Aberdeen, often referred to as the “Flower of Scotland” because of its many parks and gardens, is situated in a picturesque location on the North Sea between rivers. The capital of the Grampian region, Aberdeen is the largest fishing port in Scotland, an important center for Europe’s offshore oil industry, and the ferry terminus for the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Tourists can enjoy its two miles of sandy beaches, spectacular golf courses, shopping streets, theatrical and dance performances, concerts by top-class orchestras at the Music Hall, and a variety of arts festivals during the summer months. can take. There are always many things to do in Aberdeen by day or night.
Silver-grey granite from nearby quarries gives the city a distinctive character, and when the sun shines, the mica in the stone glows, an effect that has led to Aberdeen’s other nickname, “Silver City”. Aberdeen has many preserved historic buildings, the oldest of which date from the 16th century.
St. Machar’s Cathedral
St. Makar’s Cathedral is believed to have occupied the site of a smaller Celtic chapel built by St. Makar in AD 581. The successful cathedral was founded in 1136, although the earliest work in the current building dates from the 14th century (it was completed in 1552). Note the striking towers on the west front, their sandstone spires dating from 1518 to 1530, and the 16th-century wooden ceilings painted with coats of arms.
University of Aberdeen and King’s College
Founded in 1494 in what’s known as Old Aberdeen, the University and King’s College of Aberdeen received its charter from King James IV.
One of the college’s identifying features is its huge tower (1633) and an elegant stone dome, the only remaining structure of its kind in Scotland and notable for the stone replica of the imperial crown of Charlemagne that sits atop it. The 16th-century oak choir stalls and wooden ceiling in the chapel are preserved in their original form, and portraits of the Stuart monarchs are carved in wood.
A visit to the University of Aberdeen Zoology Museum is another must and is rated one of the top free things to do in the city. This fascinating museum covers everything from protozoa to whales. Also of interest is the King’s Museum, which features temporary exhibits of artifacts from various university collections.
Cross Brig o’Balgownie, Scotland’s Oldest Bridge
Walk through Seaton Park to the beautiful stone Brig O’Balgown. Built on the orders of Robert the Bruce and restored in 1607, it served as the river Don’s main crossing point. Lord Byron, who had attended school in Aberdeen for a short time, referred affectionately to the Sneaky Bridge in chapter 10 of Don Juan.
Another good old bridge is Brigade Odie. Dating from the 1520s, it is adorned with interesting coats-of-arms and inscriptions and is located in the beautiful Doothy Park, one of the largest winter gardens in the world.
Tolbooth Museum, Aberdeen’s Most Haunted Building
Evidence of Aberdeen’s old medieval town can still be seen around Castlegate, which centuries later is still very much the focal point of the city. While there’s no longer a castle here, the tower of the 17th-century Tolbooth — formerly the town hall and prison — is Aberdeen’s oldest building and home to a museum with fascinating displays on the development of crime and punishment.
Exhibits include original prison cells from the 1600s that were infamously used a hundred years later to house Scots prisoners after the Battle of Culloden. You can also see the infamous “Maiden,” the blade from the city’s guillotine. This fascinating structure is also said to be Scotland’s most haunted building.
See the Mercat Cross
Also in Castlegate, Diagonally opposite the Tolbooth Museum and adorned with a white unicorn, stands the Mercat Cross. This elaborate and highly decorated medieval symbol of Aberdeen’s right to hold a market was built in 1686 by the city’s guild of merchants.
A staircase in the center of the structure was used to allow news of newly crowned monarchs to be proclaimed to gathered crowds from its roof. Portrait medallions show the heads of the 10 Stuart monarchs from James I through to James VII, Charles I, Charles II, and Mary Stuart.
Another interesting nearby landmark is St. Andrew’s Cathedral. And be sure to also take a stroll down Union Street, Aberdeen’s busy main street. Over 200 years old, it’s a bustling street with plenty of shops, cafés, and shopping arcades.
Duthie Park and David Welch Winter Garden
A beautiful year-round floral experience, the David Welch Winter Garden in Duthie Park is one of Europe’s largest indoor gardens, filled with rare and exotic plants from around the world. Along with a large collection of cactus and other succulent plants, the gardens feature Temperate House, Tropical House and Arid House, Victorian Corridor, Corridor of Perfumes, Fern House and a Japanese Garden. The 44-acre Duthie Park features green spaces, trees, beautiful seasonal flower beds, and cascading ornamental ponds. A bandstand hosts concerts and summer opera in the park.
Aberdeen Art Gallery
Built in 1884, the Aberdeen Art Gallery houses a comprehensive collection of 17th- to 20th-century paintings. Scottish artists with work displayed here include Charles Rennie Mackintosh, William Dyce, Thomas Faed, John Philip, and other representatives of the Glasgow School. Works by George Jameson, Scotland’s first portrait painter (1589-1644), are also on exhibit.
Among the most famous works included in this impressive collection are portraits by Raeburn and works by William Turner, David Hockney, and Impressionist painters including Monet, Sisley, Bonnard, Pissarro, and Renoir. Sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and Jacob Epstein are displayed in the well-lit entrance hall.
