Aberdeen

Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom Scotland Aberdeen

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Introduction

Slains castle, near Aberdeen

Slains castle, near Aberdeen

© silvara

Aberdeen is Scotland's third largest city, located on the northeastern coast. Aberdeen is also known as the Granite City because of the extensive use of local granite in many of the cities buildings. This grey granite has a certain mineral content which makes some of the building in Aberdeen sparkle in the sunlight. The city is also the oil capital of Europe, with strong links to the worlds major oil companies such as Shell, BP and Exxon, therefore Aberdeen is the main gateway to the oilfields located in the North Sea area.

Aberdeen does not attract as many tourists as other Scottish destinations such as Edinburgh or St Andrews, and can feel more authentic. It is a great place to stop for a couple of days on a tour of Scotland, and especially good as a base for exploring the wider region to take advantage of the castles, golf, whisky distilleries, scenery, mountains (including skiing and snowboarding), coast and other attractions in Aberdeenshire and Royal Deeside. Alternatively, Aberdeen's remoteness yet comforts and cosmopolitan nature makes it an interesting destination for a short city break if you really want to get away from the stress.

Aberdeen has a seemingly-random mediaeval layout common for cities in Britain. The city-centre is divided by the mile-long Union Street which runs north-east/south-west (named after the 1800 "union" between Great Britain and Ireland). At the north-east end is the main square - the Castlegate - while leading off Union Street are important roads such as (east to west) Broad Street, Shiprow, Market Street, St. Nicholas Square, and Union Terrace. Running parallel to Union Street are Guild Street (where the railway and bus stations are ) and Upperkirkgate, which leads into Schoolhill. East of the Castlegate, roads lead to the beach and the sea, while at the other end of Union Street, roads lead to the West End (where many millionnaires live). Unusually, the harbour is in the city centre and is rapidly reached from the Shiprow, Market Street, Guild Street and Marischal Street. The River Dee does not flow through the city centre but a little to the south. The River Don flows through the north of the city, about two miles (3.2 km) north of the city centre.

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Neighbourhoods

Aberdeen is divided into many neighbourhoods and the local bus service connects them all together. The most notable areas are Old Aberdeen and Footdee.

Old Aberdeen used to be a separate burgh but was joined to the city of Aberdeen in 1891. It is home to the city’s oldest University (Aberdeen University) and is made up of cobbled streets and buildings dating back to the 15th century. If you are visiting Old Aberdeen make sure you visit Kings College & Chapel, The Old Town House and St. Machars Cathedral.

Footdee (knows as "Fittie" by the locals) was a small fishing village on the outskirts of Aberdeen. It is located at the end of the Beach Esplanade and sits where the river Don meets the sea. It is made up of quaint little fishing cottages which still retain their charm even today. Each of the cottages harbours its own charm and many of them have a small garden out in front which really adds to the personalities. Most of the cottages face inwards to protect them from the sometimes harsh North Sea. If you are a seafood lover then head to "Fittie" to visit one of Aberdeen’s best kept secrets, the Silver Darling Restaurant.

There are many town and villages close to Aberdeen each of them worth a visit in their own right:

