Aberdeen Things to Do

  • Bishop Elphinstone
    Bishop Elphinstone
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  • Bishop Elphinstone's tomb
    Bishop Elphinstone's tomb
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    quadrangle
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Most Recent Things to Do in Aberdeen

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    Maritime Museum

    by Drever Written Mar 5, 2014
    Looking out of Maritime Museum at harbour
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    Shiprow winds its cobbled way down from Castlegate to the north side of Aberdeen harbour. Just off this steep road is the strikingly modern glass facade of the Maritime Museum. It combines a modern airy museum with Aberdeen’s oldest surviving building, that of Old Provost Ross’s House with its labyrinthine corridors, low doorways and small rooms.

    On entering a series of blackboards, computer read-outs and barometers shows everything from the time of high tide to the current price of a barrel of crude oil. Suspended above the foyer and visible from five different levels is a spectacular 27-foot high model of the Murchison Oil Platform. Viewed from the bottom level gives a fish eye view from the bottom of the North Sea.

    This museum is the only setting in the country where you can see the sheer scale of Britain’s ultra-modern offshore oil industry and gas enterprise. If you have wondered just how a North Sea oil platform works this museum is the place to find out. Glance at the views over the bustling harbour and you even see many of the supply boats that service the oil and gas industry.

    The harbour however existed long before the discovery of North Sea Oil. It dates from 1136 and is the oldest business in Britain. From here in medieval times ships traded with other European countries. For centuries also Aberdeen became synonymous with fishing. The city built the vessels, and provided both their crews and the workers who processed the catches landed at the fish market. I recall how in a gale those trawlers would shelter in a bay making it resemble a city at night with their glimmering lights. The fishing industry is now a fraction of its former size.

    Whaling, as a business has disappeared from British ports - both Aberdeen and Dundee were great whaling ports at one time. Shipbuilding has also declined - at one time Britain built most of the world’s ships. Aberdeen alone built three thousand ships during the 19th and 20th centuries. These include the tea clipper Thermopylae. The museum shows the intricate drawings and models used in its design. The Jho Sho Maru one of the first units of the Japanese Navy also came from Aberdeen.

    The museum is the place to see real objects that explain the story of the North Sea. Well-designed displays and audio-visual presentations, many of which draw heavily on personal reminiscences tell the story of the city’s maritime history. Displays include paintings from the clipper ship era, ship models from 1689 to the present, whaler’s harpoons, 14th century jugs traded to Aberdeen from Holland, a fine lighthouse lens assembly, the deckhouse of a steamer and a remotely managed vehicle. In Provost Ross’s House intricate ship models from 1689 to the present, and various nautical paintings, and fine marine artwork are on display.

    Following a visit to the museum a stroll around the harbour makes a fitting end to Aberdeen’s maritime story.

    Museum admission is free.

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    Marischal College and Museum

    by Drever Updated Mar 5, 2014

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    Marischal College, largest granite building in UK
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    Marischal College, part of Aberdeen University since 2011 has acted as the headquarters of Aberdeen City Council. It is the largest granite building in Great Britain and is a testimony to the skills of the city’s builders in working in granite. They built their city of granite with Marischal College as their crowning masterpiece. Its tall steely-grey pinnacled neo-Gothic facade was once described as ‘a wedding cake covered in indigestible grey icing’ – it is a most astonishing piece of sculpture.

    Located within is Marischal Museum. It holds donations by graduates and friends of Aberdeen University since its establishment in 1786. The collection contains 80,000 items in five broad areas: fine art, Scottish history & archaeology, European, Mediterranean & Near Eastern archaeology, non-Western ethnography and, coins and medals. The art collection includes important 17th, 18th and 19th Century Scottish portraits and views of Aberdeen.

    The main museum displays are in two large galleries on the first floor. The one was designed as the college library in 1837 and still contains the original elaborate woodwork. It holds ‘The Encyclopaedia of the North-East’ a collection of local material. The other gallery has been modernised with a steel mezzanine floor to display the ‘Collecting the World’ exhibition. Temporary exhibitions are held in specially designed areas of both galleries.

    The Encyclopaedia running alphabetically from Aberdeen through to Whisky is devoted to the character of this area of Scotland. Hundreds of objects, photographs and quotations are displayed to illustrate the area from the first settlers of 8000 years ago to the present day. Arranged in alphabetical order it creates some surprising ordering of objects of different ages and functions and an urge to sort it into a more logical order.

