Marischal College on Broad Street, formerly part of the University of Aberdeen but now the headquarters of Aberdeen City Council
Aberdeen is the third-largest city in Scotland, United Kingdom, with a population of over 220,000. It is a harbour city located on Scotland's north-east coast, approximately 120 miles (190km) north of Edinburgh and 400 miles (650km) north of London, where the Rivers Dee and Don meet the North Sea. It is an important sea port, regional centre, and the hub of the North Sea oil industry.
Although remote by UK standards, this is no backwater; Aberdeen is a prosperous and cosmopolitan city (partly due to North Sea oil) and is characterised by its grand and ornate architecture. Most buildings are constructed out of granite quarried in and around the city, and as a result, Aberdeen is often referred to as The Granite City. It is also known for its many outstanding parks, gardens and floral displays throughout the city, as well as its long, sandy beach. Aberdeen also boasts the title of Oil Capital of Europe and has been voted in several polls as the happiest place in Britain, with a 2006 poll citing access to large areas of greenery and community spirit. It has won the Britain in Bloom competition 10 times.
Aberdeen does not attract as many tourists as other Scottish destinations such as Edinburgh or St Andrews, and can feel more authentic. It is a great place to stop for a couple of days on a tour of Scotland, and especially good as a base for exploring the wider region to take advantage of the castles, golf, whisky distilleries, scenery, mountains (including skiing and snowboarding), coast and other attractions in Aberdeenshire and Royal Deeside. Alternatively, Aberdeen's remoteness yet comforts and cosmopolitan nature makes it an interesting destination for a short city break if you really want to get away from the stress.
Busy day outside the Town House (i.e. city hall) on Union Street
Aberdeen is a city of 220,000 people - smaller than Glasgow and Edinburgh, but larger than other Scottish cities. By UK and even Scottish standards it is remote and often the subject of "far away" jokes (the nearest city is much smaller Dundee 70 miles south). Despite this, Aberdeen is surprisingly easy to reach and is a modern and prosperous city. British visitors are often surprised to find a such a vibrant city so far north. Partly due to oil wealth and its status as the only large regional centre, it has the facilities of a much larger city. Together, all this gives Aberdeen an air of self-sufficiency found in few places in Britain today.
Aberdeen is one of the most prosperous places in Scotland, due primarily to the North Sea oil industry, and has low unemployment (just over 2% in February 2012), leading to a low crime rate compared to other UK cities. Immigration due to the oil industry and the universities gives the city a cosmopolitan air that often surprises visitors, and when out and about in the city languages are heard from all over the world.
Aberdeen has a seemingly-random mediaeval layout common for cities in Britain. The city-centre is divided by the mile-long Union Street which runs north-east/south-west (named after the 1800 union between Great Britain and Ireland). At the north-east end is the main square - the Castlegate - while leading off Union Street are important roads such as (east to west) Broad Street, Shiprow, Market Street, St. Nicholas Square, and Union Terrace. The Tourist Information Centre is located on Union Street, at the corner with the Shiprow. Running parallel to Union Street are Guild Street (where the railway and bus stations are located) and Upperkirkgate, which leads into Schoolhill. East of the Castlegate, roads lead to the beach and the sea, while at the other end of Union Street, roads lead to the West End (where many millionnaires live). Unusually, the harbour is in the city centre and is rapidly reached from the Shiprow, Market Street, Guild Street and Marischal Street. The River Dee does not flow through the city centre but a little to the south. The River Don flows through the north of the city, about two miles (3.2km) north of the city centre.
While the location has been inhabited for over 8000 years, a city did not develop until the middle-ages. The modern city was formed by two settlements which grew together - Old Aberdeen close to the mouth of the River Don (home to the University since 1495), and New Aberdeen, about two miles south where a stream, the Denburn, met the River Dee (the Denburn is long built-over by a road and railway but its route is crossed by bridge on Union Street).
Much of the city's prosperity came from the sea and its harbour - until the mid-20th century fishing and mercantile trading were mainstays of the economy, along with granite quarrying and carving, local agriculture and manufacturing (e.g. paper and cloth). Then, these industries declined while Aberdeen's location made it perfect as the main base for North Sea oil. Today, most people work for one of the many oil-related companies or know someone who does, and these jobs are well-paid. Many work offshore on the North Sea platforms and commute for shifts of two weeks or so by helicopter, which are conspicuous in the city's skies. However, a section of the population did not benefit from North Sea oil and still experiences poverty and deprivation. Aberdeen also has one of the oldest universities in Europe (founded 1495) and its two universities today have a total of 30,000 students.
Granite buildings at Schoolhill, Aberdeen. Domed building in foreground was constructed in 1901 as the Aberdeen Academy school; today it houses the Academy Shopping Centre, with Jack Wills clothing store under the dome.
During the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, growing prosperity led to grand civil engineering projects, including Union Street (much of which is actually bridge) and the construction of many large and ornate buildings. Grand architecture is one of the city's distinctive features, particularly Neoclassical, Gothic Revival and Scottish Baronial styles. The mediaeval buildings had been made of wood, and following several disastrous fires, the city's leaders resolved to rebuild only in stone. The local stone they had, quarried in the city and throughout Aberdeenshire, was granite. Nearly all pre-1960s buildings are made of this and sparkle in the sun, giving the city's other name, "The Granite City".
As technology improved, granite could be worked more cheaply, allowing later buildings to have ever more ornately-carved stonework such as at Marischal College (pronounced like "Marshall"). Granite began to be exported by sea, particularly to London where many buildings are constructed of Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire granite (e.g. the fountains at Trafalgar Square). However, highly-carved granite was still expensive and demonstrated the owner's success and status, with side and rear walls left in cheaper, unworked stone as in Bath. Many of these buildings (particularly in the city centre) are now in need of restoration and have an air of faded grandeur. Buildings are no longer constructed in granite but it is still used extensively as a facing material and granite chippings are heavily used in the concrete of modern buildings (which makes Aberdeen concrete also sparkle in the sunlight).
After the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1960s, the city grew from an elegant but declining backwater dependent on fishing, to a thriving centre of the energy industry. Today, in addition to the growing population, large numbers commute to Aberdeen from exurbs and outlying towns, with heavy traffic at rush hour. Despite this, some areas of the city retain the feel of a village. Perhaps the best examples of this are the line of suburbs stretching towards Royal Deeside, including Cults and Peterculter.
Lewis Grassic Gibbon's trio of novels tell the story of a young woman, Chris Guthrie, growing up and living in the north-east of Scotland. The first, Sunset Song (1932) tells her story of growing up in a rural area just south of Aberdeen, at a time of change in society and the rural way of life. Sunset Song is regarded as one of the most important Scottish novels of the 20th century and many Aberdonians have studied it in school. The other works of the trilogy are Cloud Howe (1933) and Grey Granite (1934), which feature her life continuing in a north-east city that may or may not be Aberdeen.
Numerous crime novels by Scottish author Stuart MacBride are set in Aberdeen. His best-selling thrillers featuring Detective Sergeant Logan McRae portray a fictional darker side of the city and its environs, but make frequent reference to real-life city locations. These include Cold Granite (2005), Dying Light (2006), Blind Eye (2009) and Shatter the Bones (2011). These novels often feature prominently in bookstore displays in the city.
Despite the northerly latitude (the same as Riga, Gothenburg, Juneau, Alaska and slightly further than Moscow), because of its coastal location Aberdeen's climate is relatively mild although a few degrees colder than much of the rest of Britain. Contrary to expectations, sunny days are frequent and it does not rain often but when it does it tends to be heavy. Aberdeen weather is highly changeable, with a sunny day possibly changing rapidly to cloudy or even rain (and vice versa). At other times, weather may remain constant for days and the changes are often unpredictable so dress in layers. It gets surprisingly warm in the sun (especially if the wind is light) so be prepared to remove layers as well. An umbrella isn't usually helpful because rain is often accompanied by strong winds which will turn your umbrella into an impromptu sail or else just turn it inside-out. All year round, a sea mist called the Haar not infrequently appears during the evening or night but usually dissipates in the morning. Air pollution is low compared to the rest of the UK.
Super Puma helicopter in sky over Aberdeen, transporting workers to/from North Sea oil rigs
In summer, days are long: at midsummer (21st June) dawn is around 3am and dusk around 11pm, while nautical twilight lasts the entire night. There are many sunny days and while often warm, the temperature rarely exceeds 25C (77F). There are also cooler summer days. These sunny yet cool days increase in Spring and Autumn.
Conversely, winter days are short with sunrise in late-December not till after 8.30am and sunset around 3.30pm. Days are equally often sunny and cloudy, but strong, biting winds off the North Sea are common and it can feel bitterly cold even in the sun. Snow is not frequent and there is lying snow only a couple of weeks in most years, but if you'll be in Aberdeen for any significant time in winter, take your snow boots or be prepared to buy some.
Southern end of esplanade at Aberdeen Beach, at high tide. Building shown is Harbour Control Tower, while Footdee lies at end of the path
The best time is during the summer months. Days are long (reaching 18 hours at the summer solstice) and most days are warm and sunny. The granite sparkles in the sun and is at its most impressive against the (surprisingly frequent) blue skies which last late into the evening. Most of the festivals occur in summer and it's also the best time to visit attractions in the surrounding region. Alternatively, late spring and early autumn are also good times to visit. Autumn in Aberdeen can be pretty, particularly in the many parks and green spaces, but be prepared for cooler weather and possibly chilly winds. In odd-numbered years (e.g. 2013) avoid early September, when the giant Offshore Europe oil convention takes place and every hotel room in the region is booked up months in advance, with hotels charging extortionate rates. Unless you're interested in skiing or snowboarding in the mountains, winter months are best avoided. These tend to be dark, cold and windy, while the grey granite can appear depressing on the many overcast days and there is less happening of interest to visitors.
Scottish English is the everyday language. Unlike the highlands and islands, Scottish Gaelic (pronounced "gallic" not "gae-lic") is not widely spoken and is rarely heard. You will also hear other languages spoken on the street by many Aberdonians who have come from other places, with Polish, Russian, Mandarin and numerous other European languages heard often. However, the local dialect is called Doric, now spoken primarily by middle-aged and older people and those from lower social classes. Doric can be more confusing at first than other Scottish dialects. This includes for native English speakers - while Scots accents are frequently heard on TV and radio around the UK and other places, Aberdeen accents are not.
Gallowgate, looking toward Broad Street and corner of Marischal College
With time you quickly pick up what people mean, which is often clear from the context anyway. In fact, most people speak in in a standard Scots accent similar to that elsewhere which is easy for most visitors to understand. However, you are likely to hear Doric spoken by some while out and about, particularly if you travel by taxi or bus. Few young people speak it today, or may speak it only with close family or other Aberdonians and switch to standard Scots English when around others.
Here are a few commonly used words and phrases:
"Fit like?" - A greeting, essentially, "Hello, how are you?".
"Nae bad, yersel?" - "Not bad, yourself?".
"Fit?" - "What?".
"Fa?" - "Who?".
"Far?" - "Where?".
"Aye" - "Yes" (as used throughout Scotland).
"Na'" - "No" (usually, an n sound followed by a vowel constitutes "no".
"Wee" - "Little", though this famous Doric word has become common throughout Scotland and in other areas worldwide.
"Dinnae ken/Da ken" - "Don't know".
"Hay min" - "Excuse me good sir?"
"far aboot ye fae?" where are you from?
"ben a/eh hoose" - "Through the house/in the other room"
"gie" - "give"
"tea" - can be used to mean an evening meal, i.e. supper, as well as the beverage.