  • Balmedie
  • Banchory
  • Ellon
  • Fraserburgh
  • Peterhead
  • Stonehaven

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Sights and Activities

Granite architecture. Aberdeen's granite buildings form one of the most celebrated cityscapes in Britain, with beautiful and architecturally significant buildings everywhere, especially in the city centre. However, some (particularly on Union Street and streets nearby) are now in need of restoration, much as the New Town of Edinburgh was before its restoration in the late 20th century. As such, many of the great granite buildings of the city centre have a sense of faded grandeur, though some (such as Marischal College - see below) have been dramatically restored. The Wikipedia article on Architecture in Aberdeen gives a good introduction w:Architecture of Aberdeen but here are a few to get you started as you walk around the city centre. The newly restored Marischal College on Broad Street, displays what poet John Betjeman called "tower on tower, forests of pinnacles, a group of palatial buildings rivalled only by the Houses of Parliament at Westminster". Then try the Town House (i.e. city hall) on Union Street, with its confident Victorian tower and street frontage. The Salvation Army Citadel on the Castlegate is an excellent example of the Scottish Baronial style, with its fairy-tale turrets, while a walk up (and down) Union Street with its mile of impressive granite buildings is a must. As you walk along Union Street, look up; the architecture is often not visible from street-level. Unlike other grand streets in the UK (such as Grey Street in Newcastle or the Royal Crescent in Bath), but like Princes Street in Edinburgh, each building on Union Street is different to the next in stature and architectural style. You will see a wide range of architectural styles, from highly ornamented to robust and Scottish-looking. Then, on Rosemount Viaduct, the cluster of His Majesty's Theatre, St. Mark's Church and the Central Library form a widely praised trio. City bookstores and the Central Library carry books about Aberdeen's architecture, such as Aberdeen: An Illustrated Architectural Guide by W. A. Brogden (2012, 4th ed.) and The Granite Mile by Diane Morgan (2008) on the architecture of Union Street.
Union Terrace Gardens. Closed for most of 2020 for redevelopment. A small city-centre park on one side of Union Terrace, just off Union Street. A small river, the Denburn, used to flow past here but is now covered by the railway line. Union Terrace Gardens is a rare haven of tranquility, greenery and natural beauty in the city-centre. In summer look out for the floral coat of arms, and in warm weather citizens sunbathe and picnic on the lawns. All year round, from the gardens you can appreciate some of the grand architecture on Union Terrace and Rosemount Viaduct. In winter, the park is beautiful in the snow. In 2011-12 the park was threatened with demolition to build a heavily-engineered "City Garden" as a new civic heart for the city, sponsored by local oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood who offered £50 million of his own money to part-finance the scheme. The project was extremely controversial but citizens voted narrowly in favour of the redevelopment in a referendum. However, following the 2012 elections to the city council the new city administration scrapped the controversial project. New plans were approved in 2018, and work started in late 2019. Entrance free.
Aberdeen Beach. Aberdeen's long sandy beach once made it something of a holiday resort, advertised by railway travel posters (that you may see at the Tourist Information Centre on Union Street). The beach stretches from picturesque Footdee (see below) at one end to the mouth of the River Don over 2 miles (3.2 km) north. While it's rarely hot enough for sunbathing and the North Sea is cold all year round, it's a fantastic place for a jog or a bracing walk. Surfers and windsurfers are also frequently to be found there. On sunny days, the beach is a popular place to spend time and one of the best spots in the city for a romantic walk. Amenities at the southern end include an amusement park, ice arena, leisure centre and leisure park with restaurants and cinema.
Footdee (usually pronounced "Fitty"). A former fishing village absorbed by the city, in the streets around Pocra Quay. It is at what was once the foot of the River Dee (hence the name) before the course of the river was artificially diverted to improve the harbour. This area is a laid-back cluster of traditional, small, quaint houses and quirky outhouses, and the area was specially constructed in the 19th century to house a fishing community. Footdee sits at the harbour mouth, where dolphins can often be seen.
Old Aberdeen. The quaintest part of the city and location of the University of Aberdeen's King's College Campus, along the High Street and the streets leading off it, with modern university buildings further from it. The Chapel and Crown Tower at Kings College date from the 16th century (the tower is a symbol of the city and of the university), while many of the other houses and buildings on the High Street and nearby are centuries old. The university's Kings Museum (M-F 09:00-17:00, free) a little way up the High Street puts on rotating displays from the university's collections. The new University Library (looks like a glass cube with zebra stripes) has a gallery space open every day with rotating exhibitions (free; check website for opening times), and you can explore the library (it's open to the public) which has outstanding views of the whole city and sea from the upper floors. The Old Town House at the top of the High Street (looks like it's in the middle of the roadway) has a visitor centre with leaflets on the area's heritage and rotating exhibitions. You can also explore the scenic and serene Cruickshank Botanic Garden which belongs to the university and is used for teaching and research, and is open to the public. The nearby St. Machar's Cathedral on the Chanonry (a continuation of the High Street) with its two spires, was completed in 1530 and is steeped in history and worth a visit (Aberdeen has three cathedrals, all named after saints). As it is part of the Protestant Church of Scotland, it does not actually function as a cathedral but is always called this. To get to Old Aberdeen, bus route No.20 from Broad Street takes you right there - get off at the High Street. Alternatively take No.1 or No.2 from Union Street and get off on King Street at the university campus (by the playing fields).
Winter Gardens (At Duthie Park), ☏ +44 1224 585310. Daily 09:30 to 16:30 (Nov-Mar), 17:30 (April, Sep-Oct) or 19:30 (May-Aug). The David Welch Winter Gardens are one of the most popular gardens in Scotland and one of the largest indoor gardens in Europe. Consisting of a variety of glasshouses, they house a wide range of tropical and exotic plants, many of them rare. The frog that rises out of the pond is also amusing, and the Japanese Garden (one of the few exterior spaces) is tranquil. The entrances to Duthie Park are at the end of Polmuir Road in Ferryhill (AB11 7TH) or at Riverside Drive just after the railway bridge (this entrance also has a free car park), and you can walk through the park to the Winter Gardens. Duthie Park has benefitted from a £5 million renovation to restore it to its Victorian glory. Admission free.
Johnston Gardens, Viewfield Road (To get there, take bus route No.16 from Union Street, or a taxi.). Daily 0:00 until an hour before dusk. This 1-ha park in a middle-class suburb is one of the most spectacular in Scotland. Packed with dramatic floral displays, it also has a stream, waterfalls, ponds and rockeries. Many have suggested that Aberdeen won the Britain in Bloom award so many times on the basis of this park alone. The pond has ducks, there is a children's play area, and also toilets are provided. Entrance free.
