15 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Aberdeen

In this article the Things to Do in Aberdeen will be described. You will get to know more about the attractive tourist locations in Aberdeen as well.

Aberdeen, known as “The Flower of Scotland” because of its numerous beautiful parks and gardens, is located on the North Sea between the rivers Dee and Don. Aberdeen, the capital of the Grampian Region, is Scotland’s largest fishing port, a significant center for offshore oil, and the Orkney and Shetland Islands’ ferry terminus.

During the summer months, tourists can enjoy the city’s two miles of sandy beaches, excellent golf courses, shop-lined streets, dramatic and dance performances at His Majesty’s Theatre, concerts by world-class orchestras at the Music Hall, and a variety of cultural festivals. There is always something to do in Aberdeen, day or night, regardless of when you arrive.

The city’s distinguishing aspect comes from local quarries of silver-gray granite. When the light shines, the mica in the stone sparkles, creating an amazing architectural effect that has earned Aberdeen the moniker “Silver City.”

Aberdeen also boasts a variety of interesting things to see, including a number of historically protected buildings, the oldest of which comes from the 16th century. Read our list of the top attractions and things to do in Aberdeen, Scotland, to learn more about these and other areas of interest in this interesting city.

1.Historic St. Machar’s Cathedral (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

Things to Do in Aberdeen
Historic St. Machar’s Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of St. Machar, also known as St. Machar’s Cathedral, is thought to have been built on the site of a small Celtic chapel built by St. Machar in AD 581. The cathedral that succeeded it was founded in 1136, but the current structure comes from the 14th century and was finished in 1552.

The imposing towers on the West front, with its sandstone spires date from 1518 to 1530, and the 16th-century woodwork ceiling adorned with coats of arms, are particularly noteworthy for tourists. Pay special attention to the stained-glass windows, the majority of which date from the 1870s.

If possible, schedule your visit to coincide with one of the many classical or choral concerts that take place here (details are available on the cathedral website below). On-site, there is a shop.

Address: 18 The Chanonry, Aberdeen, Scotland

Official site: www.stmachar.com

2. The University and King’s College of Aberdeen (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

King James IV awarded the University and King’s College of Aberdeen their charter in 1494 in what is today known as Old Aberdeen.

The college’s massive tower (1633) and magnificent stone dome, the only intact structure of its sort in Scotland and renowned for the stone model of Charlemagne’s imperial crown that rests atop it, are two of the college’s distinguishing features. The chapel’s 16th-century oak choir stalls and wooden roof have been kept in their original state, and wood portraits of Stuart monarchs have been sculpted.

Another must-see is the University of Aberdeen Zoology Museum, which is ranked as one of the best free things to do in the city. From protozoa to whales, this amazing museum has it all. The King’s Museum, which displays temporary exhibits of artifacts from various educational collections, is well worth visiting.

Address: King’s College, Aberdeen, Scotland

Official site: www.abdn.ac.uk

3. Cross Brig o’Balgownie – The Oldest Bridge of Scotland (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

The Oldest Bridge of Scotland
The Oldest Bridge of Scotland

The Brig o’Balgownie, in Aberdeen, is one of Scotland’s most romantic sites. This magnificent stone bridge, sometimes known as the Bridge of Don, is accessible through a short stroll through Seaton Park.

Built in 1320 on Robert the Bruce’s orders and repaired in 1607, it functioned as the main crossing point for the River Don. In his satirical poem Don Juan, Lord Byron, who briefly attended school in Aberdeen, alluded warmly to the single span bridge.

Brig o’Dee is another lovely historic bridge to see. It dates from the 1520s and is located in beautiful Duthie Park, which is known for having one of the world’s greatest winter gardens.

4. Tolbooth Museum -Most Haunted Building in Aberdeen (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

The ruins of Aberdeen’s initial medieval town may still be seen around Castlegate, which is still the city’s focal point centuries later. The tower of the 17th-century Tolbooth — which was once the town hall and prison — is Aberdeen’s oldest building and home to a museum with remarkable exhibits on the evolution of crime and punishment.

