Exploring Aberdeen: Weekend Guide
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
Last weekend we made a trip up north to visit Aberdeen. Although we'd never made the journey, it's a city we've long wished to visit after hearing so many great things about - from beautiful countryside, a bustling cultural scene to castles galore. So, we were delighted to work with VisitAberdeenshire and LNER to head up north to explore more of the city we'd heard so much about.
In this post, we'll share our 48 hour weekend guide to exploring Aberdeen, enjoy!
Aberdeen Art Gallery
Dinner & drinks at BrewDog
Jazz at the BlueLamp
As this trip was in partnership with LNER, we caught one of their new Azuma trains from Edinburgh Waverley to Aberdeen which takes just 2.5 hours.
The journey itself was beautiful - riding over bridges, passing woodland, snowy mountains and gorgeous Scottish coastline. We could have easily sat there all day staring out the window.
If you're fancying a trip to Aberdeen we also have a special discount code for LNER services to share with you guys for 20% off advanced fares, use the code: EDBHGH which you can book here. *T&Cs apply, read more at the end of this post.
After a relaxing train ride we were ready to get exploring.
Aberdeen Art Gallery
Once we arrived into Aberdeen station our first stop was to Aberdeen Art Gallery. Having recently undergone an enormous £34.6 million restoration, the Art Gallery is an amazing space filled with 19 galleries housing all the art under the sun. From modern to classic, textiles to ceramics, photography to paintings, there's something for all tastes and ages. Plus, there are tons of fun interactive exhibits available making for a great way to take in the information.
The space itself has been beautifully restored. Upon entering you'll find the gorgeous main hall complete with granite pillars, sculptures and this particularly instagrammable piece by Tracy Emin.
Make sure to head up to the third floor where you'll find the brand new roof terrace. From here you'll get stunning views over the city centre, making for the perfect photo opportunity!
After a quick refreshment in the Gallery cafe and a nosy around the shop, we headed off to explore Nuart Aberdeen.
Nuart Aberdeen is an international public art festival that was introduced back in 2017 involving tons of amazing street art dotted around the city centre. You'll spot them on gable ends, building facades and even electrical enclosures. It's such a great way to add a splash of colour and culture to the city and a brilliant way to explore Aberdeen further.
Download the Nuart Aberdeen Map here or just look out as you wander round the city.
Here are a few of our favourites:
Next, we made our way to the hotel to check in and relax with a cup of tea before heading back out for dinner and drinks. We were staying at the beautiful Sandman Signature Hotel in the city centre. Located in one of Aberdeen's historic buildings, the hotel offered gorgeous interiors, super friendly staff and being just a few steps from some of Aberdeen's main attractions was a definite plus. After a cuppa in our room, we headed back out to catch a drink and a bite to eat at BrewDog.
The now globally renowned craft beer company BrewDog began its life in Aberdeenshire and has since led the craft beer revolution in the area. We popped into the Union Street Bar which is also home to the charmingly named BrewDog Kennels, the brand's first mini-hotel in the UK.
For craft beer fans, BrewDog is a haven. Amongst our usual favourites like Punk IPA and Dead Pony Club, we also tried out the Hazy Jane IPA and Clockwork Tangerine, which we'd definetley reccomend. Although we've drank at BrewDog many times, we've never sampled the delights of their food menus, and boy were we happy we did.
Although neither of us are veggies, we decided to pick from the vegan menu, and we were certainly not disappointed. Both the 'Beyond Meat' burger and the Seitan Fried Chicken burgers were some of the best veggie food we'd had - coupled with a side of fries and Mac and Cheese and you've got the perfect combo.
For craft beer fans we'd also recommend trying out:
The Aberdeen Craft Beer Kilometre - check out this map to soak up all the city's craft beer delights.