If you politely suggest you don't understand, almost all Doric speakers will be able to switch to more standard English to converse with you, particularly if you are from outside the UK.
Although Aberdeen is remote by UK standards, do not be put off as with modern air and rail transport links it is remarkably easy and fast to get to. Journeys by bus or car to the city can be long so many travellers coming from outside Scotland arrive by plane (a flight of an hour or so from London) or by train.
Aberdeen International Airport, main passenger terminal, showing bus stop where buses arrive and depart for the city centre
Aberdeen International Airport (IATA: ABZ)  is at Dyce, 7 miles (11km) from the city centre. Airlines fly to/from European cities as well as UK destinations. It is operated by BAA (the same company which runs London Heathrow, Stansted and Glasgow Airports) but operations are smoother than at Heathrow. Many Aberdonians rely heavily on the airport when travelling outside Scotland and it is also one of the world's largest heliports, serving the offshore rigs in the North Sea. Helicopters are everywhere at the airport (and in the skies over Aberdeen) and can be seen from the terminal building windows.
To travel between the airport and city centre, the bus is the quickest and most convenient option. The 727 bus route (branded "JET") operates distinctive blue buses which run every 20 minutes on weekdays during the day and every 30 minutes at evenings and weekends. These buses arrive and depart from the bus station at Union Square on Guild Street and also call at Broad Street. In march 2013, a single ticket costs £2.70, a day return £3.40 and a period return (good for 28 days) costs £4.00. Dyce has a railway station but it is the wrong side of the runway from the terminal and inconvenient to get between station and airport terminal, although there is a bus link. Unless you are going to another destination on the railway line, the 727 bus is the best choice. Info and timetables are available at the bus company's website: 
Getting to/from the airport by taxi is also popular (there can be large queues at the airport if a flight was busy). Taxi is a good option if not coming from the city centre or if you have a lot of luggage. Allow approximately £20 for a one-way trip between the airport and city centre. If you need to arrive at the airport early in the morning, do not count on finding a taxi in the street; book your taxi with the taxi company the night before. Hire cars are also available from major international companies at the airport.
Major hub destinations (several times a day) include London-Heathrow (with British Airways), Paris-CDG (with Air France), Amsterdam (with KLM) and Frankfurt (with Lufthansa). There are also international flights to Dublin (with Aer Lingus), Copenhagen (with SAS), Bergen, Groningen, Stavanger, Oslo and Baku in Azerbaijan (another oil city). UK destinations include London City, London Gatwick, London-Luton, Birmingham, Norwich, Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, East Midlands, Exeter and Southampton, as well as Wick (in the far north of Scotland), Orkney and Shetland. Other routes cater to the oil industry, including Scatsta on Shetland. Occasional longer distance holiday and charter flights also operate on a seasonal basis.
Aberdeen Railway Station is located in the city centre on Guild Street, one block from Union Street. It is part of the Union Square development, which also includes the Bus Station. Aberdeen is the busiest railway station north of Glasgow and Edinburgh, with inter-city, regional and sleeper train services provided to and from all parts of Great Britain. The section from Montrose and Stonehaven to Aberdeen is one of the most scenic in Britain, as spectacular cliffs soar below into the North Sea. This view is especially impressive at sunrise.
When arriving by train, do not throw your ticket away as subway-style ticket
barriers are used. If you are travelling with luggage, board the train early at your departure station as luggage racks fill up very quickly, especially on inter-city services. A useful left-luggage facility can be accessed from the plaza outside. Ticket machines on the concourse and in the travel centre allow you to collect any tickets purchased on the internet (you need the payment card plus the confirmation number, but can use any train company's machine as they are all part of the same system). See Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
Plaza outside Aberdeen Railway Station, early morning
Train companies serving Aberdeen are:
East Coast is a state-owned company which provides inter-city trains 3x a day to/from London (King's Cross) via major east-coast cities such as Edinburgh (via the iconic Forth Bridge), Newcastle, York and others. InterCity 125 trains are used which travel at 125mph (200km/h) south of Edinburgh, reaching London in just over 7 hours.
CrossCountry,  provides a few inter-city services a day via eastern Scotland to the English north-west, midlands, west and south-west of England, including Carlisle, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. Some services stretch to Penzance in Cornwall in South-West England - the UK's longest train journey. Voyager trains are used which travel at up to 125mph (200km/h).
ScotRail is currently run by global transportation company FirstGroup which was founded and has its HQ in Aberdeen (by the bus depot on King Street). ScotRail trains run frequently between Aberdeen and all Scottish cities as well as many intermediate destinations, including Glasgow, Edinburgh (via the Forth Bridge), Dundee and Inverness. Services also reach north-west into Aberdeenshire and Moray and these are popular with commuters. Inter-city services typically use Turbostar trains travelling at up to 100mph (160km/h), reaching Edinburgh in about 2-and-a-half hours and Glasgow and Inverness in three hours. Local services often use Express Sprinter trains which can reach 90mph.
ScotRail also operates the Caledonian Sleeper overnight train to/from London (Euston), which leaves every night except Saturdays at around 20.30. Twin-berth cabins are provided (with bunk beds), which you often have to share with a same-sex stranger if travelling alone. The cabins are cramped but a great deal of luggage can be carried (although not in your cabin). A lounge car with bar also sells snacks. Alternatively, you can reserve a seat. Having only a seat is very much less comfortable on the 12-hour journey but cheaper than a bed, although "bargain berths" can be available through the website when booking in advance.
There is a Travel Centre with ticket office and information (e.g. timetables), although it is not open in the late evening. There are also
automatic ticket machines in the concourse. Tickets purchased in advance (e.g. on the internet) can be collected from any of these machines. The first-class lounge is inside the Travel Centre. Luggage trolleys are provided without charge and a left-luggage facility is available from the front plaza. A waiting room is on the main concourse, as is a WH Smith store selling books, magazines and snacks. There is also a café. There are toilet facilities (30p charge applies), in addition to those in Union Square (free to all).
Many other shopping and eating facilities are located in the Union Square complex which can be accessed directly through the concourse and is integrated with the station. These include the drugstore Boots, Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Marks & Spencer Simply Food and many other shops and restaurants. Facilities at Union Square open late into the evening and also include ATM machines, through-access to the city's bus station, and a hotel.
Medium-term parking is available in the adjoining College Street Car Park (access only from College Street) and a small number of free spaces inside the station which offer parking for 20 minutes only. Taxis are available from a stand within the station concourse, and are popular with travellers carrying luggage. Regional and national bus services (including buses to Aberdeen Airport) depart from Aberdeen Bus Station, which is located on the other side of the adjoining Union Square complex. It is possible to walk directly from the concourse, through Union Square and to the bus station without entering the open air. This option is useful in winter and periods of bad weather.
Sign at Aberdeen Bus Station, Union Square, seen from Guild Street
Aberdeen Bus Station is at Union Square, on Guild Street. Route 727 buses to/from the airport operate from here. Regional buses operated by Stagecoach Bluebird also arrive and depart for towns and villages all over Aberdeenshire, including stops in Royal Deeside. Inter-city services operated by Scottish CityLink and Megabus (at low fares) connect to major destinations but not as many as by train and are significantly slower and less comfortable. However, they are usually cheaper than train travel. If travelling to/from Glasgow (3.5 hours away), the CityLink Gold luxury service provides a very comfortable journey seven times each day.
However, there is no direct bus/coach service to/from Edinburgh and a change must be made at Dundee bus station or Perth park-and-ride (these locations can be unpleasant at night). Day and overnight coach services (one of each per day) are also available to/from London (operated by National Express) and calling at intermediate destinations. These take 12 hours from London Victoria Coach Station and are by far the least comfortable way to arrive from the south of the UK, but fares are economical. Bus station users can make use of all facilities at Union Square and the railway station, such as the left-luggage facility (see above).
Aberdeen Harbour seen from a ship around 2008, showing Regent Quay (foreground) and Trinity Quay (left). Harbour Clock also shown (i.e. clock tower of the Harbour Board offices)
Aberdeen Harbour is located in the city centre, and can be plainly seen from many streets including Market Street, Guild Street and the Shiprow. Car ferries to and from the Northern Isles are operated by NorthLink and these two vessels (the Hjaltland and Hrossey) arrive from Lerwick, Shetland and Kirkwall, Orkney at the ferry terminal at Aberdeen Harbour. They sail overnight from the Northern Isles and from Aberdeen, departing at 5pm or 7pm and arriving late at night (if sailing from Aberdeen to Kirkwall) or the following morning (if sailing to Lerwick or Aberdeen). Kirkwall is served only three or four nights a week while Lerwick and Aberdeen are served daily. The terminal is just off Market Street, opposite the car entrance to Union Square. Foot passengers are also conveyed.
The Bridge of Dee carries the A90 road into the city from the south across the River Dee. It was built in 1527, rebuilt 1718, and widened in 1841
There are several main roads into the city. Aberdeen is indicated on direction signs on all these roads, and when you reach the boundary of the city, direction signs also direct you to the city centre. The speed limit on the following roads is either 60mph (100km/h) if there is a single-carriageway or country road, or 70mph (110km/h) if a dual-carriageway. However, there are lower limits in places along certain parts of the route. Other smaller routes also lead into the city but are usually slower, less direct, or require driving through suburban streets to reach the city-centre. If you have a satellite navigation system, all routes will be included as part of the UK.
If you do not want to take your own car, it is easily possible to rent a car in Aberdeen from well known companies such as Avis, Hertz and Enterprise, as well as local companies such as Logan Car Hire . These are based at the airport and throughout the city, for example Enterprise has a branch at Skene Square, a short walk from the city centre.
A90 south of Aberdeen, looking toward the city just ahead
If driving from the south (e.g. Edinburgh, Fife, Dundee) or north (e.g. Peterhead, northern Aberdeenshire), Aberdeen lies halfway along the A90 dual-carriageway road between Edinburgh, Dundee and Peterhead. Allow approximately three hours from Edinburgh (130 miles/210km) and perhaps 3 and a half hours from Glasgow (150 miles/240km), assuming no traffic.
If coming from the north-west (e.g. Inverness, Moray, etc.) the A96 leads in via the airport at Dyce. Allow approximately three or four hours from Inverness. Much of the route is single-carriageway and there can be heavy traffic coming into the city at the Haudagain Roundabout at rush hour, as this is a key commuter route.
If coming from the south-west (e.g. Royal Deeside, the Cairngorm mountains, etc.), the A93 leads in. Bear in mind that in winter parts of this route are often closed due to snow. If coming from the west (e.g. western parts of Aberdeenshire such as Alford, Huntly and other towns and villages, the A944 provides the best route.
Main roads are high-quality and well-maintained by the Scottish Government. In contrast, Aberdeen's city streets (which are maintained by the city council) have many potholes, dropped manhole covers and cracked/damaged surfaces following the harsh winter of 2010/11 which not been repaired yet due to budget constraints. Speed limits lower than 60mph are often in force along main roads because Aberdeenshire has some of the most dangerous roads in Scotland. To improve safety at accident blackspots, speed limits are enforced by many automated speed cameras as well as police patrol cars. The Dundee to Aberdeen section of the A90 has a particularly large number of these.