Original jail cells from the 1600s are among the exhibits, which were notoriously used a century later to imprison Scots prisoners after the Battle of Culloden. The notorious “Maiden,” the blade from the city’s guillotine, may also be seen. This intriguing structure is also rumored to be Scotland’s most haunted construction.

Address: Castle Street, Aberdeen, Scotland

Official site: www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/AAGM/plan-your-visit/tolbooth-museum

5. See the Mercat Cross (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

 The Mercat Cross
The Mercat Cross

The Mercat Cross is also in Castlegate, diagonally opposite the Tolbooth Museum & ornamented with a white unicorn. The city’s guild of merchants created this complex and richly adorned medieval sign of Aberdeen’s authority to host a market in 1686.

The news of freshly crowned monarchs was announced to assembled masses from the roof of the edifice, which had a stairway in the middle. The heads of the 10 Stuart rulers, from James I through James VII, Charles I, Charles II, & Mary Stuart, are shown on portrait medallions.

St. Andrew’s Cathedral is another notable neighboring attraction. Take a trip around Union Street, Aberdeen’s bustling main thoroughfare. It’s a lively street with plenty of stores, cafés, and shopping arcades, and it’s almost 200 years old.

Address: Aberdeen, Scotland, High Street

6. Duthie Park and David Welch Winter Gardens are great places to go for a floral fix (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

Duthie Park and David Welch Winter Gardens
Duthie Park and David Welch Winter Gardens

The David Welch Winter Gardens in Duthie Park, a spectacular year-round floral experience, is one of the world’s greatest indoor gardens, packed with rare and exotic species from all over the world. It’s a massive attraction with an excellent variety of cactus and other succulent plants. It’s the largest indoor gardens in Scotland and is one of the largest in the UK.

The Temperate House, Tropical House, & Arid House all have a wide variety of plants. Visit the Victorian Corridor, the Perfume Corridor, the Fern House, as well as the Japanese Garden.

Address: Polmuir Road, Aberdeen, Scotland

Official site: www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/services/duthie-park

7. Visit the Aberdeen Art Gallery to see the work of Scottish artists (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

Aberdeen Art Gallery
Aberdeen Art Gallery

The Aberdeen Art Gallery, first opened in 1884, includes a large collection of artworks from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Charles Rennie Mackintosh, William Dyce, Thomas Faed, John Philip, as well as other Glasgow School artists are among the artists whose work is on exhibit. On display are works by George Jameson, Scotland’s first portrait painter (1589-1644).

Portraits by Raeburn, as well as works by William Turner, David Hockney, and Impressionist artists such as Monet, Sisley, Bonnard, Pissarro, and Renoir, are among the most well-known pieces in this magnificent collection. In the well-lit entry hall, sculptures by Barbara Hepworth & Jacob Epstein are on show.

There are also noteworthy collections of British silver, glass, & pottery on show in the museum. On the premises, there is a fantastic tiny café. This excellent art gallery offers free admission.

Address: 61 Schoolhill, Aberdeen, Scotland

Official site: www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/AAGM/plan-your-visit/aberdeen-art-gallery

8. Visit Provost Skene’s House, Aberdeen’s oldest residence (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

Provost Skene's House
Provost Skene’s House

Sir George Skene of Rubislaw, provost from 1676 to 1685, was indeed a wealthy trader who made his fortune in the Polish city of Gdansk. His previous home, which was erected in 1545 and is Aberdeen’s oldest existing building, now has an outstanding museum with local antiquities, religious artwork, and historical costumes on exhibit.

The apartments themselves have been outfitted to reflect various lifestyles from the 17th to the 19th century. The plasterwork in the ancient 17th-century bedroom, as well as the painted wooden ceilings from the same time in the picture gallery, are well worth seeing. The museum is free to enter, and there is a famous café on the premises.