Hazlehead Park (off Queens Road, on the western edge of the city). 08:00 until an hour before dusk. Large 180-hectare park on land granted to the city by King Robert the Bruce in 1319. Gardens include the Queen Mother Rose Garden, and the North Sea Memorial Garden to remember the 167 people killed on the Piper Alpha oilrig in 1988. Get lost in the hedge maze then have a cuppa in the cafe. Pay a £3 admission charge to see a collection of domestic and farm animals in the Pets Corner. free.
Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Shiprow, ☏ +44 1224 337700, ✉ info@aagm.co.uk. Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 12:00-15:00. This museum, rated 5-star by the Scottish Tourist Board, tells the story of Aberdeen's relationship with the sea, from fishing to trade to North Sea oil. It offers an extraordinary insight into the mechanics and technology of ships and oil rigs, Aberdeen's rich maritime history and the lives of some of the people who have worked offshore in the North Sea for the past 500 years. The newest part of the complex is a blue, glass-fronted building on the cobbled Shiprow. Inside is a spiral walkway, rising upwards around an eye-catching model of an oil rig. Connected to this structure are the much older buildings which take visitors through a series of castle-style corridors and staircases to reach the numerous room sets, historical artefacts and scale models. If your time in Aberdeen is limited, go and see this. There is so much to see, and even the buildings themselves are worth a look. There is also a restaurant - slightly expensive, but the food is pretty good. There are excellent views of the harbour from the top floor. Admission free.
Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill, ☏ +44 1224 523700, ✉ info@aagm.co.uk. Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 14:00-17:00. The Aberdeen Art Gallery is set in a Victorian building with an exquisite marble and granite main hall. On the ground floor are housed modern works including pieces by Tracy Emin and Gilbert & George, with many others. Upstairs hang more traditional paintings and sculpture. These include Impressionist pieces and workandy the Scottish Colourists. There are frequent temporary exhibitions (see website) and also display of antique silverware and decorative pieces. Columns in the main hall display the many different colours of local granite used to build the city. There is a good gift shop too. For those who like art, an afternoon could easily be spent here, but at least a quick browse is well worth it for anyone. Admission free.
The Gordon Highlanders Museum, St. Lukes Viewfield Road (Bus 11 from Union St.), ☏ +44 1224 311200, ✉ museum@gordonhighlanders.com. Feb-Nov: Tu-Sa 10:30-16:30, Su 13:30-16:30. At the Gordon Highlanders Museum you can re-live the compelling and dramatic story of one of the British Army's most famous regiments, through the lives of its outstanding personalities and of the kilted soldiers of the North East of Scotland who filled its ranks. Exhibits include a real Nazi flag from Hitler's staff car, and there is a small cinema where you can watch a film on the history of the regiment. For the younger visitors there are a number of uniforms to try on, and there is also a coffee shop. There are some mock-up first world war trenches. The museum is housed in the home of the victorian artist Sir George Reid, and has a large garden. For those interested in military history this small gem is a must. Adults: £8.00, children: £4.50.
Provost Skene's House, ☏ +44 1224 641086. Closed, expected to reopen in 2020.. Guestrow (walk under passageway at St. Nicholas House on Broad Street and it's in the little plaza there). Scottish towns and cities have a "provost" instead of a mayor and this house used to belong to Provost George Skene. The large, picturesque house dates from 1545 (it's the oldest house left in the city) and houses various rooms furnished to show how people in Aberdeen lived in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. There is an excellent cafe in the cellar. Admission free.
Tolbooth Museum, Castle Street (i.e. the eastern part of Union Street, before it enters the Castlegate square.)., ☏ +44 1224 621167. M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 12:00-15:00. This is Aberdeen's museum of civic history; it is now open every day (though in the past it opened only in summer). In Scottish towns and cities, a "tolbooth" was the main municipal building or Town Hall, providing council meeting space, a courthouse and jail. Aberdeen's Tolbooth Museum is in a 17th-century tolbooth which had housed jail cells in centuries past, and played a key role in the city's history, including the Jacobite rebellions. The museum has fascinating displays on crime and punishment, and on the history of the city. The entrance is at the Town House (the modern equivalent of the Tolbooth!), just along from the Sheriff Court entrance and next to the bus stop. Due to the ancient nature of the building, the Tolbooth has limited access for visitors with mobility difficulties. Free. The Tolbooth,
Kings Museum, ✉ museum@abdn.ac.uk. M W-F 10:00-16:00, Tu 10:00-19:30, Sa 11:00-16:00. At the University of Aberdeen's King's College campus, High Street, Old Aberdeen (from city centre, take bus 20 from Broad Street) The University of Aberdeen holds extensive collections of artifacts from a variety of cultures around the world. In the past, it displayed them in the Marischal Museum at Marischal College, but this closed during its redevelopment as the City Council's main offices, and the university has shown no intention to re-open it. Its replacement is the King's Museu on campus. This museum is on the High Street (in the middle of the King's College campus) in a building which served as the Town House (i.e. town hall) of Old Aberdeen when it was a separate town. The museum puts on rotating exhibitions drawn from these collections, often with a focus on archaeology and anthropology. Frequently, students and university staff contribute to events at the museum to add extra insight or bring the artifacts to life and there are evening lectures. While on campus, you can also visit the gallery at the university's impressive new Sir Duncan Rice Library (which looks like a zebra-striped tower that you'll see from all over campus), which puts on rotating exhibitions from the university's other collections. Its small public gallery on the ground floor shows changing exhibitions from the university's collections. While there, ask at the reception desk to go into the main library (it's open to the public but they have to give you a pass for the turnstile) and take the lift to Level 7. You can admire views of the sea and almost the entire city, including a quiet reading room with panoramic sea views - can you spot the lighthouse? Admission free (to both the museum and library).
1Zoology Museum (at University of Aberdeen), Zoology Building, St. Machar Drive (in the university's Zoology Building, which towers over the Botanic Gardens: take bus No.20 from city centre and get off at the end of the High Street, and walk through the Gardens to reach it, or take bus No.19 and get off just outside it), ☏ +44 1224 274330, ✉ kingsmuseum@abdn.ac.uk. M-F 09:00-17:00. This museum is on campus, on the ground floor of the university's Zoology Department. It has a big collection of zoological specimens, from protozoa to the great whales. Exhibits include taxidermy, skeletons, skins, fluid-preserved specimens and models. Free.

