Dubbed Scotland's Fair City after Sir Walter Scott's 1828 novel The Fair Maid of Perth, this historic city on the banks of the river Tay is a wonderful place for a break in any season.
Particularly known for its art galleries and rich history, the city of Perth punches above its weight and offers plenty for visitors to enjoy.
Perth sits on the edge of the Highlands and close to the Cairngorms, its central location meaning it has easy access to a great many of Scotland's other most-visited locations. It is, therefore, the perfect city break to combine with a longer self-drive itinerary exploring some of Scotland's glorious countryside.
Perth's beautiful surrounding countryside and proximity to several major wildlife parks mean that it also works well as a base from which to discover the wider area. There is an abundance of rewarding day trip options by car and public transport from the city.
Title image credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam
Culture & History
Perth is known for its art galleries, the most notable of which are the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, whose collections and exhibitions reflect and celebrate the varied history and culture of the area, and the Fergusson Gallery, hosting a vast collection of works by this influential 20th century British artist. The city's art scene doesn't just exist indoors, however - the River Tay Public Art Trail leads visitors on a walking tour of the riverbank, discovering a range of imaginative installations along the way.
Perth also has an impressive range of castles, the best-known of which is the ancestral home of the Black Watch, Balhousie Castle and museum. Located in the city centre, this popular attraction hosts a museum exploring Scotland's oldest Highland regiment and an excellent cafe.
A little further out of town is the impressive Scone Palace, a splendid and ornate building set in extensive gardens and grounds. The significance of the palace in Scottish history is hard to overstate, having been a gathering place of the Picts, built on the site of an early Christian church and at one point the home of the legendary Stone of Scone (or Stone of Destiny). Also just outside the city is Huntingtower Castle, a quirky building where Mary Queen of Scots stayed during the Chasebout Raid, and where the Ruthven treasures were once hidden. Elcho Castle is a fortified mansion and one of the best-surviving examples of a 16th-century tower house in Scotland.
Religious buildings feature heavily in the city's skyline, including St Ninian's cathedral, named after Scotland's first saint. 12th-century St John's Kirk, gothic sandstone-constructed St Paul's church and 19th century neo-gothic St Mary's monastery are each architecturally impressive in their own ways, intriguing and uniquely steeped in history.
Further attractions we highly recommend visiting include Fair Maid's House, which these days contains the Royal Geographical Society's visitor and education centre packed with interactive exhibits about our planet, and Stanley Mills, where the 200-year history of this enormous cotton mill complex is just waiting to be discovered.
If you're looking for an evening of cultural entertainment, see what's on the programme at Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre.
Places to Eat & Drink
Perth has numerous options for hungry diners, and the range of international eateries in the city is especially impressive. There are also plenty of lively and interesting places to go for a pre- or post-dinner drink.
The Bothy offers hearty and traditional Scottish fayre in a cosy and welcoming setting - definitely spot-on for a city break in winter! Eat Scotland gold award winner 63 Tay Street offers locally-sourced dishes and an extensive wine list. The Roost is great for traditional French cuisine, as are Cafe Tabou and Perth's pizza and crepes specialist Breizh.
Versatile Paco's is a great family-friendly option with an incredibly varied menu which pretty much takes you on a journey around the world - you're sure to find something here to satisfy even the pickiest in your party.
If it's fine dining you're after, we highly recommend Deans Restaurant.
If you're willing to travel a little further afield for your food, the Upstairs Restaurant in Aberfeldy is excellent and can be combined with a visit to the popular Dewar's Distillery in the town. We also highly recommend The Inn on the Tay in Pitlochry for food and cocktails.
A final foodie-heaven worth mentioning is Perth's George Street, where you'll find an array of independent shops. Let your senses guide you as you wander, and we're absolutely sure you'll discover something delicious. Even better, you'll be supporting small local businesses when you do!
The title of Perth's best pub is hotly-contested (as always!), but the Twa Tams is a firm favourite with the locals.
Nature & Green Spaces
Within Perth city centre itself, The South Inch is a beautiful green space and general recreation area to enjoy a walk. The vibrant Branklyn Garden is a quiet hillside oasis close to the centre of the city - perfect if you find yourself needing to slow down the pace a little.
The city is particularly well-placed to access the wider area's many wildlife parks, which would make an excellent family day out by car. Blair Drummond Safari Park can be reached from Perth in 45 minutes and houses 350 different rare and exotic animals, including monkeys, sea lions and Scotland's only giraffes. Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre, with its range of exotic and farm animals, is a similar distance away in Comrie. Camperdown Wildlife Centre, less than 30 minutes' drive from the city on a good day, has lemurs, marmosets, bears, and a mix of local and international birds.
The city is also only a short drive (30 minutes) from Fife Zoo, an impressive entrepreneurial venture which is continuing to grow and develop its attractions.
Perth is well-connected with the rest of Scotland - the Highlands and Cairngorms, among many other must-visit areas, are easily accessible as day trip destinations from the city.
Kinnoull Hill is one of the best places to get a good view of the city of Perth. There is a range of beautiful woodland walks to choose from, and the area is very popular with hikers and mountain bikers. The best views are (unsurprisingly) from the summit, but there are walks available to suit all abilities and you can still get great views without doing the full climb.
Another excellent way to enjoy views of Perth is from one of the three bridges across the Tay - those accessible on foot are Smeaton's Bridge (aka Perth Bridge), Queen's Bridge and Friarton Bridge, whilst the fourth bridge across the Tay is railway-only.
For views of the Tay, we recommend a leisurely walk along the river bank from South Inch either to Luncarty or Moncrieff Island.
And finally, for a view that's been described as "quintessentially Scottish", just take a look down George Street's terraces of independent shops, and don't forget to stop off and browse as you do!
Getting to Perth
Perth is one of the best-connected places in Scotland, placing it within easy reach of anywhere else in the country. There are easy options to access the city by any mode of transport from any of Scotland's main hubs.
By road: The M90 motorway connects Perth with Edinburgh to the south, while the A9 links it to Stirling, Glasgow and Inverness. The city is also close to a number of other key trunk roads, including the A85, A90, A93 and A94.
If you're driving yourself and don't want to bring your car right into the city centre, there is a convenient park-and-ride option at Broxden.
Stagecoach buses offer city centre services and local connections, with longer-distance buses available from Leonard Street bus station, from which most locations in Scotland can be accessed directly. Daily coach services operate from here to Manchester and London.
By rail:Scotrail offers regular connections between Perth and Edinburgh, Fife, Dundee, Aberdeen, Stirling and Glasgow.
By air: Perth has a small but very active general aviation airport, however, there are no commercial flights. The closest commercial airport is Dundee, which has flights to and from London Stansted, but the city of Perth is also easily accessible by road from Edinburgh and Glasgow airports in around an hour.