Sitting between the mouths of the rivers Dee and Don with a long sandy beach in between, Aberdeen has a beautiful outlook and the city itself offers a great mix of museums, galleries, architecture, green spaces and an eclectic assortment of eateries.
Affectionately named the 'Granite City' or the 'silver city with the golden sands' after its locally quarried building materials, Aberdeen is Scotland's third most populous city. It offers a warm welcome and a good number of indoor and outdoor attractions for visitors to enjoy at any time of year.
Our guests often visit Aberdeen as part of a longer road-trip around the North-East coast of Scotland, although some linger longer, selecting it as a destination for their city break.
Culture & History
Aberdeen's buildings (many of them made from locally quarried granite) are one of its main attractions, with the popular Granite Trail dedicated to discovering the city's many architectural sights. In any event, a wander around Old Aberdeen is high on our list of recommendations. The city has not one but three cathedrals - St Andrew's, St Mary's and St Machar's - each with its own unique style and heritage. The striking neo-gothic Marischal College is one of the city's most photographed spots.
The excellent collection of museums in the city has something to suit all tastes, including the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, the University of Aberdeen Zoology Museum, the Aberdeen Science Centre and the Tolbooth Museum.
One of Aberdeen's gems is the charming Footdee ("Fittiee", to the locals), an old fishing village next to the promenade. A unique collection of but and ben cottages and colourful outbuildings, this area is lovely to wander around - a little oasis amid the hustle and bustle of Aberdeen seafront. Since 1968, it has had conservation status.
Shoppers could do a lot worse than Union Square mall, which has a mix of high street and independent stores.
Free walking tours of Aberdeen are offered by Scot Free from January through to September - an excellent way to get your bearings, discover the city's colourful social history and set yourself up to make the most of your visit.
Places to Eat & Drink
Aberdeen may not have the range of fine dining opportunities of the Scottish capital, but there are more than enough excellent eateries to keep guests happy for days on end.
Unsurprisingly, it's not difficult to get an excellent steak in the home of Aberdeen Angus Beef - a few of our favourites are Vovem Meat & Liquor (a contemporary restaurant and bar using Argentinian grilling techniques), the upmarket IX Restaurant (2 AA rosettes) at the Chester Hotel and Maggie's Grill (Southern-style steakhouse whose motto is “field to fork and made with soul”).
Being right on the North Sea, Aberdeen is also all about the seafood. The Silver Darling is a real treat - stylish and situated right on the water with incredible views of Aberdeen harbour. Moonfish Cafe serves modern British dishes in the heart of the old town and boasts an impressive range of gins.Bistro Verde (small, family-run seafood specialist based on The Green in the merchant quarter).
There are plenty of other dining options to choose from - we also love Cafe Boheme (French fine dining), Fusion Bar & Bistro (contemporary seasonal dishes) and Cafe 52 (reasonably-priced, modern and seasonal dishes). For those with dietary requirements, the delightful Foodstory specialises in vegan dishes and has options for those with a range of allergies and intolerances.
A book-lover's breakfast can be found at Books & Beans - lovely food surrounded by colourful bookshelves full to bursting, what's not to love?
There are plenty of options for those needing a quick pit-stop during a busy day exploring the city, as well. Contour does wonderful sandwiches, coffee and cake, and Mackie's 19.2 is THE place for locally-produced ice-cream (19.2 miles away, to be precise)!
Founded just down the road in Fraserburgh, Brewdog opened its first bar in Aberdeen in 2009. It now has two locations - Castlegate and Union Square - where you can sample their latest inventions. Other excellent places for beer are Six degrees North (Belgian-style microbrewery), and CASC (specialising in craft beer, Scotch and cigars).
For a quirky pub experience, check out gothic vampire-themed Slains Castle, set in an old church in the centre of the city.
Foodies should ensure they time their visit to coincide with the Aberdeen Inspired Nights street food and drink market.
Nature & Green Spaces
Whilst Aberdeen holds the dubious honour of being the UK's coldest city, its oceanic climate actually makes for milder winter temperatures than you might expect given its northerly location.
Aberdonians take pride in their great number of wonderful outdoor spaces to explore in all seasons, and it's certainly worth making time for these when you visit.
There are 45 parks and gardens across the city, and its floral displays are considerably more numerous. Aberdeen's green spaces have received many well-deserved accolades, including winning Britain in Bloom's 'Best City' award ten times, Scotland in Bloom an impressive twenty times, and incredibly it has held the large city title every year since 1968!
Aberdeen City Council has a comprehensive list of the city's parks and gardens, and it's almost impossible to single out just a few green spaces to concentrate on.
We particularly love the small but incredibly photogenic Johnston gardens, Hazlehead Park (complete with mini zoo), Cruickshank Botanic Garden, Seaton Park (from which there is easy access to the popular 17th century Brig O' Balgownie) and Duthie Park (home to the lovely David Welch Winter Gardens), although there are many others.
As well as a myriad of gardens, parks and green spaces, Aberdeen has its own spectacular golden sandy beach just a few moments from the city centre. Slightly further afield is the beautiful Balmedie beach with its impressive dunes - the location is well-served by the local buses and can also be reached on foot from Footdee, a pleasant walk taking approximately 3 hours.
Aberdeen's wildlife is an attraction of its own, with a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins often spotted from the city. The best time and place to see them is between the orange breakwater wall and the lighthouse during summer months, but they often appear elsewhere too. If you want to make a project of seeing them, you can (somewhat counterintuitively) contact the RSPB's Dolphinwatch to book a tour.
Getting to Aberdeen
Aberdeen International Airport is located just 6 miles from the centre and is well-served various international airlines. It's an easy bus or tax ride to the city centre.
Northlink ferries to and from Shetland and Orkney depart from Aberdeen harbour.
Aberdeen City Council has published an excellent public transport guide for getting around the city once you arrive.
Those wanting to make the journey into a destination of its own could do a lot worse than taking the Aberdonian service from Edinburgh on the Tornado steam locomotive. The route is spectacular, crossing the Forth bridge and continuing along the coast.