What to Expect from the FREE Spaces at Seven Stories

This guest post by our writer Jennifer shares what to expect from a visit to Seven Stories (and which areas need to be booked/which areas are free to drop in). 

What to Expect from the FREE Spaces at Seven Stories

One of my favourite places for a family day out in the North East has to be Seven Stories; the National Centre for Children’s Books. Cradled in the heart of the vibrant Ouseburn Valley, this beautiful renovated seven-storey Victorian Mill has been transformed into a museum and visitor centre, devoted to children’s literature. Operating as a charity, all profits are put back into the celebration and preservation of children's stories.

What to Expect from the FREE Spaces at Seven Stories

Regular visitors will have noticed a change in the way the centre operates since the pandemic. Extended opening hours mean you can now visit 7 days a week, from 10am-5pm. Entry to the coffee shop, bookshop and level 4 (more on that in a moment) are currently free of charge, and there is no need to prebook for these areas.

What to Expect from the FREE Spaces at Seven Stories

Paid & Bookable Exhibitions at Seven Stories 

Levels 6 and 7 are home to some fantastic touring exhibitions, which are chargeable. For these, pre-booking is advised, but walk-ins are allowed should spaces be available. Information regarding the current exhibitions and suggested age guidance for them can be found (and bookings made) at www.sevenstories.org.uk. 

At the moment, paid-for exhibitions include:

  • 'Once There Was Magic' for ages 7+. An hour long experience where you go on a journey through the Wildwoods of Cressida Cowell's Wizard's of Once. Guided by a wise wizard, with stunning original artwork and special effects you will glimpse into some of the magic worlds created by JK Rowling, Terry Pratchett and more. Find out more and book here. 

  • 'The Lost Spells' suitable for all ages. Enjoy an immersive experience with nature, peer into the hidden places where foxes play, create a bookmark with complimentary tea and coffee for the grown ups, listen to music and admire original artwork. Find out more and book here. 

FREE Drop-In Experiences & Exhibitions at Seven Stories

The rest of this post will focus on the FREE to visit areas at Seven Stories which can be enjoyed with no booking required - simply pop in during opening hours. 

On level 4 you will find the FREE permanent exhibition; “Where Stories Come From”. An interactive exploration of the idea that there are only 7 types of story in the world (the inspiration behind the centre’s name). Visitors are welcomed to explore each of the 7 genres, in a fun, and hands-on manner. One of the things I love most about Seven Stories is that the exhibitions work on so many levels.

Myself, and both of my children (nearly 6 and 2) can all get something different from the experience. There are some really impressive items in the exhibit, The notebook containing the first draft of the gruffalo impresses the older visitors, whilst the younger ones can enjoy taking a walk of their own in the deep dark wood with themed shadow puppets.

As I admired Enid Blyton’s original typewriter, displayed behind glass, my toddler was able to get his hands on a similar model below, and enthusiastically tap out some tales of his own.

Level 4 is also now home to the Winnie and Wilbur themed playspace, a lovely bright area filled with props to encourage imaginative play for visitors aged 6 and under. With comfy seating set against floor to ceiling windows, it’s also a lovely area to sit down and share a story.

At the back of the room is ‘Winnie’s Kitchen’; a raised platform with a cauldron and lots of magical ingredients. My children and their friends loved mixing potions and casting spells, and I loved watching their cheeky eyes glisten, even as they plotted to turn me into a slug!.

On level 3 you will find the coffee shop, situated inside the bookshop. It is a lovely place to enjoy a cuppa and cake with beautiful views of the Ouseburn, or as they say a “Brew with a View”. If you are feeling more peckish, tasty paninis are also available. There is also a new outdoor seating area which I can imagine is really popular on warmer days.

The bookshop is one of the largest independent bookshops in England and boasts a fantastic range of children’s titles. We really enjoyed having a browse, and even spied Judith Kerr’s tiger in a corner seat, presumably he had come for tea!

There is also another cafe in the centre; The Riverside cafe on level 2, the setting for some fabulous themed food based fun. However, these events are limited and pre-bookable only (please see the website under 'catered events' for more details). Upcoming catered events include Breakfast with Mrs Claus and Afternoon Tea with Santa. 

Throughout the day there are free interactive story time sessions for younger children, which are held in the coffee shop. The colourful and creative ‘story catchers’ are so charismatic, and really capture the little ones' imaginations. My son was a little shy at first, but the staff very quickly had him engaged, and eager to hear more.

I find we can spend about an hour in the free spaces, so we enjoy visiting as part of a trip around the other offerings of the Ouseburn Valley. However, the new format really allows you to tailor your trip to suit your family, and for those with slightly older children, you could easily spend several hours exploring the touring exhibitions in addition to the permanent spaces.

You can begin your adventure at:

Seven Stories

30 Lime Street

Ouseburn Valley

Newcastle upon Tyne


Find out more: 

If you plan to drive, there is limited pay and display parking available on Lime Street itself, and also around the corner in the Ouseburn Central car park.

If you are travelling by metro, the nearest stations are Byker and Manors, both of which are approximately a 15 minute walk away. Up to three children aged 11 and under travel for free with every paying adult when travelling by Metro. 

We sometimes like to walk to Seven Stories from Newcastle Quayside, which is a really picturesque route, and also takes approximately 15minutes.

As Seven Stories has bounced back from the pandemic and continues in its new chapter, I feel so grateful to have such a unique and important venue right here in Newcastle.  We first visited when my daughter was 1, and as I watched her sticky hands paw the exhibits, enchanted by the experience, I knew we were somewhere special. 

Now, 5 years on, ( with slightly cleaner hands-thanks Covid), the centre can still evoke the same excitement in her, and now her younger brother too.  The love of reading is so important to our family, and it's a pleasure to support such an important charity. I am confident that a trip to Seven Stories will continue to be a much loved childhood experience for many years to come.

Places to visit nearby include: 

  • Victoria Tunnel 
  • Ouseburn Farm (it's FREE to drop in) 
  • The Cluny (a family friendly pub serving kids meals) 
  • Stepney Bank Stables 
  • Di Meos Ice Cream 
  • Gingerinos Pizza 
  • Ouseburn Art Trail 


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