Although all city streets are lit at night, most main roads leading into the city (including the A90 and A96) are not lit except at major intersections. Be prepared to use main beam (i.e. high beam) headlights. Added to this, roads in Aberdeenshire are among the most dangerous in the UK, due to frequent bends and chicanes, narrow carriageways, and excessive speed by many drivers. While this makes many of them great fun to drive if your car handles well, you should drive cautiously if you are not familiar with a rural road and especially if your car's steering wheel is on the left. Local drivers (usually in powerful German cars bought with oil money) often drive aggressively or overtake thoughtlessly, and this is partly responsible for the high accident rate. Do not be intimidated or goaded into going too fast and remain at a speed you are comfortable with as otherwise your trip may end with being airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
In winter, roads are often affected by snow and fog (with much heavier snow the further inland). Main roads (e.g. A90) are gritted but local roads are not, leading to very slippery conditions and increased risk of accidents. This is compounded by the fact that few Scottish cars are fitted with snow tyres or snow chains in winter (although these are available in Aberdeen). On mountain routes (e.g. A93), roads are often closed due to snow by "snow gates" which are shut by police and close off the road. However, all except coastal roads can be closed by heavy snow when weather is poor. Avoid car travel in poor winter weather unless you are experienced with driving in these conditions.
Walking is an excellent way to get around Aberdeen, particularly around central areas, as the city centre is relatively compact. Walking is also by far the best way to appreciate the grand architecture of the city. However, the city is not that small (e.g. Union Street is one mile long) so for journeys outside of the city centre, wheeled transport may be useful.
Aberdeen has a mediaeval layout like many cities in the UK, so for the first-time visitor, a map is helpful. There are quite a few of these located on signs around the city centre, mainly in points of interest (e.g. the Castlegate). However, it is very useful to have a map of the city to carry with you. You can buy maps from the Tourist Information Centre on the corner of Union Street and Shiprow, city bookstores, or you can order one online such as at amazon.co.uk. If you won't be leaving the city centre, you can also print one out from the internet before you arrive. Alternatively, a smartphone's map feature can be very useful as the city is covered in detail by services such as Google Maps. Aberdeen walking directions  can be planned online with the walkit.com  walking route planner.
Most city bus routes are operated by First Aberdeen , a division of global transport company FirstGroup who have their international HQ next to the bus station on King Street. FirstGroup is an Aberdeen company; it developed out of the Aberdeen city bus corporation after it was privatised in the 1980s, and grew massively following numerous mergers and takeovers (they run many UK bus and train services, including ScotRail, and own the Greyhound bus network in the United States). Some buses are also run by Stagecoach Bluebird , who operate routes No.5, 59, and 9U, as well as the 727 airport bus. However, apart from these routes, most Stagecoach Bluebird buses are running between the bus station at Union Square and towns and villages in Aberdeenshire. While these regional buses do pick up and stop at city bus stops, they are a less useful option for within-city transport.
Today there are around 22 city bus routes run by First Aberdeen and 3 by Stagecoach Bluebird and most operate on a hub-and-spoke system, i.e. a route starts in a suburb or on the outskirts, comes in through the city centre, and then goes out to another suburb. Services begin around 5AM and end close to midnight with a few night services at weekends. The First network uses a colour-coded system with main routes having a colour (e.g. 3 is purple, 20 is indigo, 1&2 are red) while less important routes have no colour. The map is in the style of the London Underground which helps to find your way around. Information on routes is available on First Aberdeen's website , but for face-to-face info, bus maps, timetables and bus passes, call into the First Travel Centre on Union Street, between Market Street and the Shiprow. It is open 9-5 every day except Sunday and public holidays. You can get info about all Stagecoach Bluebird routes at the Bus Station at Union Square.
To use the bus you pay the driver as you get on. Tell him or her your destination and he/she will tell you the fare or sell you a day ticket. Press one of the "stop" buttons around the bus when you are nearing your destination and the bus will stop at the next bus stop. First Aberdeen buses do not carry change so you need to use the exact money. As of May 2012, an adult single fare is usually £2.00 but is £2.40 if the journey is longer, while all child tickets are £1.10. There is no return ticket available, but an adult day ticket (giving travel on all First buses) is £4.80 (peak) and £4.20 (off-peak i.e. any time after 9.30am) and £3.20 anytime with a university-issued student ID card. All buses are modern and have low-floor access. First Aberdeen has a virtual monopoly and has a reputation for mediocre service and high fares that are raised frequently with little notice or justification. Citizens frequently complain about the service but most services are reasonable although after 7pm all run only every 30 minutes. Stagecoach Bluebird buses are often slightly cheaper and drivers give change.
Taxis are widely available from a number of ranks dotted around the city centre. The main ranks are located off at Back Wynd (just off central Union Street), Hadden Street (just off Market Street) and inside the railway station. There is another located at Chapel Street (at the western end of Union Street). Most Aberdeen taxis are saloon cars or people-carriers rather than London-style black cabs and can be any colour. Taxis and their drivers must be registered with the City Council and carry an official taxi registration plate (usually on the back). You can also call for a taxi to pick you up from any address; while there are various companies, one useful taxi company is ComCab at 01224 35 35 35.
Taxis are the most popular way to get home from a night out, so at night they can be harder to come by. After dark, they can be hired only at designated posts on Union Street. On busy weekend nights, be prepared to queue for long periods among drunken revellers, when these ranks are often patrolled by taxi marshalls. At night it can can be difficult to hail a taxi on the street as many do not give any indication if they're available for hire and many will not pick up groups of males. Aberdeen taxi fares are high, but they always go by the meter price and are regulated by Aberdeen City Council.
Due to the many narrow roads and inadequate lane provisions, this can be rather treacherous at times. Cycle lanes are appearing (but are often shared with buses) as are cycle "boxes" at traffic lights so the situation is getting better for those who cycle. It's getting easier to park a cycle too, the city council have now provided loops for chaining bikes within the city centre streets (e.g. at Shiprow and Castle Street) and within the multi-storey car parks.
It is possible to cycle from Aberdeen city centre to the genteel suburb of Peterculter along the route of the Old Deeside Railway. The "line" begins just outside Duthie Park and passes through Garthdee, Cults, Bieldside and Milltimber before ending at Station Road. It is mostly paved with a few breaks where you have to cross a road. The route is very scenic and relaxing, and is also used by people walking dogs, riding horses, other cyclists, and other people just enjoying a stroll, so being courteous is a must. There are signs placed along the line with bits of history about the line and how it came to be.
Girdleness Lighthouse stands close to the entry to Aberdeen Harbour and protects shipping from being wrecked on the rocky shore, since the wreck of a whaling vessel in 1813
Prior to the 1960s, Aberdeen had a suburban rail service but like many less-profitable routes in the UK, this was closed during the "Beeching Axe" of the 1960s. The only stations in the city now are the main railway station on Guild Street in the city centre, and a single suburban station at Dyce. As a result, rail transport is unlikely to be an option for within-city transport other than to Dyce, but it can be useful for travel to outlying towns. Local services run from the station at Guild Street to:
Dyce - On the north west of the city along the Inverness line. This may be an option for travelling to the airport, but less convenient than the 727 bus for most travellers. It may be a preferable way to travel to Dyce in rush hour as the journey time is 10 minutes as opposed to the hour+ it takes on the bus due to traffic congestion. There are plenty of trains, though the frequency is quite scattered. Dyce station is located just off the main street.
Inverurie - The next stop up the line from Dyce, out of the city in Aberdeenshire. The station is located a short walk from the pleasant town centre. Many commuters live in Inverurie.
Portlethen - The first stop south on the line. There are extremely few services stopping here outwith rush hour. The station is on the east of the town on the road to the old village. A walk from here to the main shopping area will take you around 10-15 minutes, there are buses that run every 20 minutes just outside the station if you need to use them.
Stonehaven - The next stop south from Portlethen. Trains are fairly frequent (at least once an hour). Buses to Stonehaven centre depart from the hotel across from the station, or you can walk (10-20 minutes depending on speed). Stonehaven is a pleasant harbour town which attracts tourists, including to see the spectacular ruins of Dunottar Castle. Between here and Aberdeen, look out the sea-side of the window for spectacular coastal views.
For more information on these and other attractions the Tourist Information Centre at the corner of Union Street and Shiprow is a useful point of contact (open Monday to Saturday 9am to 6.30pm, more restricted hours on Sundays, tel. 01224 288828). Many city museums and galleries are closed on Mondays.
Aberdeen Art Gallery Schoolhill. Tel: 01224 523700,  Open Tuesday-Saturday 10.00AM-5.00PM, Sunday 2.00PM-5.00PM. The Aberdeen Art Gallery is set in a Victorian building with an exquisite marble and granite main hall. On the ground floor are housed modern works including pieces by Tracy Emin and Gilbert & George, with many others. Upstairs hang more traditional paintings and sculpture. These include Impressionist pieces as well as works by the Scottish Colourists. There are frequent temporary exhibitions (see website) and also display of antique silverware and decorative pieces. Columns in the main hall display the many different colours of local granite used to build the city. There is a good gift shop too. For those who like art, an afternoon could easily be spent here, but at least a quick browse is well worth it for anyone. The gallery is closed on Mondays. Admission free.
Aberdeen Maritime Museum Shiprow. Tel: 01224 337700, . Open Tuesday-Saturday 10.00AM-5.00PM, Sunday 12.00PM-3.00PM. This museum, rated five-star by the Scottish Tourist Board, tells the story of Aberdeen's relationship with the sea, from fishing to trade to North Sea oil. It offers an extraordinary insight into the mechanics and technology of ships and oil rigs, Aberdeen's rich maritime history and the lives of some of the people who have worked offshore in the North Sea for the past 500 years. The newest part of the complex is a blue, glass-fronted building on the cobbled Shiprow. Inside is a spiral walkway, rising upwards around an eye-catching model of an oil rig. Connected to this structure are the much older buildings which take visitors through a series of castle-style corridors and staircases to reach the numerous room sets, historical artefacts and scale models. If your time in Aberdeen is limited, go and see this. There is so much to see, and even the buildings themselves are worth a look. There is also a restaurant - slightly expensive, but the food is pretty good. There are excellent views of the harbour from the top floor. The museum is closed on Mondays. Admission free.
Granite Architecture. Aberdeen's granite buildings form one of the most celebrated cityscapes in Britain, with beautiful and architecturally significant buildings literally everywhere, especially in the city centre. However, some (particularly on Union Street) are now in need of restoration, much as the New Town of Edinburgh was before its restoration in the late 20th century. The Wikipedia article on Architecture in Aberdeen gives a good introduction  but here are a few to get you started as you walk around the city centre. The newly-restored Marischal College on Broad Street, displays what poet John Betjeman called "tower on tower, forests of pinnacles, a group of palatial buildings rivalled only by the Houses of Parliament at Westminster". Then try the Town House (i.e. city hall) on Union Street, with its confident Victorian tower and street frontage. The Salvation Army Citadel on the Castlegate is an excellent example of the Scottish Baronial style, with its fairy-tale turrets, while a walk up (and down) Union Street with its mile of impressive granite buildings is a must. As you walk along Union Street, look up; the architecture is often not visible from street-level. Unlike other grand streets in the UK (such as Grey Street in Newcastle or the Royal Crescent in Bath), but like Princes Street in Edinburgh, each building on Union Street is different to the next in stature and architectural style. You will see a wide range of architectural styles, from highly ornamented to robust and Scottish-looking. Then, on Rosemount Viaduct, the cluster of His Majesty's Theatre, St. Mark's Church and the Central Library form a widely-praised trio. City bookstores and the Central Library carry books about Aberdeen's architecture, such as The Granite Mile by Diane Morgan (2008) on the architecture of Union Street.
