The "new castle" which gave the city its name was constructed by the Normans in 1080, and its keep and one of its gates still exist, oddly separated from each other by nineteenth-century railway tracks.
Newcastle's development as a major city owed much to its central role in the export of coal from the Northumberland coalfield - the phrase "taking coals to Newcastle" proverbially describes a self-evidently pointless task. In the nineteenth century, shipbuilding and heavy engineering were also central to the city's prosperity. All three industries declined during the twentieth century; office and retail employment are now the city's staples; a short distance from the flourishing city centre there are impoverished inner-city estates, in areas whose original raison d'être was to provide working class housing for the shipyards or other heavy industries.
The city has an extensive neoclassical centre, largely developed in the 1830s and recently extensively restored. Grey Street, which curves down from a monument to the parliamentary reformer Earl Grey towards the valley of the River Tyne, has a claim to be one of England's most beautiful urban streets.
Newcastle has an airport at Ponteland. Its railway station has an fine classical frontage and provides an hourly service of trains to London (under 3 hours) plus trains to Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Carlisle plus local services.
The North Eastern Railway built an electric suburban railway serving both banks of the Tyne, and the northern suburbs. This system has been transformed into the Tyneside Metro which extends as far as Newcastle Airport, Tynemouth and Sunderland.
The development of the city in the 1960s and 70s was marred by a corruption scandal.
The Tyne itself passes through a gorge between Newcastle and Gateshead (the administratively separate urban area south of the river), which is famous for a series of dramatic bridges. Large scale regeneration of the Tyne Gorge has replaced former shipping industries with imposing new office developments; a tilting bridge developed as a millennium project has integrated the Newcastle quayside more closely with major cultural developments on the Gateshead side of the river, including the Baltic gallery of contemporary art and a music centre designed by Norman Foster.
Newcastle has a reputation of being a fun-loving city with many bars, restaurants and night clubs.
Newcastle city centre is dominated from many angles by St James' Park, the stadium of Newcastle United F.C.
Newcastle is part of an area called Tyneside, whose people are commonly known as geordies and famous for their distinctive accent and sense of humour.