Jazz at the Blue Lamp
Bellies filled, we headed to catch to some live jazz at the Blue Lamp Bar. Live bands head to the Blue Lamp to play jazz every Thursday throughout February and March - and what a venue for it! Cute candle lit tables, intimate stage setting and some world class musicians make for a lovely, relaxing evening soaking up the soothing sounds of jazz.
Breakfast at the Craftsman Company
Walk along Stonehaven Beach Front
Lunch at the Bay Fish & Chips
Dinner at the Esslemont
Breakfast at the Craftsman Company
After a relaxing sleep at the hotel, the next day we ventured out to the Craftman Company to grab a bite to eat and refuel with some caffeine before heading off to catch a train to Stonehaven to explore the delights of the seaside town and check out the famous Dunnottar Castle.
Located south of the city on the Aberdeenshire coast, a short 20 minute train ride will take you to straight to Stonehaven. From here, we first made our way to Dunnottar Castle. Having seen tons of pictures of this picturesque place, we've long wanted to visit, so were very pleased we finally had the perfect excuse.
A beautiful 45 minute walk along the cliff top takes you straight to the castle - you can find the walking route here. If the weather's not on your side you can get a taxi from outside the train station which takes less than 10 minutes and costs just £6.
This stunning, dramatic ruined cliff top fortress was once home to the Earls Marishchal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland. It's fascinating to wander around and soak up more of Scotland's history and heritage. Adult entry to the Castle costs £7 and gives visitors the opportunity to reimagine life in the castle on the cliff. Even if you don't fancy walking around the castle, the views on the approach are absolutely stunning - it's no wonder this place is a photographer's paradise.
After an insightful nosey around the Castle, we headed back along the coastal path to explore more of Stonehaven.
Our first stop was the cute and quaint Stonehaven harbour. First built in 1607, the harbour was since destroyed by storms twice, before a new plan was drawn up in 1825 by Robert Louis Stevenson. Today, the harbour remains of the largest recreational harbours in Aberdeenshire.
Around the harbour you'll find the Tollbooth Museum which was unfortunately shut when we visited on Friday, but is open on weekends with free admission.
Again, craft beer fans will be well at home with a visit to 6 Degrees North on the harbour front. This Scottish Craft Brewing company create and serve up a wide selection of Belgium inspired artisanal beers. Or, for something a little less strong pay a visit to the Old Pier Coffee House. Situated on the old pier, with beautiful views over the harbour, visitors can enjoy a cup of something warm and a bite to eat.
After a wander round the harbour, we headed 15 minutes along the beach front to grab lunch at the award-winning Bay Fish and Chips. Along the beach front you'll spot a few maritime themed sculptures dotted along the path. Each intricate sculpture mysteriously appeared along the coastline a few years ago, leaving residents wandering if Stonehaven had its very own Banksy!
The Bay Fish & Chips
Chances are if you tell anyone you're visiting Stonehaven they'll recommend the Bay Fish and Chips. This place has won tons of awards and we have to say, after visiting we can certainly see why. These guys serve up sustainable, locally sourced battered or breaded fish and chips that have made a name for themselves on a national and international level.
We tried out the standard cod and chips with a side of fishcakes and scampi. Everything was fresh, flavourful and delicious - in fact the fishcakes were the best either of us have ever tried so we'd definitely recommend!
With a belly full of fish and chips and a healthy dose of fresh Scottish sea air, we took the train back to the city to explore the wonders of Old Aberdeen.
As its name suggests, Old Aberdeen is the historic quarter of the city in which monks and scholars, traders and travellers settled in the 14th century. Home to Aberdeen University, Old Aberdeen houses the beautiful St Machar's Cathedral, King's College, cobbled streets and quaint wee houses. If you like a bit of history this is definitely one for you - it feels as though you've stepping back in time.
Make sure to pop into St Machar's Cathedral which stands up high on the bank above the river Don. This 15th cathedral is home to huge twin spires, a world-famous heraldic ceiling and beautiful stained glass window. After a day of exploring, we were ready to sample more delights from Aberdeen's local larder.
