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Things to do in Aberdeen, Scotland

by Chloe Gunning

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With countless trendy restaurants, a fantastic live music scene, and some of the best surfing in Scotland, you’ll never be short of things to do in Aberdeen!

Bridge of Dee in spring

Bridge of Dee in spring

Visitors to Scotland typically gravitate towards the historic sights of Edinburgh or Glasgow’s cool arts scene. However, Aberdeen, further up the northeast coast, is fast becoming one of Scotland’s trendiest Scottish travel destinations.

Known for its distinctive architecture and imposing stone buildings, the so-called ‘Granite City’ might initially sound a little austere. Yet Aberdeen is anything but dull – those granite stone buildings sparkle like silver in the sunlight!

Aberdeenshire Forests

Aberdeenshire Forests

Adorned with colourful flowers (Aberdeen has won Best City in Bloom a staggering 10 times), packed with fabulous bars and restaurants, and surrounded by some of Scotland’s finest wildlife, it’s fair to say that Aberdeen is one of the country’s best-kept urban secrets.

So why not head north and explore some of the fabulous things to do in Aberdeen? To whet your appetite, here are a few must-sees for your Scottish adventure!

– Getting to Aberdeen in Scotland – 

Despite its northern location, Aberdeen is easy to access by road, rail, air, and even sea.

It’s just two and a half hours by car from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and is well served by buses and trains from both cities. Aberdeen also boasts an international airport with direct flights to London, Paris, Amsterdam and other key cities in Europe.

If you’re coming from any nearby islands, you can catch a ferry – they dock in the port, just a stone’s throw from the centre of town.

– Things to do in Aberdeen – 

Eat at one of Aberdeen’s coolest restaurants

Calling all foodies! This city has earned a reputation as a hotspot for Scottish gastronomy in recent years, so if you’re wondering where to eat in Aberdeen, there are plenty of cool joints to choose from.

For a taste of the Middle East, head to Rendezvous for succulent grilled meats, tasty mezze and delicious vegan and vegetarian platters.

Rendezvous, Aberdeen

Rendezvous, Aberdeen

For market-fresh fish and chips, head to the Ashvale, a local institution that serves up legendary battered haddock and cod.

Or if you’re really looking to splash out, why not try the Conservatory Restaurant at the 5-star Marcliffe Hotel and Spa. It’s an excellent place to tuck into some quality seafood cooked by talented chefs.

Food at The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa

Food at The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa

Wander Aberdeen’s winter gardens

Not sure what to do in Aberdeen on a rainy day? How about a trip to an indoor garden. The David Welch Winter Gardens are some of the most impressive in the UK, and constitute one of the largest indoor gardens in Europe!

Nestled in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park, this beautiful spot includes a Japanese garden, a fern garden, and a number of hothouses and themed corridors. It’s a lovely place to get lost as you wander through the labyrinthine trails, flanked with lush, verdant greenery. It’s one of the best free things to do in Aberdeen, and the perfect way to escape the unpredictable Scottish weather.

David Welch Winter Gardens, Aberdeen

David Welch Winter Gardens, Aberdeen

Visit a museum in Aberdeen

Aberdeen is dripping in history and culture, whether it’s the beautiful university buildings in Old Aberdeen, or the fascinating Gordon Highlanders Museum, which tells the story of one of Scotland’s best-loved regiments.

There’s also Marischal College, which stands proudly on Broad Street and once formed part of the university, and is the second-largest granite building in the world.

However, it’s the Aberdeen Maritime Museum that (quite rightly) gets rave reviews. Visit for an understanding of Aberdeen’s (and Scotland’s) place in a historic maritime trade that quickly spread across the world.

Go for brunch in Aberdeen

There’s no shortage of fabulous brunch joints in Aberdeen, offering the perfect place to fuel up for a day of sightseeing. Head to Foodstory, a popular cafe on Thistle Street famous for its ‘everything toast’ which comes heaped with homemade baked beans, scrambled tofu, avocado and more.

The Sand Dollar, located on the beachfront, also serves a big brunch menu featuring everything from juices and cereals to a full English, and everything in between.

Sanddollar Cafe, Aberdeen

Sanddollar Cafe, Aberdeen

Or for something completely different, head to café-bookshop Books and Beans, where you can enjoy a great coffee and a pancake while you curl up with a book.

Books and Beans, Aberdeen

Books and Beans, Aberdeen

Go in search of the best views of Aberdeen

If you’re looking for ideas for what to do in Aberdeen during your stay, why not head out into the area around the city in search of the best views?