Address: 5 Guestrow, Aberdeen, Scotland

9. Go on a road trip to Crathes Castle (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

Crathes Castle
Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle, which is managed by the National Trust for Scotland, is a famous example of a Scottish baronial-style castle. The tower house was built in 1553 and has modest oriel windows & corner towers. Its top storeys are also worth a visit, if only to see the exquisitely painted timber ceilings that date back to 1600.

The historical heroes Hector, Julius Caesar, & Alexander the Great, as well as three Old Testament characters and three notable monarchs, including King Arthur & Charlemagne, are shown in the Room of the Nine Nobles, which is representative of the ornamental work of the time. A noteworthy collection of artworks is also worth viewing.

In the Green Lady’s Room, where the ceiling is likewise painted decoratively, the castle has its own ghost. The castle offers a visitors center, café, gift shop, adventure playground, and treetop hiking in addition to its stunning grounds.

Crathes Castle is about a 25-minute drive from downtown Aberdeen and a short walk away.

Location: Crathes, Banchory, Scotland

Official site: www.nts.org.uk/Property/Crathes-Castle-Garden-and-Estate/

10. Aberdeen Maritime Museum (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

Aberdeen Maritime Museum
Aberdeen Maritime Museum

The Aberdeen Maritime Museum, housed in an impressive old 16th-century Provost Ross’s House in the city’s harborside Shiprow neighborhood, is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Excellent collections of models, pictures, and paintings depict the history of the Dee estuary’s port, as well as the tough lives of whale-hunters, herring fisherman, and North Sea traders, are among the highlights.

The Stornaway, a prototype built for Jardine Matheson in 1850, is also on display, as are the famed Aberdeen clippers that American ship owners used to gain their monopoly over the trade in China tea. The museum also features exhibits on current nautical activities and the only one in the UK to have exhibits on the North Sea petroleum sector.

On the premises are a shop and a café, which give a perfect cause to stay a while and observe the boat movement in the port.

Location: Shiprow, Aberdeen, Scotland

Official site: www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/AAGM/plan-your-visit/aberdeen-maritime-museum

11. Visit Craigievar Castle for a Day (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

Craigievar Castle
Craigievar Castle

This charming pink castle, with its modest towers, is just around an hour’s drive from Aberdeen and makes for a lovely day trip. It was first referenced in papers from 1457, when the Mortimer family possessed it. Aside from its hue, it’s a one-of-a-kind design that was allegedly the basis for Walt Disney’s castle concept.

This seven-story home, with its crow-stepped gables, oriel windows, conical roofs, ornate stone cannons, and beautiful zigzag console, stands as a symbol of power, riches, and pragmatism. Because wood for construction was in poor supply in the Highlands at the time, architects made the most of every square inch beneath one modest roof.

The Great Hall’s plasterwork, as well as the massive Stuart coat-of-arms above the fireplace and the carvings on the wall paneling, are all Renaissance in style. A convoluted set of stairs within the tower includes a secret flight of stairs going up to a tiny compartment above a window in the Great Hall. Weapons and armor, antiquities, and artworks are among the notable collections. There are tours offered with a guide.

Location: Craigievar, Alford, Scotland

Official site: www.nts.org.uk/property/craigievar-castle/

12. Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s residence, is open to the public (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle

The summer house of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland has come to symbolize the Victorian era’s Neo-baronial architecture. The estate was initially referenced in papers in 1484, and after Queen Victoria purchased it in 1852, she hired Aberdeen architect William Smith to put her husband, Prince Albert’s, designs into action.

It’s worth seeing on the rare days it’s available to the public, despite being 1.5 hours west of Aberdeen (and only when the Queen is away). If you go, you’ll be able to see the Ballroom, which has paintings and other works of art, as well as a collection of coaches.

The large parks area is great for a leisurely stroll. The estate may also be visited on a fun “Safari Tour,” which allows visitors to get up up and personal with local wildlife as well as the breathtaking surroundings.