    Material on display includes items associated with the history of the University such as the maces of the Colleges, prehistoric beakers, carved stone balls, flint tools and Pictish stones. More recent objects relate to fishing, farming, and folklore of the area. The current copy of the local newspaper, the Press and Journal, is used to emphasise the contemporary concerns of the exhibition. Some of the highlights of the University's other collections, such as paintings, scientific instruments, and natural history specimens are also displayed in this exhibition.

    The collection of material from throughout the world displays a diverse range of curiosities, including an ancient high-relief mummy case of a five-year old Egyptian girl, a late 18th century Maori wooden box, a medieval silver chain found under Marischal College and a stomach-churning human foot unbound and preserved in brine. Look out too for a kayak discovered off the coast of Aberdeen around 1700 with the preserved body of an Inuit fisherman inside.

    It is not only the objects that are interesting but also how they came to be in the collection. The museum explores this angle starting with a reconstruction of a collector's study. The collectors have served in just about all endeavours of human interest.

    This quaint collection inside such a wondrous building is well worth a look. Admission is free.

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    Aberdeen Art Gallery

    by Drever Updated Mar 5, 2014
    Exterior of Aberdeen Art Gallery
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    One of the most graceful and eye-catching buildings in Aberdeen is the Aberdeen Art Gallery in the heart of the city. The architecture of this building with its pillared galleries and balustrade balconies makes it worth a visit in its own right. In its bright airy interior you can sit in peace and quiet and admire the art or just read a book or newspaper.

    Entry is via a Central Court dominated by a decorative fountain and thick pillars, each hewn from a different local marble, running down from the upper balcony. The Side Court contains selected work by Young British Artists including Jordan Baseman’s extraordinary ‘I Love You Still’ made from tree limbs and human hair.

    The Ground Floor Applied Art Gallery has a rich and diverse collection of Applied Art, Craft and Design including ceramics, glass, furniture, costumes, textiles, metalwork and jewellery. These present lifestyle, decorative techniques, skills and stylistic trends. Beyond is the Memorial Court. This calming white walled circular room under a skylight dome serves as the city’s memorial for those lost in war and in the Piper Alfa oil rig tragedy in the North Sea.

    Upstairs in the six spacious galleries are the main bodies of art. The superb collection of landscapes held my attention. If I were to award first prize it would go to Joseph Farquharson for Afterglow. Painted on the Finzean estate in Aberdeen in 1912, it captures the pink glow in the evening sky and the bluish shadows cast on snow-covered woodland. In the foreground the bracken lies broken by the frost and weight of snow, while hardy Scots Pine stand defiantly against the elements and two hungry rabbits search for nourishment under the last rays of a weak winter sun. The only signs of human presence are a cottage in the background and footsteps leading through the glade. It is a tranquil scene so vividly painted that the viewer could step into it.

    Among the Gallery’s collection are Pre-Raphaelite canvases by Rossetti and William Waterhouse hanging beside work by Queen Victoria’s favourite painter, Aberdeen born John Philip. Eighteen-century portraits by Raeburn, Hogarth, Ramsay, and Reynolds vie for attention with acclaimed 20th-century British art by Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson, Stanley Spencer, Ben Nicholson and Francis Bacon. There are also works from the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists including Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas. The much in vogue, Scottish Colourists claim attention in Room Four.

    The Gallery’s collection of modern art is among the best in Scotland and includes work by Christine Borland, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Marcus Taylor, Toby Paterson and Dalziel & Scullion.

    The gallery shop sells fine art prints, books, cards, jewellery and ceramics and the café serves everything from light meals and drinks so you can have wine or beer with your lunch.

    Aberdeen Art Gallery is fully accessible to visitors with mobility difficulties and admission is free. This the city’s top attraction, it is well worth a visit.

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    Provost Skene's House

    by Drever Written Mar 5, 2014

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    Exterior of Provost Skene's House
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    Provost Skene’s House is Aberdeen’s oldest surviving private residence. In the 16th century all the well-to-do houses in the area looked like it, with mellow roughly hewn stone and rounded turrets - a cross between a house and a castle.

    George Skene, a wealthy merchant lived here during the 17th century - a time when Aberdeen was becoming a flourishing trading port. From 1676 to 1685 he was the city’s Provost and leading citizen. Following his time the house has had a less noble history. It provided a billet for troops during the Jacobite Rebellion. Later it became a public lodging house, narrowly escaping demolition in the 1930s by a long-running campaign to save it. Restoration began in 1951 and it opened as a museum in 1953.