Union Terrace Gardens is a small city-centre park on one side of Union Terrace, just off Union Street. A small river, the Denburn, used to flow past here but is now covered by the railway line. Union Terrace Gardens is a rare haven of tranquility, greenery and natural beauty in the city-centre. In summer look out for the floral coat of arms, and in warm weather citizens sunbathe and picnic on the lawns. All year round, from the gardens you can appreciate some of the grand architecture on Union Terrace and Rosemount Viaduct. In winter, the park is beautiful in the snow. In 2011-12 the park was threatened with demolition to build a heavily-engineered "City Garden" as a new civic heart for the city, sponsored by local oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood who offered £50 million of his own money to part-finance the scheme. The project was extremely controversial but citizens voted narrowly in favour of the redevelopment in a referendum. However, following the 2012 elections to the city council the new city administration scrapped the controversial project. Entrance free.
Aberdeen Beach. Aberdeen's long sandy beach once made it something of a holiday resort, advertised by railway travel posters (that you may see at the Tourist Information Centre on Union Street). The beach stretches from picturesque Footdee (see below) at one end to the mouth of the River Don over two miles north. While it's rarely hot enough for sunbathing and the North Sea is cold all year round, it's a fantastic place for a jog or a bracing walk. Surfers and windsurfers are also frequently to be found there. On sunny days, the beach is a popular place to spend time and one of the best spots in the city for a romantic walk. Amenities at the southern end include an amusement park, ice arena, leisure centre and leisure park with restaurants and cinema.
Footdee (usually pronounced "Fitty") A former fishing village absorbed by the city, in the streets around Pocra Quay. It is located at what was once the foot of the River Dee (hence the name) before the course of the river was artificially diverted to improve the harbour. This area is a laid-back cluster of traditional, small, quaint houses and quirky outhouses, and the area was specially constructed in the 19th century to house a fishing community. Footdee is located at the harbour mouth, where dolphins can often be seen.
Old Aberdeen The quaintest part of the city and location of the University of Aberdeen's King's College Campus, along the High Street and the streets leading off it, with modern university buildings further from it. The Chapel and Crown Tower at Kings College date from the 16th century (the tower is a symbol of the city as well as the university), while many of the other houses and buildings on the High Street and nearby are centuries old. The university's Kings Museum (M-F 9-5, free) a little way up the High Street puts on rotating displays from the university's collections. The new University Library (looks like a glass cube with zebra stripes) has a gallery space open every day with rotating exhibitions (free; check website for opening times), and you can explore the library (it's open to the public) which has outstanding views of the whole city and sea from the upper floors. The Old Town House at the top of the High Street (looks like it's in the middle of the roadway) has a visitor centre with leaflets on the area's heritage and rotating exhibitions. You can also explore the scenic and serene Cruickshank Botanic Garden which belongs to the university and is used for teaching and research, as well as being open to the public. The nearby St. Machar's Cathedral on the Chanonry (a continuation of the High Street) with its two spires, was completed in 1530 and is steeped in history and worth a visit (Aberdeen has three cathedrals, all named after saints). As it is part of the protestant Church of Scotland, it does not actually function as a cathedral but is always called this. To get to Old Aberdeen, bus route No.20 from Broad Street takes you right there - get off at the High Street. Alternatively take No.1 or No.2 from Union Street and get off on King Street at the university campus (by the playing fields).
Winter Gardens at Duthie Park  (01224 585310). The David Welch Winter Gardens are one of the most popular gardens in Scotland and one of the largest indoor gardens in Europe. Consisting of a variety of glasshouses, they house a wide range of tropical and exotic plants, many of them rare. The frog that rises out of the pond is also amusing, and the Japanese Garden (one of the few exterior spaces) is tranquil. The entrances to Duthie Park are at the end of Polmuir Road in Ferryhill (AB11 7TH) or at Riverside Drive just after the railway bridge (this entrance also has a free car park), and you can walk through the park to the Winter Gardens. Open every day 9.30am to 4.30pm (Nov-Mar), 5.30pm (April, Sep-Oct) or 7.30pm (May-Aug). Admission free.
Johnston Gardens Viewfield Road. Open everyday 8am until 1 hour before dusk. This one-hectare park in a middle-class suburb is one of the most spectacular in Scotland. Packed with dramatic floral displays, it also has a stream, waterfalls, ponds and rockeries. Many have suggested that Aberdeen won the Britain in Bloom award so many times on the basis of this park alone. The pond has ducks, there is a children's play area, and also toilets are provided. To get there, take bus route No.16 from Union Street, or a taxi. Entrance free.
The Gordon Highlanders Museum St. Lukes Viewfield Road. Tel: 01224 311200, . Open first Tuesday in April to last Sunday in October, Tuesday-Saturday 10.30AM-4.30PM, Su 1.30PM-4.30PM (last admission 4PM). November-March open by appointment only. Closed Mondays. At the Gordon Highlanders Museum you can re-live the compelling and dramatic story of one of the British Army's most famous regiments, through the lives of its outstanding personalities and of the kilted soldiers of the North East of Scotland who filled its ranks. Exhibits include a real Nazi flag from Hitler's staff car, and there is a small cinema where you can watch a film on the history of the regiment. For the younger visitors there are a number of uniforms to try on, and there is also a coffee shop. For those interested in military history this small gem is a must. To get there, take route No.16 from Union Street or taxi. Admission: Adults: £2.50, Children: £1.00, Seniors: £1.50, Closed season: £3.00.
Provost Skene's House. Guestrow (walk under passageway at St. Nicholas House on Broad Street and it's in the little plaza there). Tel. 01224 641086. Open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm. Scottish towns and cities have a "provost" instead of a mayor and this house used to belong to Provost George Skene. The large, picturesque house dates from 1545 (it's the oldest house left in the city) and houses various rooms furnished to show how people in Aberdeen lived in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. There is an excellent cafe in the cellar. The house is closed on Sundays. Admission free.
The Tolbooth Museum. Castle Street (i.e. the eastern part of Union Street, before it enters the Castlegate square.). Tel. 01224 621167. Open seasonally July to September, Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday 12.30pm-3.30pm. In Scottish towns and cities, a "tolbooth" was the main municipal building or Town Hall, providing council meeting space as well as a courthouse and jail. Aberdeen's Tolbooth Museum is situated in a 17th-century tolbooth which had housed jail cells in centuries past, and played a key role in the city's history, including the Jacobite rebellions. The museum has fascinating displays on crime and punishment, as well as the history of the city. The entrance is at the Town House (the modern equivalent of the Tolbooth!), just along from the Sheriff Court entrance and next to the bus stop. The museum is closed on Mondays. Admission free.
The Marischal Museum Broad Street (entrance through arch). Tel: 01224 274301,  Open Monday-Friday 10.00AM-5.00PM, Sunday 2.00PM-5.00PM. ***The museum is currently closed until further notice as the rear part of Marischal College is still being refurbished***. Covering 8000 years of local and world history, this generally undiscovered museum houses the results of numerous expeditions by local people over the past two centuries. The collection, spread over several floors in the stunning Marischal College building, includes pieces from such diverse locations as the Balkans and Tibet. As well as the varied international exhibits, the museum also presents an insightful look at the history of the north-east of Scotland under the banner of The Encyclopaedia of the North-East. Very worthwhile, and considering the range of excellent displays the free admission seems all the better. Admission free.
What's On in Aberdeen (Events listing for Aberdeen), . Guide to what's happening in Aberdeen: who's playing where, events, restaurants, special offers, where to stay.edit
See an arthouse film at the Belmont Picturehouse cinema, 49 Belmont Street, city centre (Just off Union Street, about half-way along the street), ☎ 0871 902 5721, . Arthouse, foreign and selected mainstream films are shown here every day, in a historic building on Belmont Street. Films in languages other than English are subtitled. An adult ticket costs £8.50 (£7.00 for matinees) and child tickets cost £4.50. Tickets can be booked online or in person. edit
Satrosphere Science Centre (Aberdeen Science Centre), The Tramsheds, 179 Constitution Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5TU, ☎ 01224 640340, . Every day 10am-5pm. The Satrosphere Science Centre was Scotland’s first science and discovery centre, first opened to the public in 1988. The centre has over 50 hands-on interactive exhibits and live science shows, which inspire your inner scientist as well as entertain the whole family. It is a great place for children, and is located in what used to be the main depot for the city's tram system. Adults £5.75, children £4.50, family of four (including 1 or 2 adults) £17.00. edit
Take a cooking class at the Nick Nairn Cook School, 15 Back Wynd, city centre (Back Wynd is just off Union Street, next to the graveyard), ☎ 01877 389 900, . Celebrity chef Nick Nairn has recently opened a branch of his cook school in Aberdeen. If you like food or cooking, you'll love the one-off classes here, which range from 2 hours to a full day. Classes are available for all levels, from beginner to gourmet chef.£40 to £160 depending on class length. edit
Go on a cruise around Aberdeen Harbour (Aberdeen Harbour Cruises), Eurolink Pontoon (next to Fish Market), Aberdeen Harbour (Walk in the Harbour entrance on Market Street, directly opposite the car park entrance to Union Square - there's no parking except at the Union Square car park), . Aberdeen Harbour is one of the busiest ports in Britain, with lots of ships of many kinds arriving and departing each day. This 45-minute boat tour is narrated and tells you about the major sights of the harbour and some of what happens there. It's also a great chance to see Aberdeen from a different angle - for centuries travellers arrived at the city mostly by sea and this was their first view of its skyline (especially the Clock Tower at the Harbour offices). In summer 2012, tours operated June to September and departed at 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm Wed-Sun (7 days a week in July and August). Payment is by cash only - use the cash machines at the nearby Union Square shopping centre if you need to. Adults £8, children £4, family £20 (2 adults + 2 children). edit
Aberdeen International Youth Festival (01224 213 800) takes place in early August each year. It is one of the world's biggest celebrations of youth arts, including theatre, dance, and music (including classical, jazz, opera and world music). Performances take place at venues around the city.
Aberdeen Jazz Festival takes place in March each year. It showcases live jazz performances from around the world at a number of city venues.
British Science Festival 2012 is being hosted by the University of Aberdeen from 4th to 9th September 2012. Demonstrations, talks, exhibitions, lectures and fun events will take place for everyone from children and families to adult members of the public. Celebrity guests will include physicist Brian Cox and psychologist Richard Wiseman. Venues will be across the city and on campus at the University of Aberdeen.
Word - The University of Aberdeen Writers Festival takes place each year in May and is one of the highlights of the cultural calendar in Scotland. Readings, discussions, performances, exhibitions and even films are shown across the three-day festival which attracts top authors from around the UK and the world.