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Events and Festivals

Aberdeen Jazz Festival. Held in March, it showcases live jazz performances from around the world at several city venues. The next event is probably 11–21 March 2021, tbc.
May Festival. Held around the late May public holiday, organised by the University of Aberdeen but staged at various venues. It covers science, music, literature, film, Gaelic, sport, food and nutrition, and is suitable for all ages. It didn't run in 2020 and dates for 2021 are tba.
Aberdeen Highland Games, Hazelhead Park. The 2020 event was cancelled so the next is probably Sun 20 June 2021, tbc.. £10, advance discount.

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Weather

Aberdeen has a typical maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. June to September is summer season with temperatures between 16 °C and 18 °C and nights around 11 °C. Winters are still above zero, even at night. The highest and lowest temperatures possible are 28 °C and -9 °C. Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year, with autumn and winter being the wettest time and spring being the driest time. May is the driest and most sunny month of the year. Locals say the north east of Scotland is famous for the saying "four season in one day" and Aberdeen is no exception. The weather is incredibly changeable so regardless of what the weather is like in the morning, be prepared for anything.

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Getting There

By Plane

Planes arrive and depart from Aberdeen Airport (IATA: ABZ, ICAO: EGPD). Airlines serving the airport include British Airways, easyJet, Flybe, Flyglobespan and Ryanair. KLM and Air France fly there often as well.

There are direct international flights to Aberdeen from Amsterdam, Belfast City, Bergen, Burgas, Copenhagen, Dublin, Esbjerg, Gdansk, Geneva, Groningen, Haugesund, Paris CDG, Riga, Oslo, and Stavanger, plus seasonal flights to the Mediterranean.

There's a good range of UK flights, as Aberdeen is a bit far to reach by rail. These include London Heathrow (with BA), London Gatwick and Luton (with easyJet), Belfast City, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Durham, Humberside, Kirkwall on Orkney, Leeds, Manchester, Norwich, Newcastle, Southampton, Stornoway on Lewis, Sumburgh on Shetland, and Wick. Eastern Airways continues to fly.

Between airport and city centre, take the bus. The Jet 727 is a big blue Stagecoach bus, running every 10-30 min to the main bus station in Union Square, next to the railway station. It runs daily between 04:00 and midnight, taking 30 min. In early 2019, a single ticket costs £3.40 and a return (good for 28 days) costs £5. Bus 747 / 757 runs south from the airport direct to Stonehaven and Montrose, and north to Ellon with some buses continuing to Peterhead.

Dyce has a railway station, but it's wrong side of the runway from the terminal, a 45-min walk with no public transport. You could take a taxi there - you'd only do this to pick up a northbound train without going into city centre. The Aberdeen to Inverness trains stop at Dyce, Inverurie, Insch, Huntly, Keith, Forres and Nairn.

A taxi to town will cost about £20.

By Train

Aberdeen Railway Station is in the city centre on Guild Street, one block from Union Street, very close to the bus station and ferry terminal. There's a Travel Centre (M-F 06:30-21:30, Sa 06:30-19:00, Su 09:00-21:30), a left-luggage facility (M-Sa 07:30-21:30, Su 09:00-21:00), ticket machines, ATMs, a WH Smith store selling books, magazines and snacks, a café and toilets. Lots more convenience stores and quick eats in the adjoining Union Square retail complex.

Cross Country Trains travels between Birmingham and Glasgow/Aberdeen/Edinburgh via Leeds and Sheffield. First Scot Rail operates the rail lines in Scotland and main routes include Aberdeen to Glasgow.

Aberdeen has trains hourly from Edinburgh and Glasgow Queen Street, both taking 2 hr 30 min, via Dundee. From England it's usually quicker to change in Edinburgh, but there are a few direct daytime trains from London King's Cross (via Peterborough, York and Newcastle) taking 7 hours. Likewise from the Midlands, with two or three trains winding all the way from Penzance via Exeter, Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh. Trains also run from Inverness to Aberdeen every couple of hours, taking about 2 hours.

The Caledonian Highland Sleeper runs Su-F from London Euston, departing around 21:30 to arrive by 07:40. (Other portions run to Inverness and Fort William; they divide or join at Edinburgh.) The southbound train leaves around 21:30 to reach Euston towards 08:00. No trains on Saturday night. New rolling stock was introduced on all the sleeper routes in 2019. Compartments have two berths and are sold like hotel rooms: you pay extra for single occupancy, and you won't be sharing with a stranger. Tickets can be booked at any UK mainline railway station or online: a single sleeper fare is around £160 for one or £200 for two people. You can also just use the sitting saloon, single £50. If you have an existing ticket for a daytime train you need to buy a sleeper supplement. Pricing is dynamic - weekends cost more, if indeed there are berths available. Booking is nominally open 12 months ahead, but (as of Oct 2019) the website hasn't grasped this. If you buy online, you need to print out your e-ticket to present on boarding.

By Car

The main road to Aberdeen from the south is A90, running from Edinburgh via the new Queen's Crossing (replacing the Forth Road Bridge), across Fife to bypass Perth and Dundee, inland to Forfar then Stonehaven, then turn onto A92 for the last stretch into Aberdeen. It's dual carriageway as far as Dundee, variable thereafter, with lower speed limits and many speed cameras on the Dundee section. Reckon 3 hours from Edinburgh and 3 hrs 30 from Glasgow.

In Feb 2019 the A90 was re-routed away from Aberdeen, with the opening of the "Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road" to relieve the congested A92. Expect glitches in road signage and Satnav directions for a few months yet.

Another route from the south is to take A93 north from Perth over Glenshee to Braemar, Balmoral and the Dee valley. It's scenic in summer but often difficult in winter, when the Glenshee section may be closed by snow.

From the north-west, take A96 via the airport at Dyce. Reckon up to four hours from Inverness, as it's single-carriageway and serves commuter villages that are short on public transport, so traffic is heavy at rush hour.

By Bus

Buses from London Victoria take about 13 hours; they pick up at intermediate points, for example, Manchester, but routes vary. Megabus has two direct buses per day and three with a change (two of them overnight). National Express has one daytime and one overnight direct bus, daily.

Buses from Edinburgh take 3 hours, all via Dundee, but bypassing Perth. Megabus G92 runs four times M-Sa, thrice on Sunday. Scottish Citylink also have some half-a-dozen buses, so it's an hourly service.