The museum also displays interesting collections of British silver, glass, and ceramics. A great little café is located on the premises. Admission to this first-rate art gallery is free.
Provost Skin House
Sir George Schein of Rabaw, provost from 1676 to 1685, was a prosperous merchant whose wealth came from trade with Gdask. His former home – the oldest standing residence in Aberdeen – now houses an excellent museum with locally excavated artifacts, religious paintings and displays of period costumes. There is also plasterwork in the 17th-century bedroom and painted wooden ceilings from the same period in the picture gallery.
Run by the National Trust for Scotland, Crathes Castle is a classic example of a Scottish baronial-style castle. The tower house, with its small oriel windows and corner towers, was begun in 1553. Its upper stories are worth a tour, if only for a glimpse of the beautifully painted wooden ceilings dating from 1600.
The figures depicted in the Room of the Nine Nobles — typical of the decorative work of the time — are the ancient heroes Hector, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great; three Old Testament characters; and three famous rulers, including King Arthur and Charlemagne. There’s also a notable collection of artworks worth seeing.
The castle also has its own ghost in the Green Lady’s Room, where the ceiling is also painted decoratively. In addition to its lovely gardens, the castle has a visitors center, café, gift shop, an adventure playground, and treetop trekking.
About a 25-minute drive from downtown Aberdeen, Crathes Castle can be reached by bus and a short walk.
Aberdeen Maritime Museum
Interesting in the 16th-century-old Provost Ross House, the Aberdeen Maritime Museum includes an excellent collection of models, photos and drawings of herring, models of herring, along with the development of the port of de Estuary, as well as the tremendous life of whale-hunters. fishermen, and North Sea traders. Also on display are the legendary Aberdeen slippers that American shipowners used to secure their monopoly on the trade in China tea, including the Storneway, a prototype produced for Jardin Matheson in 1850. The museum also has exhibits on modern maritime activities and is the only one on display about the North Sea petroleum industry in Britain.
This idyllic castle, with its tiny towers, crow-stepped gables, oriel windows, conical roofs, ornamental stone cannons, and ornate zigzag consoles, is proof that fairy tales do come true. The property was first mentioned in documents dating back to 1457, when it was owned by the Mortimer family, and today this massive seven-story residence stands as a symbol of authority and wealth as well as practicality.
Wood for the building was in short supply in the Highlands, so the architects exploited every inch of the space under a small roof. The plasterwork in the Great Hall, the massive Stuart coat-of-arms above the fireplace, and the carvings on the wall paneling were all made in the Renaissance style. A secret flight of steps leading up to a small room above a window in the Great Hall forms part of an intricate system of stairs within the tower.
See the Queen’s Balmoral Castle
Queen Elizabeth II’s summer residence in Scotland has come to embody the Neo-baronial style of the Victorian era. The estate was first mentioned in documents in 1484, and after Queen Victoria bought it in 1852, she commissioned the Aberdeen architect William Smith to implement plans drawn up by her husband, Prince Albert.
Although located 1.5 hours west of Aberdeen, it’s worth visiting on the rare days it’s open to the public (and only when the Queen is away). If you do visit, you’ll have the chance to catch a glimpse of the Ballroom, with its paintings and other objets d’art, and also a collection of coaches.
The extensive parkland is ideal for a relaxing stroll. The estate can also be explored aboard a fun “Safari Tour” that offers opportunities to see local wildlife — as well as the incredible scenery — up close.
The nearby town of Braemar is lovely to explore and is most famous for its annual sporting event, the Braemar Gathering. Known widely as the Highland Games, this Scottish equivalent of the Olympics has been held here every autumn since 1832. If you can’t make it for the games, visit the Braemar Highland Heritage Centre, which has exhibits on the history of the games and Scottish traditional sporting.
Cruickshank Botanic Gardens
Located on the King’s College campus, Cruickshank Botanic Gardens was established in 1898 and is well worth a visit. Highlights include its displays of interesting alpine and subtropical collections, as well as a delightful rock and water garden.
Also of interest in this peaceful 11-acre site are a sunken garden, rose garden, shrubs, as well as herbaceous borders. There’s also an arboretum with a fine collection of more than 2,500 plants.
Aberdeen Science Centre
Re-opened in 2020 after major renovations, the Aberdeen Science Centre is a great place to visit for those traveling with children. Since it opened in 1988, the museum has provided fun learning opportunities for kids of all ages through interactive displays and exhibits.
The museum’s upgrades certainly upped the hands-on aspect of its exhibits. These include everything from rock drilling to playing a tune on a fun solar piano, as well as programming a real robot. The newest attraction here is the fascinating OPITO Theatre of Energy, a state-of-the-art immersive theater production offering a variety of unique and fun experiences.
The Gordon Highlanders Museum
Another local attraction worth visiting is the Gordon Highlanders Museum. A celebration of one of Scotland’s most famous regiments, the museum’s highlights include displays of uniforms, medals, weapons, and models.
Guided tours are available, while those wanting to go it alone can make use of the museum’s audio guides. A tearoom and gift shop are located on-site. The gardens are also worth a wander around.