Watch football (soccer) at Pittodrie Stadium (Aberdeen Football Club), Pittodrie Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5QH (Head north up King Street, and turn right at the graveyard), ☎ 01224 650 400, . If speculating is your thing, why not go and watch Aberdeen's home grown, Scottish Premier League football (soccer) team Aberdeen Football Club (or "The Dons") at work at their home ground of Pittodrie. Home matches take place on Saturday afternoons during the football season which runs July - May - check website for details.edit
Water Sports, Aberdeen Beach. Aberdeen's long beach is ideal for water sports such as surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. The Aberdeen Waterports store at 35 Waterloo Quay, AB11 5BS (Tel: 01224 581 313) stocks equipment for diving and also offers training in Scuba diving edit
Dry-slope skiing and snowboarding (Aberdeen Snowsports Centre), Garthdee Road, AB10 7BA, ☎ 01224 810215, . M-F 10am-8pm, S-S 10am-4pm. This dry slope includes a large Alpine run and Dendex run, as well as a nursery slope. Individual and group tuition in skiing and snowboarding is available, and all equipment can be hired. If you meet a certain minimum standard (i.e. can control your speed, link turns and use uplifts), there are open public sessions every day; check website for timetable. edit
Ice skating (Linx Ice Arena), Beach Promenade AB24 5NR (On the seafront next to the Beach Leisure Centre), ☎ 01224 655406, . Check website for public opening times as also used for training by professional skaters. The Linx Ice Arena is one of Scotland's most important ice rinks, opened in 1992. It is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Facilities include a national-sized ice pad measuring 56m x 26m, with a cafeteria open on Thursday and Friday evenings and weekends.Including skate hire: Adults £7.45, children £5.30 (discount for bringing own skates). edit
For plays, shows and live music, there are four main city-owned venues in Aberdeen, each providing a distinct and atmospheric setting for performances. You can book tickets and get a guide to what's on at these city-run venues from Aberdeen Performing Arts. They run the Aberdeen Box Office which sells tickets for all these venues plus some others; it is located on Union Street next to the Music Hall .
His Majesty's Theatre on Rosemount Viaduct plays host to a wide range of plays and musicals, including major touring productions as well as local commissions. There is also an excellent restaurant in a modern extension to the building. If you are in the city over the Christmas period with children, a trip to a showing of the annual pantomime is a must!
The Music Hall on Union Street opened as the Assembly Rooms in 1822. Today it provides an elegant setting for classical music, popular music, stand-up comedy and other performances.
Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) on the A90 (in Bridge of Don) is the venue for most of Aberdeen's pop and rock concerts. In frequent years wrestling has been a fixture as well. The venue has recently been dramatically expanded, and most functions are now held in the brand new building. If you are stuck for finding the AECC, look for the tall viewing tower, a fixture of the new structure. It is easily visible from most points close to the River Don.
The Lemon Tree was once regarded as a rather "fringe" venue, and indeed it still is the launching platform for many alternative acts, but the sheer variety of talent on display (blues, rock, comedy and dance, to name but a few genres) rivals that of the three venues above. The interesting location creates a great atmosphere, and is one of the main venues for the annual International Jazz Festival (see above).
Nick Nairn Cook School, 15 Back Wynd, . Scottish celebrity chef Nick Nairn (known to many from his TV shows) has recently opened a cookery school in the city. It offers short courses (from a couple of hours to a whole day) in cooking. It's a great way to spend some time for foodies or cookery lovers. Prices range from about £40 to £160. edit
University of Aberdeen, Kings College, Aberdeen, AB24 3FX, ☎ 01224 272000, . One of the oldest universities in the UK (founded 1495), it is renowned for its teaching and research in a full range of disciplines including the liberal arts, sciences, social sciences and the professions. Until the University of the Highlands and Islands was created in 2011 with its centre at Inverness, Aberdeen was the most northerly university in the UK (the Robert Gordon University, also in the city, is a little way south of the University of Aberdeen). It is a research-focused university of about 14,000 students, most at its main Kings College campus in Old Aberdeen, but some at its Medical School at Foresterhill. The Medical School is prestigious and the centre of a great deal of research, and is where (for example) the MRI scanner was developed. The university's iconic buildings, Marischal College (in the city centre but no longer used for teaching) and the tower of Kings College, are also iconic images of the city of Aberdeen. A huge new library was opened in 2011 at the Kings College campus. It is of unusual architecture for Aberdeen, taking the form of a seven-story zebra-striped tower. It is open to the public and outstanding views are available from the upper floors. The university's Language Centre and extension service, the Centre for Lifelong Learning, both provide popular adult education courses. edit
The Robert Gordon University (RGU), Schoolhill, AB10 1FR and Garthdee Road, Garthdee, AB10 7QG, ☎ 01224 262000, . Usually referred to as "RGU", it became a university in 1992 but developed out of an educational institution dating from 1750 founded by the Aberdeen merchant and philanthropist Robert Gordon. The word "The" is officially part of the title. RGU has two campuses, one in the city centre at Schoolhill and a larger suburban campus at Garthdee, by the banks of the River Dee. It has recently been rising rapidly in university rankings and was named Best Modern University in the UK for 2012 by the Sunday Times, in addition to other recent awards. It is a teaching-focused university of about 15,500 students but significant research is also conducted (but not as much as the University of Aberdeen). Degrees are offered from undergraduate to PhD level in a wide range of disciplines, primarily (but not limited to) vocational and professional disciplines and those most applicable to business. It has become known for its high level of graduate employment. The university's art school, Gray's School of Art, offers short courses in art, sculpture, photography and fashion to the general public with no need for prior training. edit
Aberdeen College, . The largest further education college in Scotland, it has campuses within the city and without. Its largest facility is on the Gallowgate on the outskirts of the city centre. edit
Aberdeen is the shopping capital of the north of Scotland, drawing shoppers from the entire region. As there are no other nearby cities and oil money means many Aberdonians have money to spend, there are a large number and quality of stores in the city for its size. For many decades, the main shopping street was Union Street, which rivalled the most prestigious streets in Britain. Today, Union Street is still considered the spiritual heart of shopping in Aberdeen and contains many shops, but primarily chain stores found in high streets all over the UK. A walk up and down Union Street is essential for any first visit to Aberdeen. The dramatic architecture, although now mostly in need of restoration, is not visible in storefronts at street level - look up to see the impressive carved granite and grand designs of each building. Sidewalks on the street get very busy during the day and especially on weekends.
In recent years more upmarket stores have been gravitating from Union Street and other streets to the shopping malls in the city centre, and independent stores to the streets around Union Street. At the same time, some shops on Union Street have been moving downmarket. As a result, shopping in Aberdeen is spread out around Union Street, these malls, and surrounding streets. The shopping malls are extremely popular with Aberdonians. They include the Bon Accord Centre (entrances on Upperkirkgate and George Street), the St. Nicholas Centre (entrances on Upperkirkgate and St. Nicholas Square), the Trinity Centre (entrances on Union Street and Guild Street), The Academy (entrance on Schoolhill, specialises in boutique shops), and the newest and largest, Union Square on Guild Street. Today, nearly all the stores found on British high streets can be found in Aberdeen at these malls, on Union Street or a surrounding street. Most shops open at 9am and close at 5pm or 6pm. Late-night shopping (till 8pm) is on Thursdays in Aberdeen, except Union Square where shops are open till 8pm every weeknight.
Some of the many high-street stores that may be useful when travelling include the following, but there are many more:
John Lewis, Bon Accord Centre/George Street, department store
Debenhams, Trinity Centre, department store
Marks and Spencer, St. Nicholas Square (off Union Street, clothing and food) & Union Square (homewares and food)
BHS, Union Street, department store
Next, St. Nicholas Centre (largest), Union Square (smaller) & Berryden Retail Park, fashion and homewares
Boots, Union Street, Union Square and Bon Accord Centre, large drugstore
Currys-PC World, St. Nicholas Centre, electricals and technology store that sells computers and accessories, small electronic devices (e.g. tablets, radios, hi-fi's and music accessories etc.) and mobile phones
Apple Store, Union Square, sells Apple electronics and computers and accessories
Primark, Union Street, fashion and limited homewares
Topshop and Topman, Union Street (smaller) and Bon Accord Centre (larger), fashion
River Island, Bon Accord Centre, fashion
New Look, Bon Accord Centre (larger) and Union Square (smaller), fashion
Hollister, Union Square, beach-inspired fashion
GAP, St. Nicholas Square, fashion
H&M, St. Nicholas Centre & Union Square, fashion
Zara, Union Square, fashion
Jack Wills, Schoolhill (opposite Aberdeen Art Gallery), fashion
Waterstones, two branches on Union Street, books
HMV, Trinity Centre/Union Street, music, movies and games
One Up, Belmont Street, brilliant independent music store
Forbidden Planet, Schoolhill, Science Fiction store
When shopping, don't be limited to the malls and chain stores! Aberdeen has a large collection of small, tucked-away shops which can provide everything from Bohemian dressware to Indian furniture. If you are adventurous you may uncover a hidden wonder. Good streets to find independent stores in the city centre are Rosemount Viaduct, Holburn Street, Rose Street, Chapel Street, Belmont Street, Upperkirkgate and The Green, along with Rosemount Place in the Rosemount area (to the north of the city centre).
The Aberdeen Country Fair is a farmers' market and craft market on the last Saturday of every month, and takes place on Belmont Street. It is very popular and one of the largest in Scotland and stalls sell high-quality local produce, foods and crafts.
Aside from this there are few outdoor markets in Aberdeen aside from irregular international and Christmas markets which are organised every so often, typically on Union Terrace. There is also a less prestigious market on the Castlegate every Friday morning, selling general items.
You may walk past the Aberdeen Market building on Market Street. Aberdeen once had a grand and prestigious indoor market similar to (if not as big as) those in other cities such as the Grainger Market in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the St. Nicholas Markets in Bristol but it was demolished in the 1980s and replaced by this. The current modern building provides an indoor market which offers permanent space to small stallholders providing retail, food or other services. Most of the units inside are small shop-like enclosures, and the low rents provide a chance for small start-ups and local entrepreneurs to get a foothold while building up their business, before moving to more established areas of the city-centre. Although it appears downmarket, footfall is quite high and you may encounter hidden gems! For example, amazing sushi was available at a stall here, until the proprietor's success here enabled him to recently open his own restaurant on Huntly Street (further up Union Street).
If you are looking for food (e.g. if staying in one of the aparthotels or walking round the city has made you hungry), or general items such as toothpaste, these are good places to go. Like most people in the UK, Aberdonians buy much or all their food and everyday items at supermarkets, of which there are many in the city, but the largest ones tend to be in suburbs or on the outskirts. However, there are also a number in the city centre or close to the centre. Most city supermarkets are open till 9pm or later every night. If you have a car, the Tesco Extra hypermarket at Laurel Drive, Danestone and Asda superstore at the Bridge of Dee roundabout are open 24-hours. Some of the useful, more central stores are as follows:
The Co-Operative, Union Street and another on George Street, small supermarkets in the city centre that offer most everyday items. Union Street store is just past the Music Hall and is open 6am-11pm every day, George Street store is opposite John Lewis and is open 6am-10pm every day (opens 7am on Sundays).
Marks & Spencer, St. Nicholas Square/St. Nicholas Centre (opens 9am, closes 6pm Mon-Wed, 8pm Thur, 7pm Fri-Sat) and another at Union Square (8am-8pm M-Sat, 10am-6pm Sun), upmarket supermarkets.
Morrisons, King Street, larger supermarket popular with students (8am-10pm Mon-Sat, 9am-8pm Sun)
Asda, Beach Retail Park, behind funfair, large supermarket useful if you are in the beach area (8am-10pm every day) and another at Garthdee Road by the Bridge of Dee roundabout, very large supermarket (open 24 hours).
In addition, there are an increasing number of handy The Co-Operative, Sainsbury's Local and Tesco Express mini-supermarkets/ convenience stores in the city centre and around. These are all open from early till late (usually 11pm). Useful such stores include Sainsbury's Local stores on Upperkirkgate/St. Nicholas Centre, Rosemount Place, and on Holburn Street; a Tesco Express store at the western end of Union Street and another on Holburn Street; and numerous small Co-Operative stores such as the west end of Union Street, Rosemount Place and in numerous suburbs. If hungry late at night, there is a 24-hour convenience store on Market Street.