Buses from Glasgow likewise take 3 hours. Megabus G9 has six buses daily, mostly bypassing Perth and Dundee. Scottish Citylink run almost hourly and do serve Perth and Dundee.
From Inverness take Stagecoach Bus 10. On Saturday only this runs hourly direct to Aberdeen, taking four hours. Other days it only runs to Inverurie, to connect with Bus 37 to Aberdeen. There are 3 connecting services M-F and one on Sunday.

Stagecoach buses fan out from Aberdeen all across the county. Aberdeen Bus Station is on Guild St, Union Square, next to the railway station. So you can use all the facilities there, e.g. the left-luggage office.

By Boat

Aberdeen Harbour is right in the city centre, just about the first thing you see on leaving the bus station. The ferry terminal is off Market Street, next to the Union St car park entrance.

NorthLink car ferries sail overnight, year-round, to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. Three or four nights a week they depart at 17:00 and also call at Kirkwall on Orkney Mainland on the way; the other nights they depart at 19:00 and sail non-stop to Lerwick. (They never call at tiny midway Fair Isle, which is reached via Shetland.) For practicalities of using these ferries, see Shetland Islands#Getin and Kirkwall#Getin.

Cruise ships often call at the harbour in summer. Check operators' websites to see if a point-to-point journey to Aberdeen is feasible.

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Getting Around

By Taxi

Taxis are widely available from a number of ranks dotted around the city centre. The main ranks are off at Back Wynd (just off central Union Street), Hadden Street (just off Market Street) and inside the railway station. There is another at Chapel Street (at the western end of Union Street). Most Aberdeen taxis are saloon cars or people-carriers rather than London-style black cabs and can be any colour. Taxis and their drivers must be registered with the City Council and carry an official taxi registration plate (usually on the back). You can also call for a taxi to pick you up from any address; while there are various companies, the major ones are ComCab at ☏ +44 1224 35 35 35 and Rainbow City on ☏ +44 1224 87 87 87.

Taxis are the most popular way to get home from a night out, so at night they can be harder to come by. After dark, they can be hired only at designated posts on Union Street - these consist of a vertical post with the words "Night Taxi" illuminated. You'll probably spot them by the queue forming at each Night Taxi stand. On busy weekend nights, be prepared to queue for long periods among drunken revellers, when these ranks are often patrolled by taxi marshalls. At night it can can be difficult to hail a taxi on the street as many do not give any indication if they're available for hire and some will not pick up groups of males. Aberdeen taxi fares are high, but they always go by the meter price and are regulated by Aberdeen City Council.

By Public Transport

Aberdeen city centre is serviced by two main bus companies to allow travellers to get to the different areas within the city and the surrounding area. These companies are First Bus & Bluebird. Travel to nearby towns in the area is normally covered by Bluebird.

While single journeys can be expensive in Aberdeen there are a few tips to help you get the most out of your ticket. If you are planning tot take many journeys then consider an All Day Ticket which is available from the driver on request. Even better if you purchase this ticket after 9:30am because then you will get it at a slightly reduced price. If you know you will be using the bus a lot then consider a weekly pass. This will save you some money but the tickets are a little harder to get your hands on because you may need to produce a passport sized photograph. Weekly tickets are available on the relevant First bus and Bluebird website but be warned you can not mix and match, that is you will not be permitted to travel on a Bluebird bus with a First pass.

By Foot

Walking is an excellent way to get around Aberdeen, particularly around central areas, as the city centre is relatively compact. Walking is also by far the best way to appreciate the grand architecture of the city. However, the city is not that small (e.g. Union Street is one mile long) so for journeys outside of the city centre, wheeled transport may be useful.

Aberdeen has a mediaeval layout like many cities in the UK, so for the first-time visitor, a map is helpful. There are quite a few of these on signs around the city centre, mainly in points of interest (e.g. the Castlegate). However, it is very useful to have a map of the city to carry with you. You can buy maps from the Tourist Information Centre on the corner of Union Street and Shiprow, or from city bookstores.

By Bike

Due to the many narrow roads and inadequate lane provisions, this can be rather treacherous at times. Cycle lanes are appearing (but are often shared with buses) as are cycle "boxes" at traffic lights so the situation is getting better for those who cycle. It's getting easier to park a cycle too, the city council have now provided loops for chaining bikes within the city centre streets (e.g. at Shiprow and Castle Street) and within the multi-storey car parks. Aberdeen City Council has a webpage with information on cycling in the city, while Aberdeen Cycle Forum - a voluntary group encouraging and developing cycling within Aberdeen - have produced cycle maps for the city. These can be downloaded from the City Council's cycling website (see above), or obtained from public libraries in the city or council offices (such as Marischal College on Broad Street).

It is possible to cycle from Aberdeen city centre to the genteel suburb of Peterculter along the route of the Old Deeside Railway. The "line" begins just outside Duthie Park and passes through Garthdee, Cults, Bieldside and Milltimber before ending at Station Road. It is mostly paved with a few breaks where you have to cross a road. The route is very scenic and relaxing, and is also used by people walking dogs, riding horses, other cyclists, and other people just enjoying a stroll, so being courteous is a must. There are signs placed along the line with bits of history about the line and how it came to be.

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Eat

A local specialty is the Aberdeen buttery or rowie, a cross between a pancake and a croissant. They have a flaky yet heavy texture and are very salty. They're served plain or with butter or jam to make a tea-time or mid-afternoon snack. They're seldom found in cafes or restaurants, you buy them in bakeries or supermarkets to eat at home or on the go.

