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24 hours in Newcastle: a cheap cultural break with Tune Hotels.

by Rajul on May 28, 2015


As a born and bred Londoner, I’m ashamed to say I’d never before visited the UK’s North-East. So I jumped at the invitation from Tune to spend a night in their recently-opened Newcastle hotel.

Taking the direct train from Kings Cross (my advance ticket cost only £40), I was impressed by the ease and comfort of the journey, which took around 3 hours – the latter segment spent staring awestruck out of my window at the lovely rolling Durham and Northumberland countryside.

Arriving in Newcastle, you’ll enjoy a warm Geordie welcome (with echoes of a previous trip to Liverpool, where Tune will soon open another hotel). Everyone has a friendly greeting, in itself a reason for frosty Londoners like me to drop by, to recognise that our great northern cities have their very own charm.

This hospitality was particularly evident at Tune Newcastle.

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tune nc reception

The staff mostly local Tynesiders hugely proud of their region – had that extra glint in their eye. Regular readers will not be surprised since our bloggers have had similar experiences in the brand’s London hotels like Tune Liverpool Street, which provide service above and beyond a typical budget brand.

Being such a new hotel, Tune Newcastle reflects the continuous redesign of this fast-evolving brand (for a slightly different take, check out their latest Canary Wharf hotel and the review by Laura @AboutLondon).

Yes, Tune is a budget brand but it’s a class above its competitors.

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tune newcastle room

I was impressed by the quality of fixtures and fittings – from quality flatscreen and Hypnos bed to classy bathroom fittings (Villeroy & Boch) and a great power shower. There is in-room climate control in keeping with a more expensive hotel. The room was spotlessly clean and I had total tranquillity during my stay: all in all, a premium experience at a budget price.

There is clever use of space throughout the limited area – a Tune trademark. For example, the room safe was hidden away under the bed! The minimalist yet functional design has a definite calming effect.

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tune nc safe

However, most visitors don’t come to Newcastle to chill out: it is well-known as a party town, reinforced by popular TV series Geordie Shore.

I learned that where many cities wear their cultural attractions on their sleeve while keeping their nightlife slightly “underground”, Newcastle is almost the opposite: slightly hidden-away cultural attractions and in-your-face nightlife.

Efforts are underway to change this perception and it will be interesting to see if the Vision for Newcastle’s Cultural Future manages to give a boost to the city’s cultural scene. And there certainly is an arts and culture scene to explore, though I had to make do with a mere taster due to my flying visit.

chose the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, somewhere I’d longed to visit for many years. It’s less than a 10 minute walk from Tune Newcastle.

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To get to the BALTIC you turn a corner after leaving the hotel to be greeted by squawking gulls welcoming you to the scenic quayside district along the banks of the Tyne. Then you cross the stunning Gateshead Millennium Bridge to the Baltic Flour Mill building, which you can’t really miss!

The original structure was built by the Rank Hovis bread company and completed in 1950. It was closed in 1981 and in the mid-1990s converted into an arts centre. It was then opened to the public in 2002 and today hosts some outstanding world-class collections and exhibitions.

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The name probably derives from the fact that Rank Hovis Mills around the UK were named after seas or rivers e.g. Atlantic Mill, Solent Mill, etc. The building’s striking aspect and the bridge framing it dominate the city’s vista.

It is free to visit (£5 voluntary donation) and I was happy to find a striking collection of sculptures by Norwegian artist Ida Ekblad on the ground floor.

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baltic art

Her exhibition’s centrepiece was a stage set used in the successful London play “Constellations” in 2012inspired by the beautiful notion that everything in this world triggers parallel events in another universe. The objects on display were suitably other-worldly and haunting, based on materials the artist scavenged from scrapyards. A memorable journey…

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newcastle river

One of the best things about the BALTIC is the opportunity to explore its upper viewing deck and terraces, from which you’ll enjoy striking views over the river. And the curators here are as friendly as everyone else in Newcastle. There are also great little play/interactive areas for children.

After my art interlude, I strolled along the river, inspired by this fantastic blog post signposting a walk around several of Newcastle’s stunning bridges.

I then grabbed a lovely focaccia flatbread lunch digested with yet another river view – just what the doctor ordered and well under a tenner with a drink.

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newcastle food

That’s another Tune benefit: your savings on the hotel free up money to loosen the shackles on your “fun” budget. I guess it comes down to whether you define “luxury” by your hotel’s aesthetics or your ability to fully experience the destination you are visiting.

On my way back to Tune I sneaked into Side Photographic Gallery right by the hotel, one of the city’s under-the-radar gems. You’re unlikely to run out of things to do in Newcastle even if visiting the city for a full week.

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tune nc

When I later chatted to the hotel’s General Manager Elly, I could see how her calm professionalism was reflected in her team. Elly is a young Tune veteran who worked her way up from the brand’s first UK hotel near Westminster. She embodies their values of friendliness, value and efficient execution.

Tune Newcastle is brilliantly-located, linking the quayside and the town centre. There is no better place to stay in Newcastle, whether you want a dose of Geordie nightlife, a cultural tour or a well-judged combination of the two!

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Photo credits: LHI blogger Rajul, Tune Newcastle, smip.co.uk.

Disclosure: Tune provided me with a complimentary stay in their hotel in Newcastle.

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