Scotland Traveloholic

Guide to Aberdeen – the best city to visit in 2019!

Scotland is undoubtedly a country full of beautiful cities, interesting architecture, stunning nature and fantastic people. Each of Scotland’s cities has something beautiful, and I believe that it’s worth writing about them and getting the wider public familiar with these wonderful places. After my recent visit to Aberdeen, I decided to finally make a comprehensive guide to Aberdeen to inspire others to discover it’s unique beauty and charm.

Since I recently visited Aberdeen (for the third time!), I cannot deny the fact that I’m truly fascinated by this place. It’s absolutely remarkable and I do not mean all the attractions it contains, but also its beauty. However, before we set off on our journey through this fantastic city, I would like to give you some details about this place.

Aberdeen is also called The Granite or The Silver City due to the ubiquitous use of this beautifully shining stone in the architecture of the city. It is worth mentioning that the incredible silver shine of Aberdeen’s granite is associated with the high content of mica.

Did you know Aberdeen is the third largest city of Scotland, the second largest fishing port in Scotland as well as the capital of Europe’s oil industry? All this makes this city a unique and exciting place to visit.

The city is also home to the some of the most interesting festivals in Scotland like Granite Noir, Nuart Aberdeen, DolphinFest or Look Again Festival. They are surely as unique as this amazing city and some people visit Aberdeen just to experience these.

Read more about upcoming Aberdeen festivals here.

I hope that this information has sparked your curiosity. Are you ready to travel through the gems of Aberdeen? The first stop is the Centre of Aberdeen.

The City Centre of Aberdeen

Just like many cities in the world, the city centre of Aberdeen is full of gems. It would take a whole day to list them all so that I will focus on four of the most characteristic and beautiful places in the heart of Aberdeen. These are obligatory stops on the map of this fantastic city.

Marischal College

This epic building was built as the Protestant college being an alternative to the already existing Catholic’s King’s College. Over time, the two colleges have merged to form Aberdeen University. Currently, the building is used as a headquarters of Aberdeen City Council.

It is worth pointing out that Marischal College is a granite building, and one of the most magnificent one in Scotland and the second largest in the world. That really makes the difference.

Through the use of granite stone for its construction, it shines in the glow of the sunrise, creating an extraordinary spectacle of light and shadows.

Its architecture delights and amazes. The building astonishes with its complexity, beautiful courtyard and attention to detail. It is a place that is definitely memorable.    

Marischal Square

Aberdeen is a city that changes, develops and modernises quickly and efficiently. Marischal Square is the most significant investment in the town and aims to transform the city centre into an extremely modern place for growing business. It is a place where extraordinary offices, high-quality restaurants, cafes, hotels and art merge into a fresh, vibrant new place.

This square is located in the very centre of the city. It also creates a zone that concentrates around leisure; a bright open courtyard with cafes, restaurants, covered areas and public space, with gardens where people can meet, eat a meal and relax not only during business meetings.

In the middle of a modern glass courtyard, there is an unusual sculpture of a Leopard, designed by Andy Scott. This work of art is breathtaking and is a symbol of the city’s rapid development. It looks best after sunset when it shines beautifully from the inside.

Provost Skene’s House

This building is recognised as one of the most important historical attractions in Scotland. All thanks to the provost of the city of Aberdeen who held this function between 1676 and 1685, that was Sir George Skene. He bought a building built in 1545 and did his best to keep it in perfect condition. Thanks to him, the house has survived to this day, showing visitors how people lived in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The most charming thing about this building is that it still stands as it stood years ago in between the modern buildings adding the history and the magic to the contemporary city centre.

The interiors are captivating, full of history and in a beautiful way brings visitors closer to the everyday life of the past centuries. Visit this place if you’re looking for an unusual adventure and a specific journey back in time.

Please mind that Provost Skene’s House is under redevelopment at the moment and is scheduled to re-open in 2020. But you still can enjoy a walk around the building.

Aberdeen Maritime Museum

Museums associated with maritime history can be found in almost every major seaside city; however, what distinguishes the Aberdeen Maritime Museum is a fascinating exhibition that has won many awards and captivated many tourists.

In the centre of this museum complex, you will find an exhibition related to the history and lifestyle of the North Sea oil industry. Fantastic models are depicting oil production platforms and many computer multimedia screens, allowing each visitor to find something for themselves, which makes this museum so unique. There is also a lighthouse model, clipper ships, shipbuilding and fishing elements.

