on the first floor shows spectacular films about space and the galaxies. If you fancied a bit of peace and quiet, head to the library on the second floor - it’s full of fascinating natural history collections.
Baby changing facilities are available in the male and female toilets on both the ground and first floors. If you’re here with an under five, head to the Mouse House at the front of the museum for dressing up, play and activities. The Mouse House holds regular themed events throughout the year, for babies through to pre-schoolers.
The museum has four parking bays reserved for blue badge holders. Call 0191 208 6765 to book. Accessible toilets are available on the ground, first and second floors, and the one on the ground floor has a shower with a seat. Inside the museum there are lifts, stairs with raised tactile indicators on the handrails and level access throughout.
Thinking of bringing your own sandwiches? The museum only allows packed lunches during school holidays. If the weather’s fine there’s a lovely lawn just outside where you’re welcome to spread out the picnic blanket, though. Other than that there are two cafes and plenty of dining options nearby if you don’t mind heading further afield.
You’ll find the Street Café on the ground floor at the rear of the museum. It’s small and basic, serving just hot and cold drinks, packets of sandwiches, cakes and snacks. If you fancied a sit-down meal, more luxurious is the larger Hancock Café on the first floor at the front of the museum. With great kids meals and hot food, It’s fully licensed too.
Consistently winning rave reviews and within easy reach of the museum Quilliam Brothers is a cute and cosy tea house. It’s so popular you may have to queue to get in, but there’s a large sketch pad by the window so you can doodle while you wait. Their leather-bound tea menu has over 60 different teas to choose from, but it’s the food that keeps people coming back for more. The menu is small, but it’s all done incredibly well, using great ingredients from local suppliers. The lunch menu is mainly stotties and salads, or the incredibly popular Geordie Rarebit - cheese, mustard and Brown Ale on toast. It’s open for dinner too, but don’t go expecting a glass of wine with your meal - there’s nothing stronger than English breakfast tea on offer. Unique for a tea house in that it’s open until 1am, it’s a popular place for a late night cuppa and a snack after a night out!
If you fancy something with a bit more spice than the food on offer at the museum, head to the Zapatista Burrito Bar a five-minute walk away. With the most authentic Mexican fare outside of a Tijuanan cantina, the menu is simple but just so tasty! Choose from chargrilled chicken wraps loaded with spicy trimmings, squid with crispy coating, delicate fish tacos, or just order some of the best nachos money can buy. Perfect for families, you choose your food and toppings from the counter where your dish is made freshly in front of you, so your party can see exactly what they’re getting. Reasonably priced, head there for a quick lunch to fuel up before your museum trip. Or go there afterwards for dinner and drinks before you hit the town for the evening - try the seriously good sangria, lip smacking margaritas or choose from the range of bottled beers.
With its city centre location, the Great North Museum: Hancock is surrounded by some of Newcastle’s finest attractions. If you love theatre, the museum shares the Newcastle University campus with Northern Stage, a theatre company that produces everything from bold drama to family shows. Or if there’s nothing there to tempt you, try Newcastle City Hall. Also nearby, this grand building hosts some of the world’s finest pop, rock and comedy acts.
Less than half a mile away you’ll find the Tyneside Cinema. This splendid example of art deco design shows everything from Hollywood blockbusters to the latest art house releases, all in some seriously beautiful surroundings. Get tickets to a film, or go in the morning for guided tours and free newsreel showings at 11.15am.
And if a trip to the Museum has left you thirsty for more culture, you could always nip into the Laing Art Gallery with its internationally important collection of British paintings, ceramics, silver and glassware.
You’ll find the Great North Museum: Hancock on the campus of Newcastle University, close to Barras Bridge. It’s hard to miss as its beautiful Victorian exterior stands out among all the red-brick and modern glass buildings.
The museum is just off the Great North Road. The postcode for your sat nav is NE2 4PT. There’s a council car park in Claremont Road, or an NCP on John Dobson Street.
Take any of the many local buses that stop at the Haymarket bus interchange. Once you get off at Haymarket, it’s just a five minute walk until you get to the Museum.
A well-signposted, five minute walk from Haymarket Metro station gets you to the museum. The nearest mainline rail station is Central. Haymarket is only two stops away.
We have a huge range of fantastic hotels in the North East for the business and leisure traveller. If you're on business, check into our airport hotels. We also have a range of hotels ideally located for a weekend break away. Plus, there are hotels near Newcastle University and a collection of budget hotels for the price conscious Whichever part of Newcastle you’re planning to visit, you’ll find a selection of comfortable Premier Inn hotels nearby.
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