6 reasons to visit the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead with Kids

6 reasons to visit the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

Situated on the south bank of the Quayside in Gateshead, the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art is an instantly recognisable landmark of the city. The views of the BALTIC Centre through the Millennium Bridge over the Tyne have been captured by hundreds of photographers over the years, and with good reason too. 

6 reasons to visit the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

Housed in a former Rank Hovis flour mill, the transformation to a six floor art gallery space took 4 years to complete construction. Opened as the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in July 2002, it is the UK’s largest contemporary art institution. 

When it opened, my husband was a fresh faced student in Newcastle and we would often pop into the BALTIC Centre for a wander round and a trip to the cafe each time I came to visit. It became a little bit of a tradition. Whenever we are in Newcastle now, we often take our two children, Little Miss (7) and Little Dude (4) for an explore to see what it has inside each time. 

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There are so many reasons to visit the BALTIC Centre, here are my, Becky from To Yorkshire and Beyond’s, top 6:

1              Exhibitions

There are no permanent collections at the BALTIC Centre, instead they have a rolling programme of different exhibitions. As a result, if you time your visits correctly,  every time you go you are likely to see something different. 

During our visit there were only 2 floors open with exhibitions, one of which was a video exhibition. Knowing my children were unlikely to appreciate the video we headed to the ground floor to enjoy the Abel Rodriguez exhibition. 

This is a beautiful exhibition of paintings of the flora and fauna in the Nonuya region of the Colombian Amazon painted by Abel Rodriguez, an elder of the Nonuya ethnic group.

Little Miss enjoying the Abel Rodriguez exhibition

Little Miss really enjoyed this exhibition. She had been learning about the Amazon Rainforest last year at school so this fit perfectly. We were very fortunate that one of the lovely BALTIC Centre staff members helped show us around the exhibition and informing us all about the artist and the value of his paintings as a factual representation of the rainforest habitat. Please do make the most of the friendly and incredibly knowledgeable staff at the BALTIC Centre, they are so helpful. 

This exhibition is running until 8 November.

There are two additional exhibitions on display now, you can find out all about these here.

Amazon River image for Abel Rodriguez exhibition

2              Viewing Box

Before I mention the Viewing Box, I must mention the glass lifts. The lifts almost deserve a spot on this highlights list of their own as they are definitely one of my children’s highlights of visiting the BALTIC Centre. Whizzing up the floors in the glass elevators overlooking the River Tyne and all seven of its bridges is a true delight. 

Due to the Covid-safety measures in place you also get a lift exclusively for your family bubble at the moment, which is an added bonus. Newcastle’s equivalent of the London Eye? Perhaps.

Anyway, jump into one of the glass lifts and head on up to level 5 to enjoy the views from the glass viewing box. You get fantastic views across the city from here. There are helpfully illustrations on the walls providing information about the bridges across the Tyne and the famous landmarks that you can see from the viewing box. 

There is also a handy cleaning station containing hand gel and antibacterial spray for cleaning down the glass and hand rail. 

The viewing box isn’t always open, so please do check here first if this is your main reason to visit. If closed, there is also a viewing terrace on level 4 that has fantastic views across the city and may be open instead. 

6 reasons to visit the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

3              It’s free

Entry to the BALTIC Centre is free!

Due to Covid-19 you currently need to prebook tickets in order to visit. However, the tickets are still free, you just need to select a date and time to visit. 

There are some tickets available on the day but you may have to queue or wait for an available time slot. You can book up to a maximum of 6 tickets for you household/social bubble in accordance with government guidance. 

Tickets can be booked here

Of course, you are always welcome to make a donation and can do so during your visit or online here. It really is an amazing space to be able to visit for free. 

4              Sensory Room

The BALTIC Centre is also home to a sensory room filled with sensory toys, projections and lights. It is also free of charge to use. However, you must book a slot in advance and can do so here .

You can book a free group ticket for up to 6 people (this may be subject to change in line with current government guidance for this location). There are two slots a day either 10.30am to 12pm or 1pm to 2.30pm. The sensory room is cleaned in between each session.

If you want to also visit the gallery you must book a separate gallery ticket in addition to your ticket for the sensory room. 

Your sensory room ticket also only permits use of the sensory room and not the Learning Lounge (see below). 

5              Learning Lounge

In addition to the sensory room, there is a Learning Lounge available to book. There are 3 bookable zones available in the Learning Lounge at present, each can be booked for up to a maximum of 6 people (including babes in arms). 

As part of your Learning Lounge experience you receive a box of books, toys and games to use along with some creative activities to take part in. 

I hadn’t spotted this availability in advance, otherwise I may have booked us in during our visit. It sounds like a great activity for a rainy day. 

Tickets can be prebooked here . There are two time slots available daily, 10.45am to 12.15pm or 1.15pm to 2.45pm. 

Entry to the Learning Lounge is free. However, there is the option to make a voluntary donation of £3 plus VAT if you so wish as part of your booking. 

As with the Sensory Room you need to book a separate gallery ticket if you wish to also use the gallery as part of your booking. 

6              Enjoy the BALTIC Kitchen and Six Restaurant

If you are feeling a bit peckish after you explore the galleries, head down to the BALTIC Kitchen cafe on the ground floor of the BALTIC Centre. This is a family friendly cafe, with indoor and outdoor seating. It is open 10.30am to 5.30pm daily and offers both table and takeaway service.

It is currently operating on a cashless basis so do make sure you remember your debit/credit card.

BALTIC Kitchen also has a licensed bar. If you fancy an al fresco cold glass of wine or beer, overlooking the River Tyne, this is the perfect spot. 

Alternatively, if you fancy something a bit fancier, head up to Six Restaurant with it’s outdoor riverside terrace for dinner or drinks. This is on our bucket list for another time. It’s essential to book in advance to visit Six Restaurant at the moment. 

Covid-19 Safety Measures

Covid-19 safety measures have been introduced as part of the BALTIC Centre’s reopening following lockdown. These include:

  • Face masks must be worn during your visit unless you are a child under the age of 11 or exempt.
  • There is a one way system in place with separate entry and exit doors.
  • Hands must be sanitised on entry and there are hand gel stations throughout the centre. 
  • The BALTIC Centre has confirmed that staff are undertaking increased cleaning throughout.

You can find all of the details of the changes that have been made to make the BALTIC Centre Covid-secure here

The BALTIC Centre is open 10.30am to 6pm daily with last entry at 5pm.

Have you visited the BALTIC Centre recently? Would you add any other reasons to our list?

Why not check out To Yorkshire and Beyond too for more tips and ideas.


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Becky is a freelance writer and blogger who lives in North Yorkshire with her husband and two children aged 7 and 3. Becky loves exploring new places both locally and abroad. You can find out more www.toyorkshireandbeyond.com

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