An Aberdeen specialty is the Aberdeen buttery, also known as a rowie. A rowie/buttery looks like a cross between a pancake and a croissant. They have a flaky yet heavy texture and are very salty (avoid these if you have high blood pressure!). They're served either plain or with butter or jam to make a tasty snack, ideal at tea-time or after a few hours walking round the city, and served with tea or some other beverage. It is said they were created as a high-energy snack for fishermen that wouldn't go stale during long voyages. You won't find them in many cafes or restaurants, but instead Aberdonians buy them and eat them at home or on the go. Buy them at bakeries or any supermarket (in the past they were made with lard but often now use vegetable oil instead, so if you are vegetarian, ask or check the ingredients list).
Aberdeen has hundreds of restaurants, catering for every taste. As with shops, there are well-known, easy to spot places, and out of the way ones. However, we'll leave the exploring up to you. For chain restaurants (e.g. Yo! Sushi, Wagamama, Giraffe etc.), visit the upper level at Union Square, but Aberdeen has a wealth of wonderful independent restaurants that it would be a shame to miss out on. Here is a list of more popular haunts in the central area.
Pizza Express, Union Street. A very good menu with great food. Modern setting. Not the cheapest, but reasonable.
Lahore Karahi, King Street. A relatively new entrant to the established Aberdonian Curry Houses, Lahore Karahi offers arguably the most authentic Pakistani/Indian cuisine, and at the best of prices too.
Musa art and music cafe, 33 Exchange St. A great restaurant/cafe/art gallery with the best food in Aberdeen and sometimes with live music
La Lombarda, 2-8 King Street. One of most popular Italians, and with good reason. Good location next to Castlegate. Claims to be oldest Italian restaurant aorund but food is far from being 'good' Italian. It's more English-style Italian.
Little Italy, . 79 Holburn Street. A bit pricey, but a wonderfully rustic decor makes for great atmosphere. A bit out of the way.edit
KURY, 22-24 King Street. Consistent rave reviews make this Indian restaurant a hotspot. Slightly overpriced, but it's worth it.
The Royal Thai, . The oldest Thai restaurant in Aberdeen and it shows in how exceptional the food is.edit
Chinatown, . 11 Dee Street, just off Union Street. Great Chinese food along with nice, vibrant decor and a bar make this restaurant highly recommended.edit
Yu, 347 Union Street. Reasonably-priced food. Good, but nothing to shout about. Convenient location.
The Illicit Still, off Broad Street. Sensibly priced pub grub.
The Beautiful Mountain, Belmont Street. Fine sandwiches, soups, smoothies and Sunday breakfasts!
Nazma Tandoori, Bridge Street. Alongside the Blue Moon, Holburn Street, this is the most authentic and finest Indian restaurant in Aberdeen.
Moonfish Cafe, 9 Correction Wynd, behind GAP. High quality seafood restaurant. Rated as one of the best restaurants in Aberdeen.
The Tippling House, 4 Belmont Street. A late-night cocktail bar that serves tasty bar snacks and dinner.
Like any Scottish city Aberdeen has a large number of bars and nightclubs. The role of alcohol in Scottish culture is frequently debated but for better or worse, heavy drinking is a feature of nights out for many in Scotland, especially on weekend nights. However, this is less pronounced in suburban establishments and those outside the city-centre or catering to an older clientele. Aberdeen is a city with a large number of young people (including students and young professionals) and people of all ages who like to go out. As a result, while not on the same level as Glasgow, nights out are often lively - much livelier than many visitors would expect. Especially on weekend nights, the city centre is full of revellers, even in the most severe winter weather (Aberdonians, like those in Newcastle, often do not dress for a night out according to the weather).
There are hundreds of licensed premises in the city that cater for every taste, from upmarket bars, to more casual bars, and a wide range of pubs. There are also numerous clubs, some very good (e.g. Snafu on Union Street opposite the Town House). Due to the large student population there are often student deals around. These may be extended to everyone and not just those with student ID cards. If you plan to go to a club, bring photographic ID showing your date of birth as this is often demanded by doormen - a photocard driving licence or passport is effective. Remember that smoking is illegal inside public venues - you will notice crowds of smokers standing outside even in freezing conditions.
The usual and most approachable starting point for a night out is Belmont Street. It is home to numerous bars and nightclubs. Union Street and to a lesser extent Langstane Place and Bon Accord Street (off Union Street) are also destinations for a night out due to their numerous venues. Various other city-centre streets are also home to drinking establishments.
Triple Kirks [Exodus Nightclub]. An excellent student & local drinking hole and part of the ScreamPubs chain. Save money with a yellow card. Exodus focuses on Indie/Alternative and Classic Rock, Pop & Soul.
Revolution Bar. Part of the Revolution chain specialising in cocktails. Has a wonderful smoking terrace out the back.
The Wild Boar. A quieter setting, sometimes with acoustic live music. Known for its wine selection.
Siberia (or Vodka Bar). Serves 99 flavours of vodka and has a smoking terrace out the back.
Cafe Drummond's. A small late-licence venue which focuses on live bands.
O'Neils. Irish themed pub with a nightclub upstairs.
Ma Camerons. The oldest pub in the city. Shows live football in a traditional pub setting with a roof garden.
Old School House. A quieter pub near Belmont Street.
Slain's Castle. A highlight of Aberdeen's pub scene. An old church converted into a gothic style pub, famous for it's Seven Deadly Sins cocktails. Hallowe'en is a particularly eventful night here.
Enigma. Located in the Academy Shopping centre, with a secluded licenced courtyard.
The Robert Gordon University (RGU) Student Union. Located at the end of Belmont Street near Aberdeen Art Gallery and RGU's Schoolhill building. It is the only student union bar in Aberdeen. Highlights include cheaper drinks on a Monday, pool tables and low prices. Be prepared to show a UK student ID card or be accompanied by someone with an RGU ID card.
All of the above bars serve a variety of food at reasonable pub prices, with the exception of Cafe Drummond's.
One street along from Belmont Street, is Liquid Nightclub. Located on Bridge Place, this is by far Aberdeen's biggest nightclub and regularly features guest DJs. Entry is usually around £5 it has discounted drinks every night. Also nearby is Espionage(The Cesspool of Aberdeen), catering for a slightly older market. No door charge, but full price drinks and incredibly rude staff members, possibly the reason for it's nick name.
On either side of Belmont Street and you'll find many other pubs:
The Prince of Wales St Nicholas Square, Just off of Union Street. Boasting one of the longest bars in Aberdeen and eight Real Ale pumps, sometimes called the "PoW" or quite simply the "Prince", this pub is one of the hidden gems of Aberdeen packed with locals, oil workers and Students alike. They keep their beer exceedingly well.
Soul in the converted Langstane Kirk. Uppermarket.
The Moorings which can be found by heading down Market Street and turning left when you get to the harbour, is probably the finest watering hole for those of a rock'n'roll persuasion. It's a drinker's paradise, with over a huge range of world beers, real ale, real ciders, a collection of authentic absinthe, a huge selection of rums, and even outlandish tiki cocktails served in pint jars. Regular live music nights (both local and touring bands), a welcoming atmosphere and Aberdeen's best jukebox make this a must for any visiting rockers. The pub's logo, a mermaid twined round a Flying V guitar, features on t-shirts for sale behind the bar. Open till 3am at the weekend.
Tonic Very cheap and popular, especially during the week.
Paramount Next to Tonic and very similar.
Korova Bar Three floors, rock and alternative music, very popular.
Society Two floors, renowned for it's cocktails.
Near the Marischal College you will find some craft brew bars
six°north Belgian style beers brewed in Stonehaven. Extensive craft brew bottle menu.
BrewDog Successful craft brewery founded in Aberdeen.
Major nightclubs in Aberdeen include:
Tiger Tiger One of the most popular clubs in the city.
Espionage is a large club on Union Street.
Snafu Small indie club, generally cheap and student geared.
Liquid Large and mainstream. Reasonably priced.
Priory Renowned as Aberdeen's most violent nightclub. Small and dingy, not popular with locals.
Korova Klub Rock and alternative club beneath a bar of the same name. Cheap and large.
Aurum As a rule, expensive and mainstream.
Exodus As a rule, cheap with very varied music. Tuesday nights (which feature soul, motown tc. music) are particularly popular.
The Grill, Union Street (Opposite the Music Hall). A small severely plain interior, but a haven for a whisky connoisseur; whiskies from Scotland and around the world. Tasting menu available.edit
Aberdeen has a wide range of hotels as well as guest houses and bed-and-breakfasts. Many of these cater to business travellers (who come all year round) as well as tourists (most of whom visit in summer). There are also an increasing number of apart-hotels and self-catering apartments available. For budget accommodation, plan for £70 a night or less while for a splurge plan for £150+ a night, and somewhere in the middle for mid-range. Those below are just a few suggestions. You can find many, many others on any hotel-booking website. A number of bed-and-breakfasts are also located on King Street. If you find yourself in Aberdeen without a reservation and needing a place to stay, the Tourist Information Centre on Union Street has a more extensive list.
The mid-range hotels have frequent special offers which reduce the price significantly so check their websites in advance to see if an offer will be on during your stay. During early-to-mid September in odd-numbered years (e.g. 2011, 2013) the giant Offshore Europe oil industry convention takes place with all hotel spaces in the city and surrounding towns packed to capacity. Unless you want to face a "no room at the inn" scenario, avoid visiting at the same time as the convention.
Aberdeen Youth Hostel, 8 Queen's Road (Bus route 13 from city centre), ☎ 0870 004 1100, . A hostel run by the Scottish Youth Hostel Association in a historic building a couple of miles west of the city centre. There is a shared self-catering kitchen, breakfast is available, and beds are in dormitories of various sizes plus a couple of single rooms. Bus route 13 connects it with the city centre. £25 or so per night in a shared dorm, more for a private room. edit
Hotel Ibis Aberdeen, 15 Shiprow, ☎ 01224 398800, . A new hotel that is part of the Ibis chain, built as part of the City Wharf development. Provides good budget accommodation in the middle of the city centre (opposite the Maritime Museum), with views of the harbour from some rooms. Rooms are exactly the same as every other Hotel Ibis and so are reliable and clean. An NCP car park and the 24-hour PureGym are next door. £44-£60. edit
Premier Inn, West North Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5AS (Just off King Street), ☎ 0871 527 8008, . This chain hotel is housed in a concrete building on West North Street that looks like an office building (just opposite the Aberdeen Arts Centre and The Lemon Tree performing arts venue), but the location is handy for the city centre, guest ratings are good, the Premier Inn chain is reliable and prices are affordable. There is parking available plus on-site restaurant. Around £60. edit
Holiday Inn Aberdeen Exhibition Centre - Claymore Drive, Bridge of Don phone - 01224 706878 url - www.holidayinn.com price - £49-£185.
Located next to Aberdeen Ehibition Centre, the Holiday Inn is a modern hotel, with 123 well equiped bed room. The hotel restaurant, Maximillians, is a great place to start an evening if attending a concert at the AECC.