    This elegant 16th century town house now contains an attractive series of period rooms, recalling the graceful furnishings of a wealthy merchant’s city life from Jacobean to Victorian times. The tour begins in the 18th century Dining Room. It contains a gleaming mahogany table from 1790 with matching chairs and sideboard. The panelled walls hang with portraits and the blazing fire gives a warm feeling to this room.

    The next room, The Great Hall, forms part of a suite of rooms set up to recreate the furnishing of 17th century living. The Hall used for banqueting has a bench type table and seating and the Parlour and Bedroom are similarly informal. These rooms have elaborate plaster ceilings; the design in the Great Hall incorporates the Scottish thistle the English rose and the French fleur-de-lys. Provost Skene’s coat of arms appears above the fireplace.

    The Painted Gallery contains a unique series of religious paintings. Ten painted panels represent the Life of Christ. Their origins are a mystery. Upstairs the Custom Gallery features a changing programme of fashions and accessories through the ages.

    Archaeological and Social History displays are on the next floor. They highlight objects from the prehistory of the area up to the recent past. A Nursery shows how a child’s playroom looked at the late 19th century.

    Downstairs an 18th century Bedroom contains a delicately carved four-poster bed. The tall boy of 1760 serves for storing linen and the dressing table opens to reveal different compartments and a mirror. Linking to this room by a small Painted Room is the Regency Parlour with its striking yellow sofa and curtains. It reflects the refined taste and elegance of the early 19th century.

    The decision to save this house from demolition and to set up within it a series of period styled rooms has proved to be a brilliant way of preserving Aberdeen’s past. There is even a chance that the hideous office blocks surrounding it and ruining the former character of the area will be demolished.

    This, Aberdeen’s oldest surviving private house, is well worth a visit to see the building and the superb refurbishment of the period rooms. Admission is free!

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    Castlegate and the Market Cross

    by uglyscot Updated Apr 12, 2012
    Castlegate and the market cross
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    The Castlegate is a small area of Aberdeen, located at the east-end of Union Street. Locals would consider it to be the square at the end of Union Street where the Mercat Cross and the Gallowgate are located.

    At the upper end of Castlegate stands The Salvation Army Citadel, in a castle-like castellated mansion, on the site of the medieval Aberdeen Castle. Castlegate was the site of the castle gates until its destruction in 1308, hence the name of the area.

    Aberdeen's Mercat Cross was built in 1686 by John Montgomery, a native of Aberdeen. This open-arched structure, 21 ft (6 m) in diameter and 18 ft (5 m) high, comprises a large hexagonal base from the centre of which rises a shaft with a Corinthian capital, on which is the royal unicorn. The base is highly decorated, including medallions illustrating Scottish monarchs from James I to James VII.
    [Information from Wikipedia]

    The Gallowgate which is just off the main square is where the city's gallows used to be located and public hangings took place.

    To the west, just off the main square is the Castlegate Well. It is no longer used, but a small bronze statue has been erected over the top.

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    Aberdeen Maritime Museum

    by kirsty_lamb Written Mar 7, 2012

    We hadn't intended to go tot he museum, but found ourselves outside with some time to spare. It's free entry with donation boxes.

    The staff were very helpful indeed, and we were able to leave the pushchair at reception. There is a lift as well to get to the top floor.

    There are various models and constructions of Oil Riggs, diver outfits and boats. There is information on the walls and various video displays to watch.

    On the lowest level there is a dress up box for kids as well. On site there is a nice cafe and a small shop.

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    Aberdeen Exhibition + Conference Centre

    by iaint Updated Sep 18, 2011

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    on a fine sunny May Sunday

    My first visit here was for my Rotary District’s annual assembly in May 11. It’s located to the north of the city, in Bridge of Don, on the Peterhead road. The usual combined exhibition/concert/conference complex.

    They have a Holiday Inn and a Holiday Inn Express on site, and the city busses (services 1 & 2) come to within 200m.

    The facilities were all good, and the sandwich/fruit lunch worked well for us. Quick, easy & filling.

    Upcoming “attractions” when I was there included Iron Maiden and Britain’s Got Talent. I’ll skip that. Rotary may be dull, but I’m not that desperate.

    UPDATE

    Just back (Sept 11) from a Rotary conference here. We had a big formal dinner in the AECC, and it was excellent.

