People tend to think that Newcastle is home to the Angel of the North, the Baltic Centre and the Millennium Bridge. It's not. These and other tourist sights are across the River Tyne in Gateshead
The North-South divide still lives on in Britain. Below Watford Gap, there's still a belief that Northerners haul themselves up by their bootstraps and into the coal mines for a hard day's graft. We're not credited that much with having international appeal, when in fact the North-east has some of Britain's most recognised landmarks.
There's a North-South divide in the region, too. Almost all the attractions claimed by Newcastle – the Millennium Bridge, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, The Sage music centre and the totemic Angel of the North – are, in fact, Gateshead's pride and joy.
Gateshead is often bumped down to "annoying younger sibling of Newcastle" where tourism is concerned. You hear of Newcastle-Gateshead, an annoying, hyphenated twinning of the city and town separated by the River Tyne – and invariably the latter half gets shorn off for brevity. There's the Newcastle-Gateshead Initiative; Newcastle-Gateshead was "buzzin'" in the advertising slogan used to promote it as Capital of Culture – an accolade on which it narrowly missed out. But if you want to come to the region and do the majority of the sights, whether on a family holiday or a business trip, you can spend the entire time south of the river.
You'll need to stay at a Gateshead hotel, of course. The Hilton Newcastle Gateshead lies on the banks of the River Tyne, only nominally in Gateshead. Its terrace, stretching out of the hotel lobby, gives you views of all the parts of Newcastle you need see; it also shows you the Tyne Bridge, the main crossing on the River, the Swing Bridge, a rust-red pedestrian and traffic bridge, and the High Level Bridge, recently renovated and one of the grand old architectural projects of the area.
Close by are The Sage Gateshead (quite literally a two-minute walk away), which has Raval, a luxury Indian restaurant and bar right next to it. Admire Lord Foster's cutting-edge design of the glass-fronted building, then enjoy one of the finest curries you'll get in the whole region. Move on to the Baltic (situated in Baltic Square, another two minutes beyond The Sage) and take the glass lift up to the fifth floor to look out over both Newcastle and Gateshead on an outdoor panoramic platform. Work your way down the storeys and take a look at the modern art which fills this old converted flour mill.
If art is your thing, then the Shipley Art Gallery (Prince Consort Road) is a smaller building in a residential area of Gateshead which has a great many exhibitions of more standard artwork, often comprehensive in their scope. Recent highlights have included an exhibition on the design of classic Penguin paperbacks which was in residence for several months. To get here, you need only walk due south in a straight line for 15 minutes (mercifully, the tourists' Gateshead is simple to navigate) or take the five-minute walk from your hotel to the Gateshead Interchange and grab a bus: the 1, 2, 21 or 22 will get you there within minutes.
An alternative hotel would be the Swallow Hotel (High West Street); away from the Quayside, it is in the heart of older Gateshead and is as a result significantly cheaper. Luckily, it is only five minutes the other side of the Gateshead Interchange and your ability to travel as far as public transport will take you.
The Angel of the North is accessible only by bus, unless you have a car with you. The 21 or 22 buses, painted pink and nicknamed The Angel, will get you to and from Antony Gormley's great bronze guardian of the north.
A bus will be necessary to shop in Gateshead too. The Metrocentre, one of the largest out-of-town shopping malls in Europe, is served directly by the X66 bendy bus from the Interchange. Spread over several floors and with a huge ground footprint, you can spend a full day hopping from shop to shop.
Gateshead, then, can often be overlooked in favour of the more well-known Newcastle. But with the lion's share of the region's tourist attractions (all with free admission) and a couple of local gems which often fly under the radar, it may be worth answering "Gateshead" to the question of "Where did you go for your holiday?" at the next dinner party. It'll be sure to provoke conversation.