Known as the ‘Granite City’ because of its many grey-stone buildings, Aberdeen welcomes many people studying and working from all over the world. Being named as the ‘Oil Capital of Europe’ meant that the city’s economy catapulted majorly, attracting international oil companies to its business district.
Aberdeen is home to some stunning views with lots of activities to do to keep you entertained. The creative and ambitious city is known for its charm and beautiful countryside, with a great selection of beaches too.
We’ve selected some hidden gems for you to explore in Aberdeen whilst studying here, it’s safe to say you definitely won’t be bored in this gorgeous, historical city.
1. Aberdeen Maritime Museum
The Aberdeen Maritime museum situated on the historic Shiprow near the harbour tells the story of the city’s long relationship with the sea.
The museum has a collection of covering shipbuilding, fast sailing ships, as well as fishing and port history. Interestingly, this museum is the only place in the UK where you can see displays on the North Sea oil and gas industry.
This fascinating museum is a great place to explore on a rainy day, you can even grab yourself a bite to eat in the café if you’re feeling hungry during your visit. The museum also has a viewpoint so you can look out onto the harbour and witness some incredible views.
2. Slains Castle
Erected in 1597, Slains Castle is a must see if you fancy a scenic walk, there are some stunning coastal views on offer from the cliff walk to The Bullars of Buchan.
here are some great photo opportunities here, but be careful, as there are quite a few trip hazards.
This castle was said to have been used by Bram Staker as inspiration for the castle of Count Dracula, which is no surprise due to its authentic, creepy aesthetic. There are so many different rooms to explore and the tower still has its staircase which is a must see attribute.
Just a 35-minute drive up from the A90 from Aberdeen, the ruins are completely free to explore. You can even take the bus from Aberdeen that takes just over an hour. Finish your day at Kilmarnock Arms Hotel close by at Cruden Bay, lunch is 12-2pm Monday to Friday and all day from 12-9pm on a Saturday. There are so many delicious hearty meals to fill you up on a cold day, but we would have to recommend the Lamb Shank or the Chicken Curry.
This quaint former fishing village pronounced ‘Fittie’ is a must see if you’re studying here in Aberdeen. Half a mile east from the city centre, Footdee is tucked away off the main tourist route and quite easy to miss. The idyllic area has had a settlement as far back as the Medieval times, with the first recorded reference to the area as early as the year 1398.
No two buildings are the same in this village, the styles range from tiny little houses with cute gardens to structures made of materials that don’t look steady at all. There’s a very nautical theme throughout Footdee, with thousands of small unique details to take note of whilst enjoying your stroll.
Initially there were suggestions that the houses would have two storeys, but fishermen refused to live upstairs because they were superstitious! Extra houses were added in 1837 and 1855 with around 80 homes present day, we’d definitely recommend a visit here, there’s so much to see.
4. Old Aberdeen
Exploring the cobbled streets of Old Aberdeen is a must if you want to find out some history of the city. It’s packed with museums, parks and gardens with some lovely little places to grab a coffee. You can visit a medieval Cathedral, a late 15th century college, and even a late medieval bridge.
We’d recommend taking a relaxing stroll around Seaton Park in Old Aberdeen, at 27 hectares; it’s one of the largest public green spaces in the city and stretches from St Machar’s all the way to the banks of the River Don.
Powis Gate back in the centre of Old Aberdeen won’t disappoint. These towers look like they’ve been taken straight out of a Disney film with their magical appearance. They once flanked the entrance to Powis House, which was built from 1833 to 1834. Unique in design, the towers were recently restored by the University of Aberdeen who now own them.
5. Dolphin & Whale Spotting
Did you know Aberdeen is one of the best places to see bottlenose dolphins in Europe? Torry Battery is a great place to watch dolphins dance majestically though the water. Dolphin watch is a project funded by the ScottishPower foundation and National Lottery Heritage fund, led by RSPB Scotland in partnership with Aberdeen City Council and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
RSBP provide binoculars, spotting scopes, and loads of information to kick start your day, just make sure you wrap up warm because it can be blustery. According to RSBP, the best place to look for dolphins is between the orange breakwater wall and the lighthouse during summer, where the dolphins can sometimes be seen feeding.
You may even be lucky enough to see other marine wildlife, such as seabirds, otters, whales and seals.
6. Books And Beans
Books and Coffee together in one venue, what more could you want? This modern, colourful bookshop has a lot of charm, and is definitely worth a visit if you fancy a break from studying, or feel like getting lost in a book in a quaint setting.
Based on Belmont Street, Books and Beans was recently taken over by businessman John Wigglesworth, as well as books, they have some delicious coffees and nibbles if you’re feeling hungry.
They also have a delivery service so you can still enjoy your lunchtime favourites from your comfy Aberdeen based student accommodation, we’d have to recommend the Panini’s.
7. Balmedie Beach
Balmedie is a small village, not far north from Aberdeen. It is well known for its beautiful, long beach with an impressive, natural sand dune system that stretches to the Ythan Estuary.
This beach is lovely and quiet with lots of sand dunes and a BBQ station during the summer, a perfect place to go with your friends to unwind from university work! The long and wide beach stretches for 14 miles in the civil parish of Belhelvie.
Make sure you bring a camera because there’s so much scenery you won’t want to miss, take a deep breath and feel the fresh sea air fill your lungs as you explore the beautiful open space. The beach itself is about a 20-minute drive from Aberdeen itself, but is also easily accessible by bus.
8. Aberdeen Art Gallery
Another great place to visit with free entry is Aberdeen Art Gallery, aesthetically pleasing on the outside as well as the inside. The gallery is the main visual arts exhibition in Aberdeen, and was founded in 1884.
The art collection spans over 700 years and includes an amazing range of works by Scottish artists, designers, and makers. The nationally recognised collection is regarded as one the UK’s finest, perfect for a day out with your friends.
There’s also a great little café to stop for some lunch and a museum shop if you fancy taking some memorabilia home with you.
We’d have to recommend the collection of stunning watercolours at the gallery, but also worth visiting is the selection of fine art and archeology collection for some really interesting pieces.