Visiting Aberdeen – A City Guide
The glistening, silver-flecked stone of many of its historic buildings earned Aberdeen the nickname, the ‘Granite City’. It’s a major hub of the worldwide energy industry, and for many visitors it’s primarily a business destination. For most holidaymakers, it’s the gateway to Royal Deeside, Scotland’s Castle Trail, and the Cairngorms. But stay a little longer and you’ll discover breezy beaches, quirky museums, dolphin watching and world-class golf courses.
Aberdeen: city layout
Aberdeen lies between the mouths of the River Don, in the north, and the Dee, south of the city centre. The Esplanade runs along Aberdeen Beach, from the Don to Footdee and Aberdeen Harbour.
West of the harbour, the city's main business and shopping district straddles Union Street. King Street links the centre with Old Aberdeen, where you’ll find medieval St. Machar’s Cathedral and King’s College, the Aberdeen University campus.
North of the river in Bridge of Don, Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre hosts major trade shows and business conferences.
Business and technology parks cluster in Westhill and Dyce, near Aberdeen International Airport (ABZ).
Top Attractions in Aberdeen
Model ships, photos and maritime memorabilia at Aberdeen Maritime Museum highlight the city’s seafaring heritage, from fishing to North Sea oil. At the Tolbooth Museum, a former 17th-century gaol, you can visit the cells and shudder at an early guillotine nicknamed ‘The Maiden’.
In Old Aberdeen, the Crown Tower of medieval King’s College is an iconic landmark. On the university campus, King’s Museum showcases masks, weapons and art from global cultures. The twin towers of St. Machar’s Cathedral soar above the old quarter. Inside, you can admire stained-glass images of St. Machar, Aberdeen’s patron saint.
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Hotels in Aberdeen
Many people visit Aberdeen to attend conferences and trade shows at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre or big concerts at its GE Oil and Gas Arena. Hotels that serve business guests or families on weekend breaks can be found in Bridge of Don, within walking distance of the AECC.
Bridge of Don is also a good base for a round of golf at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club and close enough to explore the history and heritage of Old Aberdeen.
Business travellers and families with early flights to catch also favour hotels at Aberdeen International Airport, around seven miles from the city centre, or Westhill Business Park, west of central Aberdeen.
Properties on Chapel Street are close to nightlife and an easy walk from city centre attractions such as Aberdeen Maritime Museum.
Boutique hotels cluster at either end of Union Street, in the chic West End and in the buzzy Merchant Quarter.
Eating Out in Aberdeen
The wealth brought in by the oil industry has transformed Aberdeen's dining scene. There are lots of old-school pubs and fish-and-chip shops, but you'll also find elegant restaurants that serve fine seafood, lamb, beef and game.
There's no shortage of eateries serving sushi, falafel and dishes from all over Asia, the Mediterranean and the Americas. Belmont Street, off Union Street, is a happy hunting ground if you're looking for a lively, informal spot.
Union Square, next to Aberdeen rail and bus stations, offers pizza, pasta and burger joints. Many upscale places around the West End place the emphasis on modern Scottish cuisine using local, often organic ingredients.
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Shopping in Aberdeen
Aberdeen's Merchant Quarter straddles the east end of Union Street, where the city’s flagship mall is Union Square, next to the harbour. It's home to more than 70 shops, including brands like Superdry and Swatch.
Union Square's big rival, the Bon Accord and St. Nicholas Centre, is a couple of blocks away. It's a gleaming modern retail labyrinth packed with shops such as Karen Millen and Jo Malone.
For shopping with style, head for The Green, south of Union Street, where you'll find designer boutiques selling jewellery, clothes and accessories.
There are more smart boutiques in and around Aberdeen's West End, where Union Street meets Union Grove and Albyn Place.
At the monthly Aberdeen Country Fair, on Belmont Street, you can buy goodies like Scottish fruit wines, artisan bread and organic farm produce.
Arts, crafts and antiques in Aberdeen
Culture & Nightlife in Aberdeen
His Majesty's Theatre is at the heart of Aberdeen’s visual and performing arts scene. This opulent venue hosts performances by Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet, touring plays and musicals.
The Lemon Tree is a leading venue for new drama and dance, music and stand-up comedy.
Film-lovers will find arthouse and classic movies at Belmont Filmhouse. For blockbusters, try the 10-screen Cineworld at Union Square, or the 1,500-seat Vue Aberdeen complex.
LIstings bible The Skinny, given away in trendy, student-friendly bars, has all the latest details of indie gigs and club nights.
Currently under renovation, both Aberdeen Art Gallery and Aberdeen Music Hall are set to reopen in 2017, as is Provost Skene’s House, a medieval manor noted for its painted ceilings.
While Aberdeen Art Gallery is closed, you can see works from its collection at Drum Castle, 10 miles from the city centre.
Live music and comedy in Aberdeen
Visiting Aberdeen with a Family
Families can find plenty to please around Aberdeen. Many visitor attractions, such as the Tolbooth Museum and Aberdeen Maritime Museum, are free. In the city and nearby there’s everything from ice rinks and swimming centres to treetop ziplines.
Family-friendly attractions cluster along Aberdeen's Esplanade, and the miles-long sandy beach is a perfect place for children to play.
If it rains, zoom down the water slides at the Beach Leisure Centre, or strap on some skates at the cavernous Linx Ice Arena.
For a summer stroll or a refuge from inclement weather, visit huge glasshouses full of palms and tropical greenery at Duthie Park.
You can watch dolphins without leaving dry land at the Torry Battery viewpoint, on the south bank of the River Dee.
Top Family Attractions in and around Aberdeen