The museum itself is not very big but very interesting, and the roof terrace gives you the opportunity to take a look at the beautiful harbour full of ships.  

This is the place where both adults and children will find something that will fascinate them and stimulate their curiosity.  Oh! And it’s free admission.


Did you know?

Impressive Mercat Cross situated in centre of Castlegate, is regarded as the finest of its kind in Scotland.

If you go along Union Street in the midway you will stand at Union Bridge. It was built in 1805 and with a span of 130 ft (40 m) is the largest single span granite arch in the world.

And if you will go a little bit further don’t miss out a little street called Union Row, where you will find some of the best wall street art around the city.


The Old Aberdeen

Old Aberdeen is part of the city of Aberdeen and is located in the northern part of the town. It was originally a separate burgh settlement, which was founded in 1489. The city of Aberdeen was then incorporated by a resolution of the Parliament in 1891, but to this day it retains the status of an area of the community council.

King’s College

I have mentioned the Marischal College earlier, so it is impossible for me to not introduce to you the King’s College. It is a fantastic building whose architecture amazes.

The central point, as well as the oldest of its buildings, is the Chapel of King’s College which dates back to the end of the 15th century. Many of the historic buildings that form the King’s College have survived to this day. Currently, this complex is an integral part of the University of Aberdeen.

It is worth to mention that in the complex there are two museums, the King’s Museum and the Zoology Museum. The campus area also consists of College Buildings, the King’s College Chapel and the King’s College Center. This is a place which, with incredible architecture, brings to the mind the Hogwart from the story of Harry Potter.

St Machar’s Cathedral

This place is technically not a cathedral any more but high kirk, however, the name stayed although it has not been the seat of any bishop since 1690. The building was built around the 12th century and to this day delights with its remarkable architecture. Magnificent stained-glass windows and a magnificent decorative heraldic ceiling create a unique atmosphere.

A magnificent place full of history will enchant every visitor and the light coming into the building through stained glass windows will impress you with its variety of shades.

A perfect place not only for admiration but also for the contemplation and calmness.

Cruickshank Botanic Garden

The architecture is delightful and magnificent in Aberdeen, but sometimes it is worth a walk through the beautiful garden that will calm the senses and relax.

The ideal place to enjoy nature is the Cruickshank Botanic Garden which is located in the heart of Old Aberdeen and was named one of the Secret Garden of Old Aberdeen. The garden consists of 11 acres and is located less than 1 mile from the North Sea. It was created in 1898 by Miss Anne Cruickshank.

A lovely oasis in the heart of the city impresses with its variety of plants and flowers — an ideal place to relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The garden is used not only to calm the mind but also serves the function of both teaching and research.


Did you know?

The Brig o’Balgownie is one of the loveliest medieval arch bridges located in Scotland. The bridge which was built in the 13th century and originally called Bridge of Don due to the fact that is spanning the River Don.

On the way out from the bridge, you can spot the  Sir Duncan Rice Library which is a modern library opened in 2012. The building has won several major architectural awards, including the Royal Incorporation of Architect in Scotland (RIAS) in 2013.

Not far from the King’s College you can find a beautiful Powis Gate consisting of cylindrical towers inspired by Turkish style minarets. The towers of the gate were designed in 1833-34 by Alexander Fraser for Hugh Fraser Leslie of Powis and are now part of the University of Aberdeen.


Around the city

If the garden alone is not enough to relieve the senses and escape from everyday life, by visiting Aberdeen you can also set out a little bit further of the city and feel the beauty of the peace of the areas around the town.   

Aberdeen Beach

Because the city is adjacent to the North Sea, the beach is very close by and is a lovely place for walks and a breath of fresh air. The beautiful sandy beach is breathtaking any time of the day.

Who will not appreciate walking along the seashore? If you are not impressed by the sight of sand and the magnificent sea, what will you say to the dolphins? There are many of them, and it is not difficult to see how beautifully they swim — an ideal place for the whole family as well as for lonely walks.

If you will get hungry I recommend to go The Pier restaurant. This place has really nice decor and a delicious menu.

