By Sharon Wang
As a current resident of Aberdeen, I have had the pleasure of exploring this underrated and overlooked city.
The third largest city in Scotland, it is modern and international while maintaining an amazing history. There are two old towns, think quaint cobblestone streets and Gothic buildings- that’s Old Aberdeen. The other is Footdee, is a small village with uniquely coloured and decorated cottages. Perfect for that aesthetic Instagram photo!
Some of these things to do in Aberdeen City Centre can be easily accessed through a short walk off of Union Street, the city’s main shopping area. Aberdeen offers a wide range of activities for all types of visitors. From the art lovers to the scholars- the city caters to everybody.
Explore the University of Aberdeen- Old Aberdeen Campus
With over 500-years of history, the old campus is an essential part of the Aberdeen experience.
The institution was founded by William Elphinstone who wished to remedy the “ignorance” of his parish and the North of Scotland. Over 15,000 students and 400 undergraduate degrees later, it is safe to say that he was successful.
The campus offers the 15th century medieval style King’s College and the contemporary Sir Duncan Rice library which runs different exhibitions throughout the year. From there, a five-minute walk will bring you to the Zoology Museum, that houses over 75,000 specimens. In front of the building is the peaceful Cruickshank Botanic Garden which advertises the role plants play in the ecosystem.
If you’re in the mood for food, the Student’s Union Hub offers a variety of cuisines with vegetarian and vegan options. There are also cafés dotted around the campus that are accessibility friendly. My personal favourite is Kilau Coffee, a venue specialising in artisanal sandwiches.
Tip: If you are planning to study at the University of Aberdeen, make sure to avoid stepping on the grass in the quadrangle of King’s College as local superstition says that you won’t graduate!
Visit Seaton Park
Our next location is Seaton Park, also situated in Old Aberdeen. Seaton Park is 66 acres of well-kept flowerbeds, deciduous trees, and old stables. Open at all times and all seasons, this park is a favourite for visitors and locals.
Not only are the floral displays planted every year, the bright green lawns on the park’s main pathway are well looked after all year round.
Seaton Park also has a children’s play area with some unusual features, including Mr Therm, a disused red train with four partial carriages.
At the edge of the park, The River Don can be accessed by riverside paths that also lead to the historic Brig o’ Balgownie, a 13th century Gothic bridge. If you keep going, there is the Cottown of Balgownie, an array of little red tiled cottages. During the summer months, the River Don is used by the Aberdeen Kayak club. They offer taster sessions- if you are feeling adventurous.
Straying from the main tourist trail and hiding in plain sight, Footdee is one of the most charming areas of the city. Based at the east side of Aberdeen Harbour, the beautiful sea view and breeze add to the bold character of Footdee.
This village started out as just 28 single-storey houses, since increasing to over 80. You may notice that underneath the pops of colour, the homes themselves are similar. This is because they were initially built with the same measurements. However, after the 1880s personal touches started to appear. While it is no longer a fishing village, the aquatic theme is still present today through the use of driftwood, model boats, anchors, and other objects being used as decoration.
An interesting fact is that the cottages all face inwards and away from the water. This is to protect the buildings and residents from sea storms.
Wander Aberdeen Art Gallery
Founded in 1884, Aberdeen Art Gallery is the primary visual arts space in the city.
It showcases a wide collection of art medias such as glasswork, sculpture, and crafts from Scottish artists and makers. From local to the internationally renowned, this gallery celebrates over 1080 (and counting) items in their permanent collections.
Aberdeen Art Gallery has recently been redeveloped, which has increased display space for the Nationally-Recognised Collection. The number of galleries has also gone from 11 to 19.
The displays show the artist’s creative processes, ideas, and inspiration. The use of colour, hands-on interactives and music come together to create a lasting experience and story for the visitor.
For those who are unsure where to begin, the Sculpture Court on the ground floor is a good place to start.
Watch a show at His Majesty’s Theatre
Just a short distance from the Aberdeen Art Gallery stands His Majesty’s Theatre, a granite stone building. Granite is the centre of the city’s architecture and has earned Aberdeen the nickname of “The Silver City.”
As the largest theatre in North-East Scotland, it is both equipped to produce and receive drama, and can seat over 1,400 people. It also has an impressive auditorium that was described by Billy Conolly to be “like playing a gig in a wedding cake!”
If you want quality entertainment, visiting His Majesty’s Theatre is one of the best things to do in Aberdeen City Centre. With events of all genres and non-stop entertainment throughout the year, His Majesty’s Theatre is an activity for everybody.
You can stay up to date with what’s showing here.
Visit Aberdeen Maritime Museum
Situated near the Aberdeen Harbour, Aberdeen Maritime Museum recounts the city’s long history and relationship with the sea.
The building was constructed in 1593 and was used as the home of ship owner Provost John Ross in 1702. Today, Aberdeen Maritime Museum has a south extension, and the mix of stone and blue glass on the outside fits well with the indoor exhibits.
You can learn all about the story of Aberdeen and its surrounding waters through collections over all four floors of the fully accessible museum building. Highlights include ship models from 1689 to the present day, whaler’s harpoons and scrimshaw (ivory engravings), imported goods from the medieval era, and the deck of a historic steamship.
This museum is also the only place in the country that offers displays on the North Sea oil and gas industry!
I hope that some of these things to do in Aberdeen City Centre have peaked your interest. This coastal jewel can be reached by car, train, and plane- so don’t wait any longer!
Sharon Wang is a UK based freelance writer who is currently undertaking a Bachelor’s degree in English and French. She is open to commissions and covers travel, beauty, food, and the occasional opinion piece.
You can contact her here: email@example.com