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  1. Home
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Things To Do

Behind the Door Of… Grainger Market

We take a look inside Newcastle's historical Grainger Market, a hub of city life for centuries

10 mins Last updated:
Grainger Market

Grainger Market is the centre of Newcastle city life in more ways than one. Of course, it’s in a very central location, but it’s also a shopping hub, a place to meet and eat, a key player in most city centre events, from Christmas to the Late Shows. All human life is here and it has a fantastic, vibrant atmosphere.

We went behind the scenes of this iconic local landmark to find out more about its past, its present and its exciting future!

Hector Hall Hector Hall

Grainger Market isn’t too far from its 200th birthday – it was opened in 1835, replacing the covered markets on Grey Street that were removed as part of a city renewal and re-organisation. The opening was celebrated with a vast dinner on October 22nd 1835, with around 2,000 men in attendance (typically for the period, women could only watch from a specially built viewing platform).

In its early days, it was a market of two parts – the Eastern side was made up of aisles of meat market stalls, the Western side a vegetable market in a large open hall. This division is something you can still see in the building’s layout to this day. It was designed by John Dobson, one of the several significant Newcastle and Northumberland buildings that he created (including Central Station), often in collaboration with builder Richard Grainger, who lends his name to the market, the road outside and indeed the whole of Grainger Town. The building is a Grade 1 listed construction, is still one of the largest market halls in the country and has had various repairs and developments over the years, including to the roof.

Marks & Spencer Penny Bazaar Marks & Spencer Penny Bazaar

The market is always changing, as old businesses close down and new ones open, but the market itself is always remarkably popular. Statistics from the council show that footfall in the market rose from 4.3 million in 2022 to 4.9 million last year, and in 2020 Grainger Market was voted the favourite market in Britain. There are some very longstanding businesses still in operation, such as Northern Optical, the Shaver Centre and of course Marks & Spencer Penny Bazaar. Opened in 1895, this was one of the first six M&S Penny Bazaar stores and the only one to survive. Its USP was the legend ‘Don’t Ask The Price, It’s A Penny’. The store is preserved in something close to its original condition today and is one of the market’s main attractions. At time of writing, the newest of the market’s sixty-plus traders is Tender Hooligan, a vintage / subculture store (think Fred Perry and Ben Sherman) that grew out of much-loved and missed alternative shoe store Scorpio.

Fed's Fed's

One of the most notable changes in the market over recent years has been its central role in the fast-developing foodie culture in the city: as amazing new restaurants and eateries have sprung up around Newcastle, celebrating all manner of styles and cuisines, so the market has seen a growing number of delicious and unusual lunch spots and takeaways. There’s delicious vegan Indian food from Snackwallah, Szechuan-spicy dumplings at Chinese Dumpling & Tea Bar, fast and fabulous chicken burgers from Feds, amazing riffs on mac 'n' cheese from Reds, Cuban sandwiches from Cubanos, and on and on. Plus excellent coffee to have at the counter of Pumphrey’s (or you can take home a bag of freshly roasted beans).

Geordie Bangers Geordie Bangers

All of these exciting food outlets co-exist with the grocery, meat and fish stalls that are still the lifeblood of the market after almost two centuries. Proper old stalls selling the freshest fruit and veg or cuts of meat, staffed by traders who know their products inside out, can feel like a dying breed, but the market has lots. Whether it’s a punnet of strawberries and some radishes from Hector Hall, some pate from Hunter’s Deli or some just-out-of-the sea fresh fish from Chirton’s, you can genuinely find everything you need for a fresh, health-conscious, eco-aware meal in the market. Add some delicious rolls from French Oven and maybe some spicy bangers from Geordie Bangers and you’re all set!

A great way to find out all the foodie delights of the market is with one of Triple A’s food tours. Their Grainger Market food tour takes you around the aisles, letting you sample the fine food and drink, chat with the traders and generally get to know the place. The tour takes around two hours and costs £30 per person.

But it's not all food - the market is home to everything from workwear outlets to second-hand record shops, haberdashers to pet food suppliers, gift shops to comic shops and all points between. You really never know what you might find.

Grainger Market Grainger Market

There’s a lot of history in and around the market too – not just the M&S Penny Bazaar but other features like the WWII bomb shelter below the market that provided a safe haven for up to 250 people at a time during the Blitz.

Of course, everything in the city is in a state of constant change and that includes the market. The council has embarked on a series of significant developments that are carefully balanced to both improve the market and fully retain its listed structure. The arcade roof was recently fully refurbished (including innovations such as solar control glass and automated louvres) and looks magnificent, and there is much more to come.

Grainger Market Development Plans Grainger Market Development Plans

Developed in conjunction with the traders and local architects Faulkner Browns, work on the developments will start in earnest in the summer of 2024, using more than £8 million from the national Levelling Up fund. As well as practical improvements – renovation of the 14 market entrances, including the fitting of automated sliding glass doors, new tiling and signage throughout, and refurbished toilet facilities – there will be developments to the central area to make the market an even more vibrant cultural and social space. There will be two new pavilions at either end of the space for events, gigs, performances and more. This will increase the role the market can play in many of the cultural events in the city like The Late Shows, NE1’s 24 Doors Of Christmas and more, and enhance what can be offered during the famous Christmas Markets. There will also be extended opening hours once the redevelopment is complete.

There are plans for the Nun Street pavilion to offer a seating area with new retail space below while the Nelson Street pavilion will have a food counter and more upper level seating. This will mean losing the free-standing stalls in the central area but will create new spaces in the process. The work is expected to be finished by spring 2025.

Grainger Market Development plans Grainger Market Development plans

Grainger Market has been one of our city’s finest features for a very long time and with these carefully planned changes, should continue to be so for many years to come, with the building’s original features and authentic charms being retained while new, exciting and eco-friendly developments are added. There’s still nowhere better to grab something fresh for tea, meet a pal for some dim sum or samosas, pick up a vintage shirt or a thoughtful gift or just go for a wander and see what catches your eye.

The market is currently open from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday. For more information visit


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