Books and Beans, 22 Belmont Street (City centre), ☏ +44 1224 646438. A second-hand book shop offering internet access and lunch menu.
Contour Cafe, 47 The Green (city centre), ☏ +44 1224 582151. Sit-in lunch and outside catering.
The City Bar & Diner, 37-39 Netherkirkgate (city centre), ☏ +44 1224 649592. Fully licensed restaurant and outside catering.
The Coffee House, 1 Gaelic Lane (City centre), ☏ +44 1224 478621. Coffee and lunch.
Lahore Karahi, 145 King Street, ☏ +44 1224 647295. A relatively new entrant to the established Aberdonian Curry Houses, Lahore Karahi offers arguably the most authentic Pakistani/Indian cuisine, and at the best of prices too.
La Lombarda, 2-8 King Street (next to Castlegate), ☏ +44 1224 640916. One of most popular Italians, and with good reason. Claims to be oldest Italian restaurant around but food is far from being 'good' Italian. It's more English-style Italian.
The Royal Thai, 29 Crown Terrace, ☏ +44 1224 212922. The oldest Thai restaurant in Aberdeen and it shows in how exceptional the food is.
Chinatown, 11 Dee Street, ☏ +44 1224 211111. Just off Union Street. Great Chinese food along with nice, vibrant decor and a bar make this restaurant highly recommended.
The Illicit Still, Netherkirkgate (off Broad Street), ☏ +44 1224 623123. Sensibly priced pub grub.
Nazma Tandoori, 62 Bridge Street, ☏ +44 1224 211296. Alongside the Blue Moon, Holburn Street, this is the most authentic and finest Indian restaurant in Aberdeen.
Moonfish Cafe, 9 Correction Wynd (behind GAP), ☏ +44 1224 644166. High quality seafood restaurant. Rated as one of the best restaurants in Aberdeen.
The Tippling House, 4 Belmont Street. A late-night cocktail bar that serves tasty bar snacks and dinner.

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Drink

Like any Scottish city Aberdeen has a large number of bars and nightclubs. The role of alcohol in Scottish culture is frequently debated but for better or worse, heavy drinking is a feature of nights out for many in Scotland, especially on weekend nights. However, this is less pronounced in suburban establishments and those outside the city-centre or catering to an older clientele. Aberdeen is a city with a large number of young people (including students and young professionals) and people of all ages who like to go out. As a result, while not on the same level as Glasgow, nights out are often lively - much livelier than many visitors would expect. Especially on weekend nights, the city centre is full of revellers, even in the most severe winter weather (Aberdonians, like those in Newcastle, often do not dress for a night out according to the weather).

There are hundreds of licensed premises in the city that cater for every taste, from upmarket bars, to more casual bars, and a wide range of pubs. There are also numerous clubs, some very good (e.g. Snafu on Union Street opposite the Town House). Due to the large student population there are often student deals around. These may be extended to everyone and not just those with student ID cards. If you plan to go to a club, bring photographic ID showing your date of birth as this is often demanded by doormen - a photocard driving licence or passport is effective. Remember that smoking is illegal inside public venues - you will notice crowds of smokers standing outside even in freezing conditions. This has also led to the trend of installing/ re-opening Beer Gardens that are now constantly full of smokers.

The usual and most approachable starting point for a night out is Belmont Street. It is home to numerous bars and nightclubs. Union Street and to a lesser extent Langstane Place and Bon Accord Street (off Union Street) are also destinations for a night out due to their numerous venues. Various other city-centre streets are also home to drinking establishments.

Revolution Bar, 25 Belmont St, ☏ +44 1224 645475. Part of the Revolution chain specialising in cocktails. Has a wonderful smoking terrace out the back.
The Wild Boar, 19 Belmont Street, ☏ +44 1224 625357. A quieter setting, sometimes with acoustic live music. Known for its wine selection. A Belhaven pub.
Siberia (Vodka Bar), 9 Belmont Street, ☏ +44 1224 645328. Serves 99 flavours of vodka and has a smoking terrace out the back.
Cafe Drummond, Belmont Street, ☏ +44 1224 619930. A small late-licence venue which focuses on live bands.
O'Neils Aberdeen, 9-10 Back Wynd. Irish-themed pub with a nightclub upstairs. Nationwide chain.
Ma Cameron's, Little Belmont Street, ☏ +44 1224 644487. The oldest pub in the city. Shows live football in a traditional pub setting with a roof garden. A Belhaven pub.
Old School House, Little Belmont Street, ☏ +44 1224 626490. A quieter pub near Belmont Street. A Belhaven pub.
Slain's Castle, Belmont Street. A highlight of Aberdeen's pub scene. An old church converted into a gothic style pub, famous for it's Seven Deadly Sins cocktails. Hallowe'en is a particularly eventful night here. A Stonegate pub.
The Prince of Wales, 7 St Nicholas Lane (Just off of Union Street), ☏ +44 1224 640597. Boasting one of the longest bars in Aberdeen and eight Real Ale pumps, sometimes called the "PoW" or quite simply the "Prince", this pub is one of the hidden gems of Aberdeen packed with locals, oil workers and students alike. They keep their beer exceedingly well. A Belhaven pub.
Soul, 333 Union St (Uppermarket), ☏ +44 1224 211150. In the converted Langstane Kirk.
Krakatoa, 2 Trinity Quay (can be found by heading down Market Street and turning left when you get to the harbour), ☏ +44 1224 587602. Open till 3AM at the weekend. Is a tiki dive bar and Grassroots music venue. Probably the finest watering hole for those of a rock'n'roll persuasion. It's a drinker's paradise, with over a huge range of world beers, real ale, real ciders, a collection of authentic absinthe, a huge selection of rums, and even outlandish tiki cocktails served in pint jars. Regular live music nights (both local and touring bands), a welcoming atmosphere and Aberdeen's best jukebox make this a must for any visiting rockers.
The Grill, 213 Union Street (Opposite the Music Hall), ☏ +44 1224 573530. A small severely plain interior, but a haven for a whisky connoisseur; whiskies from Scotland and around the world. Tasting menu available.
Jam Jar, The Galleria, Langstane Place, ☏ +44 1224 574237. Very cheap and popular, especially during the week.
Paramount, 23-25 Bon-Accord St, ☏ +44 1224 590500. Next to Jam Jar and very similar.
Prohibition, 31 Langstane Pl, ☏ +44 1224 625555. Mainstream.