The surrounding town of Braemar is great to visit and is best known for the Braemar Gathering, an annual athletic event. Since 1832, the Highland Games, Scotland’s version of the Olympics, have been staged here every fall. If you can’t make it to the games, the Braemar Highland Heritage Centre contains displays on the games’ history as well as Scottish traditional sports.

Location: Balmoral Estates, Ballater, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Official site: www.balmoralcastle.com

13. Visit Cruickshank Botanic Gardens if you have a green thumb (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

Cruickshank Botanic Gardens
Cruickshank Botanic Gardens

Cruickshank Botanic Gardens, located on the King’s College campus, was founded in 1898 and is well worth a visit. Its exhibits of noteworthy alpine and subtropical collections, as well as a magnificent rock and water garden, are highlights.

A sunken garden, rose garden, bushes, and herbaceous borders are all included on this serene 11-acre location. There’s also an arboretum with over 2,500 species to choose from.

Address: St. Machar Drive, Aberdeen, Scotland

Official site: www.abdn.ac.uk/botanic-garden/

14. Aberdeen Science Centre (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

The Aberdeen Science Centre, which reopened in 2020 following substantial renovations, is a terrific site to visit if you’re traveling with kids. Since its inception in 1988, the museum has given interactive displays and exhibits that have provided interesting learning opportunities for children of all ages.

The museum’s improvements improved the hands-on nature of its exhibitions significantly. Rock drilling, playing a melody on a cool solar piano, and even programming a real robot are among the activities available. The interesting OPITO Theatre of Energy, a state-of-the-art immersive theatrical performance offering a range of unusual and engaging experiences, is the newest attraction here.

Address: 179 Constitution Street, Aberdeen, Scotland

Official site: https://aberdeensciencecentre.org

15. The Gordon Highlanders Museum (Things to Do in Aberdeen cont’d)

The Gordon Highlanders Museum is another nearby sight worth seeing. The museum’s features include displays of uniforms, medals, weaponry, and models, as well as a commemoration of one of Scotland’s most famous regiments.

There are guided tours available, as well as audio guides for those who want to do it alone. On-site amenities include a tearoom and a gift shop. A stroll through the grounds is highly recommended.

Address: St. Luke’s, Viewfield Road, Aberdeen, Scotland

Official site: www.gordonhighlanders.com

Where to Stay for Sightseeing in Aberdeen

Although the best attractions in this Scottish port are dispersed, the majority are within walking distance of the ferry terminal and train station. Because Union Street is the main thoroughfare, any hotel located near it will be convenient to restaurants and fascinating things to explore. The university, the botanic gardens, & St. Machar’s Cathedral are all within walking distance of Union Street on King Street. Here are some of Aberdeen’s top-rated hotels:

Luxury Hotels:

Skene House Rosemount‘s deluxe apartment-style rooms are ideal for guests looking for a luxurious stay in Aberdeen. Your stay includes free parking and a substantial breakfast, in addition to the bright rooms and suites that range in size from one to three bedrooms and contain kitchenettes, all only steps from Union Street’s sights and activities.
Book a room at The Chester Hotel if you’re looking for a boutique-style dose of luxury. Bright, pleasant rooms with huge bathrooms with separate rainfall showers, separate living spaces, & work desks are available at this trendy hotel, which is housed in a lovely structure dating from the 1800s. A variety of suites with lovely fireplaces are also available. On-site eating options include a fine dining restaurant and a delicious breakfast.

Do you want a taste of 5-star luxury? The Marcliffe Hotel & Spa is the place to be. Although this hotel is located in a historic manor home a little distance from the city center, it is a modest price to pay for the high degree of luxury offered. Rooms and suites are available for booking, with the latter including separate lounge spaces. A restaurant, a drawing room, and a full-service spa are among the amenities.

