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Things to do in Aberdeen

An Insider's Guide to Aberdeen

Clare
Posted on 10 Apr 2019


Aberdeen may be called “The Granite City,” but it’s far from dreary.

The stone buildings that inspired this nickname are known to sparkle like silver in the sunlight. Paired with its location near the sea, Aberdeen can have a mesmerising effect on visitors. As Scotland’s third largest city, clearly many people have fallen under its spell.

Stroll down the medieval streets and perhaps you will too.


Museums

As you may know, rain may show its soggy face over Scotland’s skies. So, when this happens, what better way to kick off the day than with a trip to the museum? Begin your exploration of the city by investigating Aberdeen’s past, people and culture.


The Gordon Highlanders Museum

A keen interest in military history isn’t a requirement for you to enjoy this museum. With interactive displays and diverse exhibitions, The Gordon Highlanders Museum attracts a wide range of visitors. The Gordon Highlanders were described as “the finest regiment in the world” by Winston Churchill. Their 113 years of service within the British Army is well documented through captivating personal recounts and well-preserved artefacts. The new WWI trench exhibition is particularly fascinating. It allows everyday folk to experience what life was like in these dismal and dangerous fortifications.


Aberdeen Maritime Museum

There’s an inseparable link between Aberdeen and the sea. Shipping is in the people’s blood. The Aberdeen Maritime Museum tracks the city’s industry and outlines the drama and intrigue of life on the North Sea. There’s a focus on fishing and the more modern pursuits of oil and gas exportation. Here you can also learn about the art of shipbuilding and discover how many Aberdonians got their ‘sea legs’. There’s a fantastic view of the harbour out of the wide glass windows too.


Cultural Landmarks

Aberdeen is well-known for its intriguing architecture and rich history. But it’s also home to colourful street art. Ancient and contemporary design sits side by side in this vibrant city. And one of the best ways to appreciate Aberdeen’s growth is to take a wee walk around its streets.


St Machar’s Cathedral

In Old Aberdeen, stands St Machar’s Cathedral. Many locals believe this is the resting place of William Wallace’s left arm. Whether the story is true or not, the Cathedral is certainly worth a visit if only to peer up at its heraldic ceiling. Christians have visited this site for over 1,500 years and masses are still conducted here today.


Brig O’Balgownie

While you’re in Old Aberdeen, make sure you don’t miss a photo opportunity at Brig O’Balgownie; a picturesque 13th-century bridge. When the water below is still, the bridge is perfectly reflected in the water.


Footdee

There’s an abundance of awe-inspiring buildings to feast your eyes on when wandering around Old Aberdeen. But if you make your way down The Esplanade, you’ll be rewarded with more modest architecture. Stroll into an area of the city filled with quaint fishing cottages and cobbled lanes. It’s a picture-perfect destination. You’ll also find some of Aberdeen’s best seafood restaurants here.


Street Art

As you meander through Aberdeen’s streets, you’ll encounter beautiful murals and carefully curated street art. If you’re visiting the city in April, be sure to check out Nuart; Aberdeen’s international public art festival. Each year new murals are commissioned by talented artists who delve into the cultural significance of the city’s past, present and future.



Natural Landmarks

Need a breather? There are plenty of green spaces where you can sit down and mull over everything you’ve seen and learnt about so far.

Johnston Gardens

Just a stone’s throw from the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Johnston Gardens is a lush wonderland of blooming flowers and bubbling streams. In summer, the heady fragrance of plants can renew the spring in your step. Stop to watch the bumblebees busy at work and admire the charming scenery around you.


Eating & Drinking

Sightseeing can work up an appetite. The good news is, Aberdeen is well-equipped to satiate your hunger. Discover locally brewed beers and fresh seafood straight off the boat in award-winning establishments.


Moonfish Café

Moonfish Café offers the flavours of fine dining in an unpretentious atmosphere. It’s a solid choice for local seafood and seasonal produce in Aberdeen. Located amongst winding medieval streets and with a view of a 12th-century kirk (church), the setting is a little romantic too. Be sure to book, however, as this restaurant is popular with locals and tourists alike.


BrewDog

A trip to Aberdeen wouldn’t be complete without indulging in a tipple at BrewDog. The iconic Scottish beer, which originated just up the road in Fraserburgh, opened its first craft beer bar in Aberdeen in 2010. The brand is now an international success with an award-winning IPA and bars worldwide. So, take a seat and order your favourite or try a small batch brew. There’s such a variety on tap, you’re sure to find something to tickle your fancy.


Further Afield

Aberdeenshire is filled with quaint villages, majestic castles, awe-inspiring coastal views, and vast national parklands. This eastern wedge of Scotland is certainly worthy of an adventure a little off the beaten track. Here are some of the best places to visit near Aberdeen.


Dunnottar Castle

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a castle with a more dramatic backdrop than Dunnottar. It sits atop a cliff facing out to sea. Even though it’s mostly ruined, there are still dungeons, nooks and crannies to explore. The fortress is a sinister and impressive sight when black clouds roll in from the sea and the wind whistles through the roofless rooms.

You can visit Dunnottar Castle on the Rabbie’s Dunnottar Castle and Royal Deeside day tour from Aberdeen.


Glenfiddich Distillery

While not technically within the borders of Aberdeenshire, Glenfiddich Distillery is only a short-day trip from Aberdeen. Whisky connoisseurs and amateurs alike may recognise the internationally acclaimed brand. But you don’t have to know your Speyside from your Islay to enjoy a fascinating tour of the distillery. Learn how Scotland’s elixir of life is created and even taste a dram yourself.

You can visit Glenfiddich Distillery on the Rabbie’s Speyside Whisky Trail day tour or Loch Ness and the Highlands day tour, which both depart from Aberdeen.


Cairngorms National Park

The Cairngorms National Park is home to some of the most magnificent scenery in Scotland. Flanked by towering mountains blanketed in heather, the landscape is both bleak and breathtaking. As you weave through the small villages, you will become transfixed by the unique beauty of each place. The winters may be harsh in such an elevated environment, but the hospitality is always warm.

You can visit the Cairngorms National Park on the Rabbie’s Dunnottar Castle and Royal Deeside day tour from Aberdeen.



A final note on Aberdeen…

Before jet-setting became a trend for holidaymakers in 1970s and 80s, Aberdeen was a coveted beachside resort. Tourism posters from the early 1900s described it as “The Silver City with the Golden Sands;” a much more complimentary slogan than “The Granite City.” Compared to the travellers of yesteryear, you may be a tad wary of dipping your toes into the chilly North Sea. But Aberdeen’s lasting charm certainly continues to inspire exploration.


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