For a stunning panorama of the city, the coast and the River Dee, head to Tollohill Woods, a beautiful woodland with several walking trails.

View of Aberdeen from Tollohill Woods

View of Aberdeen from Tollohill Woods

Or if you fancy kicking back to admire the views whilst also enjoying a drink or a bite to eat, you can’t beat the Silver Darling, a popular seafood restaurant right on the harbour. The fish is as fresh as it comes, and the views are to die for.

The Silver Darling Restaurant, Aberdeen

The Silver Darling Restaurant, Aberdeen

The Silver Darling Restaurant, Aberdeen

The Silver Darling Restaurant, Aberdeen

Spend the day at the beach

Aberdeen is close to a number of wonderful beaches, including the huge town beach (with some excellent ice cream stands!) If you’re looking for a day out, take a trip to Balmedie Beach, just five miles up the coast. You’ll find a vast beach covered in golden sand, and a huge area of dunes to explore at the back.

Surprisingly, Aberdeen is one of the sunniest places in Scotland, so once the temperatures warm up grab your bucket and spade and head for the sands.

Aberdeen Beach

Aberdeen Beach

Aberdeen Beach at sunset

Aberdeen Beach at sunset

Drink at one of Aberdeen’s coolest bars

Looking for things to do in Aberdeen at night? The Granite City boasts some top nightlife, so if you’re seeking a place in the city centre to kick back in the evening with a drink, you won’t need to look far.

Slain’s Castle is a Dracula-inspired watering hole, decked out in Gothic design and set in a historic former church. Along with the spooky atmosphere, you’ll find a wide range of drinks and a lively vibe.

For live music and stand-up comedy you can’t beat The Lemon Tree on North Street. Sink a few pints while enjoying some great local bands and comedians.

Go Dolphin-Spotting

The seas around Aberdeen are some of the richest and most diverse off the Scottish coast, home to an abundance of wildlife. Aberdeen’s harbour is regularly visited by dolphins, including the bottle-nosed and white-beaked varieties.

The best way to observe them is to head out on a boat and have a closer look – a unique thing to do in Aberdeen, and one that will make your stay even more memorable.

Visit a Scottish castle

Scotland is home to a lot of impressive castles and fortresses, and Aberdeenshire is certainly no exception! Dunnottar Castle sits on a windswept rocky outcrop, overlooking the wild seas, and guards many historical secrets. Although the castle is now a ruin, it once belonged to the Earls of Marischal and over the years many famous figures walked through its gates, including William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots and Charles II.

If you’re a history fan, you could also check out Craigievar Castle – a fairy-tale fortress with some impressive turrets.

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeen

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeen

Take a street art tour in Aberdeen

Aberdeen has a rich and diverse arts scene, and has been further stimulated by the launch of the Nuart Aberdeen festival in 2017. This annual art festival focuses on street art, and comprises a series of talks, tours and workshops all centred on the city’s fabulous collection of street art.

While the festival takes place in spring, you can enjoy the murals and street art all year round. This is a wonderful activity that will make you look at Aberdeen in a whole new light!

Street art in Aberdeen (Photo: Brian Tall)

Street art in Aberdeen (Photo: Brian Tall)

– Where to stay in Aberdeen –

Malmaison Aberdeen

Malmaison Aberdeen

Malmaison Aberdeen

For a truly romantic boutique hotel, look no further than Malmaison Aberdeen. This castle-like hotel is fronted by a classic, imposing granite façade, but inside the welcome is warm and the furnishings extremely comfortable.

If you’re a whisky aficionado, you’ll be in your element as the walls of the bar are lined with a fine collection, which could rival any other in the city.

Check availability and latest prices at Malmaison Aberdeen here

Malmaison Restaurant, Aberdeen

Malmaison Restaurant, Aberdeen

Marcliffe Hotel and Spa

The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa

The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa

For a taste of classic Scottish grandeur, check into the Marcliffe Hotel and Spa, a traditional, elegant lodge where you can cosy up on a chilly Aberdeen evening. This is the place to come for comfort with a splash of glamour, all set in a beautiful secluded location just outside the city.

Open fires, antique furniture, and a very classy restaurant make stay here extra special. A stay here is often regarded as one of the most romantic things to do in Aberdeen.

The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa

The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa

Check availability and latest prices at the Marcliffe Hotel and Spa here

I hope this guide has given you a little inspiration for what to do in Aberdeen. Let us know what you get up to!

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Things to do in Aberdeen, Scotland

Things to do in Aberdeen, Scotland

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