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Sleep

Aberdeen has a wide range of hotels, guest houses and bed-and-breakfasts. Many of these cater to business travellers (who come all year round) and tourists (most of whom visit in summer). There are also an increasing nber of apart-hotels and self-catering apartments available. For budget accommodation, plan for £70 a night or less while for a splurge plan for more than £150 a night, and somewhere in the middle for mid-range. Due to the oil industry, hotel rooms are generally more expensive during the week than at weekends. Those below are just a few suggestions. You can find many, many others on any hotel-booking website. A number of bed-and-breakfasts are also on King Street. If you find yourself in Aberdeen without a reservation and needing a place to stay, the Tourist Information Centre on Union Street has a more extensive list.

The mid-range hotels have frequent special offers which reduce the price significantly so check their websites in advance to see if an offer will be on during your stay. During early-to-mid September in odd-numbered years (e.g. 2017, 2019) the giant Offshore Europe oil industry convention takes place with all hotel spaces in the city and surrounding towns packed to capacity. Unless you want to face a "no room at the inn" scenario, avoid visiting at the same time as the convention

Aberdeen Youth Hostel, 8 Queen's Road (Bus route 13 from city centre), ☏ +44 870 004 1100. A hostel run by the Scottish Youth Hostel Association in a historic building a couple of miles west of the city centre. There is a shared self-catering kitchen, breakfast is available, and beds are in dormitories of various sizes plus a couple of single rooms. Bus route 13 connects it with the city centre. £25 or so per night in a shared dorm, more for a private room.
Hotel Ibis Aberdeen, 15 Shiprow, ☏ +44 1224 398800. A new hotel that is part of the Ibis chain, built as part of the City Wharf development. Provides good budget accommodation in the middle of the city centre (opposite the Maritime Museum), with views of the harbour from some rooms. Rooms are exactly the same as every other Hotel Ibis and so are reliable and clean. An NCP car park and the 24-hour PureGym are next door. £44-60.
Premier Inn, West North Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5AS (Just off King Street), ☏ +44 871 527 8008. This chain hotel is housed in a concrete building on West North Street that looks like an office building (just opposite the Aberdeen Arts Centre and the Lemon Tree performing arts venue), but the location is handy for the city centre, guest ratings are good, the Premier Inn chain is reliable and prices are affordable. There is parking available plus on-site restaurant. Around £60.
Travelodge Aberdeen, Bridge Street (at junction with Union Street), ☏ +44 871 984 6117. This is a large hotel which looks over Union Street, good deals can be had if you book in advance on the website. The entrance is on Bridge Street.
The Douglas Hotel, 43-45 Market Street, ☏ +44 1224 582255. A Victorian hotel in the city centre, close to the train and bus stations. It provides comfortable accommodation with well-appointed, tastefully-furnished and well-equipped rooms. The hotel also offers one-bedroom self-catering apartments in a nearby apartment building. £75-145.
The Northern Hotel, 1 Great Northern Road, Aberdeen AB24 3PS (Bus route 17 to/from city centre), ☏ +44 1224 483342. A privately-owned Art Deco hotel, it is on Great Northern Road in the suburb of Kittybrewster. Bus route 17 connects it to the city centre and it is also on the route of the 727 bus between the airport and city centre. Rooms are comfortable and provide a good night's sleep. Self-catering apartments are also available. £97-117.
The Mariner Hotel, 349 Great Western Road (Bus route 19 to/from city-centre), ☏ +44 1224 588901. A cozy hotel in Aberdeen's pretty west end. The hotel features an outstanding restaurant with excellent options both for meat-lovers and vegetarians. £70-150.
Park Inn Hotel Aberdeen, 1 Justice Mill Lane, AB11 6EQ (Street runs behind and parallel to the west part of Union Street), ☏ +44 1224 592999. This large modern hotel opened in August 2010 and provides a wide range of facilities. There are business meeting rooms and pets are allowed (but call first to confirm before you bring your dog, ferret, budgerigar, etc.) £70-140.
Doubletree by Hilton, Beach Boulevard, AB24 5EF (at the end of the Beach Boulevard, towards the sea), ☏ +44 1224 633339. It is a large hotel and leisure club in the centre of Aberdeen beside the beach (not to be confused with the Hilton) £70-100.
Skene House, 6 Union Grove, AB10 6SY, ☏ +44 1224 580000. 3 apart-hotels set in old tenement blocks. Each room has its own kitchen and living room and is basically an apartment that is run like a hotel. One is at the corner of Holburn Street and Union Grove, while another is on South Mount Street in the middle-class Rosemount area just north of the city-centre.
Mercure Caledonian (previously Thistle Caledonian), 10 Union Terrace AB10 1WE (just off Union Street, facing Union Terrace Gardens), ☏ +44 871 376 9003. Reliable mid-range hotel, now part of Accor chain, in a good central location. B&B double £60.
The Station Hotel, Guild Street (Right opposite the railway station), ☏ +44 1224 587214. This is a traditional hotel, right opposite the railway station and Union Square. It occupies what had been the offices of the Great North of Scotland Railway in days gone by and is comfortable. It's an excellent choice if you'll need to make use of the railway station, bus station or bus to the airport and don't want to walk far.
Jury's Inn, Union Square, Guild Street (Right next to railway/bus station and shopping mall at Union Square), ☏ +44 1224 381200, ✉ jurysinnaberdeen@jurysinns.com. This hotel is right next to the railway and bus stations as part of the Union Square development. It is part of a chain that has comfortable rooms and good facilities.
Norwood Hall Hotel, Garthdee Road, Aberdeen, AB15 9FX (Bus route 1 & 2 to/from city centre. Get off outside Gray's School of Art (at RGU campus) and walk around the bend), ☏ +44 1224 868951, ✉ reservations@norwood-hall.co.uk. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. Stylish 19th-century estate next to the Robert Gordon University's campus. Also often used for wedding receptions.
The Craighaar Hotel, Waterton Rd, ☏ +44 1224 712275.
Atholl Hotel on Kings Gate is a Victorian Gothic affair a mile west of Union Square.
Mercure Ardoe House, South Deeside Road, Blairs, AB12 5Y, ☏ +44 1224 860600. Ardoe House is a Victorian mansion house, that looks somewhat like a castle. It is outside of the city and provides very comfortable accommodation, but to get there you'll need a car.
Malmaison Aberdeen, 53 Queens Road, AB15 4YP, ☏ +44 1224 321371. Formerly the Queens Hotel, this is an upmarket hotel in the upmarket Queens Cross area, in the city's West End.
Hilton Aberdeen TECA, East Burn Road, Stoneywood, AB21 9FX (close to the airport), ☏ +44-1224984111, ✉ reservations@hiltonaberdeenteca.com. This new hotel is connected to The Event Complex Aberdeen. Modern accommodation, full-service spa, Scottish restaurant, bar and event facilities. 70-160£.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Learn

