A Must-See Guide to Aberdeen

Aberdeen, UK

[I was invited on a Press Trip to Aberdeen by VisitAberdeenshire and LNER but all thoughts and love for the county are my own]

Every time I return from Aberdeen, and this time is no different, I find myself mentally planning what I want to do on my next visit! To me, it's a region that's overlooked as the perfect weekend getaway, as there really is something for everyone. On my last visit, I had the best time exploring 'Castle Country' on a Royal-inspired Weekend in Aberdeenshire, and this time, I was looking forward to getting better acquainted with Aberdeen city centre. Now that I'm back, I wanted to thank VisitAberdeenshire and LNER for putting together a brilliant must-see guide for us, and I want to share "A Must-See Guide to Aberdeen" with you as I think there's so much see and do in the city centre!

A Must-See Guide to Aberdeen (First-Time Visitor)

How to get to Aberdeen?

The first reason why Aberdeen makes the ideal weekend getaway is the fact it's so easy to get to. Naturally, there's the option to drive, however, I would strongly recommend catching a train as the scenic countryside and coastal views from Edinburgh to Aberdeen are stunning! I had the pleasure of travelling first class for the first time on LNER's new AZUMA train and I truly had the most enjoyable experience. The journey was smooth, the seats are comfortable, plenty extra space (so much so, that I even managed to set up a tripod in the aisle), and, my favourite part, complimentary food, drinks, and snacks! Before we knew it, we were gliding into Aberdeen's train station - which is right in the city centre. If you'd like to visit Aberdeen by train, I have a discount code for 20% off if you use "EDBEXP", click here for more info!

Where to go once you arrive...

Before I set off to Aberdeen, I'd already picked up on the buzz surrounding Aberdeen Art Gallery’s reopening and had also heard various glowing reviews, so I was so excited to visit it myself. It didn't disappoint. In fact, Aberdeen Art Gallery quickly became a unanimous trip highlight! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the gallery, it's the main visual arts exhibition space in the city of Aberdeen and is home to one of the finest collections in the UK! From Monet to Nathan Coley, I enjoyed the wonderful blend of tradition and modern art. After undergoing a £34.6 million restoration, the gallery now includes new exhibition spaces, education spaces, a new top-floor café bar and roof terrace which boasts views of the city’s skyline, plus much more. A few of my personal highlights are the architecture, the rooftop view, the clever use of technology (every room has interactive features), and the excellent curation of art to keep you interested throughout the gallery!

Since the introduction of Nuart Aberdeen in 2017, the festival has aimed to make art a part of everyday life and after spending a few days wandering around Aberdeen, I truly believe that the Nuart project enhances the city! I love the idea of artists being encouraged to use Aberdeen’s city centre as their canvas and it made exploring the city centre all the more fun as I found myself experiencing a little burst of excitement every time I spotted different street art! It almost felt like stepping into an artist’s sketchbook and I loved witnessing the creativity as wandered around the city discovering the various murals and street art installations. Every year, the festival adds more vibrant art to the city, and I can't wait to see what 2020 will bring! The festival will run from Thursday 23rd – Sunday 26th April and you can download the current Street Art Map here.

Old Aberdeen is one of my favourite places for a wander. As you walk down the charming cobbled lanes lined with quaint buildings and stumble across intriguing architecture, like the Powis Gates, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time. The area has a rich history, as monks, scholars, traders, and travellers settled in Old Aberdeen in the 14th century. Remnants of that time still remain like St Machar's Cathedral (the oldest building in active use in Aberdeen) and King's College. Once you’ve explored Old Aberdeen, there’s the option to venture through Seaton Park to another historic spot, Brig O'Balgownie which is known for its ancient single Gothic archway bridge, rumoured to have been built under the order of Robert the Bruce!

Footdee is another must-visit spot in Aberdeen! You'll find it tucked away at the east end of Aberdeen's harbour and I personally think it's one of the most charming places I've visited in Scotland. There's so much in this little neighbourhood's favour, characterful lanes lined with a mix of quirky, colourful houses and beach huts, dolphin spotting, and a Michelin Guide restaurant called the Silver Darling.


How to spend your evenings...

An evening at the theatre always feels like such a fun activity for a weekend away! Aberdeen has two main theatres His Majesty’s Theatre and the Tivoli. This trip we had the chance to join a tour to explore the larger of the two, His Majesty’s Theatre. The theatre is over a hundred years old, has one of the most beautiful and spectacular auditoriums in Britain and has hosted a range of shows from popular West End shows to contemporary performances! Last, but not least, if you’re an Australian reading this, you might be interested to know that as part of its 2006 centenary year, His Majesty’s Theatre was twinned with a theatre of the same name in Perth, Australia!

Click to see what's on at His Majesty's Theatre, The Tivoli, or find out more about tours of His Majesty's Theatre.

