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Visit Aberdeen

Aberdeen’s out of the way location leads many to suppose there’s not much happening in the Granite City. They’d be wrong. Move 120 miles further north from Edinburgh to the confluence of the rivers Don and Dee, and you’ll find one of the UK’s largest and most cosmopolitan cities. Beautiful public parks, extraordinary architecture made from locally quarried granite (hence the city’s nickname) and a healthy injection of cash from the all-powerful North Sea oil industry make Aberdeen a genuine contender for the crown of Britain’s best hidden gem.

The good stuff doesn’t stop at the city limits, either. Aberdeen is perfectly located for all that’s best about a Scottish holiday: snowboarding, mountaineering, hiking, golf and ancient monuments. Where else in the country could you enjoy a day out in the remotest of glens, followed by a well-heeled night at the opera?

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Top Attractions in Aberdeen

Linn O’Dee

The Linn o’Dee is one of the best known (and most beautiful) examples of a Linn (a Scottish...

Linn O’Dee

Balmedie Beach

Balmedie’s a coastal village linked to Aberdeen by the local bus service. The beach at Balmedie is...

Balmedie Beach

Aberdeen Maritime Museum

Aberdeen’s ancient Shiprow – which used to be the street leading from the harbour into the...

Aberdeen Maritime Museum

Johnston Gardens

Tiny Johnston Gardens make it onto the list by virtue of their extraordinary beauty: proving that...

Johnston Gardens
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Aberdeen Town House by Ron Almog
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Aberdeen Beach by Mike Stephen

The first thing to strike you about Aberdeen is the sheer wealth of the place. The streets and buildings are in excellent repair and the generous allowance of public parks and gardens is well maintained and easy to access.

North Sea Oil

The money comes from North Sea oil, an industry that has also made a cosmopolitan stew out of the city. Visitors who are unaware of Aberdeen’s background are often surprised to see and hear so many different cultural voices and attitudes in a town so far away from anywhere else: the reason is the huge quantity of immigrants, whose culture and cuisine follow them into the streets.

Architecture

The scale of the architecture is impressive: many of the city’s public buildings are constructed from granite hauled out of nearby quarries, including the vastly imposing Town House, which looks like a Gothic castle. A wander along the mile’s length of Union Street is an experience not dissimilar to walking through the heart of Edinburgh or London’s Regent Street – grand buildings, well looked after, and plenty of boutique shops and cafes sitting at their feet.

Seaside Town

As the European Capital of Oil, Aberdeen is also a seaside town – making it one of the most northerly beach resorts on earth. The city is actually further north than Moscow, but despite its longitude enjoys warmer average temperatures than you might expect. Rainfall is statistically less frequent than in other parts of Scotland, though when it happens it happens hard: and the weather, as befits any self-respecting coastal microclimate, can change dramatically from hour to hour, with little regard for what happens elsewhere in the country.

Visit Aberdeen

There’s so much to see and do when you visit Aberdeen it can be hard to know where to start. Even a short list of the top attractions would take weeks to do justice to. The buildings are of such grandeur and architectural significance you could get lost just looking at them: add the parks, galleries, gardens and museums to the mix and you’ve got a trip that covers all the bases. Go to a gig, enjoy one of Aberdeen’s annual festivals (from jazz to science, pick your time of year), get out and about. Whatever you want from a holiday, Aberdeen can give you.

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Aberdeen Station by Boon Low

Visit Aberdeen and you’ll find a public transport system that matches the impressive nature of the buildings. Don’t overlook the value of your own feet, though: with this much amazing architecture on tap you’d be crazy not to take a wander. The town centre is definitely doable on foot: if you want to visit locations away from the immediate middle, take a bus or a taxi.

By train

Getting into Aberdeen can be done by train, plane, boat, or car. If you’re travelling on rails, you’ll come into Aberdeen railway station using one of three carriers: ScotRail, East Coast and CrossCountry. East Coast and CrossCountry provide trains from major English destinations including London, Newcastle and York. Almost all train journeys from England will involve travelling over the legendary Forth Bridge just outside Edinburgh.

Aberdeen train station is right in the centre of the city, at Union Square. The bus station is in the same complex, and you’ll find plenty of taxis at the station rank too. Car parking at the station itself is a maximum of 20 minutes – or there’s a car park over the road in College Street, for longer stays.

By bus

Aberdeen is excellently served by a public bus network: which is just as well, seeing as the headquarters of FirstGroup are right next to the main Aberdeen bus station! That said, while route coverage is good customer service is less so: First Aberdeen buses won’t give change, so you either use the correct cash or pay over the odds for your journey.

First Aberdeen colour codes its buses so you know what route they’re going on, and the route map has been modelled after the London Underground for ease of reference. Buses start at 5am, and run until midnight. There are some night buses, which carry on through the small hours.

By taxi

There are loads of taxi ranks in Aberdeen, including one at the railway station and two on Union Street (one at the western end and one in the middle). Check that your taxi is displaying an official Aberdeen City Council registration plate. After dark, the only place you can get a cab is at a designated pick up point, marshalled by taxi rank officials. Expect to wait with extremely festive crowds at the weekend, and be aware that groups of males are rarely picked up by taxis. Fares are quite high in comparison to other UK cities, though they are regulated by the Council.

By plane

Aberdeen International Airport is 7 miles outside the city. It’s served by European and internal British flights.

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Union Street Aberdeen by Alan Longmuir.

Aberdeen’s history spans more than 8,000 years – but its present day incarnation was really started by Robert the Bruce, whose Great Charter (1319) turned the settlement into a place where people could own property. Cue financial independence, plus a host of perks put in place by Bruce to thank Aberdeen for hiding him during the period prior to his accession.

The Wars of the Three Kingdoms

War shaped much of Aberdeen’s early modern history: an attack by Edward III of England saw much of the city burned to the ground in 1336. The Aberdonians rebuilt it, added huge fortified gates and named the place New Aberdeen.

The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, which were fought simultaneously in Scotland, England and Ireland during the 17th century, were not kind to New Aberdeen, which was ransacked by all sides. All this burning and sacking led the founding fathers of modern Aberdeen to a resolution that gave the city its impressive architecture. All new buildings in the city were to be constructed from stone: and because the local stone was granite, that meant imposing edifices in multiple styles, which glittered in the sun thanks to the tiny shards of quartz in the rock.

Public Improvement

A period of public improvement followed, which sent the city bankrupt – by the time of bankruptcy, however, Union Street had been completed, along with George and King Streets. Shortly thereafter, the end of the Napoleonic Wars saw Aberdeen’s financial fortunes change, as its shipbuilding industry became strategically important and its fishing industry took off. A period of prosperity followed, in which the city was gaslit, replumbed and given a proper underground sewerage network.

Oil

Oil came to Aberdeen in the mid 20th century, and sparked the last regeneration of the city. North Sea oil transformed a beautiful, slowly decaying town into a vibrant hub of modern commerce.

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