Perched at the top of Britain, Scotland is characterised by its historic cities, winding roads and rugged terrain. The city of Aberdeen is our port of departure for the Across the Arctic Circle cruise, and is also our final destination for our Wild Scotland tour.
To make the most of your time here, we’ve put together some of the highlights not to be missed in this great city.
Situated on the east coast of Scotland, Aberdeen is a port city where the Dun and Dee rivers flow out to sea. In fact, this is possibly how the city got its name, with ‘aber’ and ‘da-aevin’ thought to mean ‘the mouth of two rivers’. With a history dating back to the 12th century, Aberdeen has been a site of trade and education over the centuries, with the University of Aberdeen formed from two much older colleges during the 15th century.
In addition to its busy port, Aberdeen also gained much of its wealth through the North Sea oil industry, enabling its development into the wealthy city it is today. Aberdeen is also known for its granite, and you can see the grey stone used in much of the local architecture here, the walls faintly glimmering in the Scottish sun.
Here are some of our top things to do in Aberdeen:
Dive into the Aberdeen Maritime Museum
It’s impossible not to visit Aberdeen without paying homage to its rich seafaring heritage. The Aberdeen Maritime Museum on Shiprow was once the house of the Provost Ross, and takes visitors on a journey through shipbuilding, fishing and the development of the Aberdeen Harbour.
From the museum you can also enjoy a great view out over the bustling harbour.
Marvel at St Machar’s Cathedral
Read More: Introduction to Scottish history
The fortified cathedral with its twin towers is a unique building shrouded in mystery. Built in the 15th century, legend has it that St Machar was instructed to establish the church at a place where the Don River curves like a Bishop’s crook. If you venture inside, don’t forget to look up at the ceiling and admire the many shields that bear the heraldry of past significant figures.
Explore the Gordon Highlanders Museum
Celebrate the spirit of one of the country’s proudest institutions at this special museum. Formed in 1794, the regiment of the Gordon Highlanders served throughout the French Revolutionary Wars, helping in the defeat of Napoleon as well as seeing action in Egypt and Spain. The Gordons’ resilience saw them through future campaigns in Afghanistan as well as World War I and II.
Here at the museum you can explore interactive displays, memorabilia such as medals and uniforms as well as models and maps that tell the 200-year history of this incredible Scottish unit.
Admire King’s College Chapel
Found on the grounds of the University of Aberdeen, the King’s College Chapel is a reminder of the university’s long history in the city. The chapel houses many old relics, from canvas decorations to wooden scaffolding dating back to the 1500s and 1600s.
You can visit this wonderful building for yourself and admire the beautiful stained-glass windows and choir stalls between 10am and 3:30pm from Monday to Friday.
Grab a bite at one of Aberdeen’s classic pubs
Find Out More: Add a Scottish extension tour to your trip
Feeling a bit peckish after all that exploring? Aberdeen has you covered with its selection of stellar pubs. The Globe Inn just off Union St offers a traditional pub setting with its own beer garden, while the Prince of Wales’ claim to fame is its remarkably long bar and selection of fine ales in the heart of the city.
Another great place for a meal and a pint is at Old Blackfriars, where you’ll likely take a shine to the stone walls, mosaic windows and wooden floors.
Take a stroll in the Union Terrace Gardens
Amongst all the churches and historic buildings, you can get a breath of fresh air at the Union Terrace Gardens. Filling up one hectare in the middle of the city, the gardens contain an open air amphitheatre as well as gorgeous flower beds and 200-year-old elm trees.
Bring a coffee or a picnic and, park yourself on the grass to enjoy this pleasant patch of greenery.
Your gateway to Scotland, the Arctic and beyond
Aberdeen could be just one chapter in your next adventure to this incredible part of the world. To find out more about our Arctic Circle cruises, as well as our Wild Scotland tour, you can browse through our brochures online.