Dinner at the Esslemont
After a day on our feet, we headed to The Esslemont - a stylish restaurant new to the foodie scene in Aberdeen. Serving up an eclectic menu, expect quality produce, great service and chic surroundings. Both the meat and veggie options were fresh, well thought out and definitely hit the spot. These guys also have an upstairs where you can grab yourself a delicious Neapolitan pizza if that's what you're in the mood for.
Breakfast at Food Story
Guided Tour of His Majesty's Theatre
Lunch at Cafe 52
Train back to Edinburgh
Breakfast at Food Story
The next day we headed to Foodstory, a gorgeous wee cafe with trendy interiors, speciality coffee and a delicious menu filled with ethical, organic, vegan offerings. This is the perfect place to head for a relaxing half hour, refuel with some top notch coffee and a delicious bite to eat. Both dishes we tried consisted of locally sourced ingredients and were super tasty. What's more, as Aberdeen's first vegan cafe, they offer a slight twist on brunch classics without compromising on taste.
Whilst there head upstairs to their shop which sells sustainable, ethical and organic goods - from veggies, condiments, gifts to coffee.
Tour of His Majesty's Theatre
Refuelled and ready to go, we headed to Aberdeen's famous His Majesty's Theatre to explore behind the scenes of this 100 year old venue.
Guided tours give the public the chance to learn more about this fascinating theatre, a beautiful venue that's attracted leading west end shows and contemporary performances to the heart of Aberdeen.
Our knowledgable tour guides took us to the upper stalls, onto the stage, into the dressing rooms and down to the basement to discover the inner workings of theatre as well as learn about some chilling and entertaining stories from its past - from escaped ponies to the theatre's resident ghost Jake.
The tour lasts around 1.5 hours and tickets cost £8.
Lunch at Cafe 52
Our final stop for the weekend was a late lunch at Cafe 52. Tucked away in the city's ancient Merchant Quarter, located between two stunning pieces of street art courtesy of Nuart Aberdeen. This cosy little cafe serve up a bistro style menu with everything from tapas style fried hallumi, parsnips chips to open sandwiches - the parsnip chips and fried chilli kale were to die for! We'd also strongly recommend trying a tipple of two - again, the kombucha gin fizz was delicious.
Our final stop was Footdee, pronounced locally as 'Fittie.' This charming old fishing village to the east end of the harbour is definitely one of Aberdeen's hidden gems.
Tucked away from the main tourist attractions, it's easy to miss. However, making the journey to Footdee is definitely worth it. Here, you'll find rows and squares of wee 19th century cottages with a variety of quirky, unique, mismatching out houses in the centre of each square. They're fascinating to explore and definitely worthy of a picture (or two!)
Finally, we headed back to the train station to make our way back to Edinburgh after a fab weekend exploring the delights of Aberdeen.
We hope you enjoyed our weekend itinerary for Aberdeen, for more Scotland guides make sure to check out the rest of our blog!
*LNER discount code T&Cs:
Valid on advanced fares only
Applies to journeys made from to or from Aberdeen from the following stations: York, Northallerton, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland (weekdays only), Morpeth, Berwick upon-Tweed, Dunbar, Edinburgh Waverley, Inverkeithing, Kirkcaldy, Leuchars and Dundee
Discount is available on First Class and Standard LNER Advance fare only and valid on services operated on the East Coast mailine
Tickets are available for booking online from 2 March until 30 April 2020 for journeys from 3 March to 15 May 2020. Please ensure booking window is open and valid for the date you intend to travel
Not valid in conjunction with any other offers or with Railcard discounts (if you are booking for between 3 and 9 people the discount will show as small groups booking discount)
The code is valid for one booking
Not valid for travel on: 9-13 April (Easter), 8-10 May 2020 (VE Day), 3-19 April (Scottish Half Term), 22-31 May 2020 (English half term
Standard Advance fares terms and conditions apply
If promotional fares do not appear please change your search criteria