Dundee is the fourth-largest city in Scotland by population, but it doesn't feature prominently on the usual tourist trails. We think it's a bit of a hidden gem, though, and we're looking forward to telling you why.
The city of Dundee has a wonderful location on the banks of the river Tay, and commands incredible views across Fife. In the last decade, its attractions have grown in number and quality, leading to it being recognised as one of Lonely Planet's list of top 10 European destinations in 2018. Dundee was also the first UK city to be recognised as a UNESCO City of Design.
As well as there being plenty to do and plenty to shout about in the city, Dundee is actually one of the sunniest places in Scotland in both summer and winter! Everything is relative, of course, but credit where it's due - in fact, there have been years when Dundee has clocked up more hours of winter sun than the rest of Scotland combined!
Included as part of a multi-city break, or as a stopover on a longer self-drive itinerary, we think Dundee has a lot to offer visitors and we'd love to help you discover the very best of it!
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Culture & History
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The iconic V&A Dundee is an incredibly striking building right on the waterfront. The views are an attraction in themselves, and many visitors choose to take a boat tour on the Tay to get a different perspective on Japanese architect Kengo Kuma's first UK building. Inside, the permanent Scottish Design Galleries are complemented by temporary exhibitions focusing on particular genres or aspects of design. Admission to the museum is free, but certain exhibitions require a separate ticket, for which there is a charge.
The Royal Research Ship (RRS) Discovery was made in Dundee and launched in 1901. Over 100 years later, it's now a permanent fixture, with a museum dedicated to Scott's Antarctic adventures. Dundee is often referred to with the tagline "City of Discovery", which is a nod to this important attraction.
The charming McManus Art Gallery & Museum features a range of galleries covering the history of Dundee and further afield, and a stunning range of artworks from across the centuries. The building itself, built by George Gilbert Scott as a memorial to Prince Albert, is an eye-catching example of Gothic Revival style.
Dundee's art scene isn't just to be found indoors - it spills out onto the streets as well, with the Open/close Dundee street art trails visible on doors and walls across the city.
Verdant Works is a tribute to Dundee's textile heritage. Housed in an old jute mill, it features an engaging collection of interactive exhibits bringing stories of the past to life.
For evening entertainment, check out what's on at the Dundee Rep Theatre.
Places to Eat & Drink
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Edinburgh and Glasgow are known worldwide for their eateries, but Dundee also has plenty of brilliant and atmospheric options to keep the foodies among you happy!
The Bach is known for its informal, Kiwi-style offering - a few simple dishes done really well, and served in a unique and lovely atmosphere.
Agacan Kebab House serves large portions of feel-good Turkish food.
Known for its eye-catching rainbow bagles and excellent coffee, Flame Tree Cafe is excellent for breakfast and brunch, and can cater for most dietary requirements.
Royal Warrant holder Fisher & Donaldson bakery is a century-old family business producing an excellent range of traditional baked goods.
For classic pub fare, head to Tickety Boo's, right in the centre of town.
Scottish street food is available at the Auld Tram, whose stovies are legendary and perfect for the cooler autumn and winter days.
Nature & Green Spaces
Image: Unsplash / Pawel Czerwinski
Dundee is surrounded by the beautiful Fife countryside, which is easily accessible by both car and public transport.
Closer to the city centre, there's Dundee Botanic Garden, a 23-acre green space which opened in 1971. Housing a varied mix of native and exotic plants, the collection is right on the waterfront of the river Tay.
Other splashes of green close to the city centre can be found in the form of Dundee's oldest city park, Magdalen Green; the quirky multifunctional space of Slessor Gardens, which comprises a series of small plots, and the Riverside Nature Park, created on an old landfill site (and thankfully much nicer-smelling these days!).
Camperdown Wildlife Centre & Country Park are must-visits for families spending time in Dundee. Camperdown Country Park is the largest public park in Dundee, covering 400 acres of green space and situated just 3 miles from the city centre. The Wildlife Centre is in the south-west corner of the park, home to a range of birds and exotic animals. Entry to the park is free, but tickets need to be purchased for the Wildlife Centre.
We also recommend a visit to the pretty and quaint suburb of Broughty Ferry, a former fishing village, especially if the weather is characteristically sunny. Located four miles to the east of Dundee city centre, it has a beach, a castle and a lovely range of shops, cafes and restaurants stretching along the seafront.
If you're down at the waterfront, and especially if you decide to take a boat trip on the river, don't forget to keep your eyes peeled! A pod of bottlenose dolphins resides in the Tay and they can often be spotted from Dundee by lucky locals and visitors.
Just a short trip away is the golfing paradise of St Andrews, with a huge range of courses in the area to choose from to suit all abilities and interests.
Image: Unsplash / Jaredd Craig
One thing Dundee is not is flat! Dundee Law (572ft), the highest point in the city, provides wonderful views stretching across the whole of Dundee and out to the water, the Fife countryside and the Angus glens beyond. A very rewarding experience on a clear day for any walkers who venture up to the top.
Another excellent view of the city can be seen from the tower of the medieval Old Steeple, also known as St Mary's Tower. At 165ft tall and with 232 steps up to the top, it's certainly a workout!
For views of a different kind, visit the Mills Observatory to take a look through their telescopes. Built in 1935, it's Britain's first purpose-built public observatory. Enjoy displays focusing on astronomy and space exploration, planetarium shows and a busy schedule of talks and workshops.
Getting to Dundee
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When building itineraries for our self-drive guests exploring the east coast of Scotland, we often find Dundee to be a convenient location for an overnight stop.
There are plenty of public car parks and street parking spaces available in Dundee for those who want to drive into the city. Our accommodation partner has parking spaces available on and close to their site, so wherever possible we will make prior arrangements for you to park.
To get around the city, visitors will be pleasantly surprised to see how compact and easy it is to walk around - most of the key attractions can be reached on foot in very little time, although of course buses and taxis are available for those for whom that's not an option.