The Douglas Hotel, 43-45 Market Street, ☎ 01224 582255, . A Victorian hotel in the city centre, close to the train and bus stations. It provides comfortable accommodation with well-appointed, tastefully-furnished and well-equipped rooms. The hotel also offers one-bedroom self-catering apartments in a nearby apartment building. £75-145. edit
The Northern Hotel, 1 Great Northern Road, Aberdeen AB24 3PS (Bus route 17 to/from city centre), ☎ 01224 483342, . A privately-owned Art Deco hotel, it is located on Great Northern Road in the suburb of Kittybrewster. Bus route 17 connects it to the city centre and it is also on the route of the 727 bus between the airport and city centre. Rooms are comfortable and provide a good night's sleep. Self-catering apartments are also available. £97-117. edit
Micasa ApartHotel, 9 Market Street (Building is on corner of Union Street and Market Street, entrance is on Market Street), ☎ 01224 565 950, . These well-appointed serviced apartments are located upstairs in an impressive granite building in the city-centre that used to be a department store (shops are still located in the ground floor). Each apartment has one or two bedrooms (two-bedroom ones cost more, e.g. £155 per night) and its own kitchen to allow self-catering. Around £115 for a one-bedroom apartment. edit
The Mariner Hotel, 349 Great Western Road (Bus route 19 to/from city-centre), ☎ 01224 588901, . A cozy hotel in Aberdeen's pretty west end. The hotel features an outstanding restaurant with excellent options both for meat-lovers and vegetarians.£70-150. edit
Park Inn Hotel Aberdeen, 1 Justice Mill Lane, AB11 6EQ (Street runs behind and parallel to the west part of Union Street), ☎ +44 (0) 1224 592 999, . This large modern hotel opened in August 2010 and provides a wide range of facilities. There are business meeting rooms and pets are allowed (but call first to confirm before you bring your dog, ferret, budgerigar, etc.).£70-140. edit
Doubletree by Hilton, Beach Boulevard, AB24 5EF (Is at the end of the Beach Boulevard, towards the sea), ☎ 01224 633339, . It is a large hotel and leisure club located in the centre of Aberdeen beside the beach (not to be confused with the Hilton)£70-100. edit
Skene House, 6 Union Grove, AB10 6SY, ☎ +44 (0)1224 58000, . has three apart-hotels in the town, all set in old tenement blocks. Each room has its own kitchen and living room and is basically an apartment that is run like a hotel. One is at the corner of Holburn Street and Union Grove, while another is on South Mount Street in the middle-class Rosemount area just north of the city-centre. See website for full information. edit
The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa, North Deeside Road, Pitfodels AB15 9YA, ☎ 01224 861000, . The Marcliffe at Pitfodels is a 5-star hotel outside the city, providing luxurious rooms plus a spa and conference facilities. You'll need a car to get there. £150-300. edit
Mercure Ardoe House, South Deeside Road, Blairs, AB12 5Y, ☎ +44 (0)1224 860600, . Ardoe House is a Victorian mansion house, that looks somewhat like a castle. It is located outside of the city and provides very comfortable accommodation, but to get there you'll need a car. edit
Malmaison Aberdeen, 53 Queens Road, AB15 4YP, Phone: +44 (0)1224 321371, formerly the Queens Hotel, this is an upmarket hotel in the upmarket Queens Cross area, in the city's West End.
Hilton Treetops Hotel, 161 Springfield Road, Cragiebuckler, AB15 7AQ Phone: +44 (0)1224 313377 is a large comfortable hotel located in a suburb, close to Hazelhead Park (the city's largest park).
Aberdeen is a very safe city, with a crime rate lower than the rest of the UK. It is very unusual for visitors to experience crime in Aberdeen, especially compared to other UK cities such as London. However, use common sense. Whether male or female, avoid walking through deprived areas such as Tillydrone (north of Bedford Road and east of St. Machar Drive) and Torry (the south bank of River Dee) as these have a relatively higher crime rate. Also, avoid walking alone south of the River Dee at night as muggings and assaults here are reported frequently in the media.
Street beggars sometimes operate in the city-centre, but are relatively harmless. Aberdeen beggars are not aggressive. Aberdeen is a harbour city and prostitution occurs in certain streets in the harbour area. Prostitutes (who are primarily drug addicts) are not always provocatively dressed and may approach male passers-by saying "Are you looking for business?". It is illegal to engage a prostitute.
The main possibility of hassle is with alcohol-related aggression at night (particularly weekend nights). While few Scots would admit it, most cannot handle anything like as much alcohol as they would claim and on nights out, many (both men and women) drink far more than they can handle. Public drunkenness on weekend nights is an issue, as throughout Scotland. As a result, brawls, assaults and abuse (e.g. racist or homophobic language) are not uncommon and there is a heavy police presence on weekend nights. To avoid any hassle, firstly avoid drinking more than you can handle yourself. Avoid getting into arguments, making eye contact with groups of males, or staring at obviously drunken individuals. If you are from England, avoid displays of English symbolism such as the St. George's Cross or wearing England sports kits as this may make you or your group a target for aggressive drunks looking for an excuse for a fight. Also, be aware of having your drink spiked at city bars and clubs; do not allow a stranger to buy a drink for you or let your glass out of your sight.
The city is well-covered by the main UK mobile phone networks - nearly every Aberdonian has a smartphone and seems to be using it most of the time. You can also access the internet at the following locations:
Books and Beans, 22 Belmont Street, ☎ 01224 646 438, . Mostly acting as a fairtrade cafe and second-hand bookstore, this establishment has a few PCs for internet access while you drink. edit
Aberdeen Central Library, Rosemount Viaduct (just along from His Majesty's Theatre, or right in front of you if you walk down Union Terrace from Union Street). 9am to 5pm (till 8pm on Mon and Wed). The central library (one of the libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie) has a few computers on the upper level where you can access the internet for up to 20 minutes free of charge without being a library member. They are situated next to the staircase. edit
You can also access free wi-fi (i.e. wireless internet access) if you bring your laptop/tablet/smartphone in the following areas:
Union Square (shopping centre), (entrance on Guild Street next to railway station). The main atrium and the upper level at the south atrium (where the Starbucks is located) have free wi-fi, and there is a Costa coffee stand and the Peckhams cafe in the main atrium which provide seats if you order a beverage or snack. edit
Ninety-Nine (bar), Back Wynd (opposite taxi rank), ☎ 01224 631640. Ninety-Nine is a trendy bar on Back Wynd, that also serves food and coffee, with free wi-fi. edit
The Archibald Simpson (pub), corner of Union Street/Castle Street and King Street (opposite Castlegate), ☎ 01224 621365. Named after one of the architects responsible for many of Aberdeen's distinctive granite buildings, this pub is located in a grand building that used to be a bank. The pub has free wi-fi. edit
Gyms and fitness facilities are very popular in Aberdeen (exercising outside is not always possible due to the weather!). Numerous private chains operate in the city (e.g. DW Fitness, David Lloyd, Bannatyne's, etc.) and are popular, but if you're visiting, try the suggestions below. If looking for a place to jog, try along the esplanade at the beach, or in one of the larger parks such as Duthie Park (entrances on Polmuir Road and Riverside Drive) or the city's largest park, Hazlehead Park in the western part of the city.
The popular PureGym (0845 189 4701) on the Shiprow in the city centre (next to the Hotel Ibis) offers a day pass for £6 (or 3 days for £13 or 7 days for £25) and is open 24-hours. It has a full range of cardio equipment, resistance machines and reasonably-large free weights area. The pass can be purchased from a machine at the entrance and gives you a PIN which you type into a keypad to gain access. From the morning till 8pm staff are in attendance, and after that an unstaffed service is provided. CCTV cameras flood the area and impenetrable metal turnstiles permit access only to those with a PIN from a day-pass or regular membership. However, in practice at least one member of staff is on the premises at all times, even through the night. As a result it is safe and not intimidating even late at night, with a surprising number (male and female) exercising there till the early hours. Bring a padlock for the locker or buy one from the vending machine. An NCP car park is next-door but the gym has a deal with other city-centre car parks too - ask for details.
Further from the city-centre, the two universities also operate high-quality sports and fitness facilities open to the public, including large indoor sports halls. Numerous athletes train at both facilities. Their websites have full details.
The University of Aberdeen's Aberdeen Sports Village (01224 438 900) on Linksfield Road (just off King Street, close to the main campus at Kings College) has a wide range of facilities including gyms, group exercise, and sports hall but no pool (an Aquatics Centre with 50m pool is under construction). Take bus route no.1 or 2 from city-centre. It is open M-F 6.30am-10.30pm, Sat 7.30am-7.30pm, Sun 7.30am-9.30pm.
RGU:SPORT (01224 263666) at the Robert Gordon University's campus at Garthdee has similar facilities plus a 25m pool and climbing wall. Take bus route no. 1 from city centre, and get off at the campus bus stop. This bus stop is located outside the Faculty of Health and Social Care building, and RGU Sport is the next building along (after this stop, the bus continues back to the city centre via suburbs). It is open M-F 6am-10pm S-S 9am-7pm.
Another option is provided by council-run services (branded as Sport Aberdeen), which include leisure centres, swimming pools and an ice-skating arena.
One of the most popular council-run centres is the the Beach Leisure Centre (01224 655401) on the Beach Promenade. There is a gym/fitness studio there are also various other facilities for exercise and indoor sports, including climbing, table tennis, badminton and volleyball among others. There is a large swimming pool of the "water-park" style. It's not good for swimming laps, but offers a wide range of attractions including water slides, rapids and waves, and is great fun for the family. If looking for a pool you can do laps in, try the one at RGU:SPORT (see above) or one of the council-run pools in the suburbs.
A main city post office is located at the western end of Union Street close to the junction with Holburn Street, and another in the basement of WH Smith in the St. Nicholas Centre. There is a smaller post office in the back of RS McColl on the Castlegate; it is run down but safe and provides the full range of postal services. Post offices are usually open 9am to 5pm on weekdays and Saturdays.
Mailboxes are dotted around the city centre and like all UK mailboxes take the form of a bright red cylinder. However, since summer 2012 a handful of golden postboxes have appeared across the UK, each specially painted to commemorate a British gold-medal winner at the London 2012 Olympic Games who is from or has a connection to that area. Aberdeen has at least two of these golden postboxes in honour of local gold-medal-winning Olympians - one on the Castlegate commemorates rower Katherine Grainger while another on Golden Square is in honour of Paralympic cyclist Neil Fachie. You can also find plain red post boxes at the corner of Union Street and Broad Street (next to the Town House), and on Union Street by the staircase that leads down to The Green. You can also post mail at Post Offices.
As with the rest of Scotland, bank branches in Aberdeen are dominated by the "big four" Scottish banks: the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Clydesdale Bank and Lloyds TSB Scotland. You'll find their branches dotted around the city centre and in many suburbs and they provide a full range of banking services (e.g. cashing travellers' cheques) and all have ATMs. Most banks in Aberdeen are open on weekdays from 9am to 5pm, with some open Saturday mornings. Useful city centre branches are:
Bank of Scotland, 201 Union Street and also at 48 Upperkirkgate (at corner of entry to Bon Accord shopping centre). Both are open on Saturdays from 9am to 3pm. edit
Royal Bank of Scotland, 78 Union Street (at corner with St. Nicholas Square). Open weekdays 9.15am to 6pm, Saturdays 9am to 1pm. edit
Clydesdale Bank, 62 Union Street (at corner with St. Nicholas Square). Open 9.15am to 4.45pm, Saturdays 9am to 1pm.edit
Lloyds TSB Scotland, Castlegate and also at 8 Holburn Street. Open Saturdays 9am to 1.30pm, they close at 4pm on Mon-Wed. You can access Lloyds TSB accounts from other parts of the UK here too as they are part of the same bank. edit
If looking for banks which are prominent in England and Wales, these generally have only a single branch in the city (other than Santander which appears to be everywhere).
