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Aberdeen Guide. Leisure Guides.

 

Boomtown Aberdeen is making waves. Proud of its maritime traditions and ancient university, this prosperous northern European hub is going from strength to strength, with sparkling dining and cultural scenes complementing its glittering granite.

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Getting around


It’s easy to explore most of the sights in Aberdeen by foot, but you may want to hop on a bus occasionally to venture further afield. First and Stagecoach Bluebird are the city’s main bus operators. 
 
If travelling with First, you need exact change and can buy single, two-trip, one-day or group saver tickets from the driver. You can also pick up a 10-journey carnet or weekly pass from the First Travel Shop (47 Union Street) or at any retailer displaying the PayPoint logo. Stagecoach Bluebird provides change on buses and offers single, return, day and group tickets from the driver. Weekly cards and Flexirider tickets (giving you 12 journeys for the price of 10) are available from its travel shop at the bus station on Guild Street.
 
There are taxi ranks at the railway station and several other city centre locations. You can also hail a cab on the street. 
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Hotels


As you would expect of an oil town, Aberdeen boasts a good selection of first-class hotels. One with a generous dollop of flair is Malmaison Aberdeen (49-53 Queens Road), a deliciously luxurious boutique affair, with a hint of tartan and a dash of velvet topping off its high-spec rooms. Alternatively, splash out on a simple, yet stylish refurbished deluxe room at The Caledonian (10-14 Union Terrace), bang in the heart of the city.
 
The Hilton Garden Inn (31 St Andrew Street) is good value, very central and handy for shopping and bars; it’s a treat for aching muscles too, thanks to super comfy beds and Herman Miller ergonomic chairs in every room. Or if you fancy yourself as laird of a country house, cosy up in a four-poster bed at the reasonably priced Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel (South Deeside Road, Blairs), just five kilometres outside the city.
 
To book a hotel click here
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Nightlife


Aberdonians love a good night in the pub and there’s certainly no shortage of drinking venues, with most of the action centred on and around Union Street.
 
Beer connoisseurs can pick from an extensive selection of cask ales at The Prince of Wales (7 St Nicholas Lane). Another traditional boozer and something of an Aberdeen institution is The Grill (213 Union Street), boasting over 500 whiskies, mahogany wood panelling and a beautifully restored ceiling; women weren’t allowed in until 1975 and the ladies’ toilet was only installed in 1998! At the other end of the spectrum, mix with the cocktail crowd in chic and glitzy Soul (333 Union Street). 
 
Hear up-and-coming bands at The Tunnels (Carnegies Brae), an intimate venue which has hosted the likes of Kate Nash, Hot Chip and Ladytron and runs regular club nights. The Lemon Tree (5 West North Street) attracts big-name comedians and bands as well as staging theatre and dance productions.
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Restaurants


There’s a fantastic and cosmopolitan selection of eateries in Aberdeen. For an upmarket treat, The Silver Darling (North Pier, Pocra Quay) creates sensational seafood concoctions with stunning harbour views to match. It’s worth the trip out of town to dine at the Raemoir House Hotel (Banchory), whose chefs have won numerous awards for their inventive, seasonal cuisine.
 
Rustico (62 Union Row) is a lovely, family-run trattoria serving good-value, no-nonsense Italian pasta and meat dishes in a traditional Sicilian-inspired dining room – book ahead, as it’s always packed. Tuck into authentic French plates of duck, steak or even seared pigeon in cosy Café Bohème (23 Windmill Brae). The place to go for fish and chips is The Ashvale (42-48 Great Western Road), which caters to a whopping 10,000 customers every week. Musa (33 Exchange Street) adds a twist to Scottish favourites and doubles up as a hip art gallery and live music venue.
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Shopping


Aberdeen’s newest and smartest indoor shopping centre is Union Square, next to the railway station, counting numerous top brands under its roof, including Original Penguin, Joules, Cath Kidston and Superdry, plus a cinema and restaurants.
 
Vintage aficionados can dress through the decades at The Closet (31 Jopps Lane). Or if you’re more into well-leafed novels than your grandmother’s wardrobe, pop into Books and Beans (22 Belmont Street) to browse the wonderful selection of secondhand books and fill up on the yummy range of pastries and fair trade drinks.
 
On the last Saturday of each month, bag irresistible delicacies at Aberdeen Country Fair (Belmont Street), from artisan breads and Arbroath smokies to speciality sausages and melt-in-your-mouth Scottish tablet. The quarterly Aberdeen International Street Market (Union Terrace) brings a continental flavour to the city, with over 70 food, craft and gardening vendors from across Europe.
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Top 10 sights


Top 5 sights for first-timers
 
Old Aberdeen
 
This huddle of cobbled lanes and pretty stone cottages to the north of the city centre was originally a separate town. Visit 500-year-old King’s College, part of Aberdeen University; highlights include the chapel with its spectacular Crown Tower and the restored 18th-century Old Town House. Beyond is medieval St Machar’s Cathedral – be sure to gaze up at the magnificent Heraldic Ceiling.
 
High Street and surrounding area
 
Aberdeen Maritime Museum 
 
Throughout history, the city’s fortune has been found in the sea, whether through fishing, shipping or oil exploration. This interactive museum weaves these threads together via hands-on exhibits (try squeezing onto an oil rig bunk bed), paintings and an extensive collection of oceanic objects.
 
Shiprow
www.aagm.co.uk
 
Provost Skene’s House
 
Discover how people lived in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries through a series of rooms adorned with furnishings and paintings from each period. The house was originally built in 1545, but was adapted significantly by Provost George Skene in the late 17th century, who is thought to have added the carved plaster ceilings.
 
