Aberdeen’s oil-centric past has give in an expensive allure. On the streets, cultural galleries rub shoulders with trendy bars and restaurants, while industrial buildings sit side by side with historic townhouses. Get under the skin of this often misunderstood city by diving into these unique things to do.
1. North East Falconry Centre
Aberdeenshire is a haven of wildlife with numerous types of birds of prey soaring over the stunning landscape. If you want to get up close and personal with them, you don’t have to venture into the wilderness. Instead, just pop along to the North East Falconry Centre, where you can get real hands-on experience learning all about these incredible creatures and their environment. Expect exciting demonstrations from their feathered residents, as well as educational elements that will leave you feeling like a bird of prey expert.
2. Gorge Walking
Still on the subject of nature, let’s talk about walking. The countryside surrounding Aberdeen is spectacular, with rolling Scottish scenes to one side and the wild coast to the other. It’s along the coastal part of Aberdeen where you can get stuck into some good old-fashioned gorge walking (also known as “coasteering”), where you can scramble through rock pools, explore sea caves, and marvel at everything in between.
3. The Lemon Tree
For those on the hunt for something more cultural than coastal, the Lemon Tree is the place to go. Set in the heart of the city, this creative venue hosts an array of theatrical performances from across the country. Check out their regularly-revolving schedule of Scottish performances, artistic exhibitions, and live music gigs.
4. The Most Easterly Woods
This privately owned land is actually open to the public whenever and wherever you want to go (thanks to Scottish rights). Snuggled up against the wet and wild North East Coast, this little wooded spot proffers harsh salty air and sturdy, ancient trees. It is a firm favourite for local dog walkers and ramblers and, even though it might seem a little neglected in places, it offers a truly authentic experience of Aberdeenshire’s vibrant countryside.
5. The Tolbooth Museum
Aberdeen’s history is put well on display at the Tolbooth Museum, which propels visitors back in time to the 17th century when the building acted as a historic gaol. Today, visitors can peek inside eerie cells that are etched with the stories and cries of their former inmates, experience the horror of execution tools that have long been banned, and dig deeper into history on a guided, acted-out tour.
6. Go Ghost Hunting
Following on from the macabre setting of Aberdeen’s prison past, you might want to continue the horror by going ghost hunting. There are numerous spots around the city that are thought to be haunted and you can begin your evening with a ghost walk around town. During this, you’ll be party to eerie stories of past people and visits to some of the best-loved stately homes and buildings that are known for their ghostly goings-on. Afterwards, you can bring yourself back to reality in a local pub (highly recommended).
7. Dolphin Spotting
The coast of Aberdeen is rife with fascinating creatures, thanks in part to its characterful remote-ness. Dolphins are the cream of the crop here, and you can watch them frolicking in the rough waves – sometimes from the safety of the shoreline, and sometimes from the tug and pull of a boat.
8. Musa Art Café
When it’s time to refuel with some much-needed caffeine, hotfoot it to the Musa Art Café for a slice of Aberdeen culture. This hotspot is a café, restaurant, art gallery, and live music venue all rolled into one creative hub, where you can watch contemporary, cutting-edge performances while tucking into contemporary, cutting-edge dishes and drinks.
9. Slain’s Castle
Voted as one of the best-themed pubs in the UK, Slain’s Castle isn’t your ordinary drinking hole. Instead, it’s based on the story of Dracula, helped in eeriness by its old church setting. Boasting a gothic aesthetic in the heart of Aberdeen, it serves a selection of local dishes alongside a drinks menu filled with frights – try one of the Seven Deadly Sin’s Cocktails to kick things off.
10. Cruikshank Botanic Garden
Located on the picturesque campus of the University of Aberdeen’s King’s College, this floral-focused park brings a hearty dose of peace and quiet to any visit. Promoting the beauty of nature with a vibrant display of plants, shrubs, trees, and bushes, its nooks and crannies are perfect for getting lost in. Spend an afternoon exploring the rock gardens, the sunken garden, and the arboretum.
11. Forvie National Nature Reserve
The Forvie National Nature Reserve provides a desert backdrop just 16 miles outside of Aberdeen. Yes, this may seem strange in the wild Scottish scenery, but that’s exactly what makes this landscape so special. Sprawling sand dunes offer serene walks, while the coastal cliffs break away into colourful moorland. The natural life here is exceptionally eclectic, with Eider ducks, wading birds, Grey Seals, and other fun species calling the region home. For the ultimate escape, check out the hidden beach at Hackley Bay to get away from it all.
12. Locker Room Aberdeen
Golf enthusiasts will want to check out the putting simulators at the Locker Room – particularly if the unpredictable Scottish weather puts a rain check on an actual game of golf. At this restaurant-bar venue you can tuck into local fare, sip a drink or two and, most importantly, practice your swing in one of the five state-of-the-art simulators. Everyone from beginners to golfing pros are welcome.