NatWest Bank, 262 Union Street (in the western part of the street). 9am to 4.30pm (7pm on Thursday), closed Saturday. edit
HSBC, 95 Union Street. This large branch opened in May 2012 and covers five floors. edit
Barclays Bank, 163 Union Street (at corner with Bridge Street). edit
Nationwide Building Society, 250 Union Street (in western end of the street). edit
Santander, Numerous branches on Union Street - try the one half-way between the Shiprow and Market Street. edit
Halifax. There are no branches of the Halifax in Aberdeen now - but you can access your account from any Bank of Scotland branch as Halifax is now part of the Bank of Scotland. edit
Northern Rock/Virgin Money, 395 Union Street (at western end of the street). edit
As you walk through the city, you'll notice many churches in the city centre, some of which have now been converted to other uses (e.g. the Maritime Museum on Shiprow and numerous bars on Belmont Street and Union Street are partly housed in converted churches). However, there are still many places of worship for all major faiths. As throughout Scotland, the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) has the largest number of churches and adherents, followed by the Roman Catholic Church, and then the Scottish Episcopal Church (part of the Anglican Communion).
Aberdeen has three cathedrals representing each of these: St. Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen (not a cathedral as it is now Presbyterian but usually termed as such), St. Mary's Cathedral on Huntly Street (Roman Catholic) and St. Andrew's Cathedral on King Street (Episcopalian). Cathedral decor and memorials at St. Andrew's commemorate the fact that the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Samuel Seabury, was consecrated in Aberdeen in 1784 by bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church a short distance from where the cathedral now stands.
Evangelical churches have been growing in the city in recent years and there are now quite a few of these, often housed in church buildings redundant from other denominations. The cathedrals and most city-centre churches are also open for private prayer and contemplation during the day. You may see the old Scottish word "kirk" used to refer to a church. Islam has also been growing recently in the city: the main mosque is located in Old Aberdeen and now struggles to cope with the growing number of Muslims worshipping there.
Presbyterian (Church of Scotland): Has many churches throughout the city. In the city centre, the Kirk of St. Nicholas Uniting is the city's central church, in a shared congregation with the United Reformed Church. It's located in the churchyard just off Union Street (Sunday worship at 11am, daily prayers at 1.05pm), or try St. Mark's Church on Rosemount Viaduct between His Majesty's Theatre and the Central Library (services Sundays 11am)
Roman Catholic: Numerous city churches, including St. Mary's Cathedral on Huntly Street (main Sunday Mass at 11.15am, other Sunday Masses also at 8am and 6pm and at 3pm in Polish). Or try St. Peter's Church, in a little alley just off the Castlegate (Sunday Mass at 11.15am).
Anglican/Episcopalian (Scottish Episcopal Church): For broad church worship with formal choir, try St. Andrew's Cathedral on King Street (main Sunday service is Holy Eucharist at 10.45am, Evensong at 6.30pm). For high church worship, try St. Margaret of Scotland on the Gallowgate (Mass at 10.30am on Sundays).
Evangelical/Charismatic: Try the City Church on Gilcomston Park, a street just off South Mount Street in the Rosemount area (Sunday services at 10am and 7pm).
Baptist: Try Crown Terrace Baptist Church on Crown Terrace in the city centre (Sunday worship at 11am), or Gerrard Street Baptist Church which is on Gerrard Street just off George Street (Sunday worship at 10.30am with monthly communion).
Salvation Army: You can't miss the Citadel on the Castlegate, with its distinctive Scottish Baronial-style tower that can be seen from all along Union Street (morning worship at 10.15am on Sundays).
Latter Day Saints: Aberdeen's Mormon meetinghouse is located on North Anderson Drive, with the main worship service at 10am on Sundays.
Aberdeen Mosque and Islamic Centre is located at 146 Spital, in Old Aberdeen, just up the street from the University of Aberdeen's Kings College campus. The mosque's website  gives details of prayer times and religious activities at the Islamic Centre.
Aberdeen makes an excellent base for exploring the surrounding region, particularly Aberdeenshire. Road signs placed by Aberdeenshire Council on entering claim it to be "The very best of Scotland, from mountain to sea" and many of the most beautiful, seductive, and interesting features of Scotland are in easy reach of Aberdeen. These make ideal day trips, returning to the city in the evening. A car makes it easiest, but some places are easily accessible by bus or train, in some cases with a bit of walking. If driving, unless you have a satellite navigation system make sure you have road maps - buy these at city bookstores, petrol stations or the Tourist Information Centre on Union Street.
Visit Stonehaven, (Take A90 south of Aberdeen or catch a bus from the bus station. For a more scenic journey take one of the frequent trains from Aberdeen railway station), . Stonehaven is a picturesque small town about 15 miles (24km) along the coast south of Aberdeen (the scenery from the railway line between them is spectacular; it's a walk of about 1km from the station to the town centre). There is a harbour which is pleasant to explore, with a number of lovely places to eat and drink, as well as an Art Deco open-air (but heated!) 50m pool (lido) open from June to September, while in winter the Fireballs Festival sees men swinging flaming balls of fire at the stroke of midnight to celebrate the New Year. Another must see is the spectacular Dunottar Castle (see "Castles" section below). edit
Many spectacular, even fairy-tale castles are located near to Aberdeen. Unlike many English castles (which are often simply military forts), many Scottish castles developed to be not only fierce strongholds but also comfortable homes for local landowners or the wealthy elite, often with amazing gardens. Today you can visit some of them, especially those in the care of the charity The National Trust for Scotland or the state antiquities agency Historic Scotland. They are popular visitor attractions with cafes or tea rooms and gift shops, and often good for families.
Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, AB39 2TL (Car: From Aberdeen, take A90 and then A92 after Stonehaven and follow direction signs. Or follow walking trail from Stonehaven Harbour), ☎ 01569 762173 (email@example.com), . April-Oct 9am-6pm daily, rest of year, open daily 10am-5pm or sunset if earlier. Located just south of Stonehaven and managed by Historic Scotland, this is one of Scotland's most evocative castles. The ruins of this cliff-top fortress are perched on a rocky promontory with cliffs soaring down to the North Sea, with fantastic views. You can wander round the extensive remains, which once hosted many famous figures of Scottish history, and during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a small garrison held out against dictator Oliver Cromwell's army to protect the Scottish crown jewels (Cromwell had already destroyed the English crown jewels). The most scenic way to get to Dunnottar is the mile-long walking trail from the harbour at Stonehaven. The hike is a narrow path through fields and along the cliffs that provides stunning views the entire way. Or if you prefer, there is a small car park and path up to the castle. Adult £5, child £2. edit
Crathes Castle, Crathes Estate, Banchory, AB31 5QJ (Follow A93 out of Aberdeen, castle is about 15 miles (24km) west of the city, or take bus 201, 202 or 203 from bus station at Union Square which stop at entrance to the castle), ☎ 0844 493 2166 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . April-October: 10.30am-4.45pm daily, November-March Sat-Sun only 10.30am-3.45pm. This castle with its little turrets on the large tower, thick walls and ivy growing up the cream walls is beautiful, and acted as a family home until recently. Has a fantastic garden with carved yew hedges and colourful borders. You can also hike pre-marked trails in the large estate. Adult £11.50, children/seniors/students £8.50, family £28. edit
Craigievar Castle, near Alford, AB33 8JF (Car only: Take A944 west out of Aberdeen, then after passing Alford take A980 - castle is about 26 miles (42km) west of city), ☎ 0844 493 2174, . April-June and September, Fri-Tue 11-5.30, July-Aug daily 11-5.30. This fairy-tale pink castle has the sort of turrets you thought only existed at Disneyland. Fitting elegantly into the rolling landscape, it was completed in 1626. It has the original carved plaster ceilings and original Jacobean woodwork. You are shown round by a guide. There is a small but lovely garden. Adult £11.50, children/seniors/students £8.50, family £28. edit
Drum Castle, Drumoak, by Banchory, AB31 5EY (Take A93 west out of Aberdeen, castle entrance is on this road about 10 miles (16km) west of city, or take bus 201, 202 or 203 from Union Square bus station, which stop half a mile (800m) from castle, up a fairly steep hill), ☎ 0844 493 2161 (email@example.com), . April-June and September, Thur-Mon 11-4.45, July-Aug daily 11-4.45. This castle combines a 13th-century square tower which is the oldest intact in Scotland, a Jacobean mansion house and elegant Victorian additions. The interior has fine furniture and paintings. It also has a beautiful garden including a special garden of historic roses, and an estate with woodland trails to hike through the Forest of Drum. Adult £9.50, children/seniors/students £7, family £23. edit
Scotland is the country that gave birth to golf, and excellent courses are provided not only for citizens by the City Council but by various private organisations. The Royal Aberdeen golf course was founded in 1790 and is the sixth oldest in the world, and the Royal Deeside course in the River Dee's valley are both excellent. However, these and yea even the Old Course at St Andrews are about to be eclipsed by what is (after years of controversy and news coverage) Scotland's new most famous course; Donald Trump's International Golf Links at Menie in Aberdeenshire. You can also play golf at a number of public golf courses in the city, most notably at Hazlehead Park which has two 18-hole courses and at Queen's Links by the Beach (entrance on Golf Road).
Trump International Golf Links, Menie Park Lodge, Menie Estate, Balmedie, Aberdeenshire AB23 8YE (Take A90 north of Aberdeen and turn off at Balmedie), ☎ 01358 743300 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . After many years and much controversy, including its environmental impact, compulsory purchase and bulldozing of local homes and a recent face-off with the First Minister over a proposed windfarm nearby, Donald Trump is officially opening his new flagship course and resort on 10th July 2012. The spectacular championship links course include dunes and is billed by Trump as "the world's greatest golf course", while there is also a second 18-hole links. This is Scotland's hottest new golf destination, and it's just outside Aberdeen. edit
Royal Aberdeen Golf Course, Links Road, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, AB23 8AT (From city centre, drive north up King Street and take the 2nd right after crossing the bridge over the River Don, or bus No. 1 or 2), ☎ 01224 702571, . The Royal Aberdeen operates a celebrated links just north of the mouth of the River Don. The course runs essentially out and back along the North Sea shore. The outward nine (which is acknowledged as one of the finest in links golf anywhere in the world) cuts its way through some wonderful dune formation. The inland nine returns south over the flatter plateau. A traditional old Scottish links, it is well-bunkered with undulating fairways. It has an excellent balance of holes, strong par 4's, tricky par 3's and two classic par 5's, with the 8th (signature hole) protected by nine bunkers. The ever-changing wind, tight-protected greens and a magnificent finish makes Balgownie a test for the very best. It was highly praised by participants in the 2005 Senior British Open. The eminent golf writer Sam McKinlay was moved to say "There are few courses in these islands with a better, more testing, more picturesque outward nine than Balgownie".edit
Deeside Golf Club, Golf Road, Bieldside, AB15 9DL (Take A93 south-west from city centre), ☎ 01224 869457 (email@example.com), . This prestigious private course about 5 miles (8km) outside the city was founded in 1903 but in the past few years has had major reconstruction work and is highly regarded. Set close to the valley of the River Dee, there are great views of the river and nearby forests. edit
Aberdeen is a good location to stay if you want to see castles, play golf or go on a distillery trail. Within 30 miles you can visit Crathes, Drum and Dunottar Castles.
The Malt Whisky Trail route is about 30 miles north and involves a number of distilleries including the Glenfiddich and Glen Grant tours.
The "Royal Deeside" area is also popular. Towns such as Aboyne, Ballater and Braemar are worth a visit. Balmoral Castle is very popular due to its Royal connection.
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