Fittie

Fittie also known as Footdee is a quirky area of Aberdeen which is characterised by the beautiful little fishermen houses. This planned community was originally built to re-home the city’s fishermen.

This charming area is located on a point at the northeastern entrance to the port of Aberdeen. The existing residential structure dates back to 1809 when it was designed by the famous architect John Smith from Aberdeen whereas this place has been listed in the official town register since 1398.

Each of the charming cottages is different and have something unique – whether it is the colour of the facade or the type of decoration on the walls as well as around the cottage.

The tiny streets of this place are surrounded by the small cottages which have been artistically decorated. It is a beautiful and magical place as if taken straight from a fairy tale. An ideal place to stopover while visiting the beach – that is a secret for a wonderful day.

Torry Battery with fantastic views of Aberdeen

If the beach and small fishing village are not enough, I invite you on a trip to see the Torry Battery. It is artillery located on the south of Aberdeen and which since 1860 has been surrounding a beautiful view of the harbour. This place functioned during World War I and World War II and is rich in heroic history.


Did you know?

If you go along the Fittie cottages, you will end up at the North Pier. This place is the oldest part of the harbour and overlooking the mouth of the River Dee.

You can have a closer look at the Roundhouse. This is one of Aberdeen’s most recognised landmarks. In the past it served as the control centre for harbour navigation with red and green lamps used to control shipping.

It is also a great place to spot massive vessels coming to the port and adorable dolphins swimming near to them. It is a perfect place to discover a bit of history with the taste of beautiful nature.


Suggested tours

When visiting Aberdeen, you can choose from many different options for exploring it. You can also use organised tours, but in my opinion, nothing can replace discovering the city by getting lost in its streets and allowing yourself to find the places that are hidden from traditional tourists.

That’s why I’ve prepared three different ways for you to visit Aberdeen.

A Walking Tour of Aberdeen’s Architectural Landmarks

The architecture of Aberdeen is magnificent and will definitely appeal to more than one visitor, so I would like to introduce you to a few places that absolutely must be visited when you are interested in the historical sights.

Some of these places I have described above and the rest I leave to you to discover. I will only mention that you will not be disappointed and by following this route you will discover something incredibly fantastic and unique – the magic of architecture of the magnificent city of Aberdeen. I highly recommend it!    

A walking tour of Aberdeen’s Street Art

If you think that architecture does not interest you as much as contemporary street art, I invite you on a journey through the artistic side of Aberdeen.

Nuart Aberdeen is an extraordinary festival where the streets of Aberdeen become full of colours, which is why I chose a few places where artists from all over the world showed their skills on the buildings of this incredible city.

Map of Nuart Aberdeen

Each of the streets which I have mentioned will surprise you with a unique mural which will encourage you to think and arouse your imagination. I invite all artistic souls to this tour, and maybe something will inspire you to create some extraordinary thing.

A walking tour of Old Aberdeen and Beach

Majority of the most interesting places in Old Aberdeen I listed above but here I would like to add a few more places that are worth visiting.

Each place has something unusual and worth seeing, whatever will enchant your attention depends only on your attitude towards it and the choice you make.

I personally consider Aberdeen to be a fantastic place that has a lot to offer and that is worth visiting in its own way, focusing on what really interests us the most, it is also worth taking part in one of the festivals because their variety is as large as the number of sights and hidden gems.

Disclaimer – The post was created in partnership with Visit Aberdeenshire who supported this trip to the city. All the views and recomendations are my own.

3 comments

  • I spent one year in Aberdeen as a student at King’s college and as a
    French assistant at the same Time : at Mackie’s academy in Stonehaven
    And at Banchory’s academy. Such a gorgeous Time!
    I have been very happy to read your guide about the Silver City!It’s very
    Clear and interesting and easy for me to recognize the places you have
    described.
    I love Scotland and Scottish people! I was there in May 2017 and
    I am eager to go back next year!!!!!!

  • Nice and complete guide, thank you for sharing all this information that surely will bring some tourists to the area!

    One comment, however, just to let you know that Aberdeen Harbour is not the second largest fishing port in Scotland, because there is not fishing anymore in here. It used to be a fishing port for about 8 centuries until it became 100% commercial, mostly due to the arrival of the oil and gas industry. It is, however, the second largest port and it will be the largest in Scotland once they complete the expansion currently underway.
    The largest fishing ports in Scotland are Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

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