Mid-Range Hotels:

Jurys Inn Aberdeen is a decent mid-range hotel. It’s conveniently located near the railway station and ferry terminal, as well as restaurants, excellent shopping, and the airport shuttle bus, which stops just outside the hotel’s front door. The spacious rooms sleep up to four people and provide free Wi-Fi (upgrades to posher rooms are available). On-site amenities include a café, restaurant, conference rooms, and a business center.
The Holiday Inn Express Aberdeen City Centre, located just north of Union Street, offers free parking and breakfast. The rooms are light and airy, with large bathrooms, satellite TV, plus comfy mattresses. Two conference rooms and a business center are available, as well as a delicious complimentary breakfast, baggage storage, & free parking.

Budget Hotels:

While the Mercure Aberdeen Caledonian Hotel is on the higher end of the budget hotel spectrum, fantastic hotel bargains are frequently available. It’s ideally located on Union Terrace, close to key attractions including St. Machar’s Cathedral as well as the university, as well as the core of the city’s commercial district, with various eateries just a short walk away. The rooms are light, airy, and inviting.
Ibis Aberdeen Centre is a wonderful choice for a cheap hotel because it is right on the port and close to the bus and rail terminals. It has a decent informal restaurant across the street from the Maritime Museum & a few feet from Union Street stores, as well as a superb buffet breakfast.

The Premier Inn Aberdeen City Centre Hotel, located just north of Union Street and close to the Tolbooth Museum & Aberdeen Art Gallery, is a wonderful option for budget travelers. Breakfast is offered for a cost, and children can order from the on-site restaurant’s menu. The train station is also within walking distance.

What is the best way to go from Edinburgh to Aberdeen?

Scotland’s biggest cities – as well as a handful of outlying areas – are simple to reach thanks to its outstanding rail network, no matter where you are located. Traveling by train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen is not only quick and easy, but it’s also wonderfully picturesque, with numerous departures from Edinburgh Waverley station.

The about 2.5-hour voyage begins at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, which you can view as you leave the station (be sure to sit on the left side of your carriage). Within 30 minutes, you’ll be crossing the Forth Bridge, a mile-long engineering marvel erected in 1890 and regarded as one of the world’s best train excursions.

All the way to Aberdeen, there’s a combination of stunning shoreline, charming cities (Dundee), and undulating hills. ScotRail also provides significant reductions if you reserve your ticket 3 months or more in advance.

A road trip is just as beautiful, with the extra bonus of being able to stop in sites like St. Andrews along the route. Expect to drive for around 2 hours 20 minutes if you don’t stop for sightseeing – longer, of course, if you do. If you’re taking the bus, plan on adding at least an hour to your journey.

What is the best way to go from Glasgow to Aberdeen?

ScotRail is our favorite mode of transportation between Glasgow and Aberdeen. It’s just slightly longer than the rail travel from Edinburgh, but it’s just as appealing. This time, though, you’ll pass via Stirling, which is known for its castle and battlegrounds (it was here that both William Wallace and Robert the Bruce beat the English).

If you book far enough ahead of time, the fares are as appealing. There’s lots of flexibility with 20 trains each day departing from Glasgow Queen Street station.

If you’re driving from Glasgow to Aberdeen, you can anticipate to spend around the same length of time. You’ll be taking a similar path, traveling via Stirling, Perth, and Dundee along the way – all of which are well worth a visit.

What are the must-see attractions in the Aberdeen area?

Aberdeen is a great place to start your exploration of other Scottish tourist spots. Visitors heading north along the east coast of Scotland from Edinburgh to Aberdeen should stop at Dundee. Dundee, Scotland’s fourth biggest city, is situated on the north side of the Firth of Tay, and is home to the renowned Forth Bridge, one of the world’s most famous rail journeys.

Golfers will enjoy nearby St. Andrews, which is home to the world’s most famous golf club, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. To reach picturesque Inverness, entrance to Scotland’s stunning Highlands and the Great Glen, a stretch of lochs, go west via the enormous and majestic Cairngorms National Park.

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