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    City tour with blue badge guide

    by SallyM Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Aberdeen street scene

    A good way to discover Aberdeen (or anywhere else in the UK) is to take a tour with an approved Blue Badge guide (contact the relevant tourist information office for details).

    But if you do, its a good idea to have explored a little on your own first in order to get your bearings. The guided tour was the first thing we did in Aberdeen, and we were shown all sorts of interesting things about the back streets that we would never have noticed on our own, but not knowing the main streets meant that we didn't really follow some of the guide's explanations.

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    Scotlands Castle's

    by Timesgoneby Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Me and my castle :P hehe
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    On an Nice day like we had , we decided to drive around and spend our Day checking out towns , and came to see Crathes Castle.
    Crathes is a magnificent 16th century tower house.The walled garden is really eight gardens, ranging from the formal to the modern. The massive yew hedges were planted as early as 1702, while the Golden Garden was introduced by the Trust in 1973.

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    Education - Salvation - Damnation

    by scottishvisitor Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Central Library
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    Three important buildings stand shoulder to shoulder in Aberdeen's Rosemount district known locally as Education, Salvation and Damnation. The first is the Central Library (Education) a fine building constructed with Kemnay granite, a local stone from bygone quarries. The library has an interesting archive section which can be viewed by appointment. The second picture gives some idea of Central Library's size & its sparkling granite in the sunshine.

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    The third in the Trilogy - Damnation

    by scottishvisitor Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    His Majesty's
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    His Majesty's Theatre is known locally as damnation - but you won't be damned today if you visit this fine Edwardian theatre. HMT as it is locally known plays host to all the top London shows after they visit Edinburgh. The theatre also sees performances in Opera & Ballet as well as local plays & of course the Annual Student Show. HMT first opened its doors on the 3rd. December 1906, designed by Frank Matchim the interior has seating on four levels. There were major refurbishments in 2004 - 2005 creating a restaurant, coffee shop & corporate hospitality rooms. Free parking after 6pm can be found at Denburn car park behind the theatre on Spa Street. I have added another picture from our last visit which was to see the very funny Rocky Horror Show, even the bar staff dressed up for this one = we didn't, but it was a lot of fun.

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    The Castle Gate is an interesting area

    by scottishvisitor Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Sun striking the Castle
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    The Castle Gate is home to the Salvation Army's Aberdeen Headquarters - known as the Citadel. It was once the home of a Castle which was destroyed in 1342 hence the name Castle Gate. This magnificent building always reminds me of a fine old castle but in reality it was built as a Mansion House. When the winter sun shines directly upon this building you see the full effect of of a dramatic change from cold grey granite to the warmer colour of pink granite.
    There are a lot of pubs and restaurants around this pedestrianised market square. In bygone times there was a weekly market, today, markets are still held here but not frequently, usually during the pre Christmas period, just as well really - the market spoils the view.

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    Aberdeen Maritime Museum - Free & 5 Star

    by scotlandscotour Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    This is a great wee place, helping you understand the fishing and then the oil industry, so important to the lives and deaths of so many Scots locally.

    Its a really wonderful place, and deserves its accolade of 5 stars, so do try to give it atleast an hour. It'll help you 'feel' and understand the area - and appreciate it.

    Try to see these wee museums along the East Coast, in places like Anstruther and Fraserburgh (Fishing & Lighthouses, respectively) - they don't take much time, are easily overlooked, but really help you 'see' and 'feel' an area. So, if in doubt, stop, and check 'em out!

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  • scotlandscotour's Profile Photo

    Aberdeen Maritime Museum - Free & 5 Star

    by scotlandscotour Updated Apr 4, 2011

    This is a great wee place, helping you understand the fishing and then the oil industry, so important to the lives and deaths of so many Scots locally.

    Its a really wonderful place, and deserves its accolade of 5 stars, so do try to give it atleast an hour. It'll help you 'feel' and understand the area - and appreciate it.

    Try to see these wee museums along the East Coast, in places like Anstruther and Fraserburgh (Fishing & Lighthouses, respectively) - they don't take much time, are easily overlooked, but really help you 'see' and 'feel' an area. So, if in doubt, stop, and check 'em out!

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    Aberdeen Maritime Museum

    by ringleader Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The museum is a five-star award-winning museum which tells the story of the city's long relationship with the Sea. This museum has a unique collection covering subjects of shipbuilding, fast sailing ships, fishing and port history, and is the only place in the UK where you can see displays on the North Sea oil industry.

    The best part of it is that the admission is FREE!

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    • Sailing and Boating

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