University of Aberdeen, Kings College, Aberdeen, AB24 3FX, ☏ +44 1224 272000. One of the oldest universities in the UK (founded 1495), it is renowned for its teaching and research in a full range of disciplines including the liberal arts, sciences, social sciences and the professions. Until the University of the Highlands and Islands was created in 2011 with its centre at Inverness, Aberdeen was the most northerly university in the UK (the Robert Gordon University, also in the city, is a little way south of the University of Aberdeen). It is a research-focused university of about 15,000 students, most at its main Kings College campus in Old Aberdeen, but some at its Medical School at Foresterhill. The Medical School is prestigious and the centre of a great deal of research, and is where (for example) the MRI scanner was developed. The university's iconic buildings, Marischal College (in the city centre but now occupied by Aberdeen City Council) and the tower of Kings College, are also iconic images of the city of Aberdeen. A huge new library was opened in 2011 at the Kings College campus. It is of unusual architecture for Aberdeen, taking the form of a seven-story zebra-striped tower. the Sir Duncan Rice Library is open to the public and outstanding views are available from the upper floors; ID is needed to sign in. The university provides popular part-time adult education courses, in addition to its Language Centre which also provides classes in languages at all levels. University of Aberdeen (Q270532) on Wikidata University of Aberdeen on Wikipedia
Robert Gordon University - Garthdee Road, Aberdeen, AB10 7QG, ☏ +44 1224 262000. Usually referred to as "RGU", it became a university in 1992 but developed out of an educational institution dating from 1750 founded by the Aberdeen merchant and philanthropist Robert Gordon. The word "The" is officially part of the title. It has a suburban campus at Garthdee in the south-west of the city by the banks of the River Dee, known for its modern architecture by major architects such as Norman Foster and Associates. A campus in the city centre was operated also but it has transferred to the main Garthdee campus, although the university still owns its Administration Building on the Schoolhill, next to the Art Gallery (designed to match it for the building used to be a school of art). RGU has been rising rapidly in university rankings and was named Best Modern University in the UK for 2012 by the Sunday Times, and equivalent standings in 2013, in addition to other recent awards. It is a teaching-focused university of about 15,500 students but significant research is also conducted (but not as much as the University of Aberdeen). Degrees are offered from undergraduate to PhD level in a wide range of disciplines, primarily vocational and professional disciplines and those most applicable to business. It has become known for its high level of graduate employment of around 97%. The university's art school, Gray's School of Art, offers short courses in art, sculpture, photography and fashion to the general public with no need for prior training.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés can be found in many cities and towns. All UK public libraries provide access, often branded as "People's Network", usually at no or little charge, though there is usually a time limit. Some hotels/hostels also offer internet access, including wifi, but most times at a cost. Using the internet on your personal phone can become expensive very quickly, with carriers charging 100's of times the local rate for data. To avoid these expensive roaming charges, you can hunt for wifi at a local cafe or hotel, or rent a mobile hotspot via several providers including DATAPiXY, and XCOM Global.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00

In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming.

Although the number is declining, you can still find payphones in many public areas, especially stations, airports etc. You can usually pay with cash and sometimes by creditcard or, for international calls, special phonecards are still available.

Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2. 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte and coverage is usually very good in the UK, however it may lack in rural areas. Roaming on your personal phone plan can be expensive. To manage costs, consider purchasing a local UK SIM card for your phone. Several companies offer local SIM cards including Telestial, and CellularAbroad.

Post

The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. The Royal Mail's store fronts are called Post Office and offer services ranging from sending letters and packages to foreign currency exchange. Use the branch locator to find the nearest Post Office branch. There will be at least one post office in any town/city and there are quite often post offices in larger villages. It's common for a post office to be incorporated into a grocery store, where there will be a small counter located at the back of the store for dealing with post related matters. All post offices are marked with signs that say 'post office' in red lettering. Post boxes can be found at any post office and standalone large red post boxes on the streets or red boxes in the sides of public buildings.
For sending packages overseas, it might be a good idea to check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 57.15393
  • Longitude: -2.106779

Accommodation in Aberdeen

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