Guestrow (between Broad Street and Flourmill Lane)
www.aagm.co.uk
 
Aberdeen Art Gallery
 
This wonderfully grand late-19th-century building houses an outstanding collection of paintings, sculptures and graphics from the 15th to 21st centuries, featuring Hogarth, Renoir, Bacon and Hirst, to name but a few. Particularly of interest are its displays of metalwork, jewellery and enamelwork, including examples of work by early Aberdeen silversmiths. 
 
Schoolhill
www.aagm.co.uk
 
Aberdeen Beach
 
With its gloriously long sweep of golden sand, Aberdeen’s beach is the spot to head for a bracing coastal walk. Live acts regularly play at the art deco Beach Ballroom (complete with bouncy dancefloor), while Codona’s Amusement Park provides thrills and spills with rides on its looping rollercoaster, log flume and giant big wheel, aka The Grampian Eye.
 
Esplanade
 
Top 5 sights for old hands
 
Peacock Visual Arts
 
An ever-changing and diverse programme of exhibitions at this contemporary art centre showcases innovative national and international creativity. The centre also provides digital and printmaking facilities, runs workshops and sells art. 
 
21 Castle Street
www.peacockvisualarts.com
 
Footdee
 
Pronounced ‘Fittie’, the delightful old fishing village at the eastern edge of the harbour made the news in 2012 when streets and cars were blanketed in knee-deep frothy sea foam following a severe autumn storm. The pleasingly symmetrical layout was designed by architect John Smith in 1809 to rehouse Aberdeen’s fishermen.
 
New Pier Road
 
Gordon Highlanders Museum 
 
Located in the former home of leading Scottish artist Sir George Reid, this museum celebrates the 200-year history of the famous Gordon Highlanders regiment. Among the artefacts are uniforms, weapons and diaries, plus over 4,000 medals and 12 Victoria crosses. 
 
Viewfield Road
www.gordonhighlanders.com
 
Duthie Park and David Welch Winter Gardens
 
The lovely indoor gardens in Duthie Park make for a welcome retreat on a blustery day. Encompassing temperate, tropical, arid and fern glasshouses, this floral oasis displays fabulous rare and exotic plants. Outdoors, the splendid Victorian park has recently undergone significant restoration thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
 
Duthie Park, Polmuir Road
www.aberdeencity.gov.uk
 
Zoology Museum
 
Aberdeen University’s Zoology department shows off its favourite treasures, from gorilla skeletons and a tuatara specimen (an ancient reptile species found only in New Zealand) to sabre cat skulls and a mounted Bengal tiger seized at Aberdeen Airport in 1996.
 
Corner of St Machar’s Drive and Tillydrone Avenue
www.abdn.ac.uk/zoologymuseum
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Top 5 activities


Golfing

Among the raft of top-notch golf courses near Aberdeen, one of the finest is Hazlehead No 1, designed by Augusta National architect Alistair McKenzie. Royal Aberdeen is the world’s sixth oldest club, while Trump International Golf Links has received glowing reviews since opening in 2012.
 
Whisky trail

Venture into scenic Speyside and join the world’s only malt whisky trail. Pass through gorgeous glens and woodlands, pausing at distilleries for a tour, a sniff and a wee dram. 
 
Cycling

Pootle along the Deeside Way, a disused railway turned cycling and walking trail. Though not yet fully complete, the route already has some super off-road sections, beginning at Duthie Park and continuing close to the River Dee into rural Aberdeenshire. 
 
Walking and swimming in Stonehaven

Hop on a 20-minute train ride to Stonehaven and follow the coastal trail to spectacular Dunnottar Castle, a ruin perched high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea. Back in Stonehaven, plunge into the Olympic-size open-air swimming pool (fortunately, it’s heated).
 
Skiing

This might not be Chamonix, but you won’t need to worry about a poor exchange rate here, and on a good day, skiing in Scotland is out of this world. The Lecht, Glenshee and Cairngorm Mountain ski areas all lie within Cairngorms National Park to the west of Aberdeen. 
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Top 5 events


Aberdeen Jazz Festival

Leading artists from at home and abroad entertain Aberdonians with six days of first-class jazz and blues gigs. A highlight is Jazz on the Green, a packed afternoon of over 20 indoor and outdoor performances.
 
Date: March
Venue: Various
 
Aberdeen Torcher Parade

Europe’s largest torchlit procession involves thousands of students donning fancy dress aboard over 40 themed floats. Dating back over 120 years, the parade draws huge crowds, who throw pennies at the participants, all for charity.
 
Date: April
Venue: City centre streets
 
The University of Aberdeen May Festival

New for 2013, this festival aims to showcase the best of Aberdeen University and its research. Expect a dynamic programme of music, literature, film, science, Gaelic and children’s workshops with a few famous faces thrown in.
 
Date: May
Venue: Various
 
Aberdeen’s Highland Games

Picture a traditional Highland Games and you’ve got it all here: fling dancing, pipe playing, caber tossing, hammer throwing and race running. Not to mention the fiercely fought tug of war.
 
Date: June
Venue: Hazlehead Park
 
Aberdeen’s Winter Festival

From classic Christmas concerts and glittering lights to thumping ceilidhs and dazzling fireworks, Aberdeen sees out its chilly season with a flurry of festivities and a touch of sparkle.
 
Date: November-March
Venue: Various

Written by World Travel Guide

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