Here’s one for the Jazz fans out there. On our first evening in Aberdeen, we headed to Jazz at the Blue Lamp for Martin Speake International Quartet. The combination of the candlelit room and jazz, made for such a cosy, relaxing way to start our trip. The Blue Lamp hosts regular intimate events where jazz lovers come together to be swept away by the smooth soul of jazz. Over the years, World-class musicians have played at The Blue Lamp including Georgie Fame, Kenny Garrett, Peter King, Arild Andersen along with Mike Stern who gave a stellar concert back in 2011!

His Majesty's Theatre

Where to eat?

Aberdeen is an absolute haven for foodies! The city offers a wide range of options. As you’ll know, I’m not an Aberdonian but here are a few places I’ve enjoyed, plus I would highly recommend checking out the blog & Instagram called the Food Hoover which is a local foodie blog for inspiration.
I’m sure quite a few of you will be familiar with Brewdog as it has experienced a surge in popularity with its craft beer revolution. The global producer’s story started in Aberdeenshire so it’s a must-visit if you’re in the area. With three city centre bars, pop in to enjoy pub grub with a twist with recommendations for the perfect brew to suit your taste and dinner choice! They also offer great vegetarian and vegan options.
What was once the prestigious local department store Esslemont and MacIntosh, has been lovingly transformed into two of Aberdeen's newest restaurants, The Esslemont (a stylish and chic restaurant) and Mac's Pizzeria (a more informal pizza restaurant serving up traditional fresh Neapolitan pizza). We dined at The Esslemont on our second evening and thoroughly enjoyed our experience. I was really impressed by the nod to the department store Esslemont and MacIntosh in their design with signs like "Fitting Room" or dressmaker mannequins in the windows.
I visited Foodstory for a cuppa on my first visit to Aberdeen and have been a fan ever since.
This time, I had the chance to enjoy breakfast there. I opted for their 'special porridge' which consists of moreish porridge with cocoa nibs, nut butter, and local natural yogurt, plus a cup of matcha latte. As well as serving up delicious ethical and organic food, Foodstory has such a lovely, cosy atmosphere in their cafe!
Hidden away in the city's ancient Merchant Quarter, in one of the arches below Union Street, Cafe 52 creates a cosy cave-like snug to enjoy lunch and dinner. We enjoyed a scrumptious light lunch just before we caught our train back home, which was perfect as it's less than a 10-minute walk to the station.
Located in the former customs house at the harbour quayside in Footdee. The Silver Darling is a Michelin Guide restaurant which boasts wonderful views over the harbour. The restaurant showcases Scotland's finest selection of produce from the freshest traditional fish and shellfish dishes alongside a variety of meat and seasonal game favourites.




Where to stay?

Having never stayed at the Sandman Hotel, I didn't know what to expect.We stayed there for the duration of our visit and it turned out to be the perfect location as it was just around the corner from the Aberdeen Art Gallery, His Majesty's Theatre, surrounded by Nuart, and only a 10-minute walk from the train station. I wanted to start off by saying, I can't think of a time that I've had a better night's sleep at a hotel, the mattress was so comfortable and it was a luxury to have a super king sized bed. I stayed in their 'Corporate King Suite' which has a fully-equipped kitchenette, living room area with sofa bed and TV, and seperate bedroom with cosy lighting and a TV. I also really enjoyed the fact that they included photos of Aberdeenshire in their rooms. I would definitely stay here again, in fact, I was reluctant to leave!

A Day Trip idea...

If you’re visiting Aberdeen for several days and would like to see a bit more of Aberdeenshire, I’d highly recommend catching a train to Stonehaven (which takes less than 20-minutes). For those of you who haven’t heard of Stonehaven, it’s a pretty harbour town south of Aberdeen with a sandy seafront, brilliant fish and chip shops, stunning scenery, and one of Scotland's most majestic ruined castles, Dunnottar Castle. Here are a few ideas of what to see and do in Stonehaven:

What to see & do in Stonehaven:
  • Enjoy a scenic coastal walk from Stonehaven to the magnificent Dunnottar Castle or there's the option of taking a taxi for roughly £6.
  • Wander around Stonehaven Harbour and don't forget to keep an eye out for the sculptures which mysteriously appeared along the seafront. The various sculptures include a Viking boat (pictured below), fishing boats and a lighthouse! 
  • A visit to Stonehaven Tolbooth Museum which is open on weekends.
  • Enjoy a delicious lunch at the award-winning Bay Fish & Chips. They also sell scrumptious macaroni pies for the veggies out there - I can vouch for how good they are!
  • Finish the day with ice cream at either Aunty Betty’s or E Giulianotti.


  1. Sounds like a great place for a wee break ��

  2. I sure do like to read your posts and see photos. Thanks


exploring edinburgh. Theme by STS.