Hop aboard the NewcastleGateshead Toon Tour bus

Whether you’re travelling to Newcastle from afar, or you’re a local playing tourist for the day – the NewcastleGateshead Toon Tour is one bus ride you won’t want to miss!

During my staycation over the summer, I hopped aboard the Toon Tour sightseeing bus with my mum to see Newcastle and neighbouring Gateshead from a slightly different perspective – on an open top double decker!

You might think these bright yellow buses are just for tourists, but they’re also a great activity for locals who want to soak up the sights and learn a few interesting facts about this magnificent place we call home.

The tour covers all of Newcastle’s major landmarks and is accompanied by commentary throughout, with anecdotes about the different buildings and locations en route. And, unlike sightseeing trips I’ve done in other cities, you don’t need any headphones as the audio beams straight into the bus via loudspeakers.

The Toon Tour bus route

You can hop on and off at any of the 17 stops on the Toon Tour’s circular route, which lasts about an hour, but technically it starts outside Central Station.

The bus then loops round to the Discovery Museum and past St James’ Park – home to Newcastle United football club – before cutting through Newcastle University campus, and on to the Great North MuseumCivic Centre and Laing Art Gallery.

Central Station
St James' Park

The tour then skirts along the edge of the Ouseburn. Here, the bus stops outside The Biscuit Factory art, craft and design gallery, and this is the place to hop off if you want to wander into the depths of the Ouseburn valley and explore this hip independent cultural quarter of the city.

Next, you cruise along Newcastle Quayside with the River Tyne to your left. This is where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the ’tilting’ Millennium Bridge, which was opened by the Queen in 2002. You’ll be seeing more of this bridge later!

River Tyne view

Toon Tour-goers then head across the Grade II listed Swing Bridge into Gateshead, breezing past street-food market and microbrewery, By the River Brew.

Highlights on the south of the river include state-of-the-art music venue Sage Gateshead (the one with the wavy steel roof) and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. This nationally renowned gallery is free to visit and it boasts unrivalled views of the River Tyne from its fifth-floor viewing platform.

Millennium Bridge

My favourite part of the tour was driving across the Tyne Bridge back into Newcastle, captured in the video below. This is undoubtedly the city’s most iconic landmark and was officially opened in 1928.

I’ve crossed this bridge so many times, but the views were even more spectacular from the top deck of the bus, with my hair blowing in the wind and the sun cascading onto the water below.

It’s then onto Pilgrim Street and down Grey Street – an architectural beauty dating from the 1830s that was once voted the finest street in Britain. This is also where you can see the 134 foot-tall Grey’s Monument.

The bus then meanders past Newcastle Castle. In case you didn’t already know, when the Normans conquered England in 1066, the fort here was re-named Novus Castellum meaning New Castle – and this is what gave the city its name.

The route then winds back round to Central Station, and voilà, the tour is complete.

Tickets and timetable

The bus operates between April and September, and runs every 30 minutes from 10am to 5pm. (I’d recommend checking the Toon Tour web page for up-to-date timetable information.)

Tickets are priced at £5 per person and valid all day. A family ticket costs £12 and this includes up to two adults and three children under the age of 16.

Look out for special offers in conjunction with your Toon Tour ticket, including discounted entry to some local attractions.

There’s also free wi-fi onboard the bus, perfect if you’re looking to share your Insta-stories on-the-go!

Is the ride worth it?

The NewcastleGateshead Toon Tour is just the ticket if, like me, you want to explore the city and delve into its past.

I learnt lots of interesting, little-known facts and it was a chance to give my undivided attention to buildings I’ve walked past many times without a second glance. I mean, how often do you properly look up from your regular street view and admire the surrounding architecture? Yep, me neither.

The bus is also a great way to get around the city, and it’s ideal if you want to venture into the Ouseburn, which can be tricky to find if you’re not familiar with the area. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this sightseeing trip and was incredibly lucky with the weather on the day – I only wish I’d taken my sunglasses! 

For more information, visit www.gonortheast.co.uk/toontour