Plan the Perfect Weekend in Aberdeen, Scotland
Scott and I have become somewhat specialists of planning the perfect weekend stays in Aberdeen.
Since Scott lived 30 miles north of Aberdeen and I lived 30 miles south, it quickly became our half way meeting point for spending time with each other. We both had full time jobs in the city center too so the majority of our time was spent living the city life. Thinking way back to the beginning of our relationship, we must have spent a bomb on hotel rooms and activities! We both lived with our parents (amazing for saving money) so having time to ourselves usually meant parting ways with a fistful of moolah. The upside to this, is that we learned how to effectively spend our time in granite city!
Most of the city was built using granite from the old Quarry in Rubislaw so it has a glistening grey colour. It looks fab in the sunshine but unfortunately, sunshine is hard to come by in the North East! The Quarry has been closed since 1970 and nowadays it's neglected and surrounded by buildings, trees and full with water. Around the time that the Quarry was closed, oil was discovered in the North Sea (off the coast of Aberdeen). This meant that loads of money started flooding through the city and it became the offshore oil capital of Europe. This made it boom to one of the most expensive places to live in Scotland, second only to Edinburgh (which is one of the reasons I stopped renting here!).
The history of Aberdeen has meant that in the past, more focus has been on the business side of the city than attracting tourists. I've seen an increase in the past few years though and Aberdeen Inspired have been working really hard to put together some amazing events throughout the city. For Scott and I's second date, we went to their Comedy Festival at various locations around town - I recommend checking it out! One of the acts was so funny that the guy next to us actually SPIT his drink all over the person sitting in front of him. Super awkward.
If you're spending a weekend in Aberdeen, I've put together some info to help you create a bomb a$$ itinerary!
Book your Room on Booking.com
(Approx 100 GBP per night).
This is my absolute faaaave. It's a boutique hotel in a good location and it's a little quirky. The tartan decor is carried through the whole hotel, just in case you forgot you were in Scotland. You can even end your night in Aberdeen by having a "wee dram" in their own Whiskey Snug. It's one of the more expensive stays and with our desperate attempts to save for travel, it's rare we'd spend more than a night or two here for anything other than super special occasions! When we last stayed there, a couple held us up at reception because they were trying to convince the receptionist that they "definitely did NOT have all that wine and beer" the night before. The woman was trying to rock a messy bun with last nights makeup on and the guy was looking worse for wear so I beg to differ hennyyy!
Book your room on Booking.com
(approx 80 GBP per night)
When we were feeling a bit more flush, or the price was right, we'd book ourselves into a Hilton. This Garden Inn is very central, just off George Street in the City Centre - most bars are on Belmont Street and it's an easy walk away. Every time we've stayed there it's been really quiet, clean and easy to get to. We spent New Years here but unfortunately, I was SUPER ill on New Years Day so we spent the day in the Hotel room. Scott was enjoying the amazing Room Service while I quietly sobbed on the bathroom floor wondering if I would shrivel up like a raisin from lack of fluids.
Book your Room on Travelodge.co.uk
(approx 45 GBP per night)
Our old faithful. This is where we spent most of our nights in town. If we had a work function or we just wanted a weekend away, we'd choose a Travelodge. It's cheap, clean, the beds are huge and it's comfortable! Also, the showers are probably so powerful you can remove that tramp stamp tattoo you got way back in '09 in Magaluf. There are 2 located in the City Centre - "City Centre" and "Justice Mill". I always choose Justice Mill (unless there is a massive difference in price). This is because on a Saturday night, the City Centre Travelodge can get a bit rowdy and loud. It's not a problem if you've been tanking the beers on a sesh with the lads, but when you're trying to get a good nights sleep after backpacking round town all day, the Justice Mill one might be favourable.
Things To Do
Union Square is the most notable place to spend your shopping days in Aberdeen. It was built back in 2007 and cost a whopping £250 million and you can see why... because Aberdeen is expensive and things cost a fortune! Nah I'm just kidding, it's actually quite big and houses the Train Station, Bus Station, 60 shops, a full Cinema, a hotel and 15 restaurants. Whenever I'm in town, I spend the majority of my time here because my office is right next door, towering over the car park. If you're walking to TK Maxx, give my colleagues a wave - the 4th floor was great for people watching/distracting us from being productive.
Before Union Square, Union Street was the place to be. It stretches all the way from Holburn Street to Castlegate and has shops, restaurants, gardens, 3 shopping centres and a few hotels. When Union Sq came along, a lot of Union Street was disregarded and quite a few places closed up shop. It seems to be picking back up now and there's talk of the council pedestrianising the whole stretch which would make a world of difference!
Visit the Parks
I always love green spaces in City Centres. I think it's because I'm a County Bumpkin and grew up with the countryside so it might remind me of home. Union Terrace Gardens is right in the City Centre and hosts a few activities/events throughout the year (see Aberdeen Inspired for events). Until recently, I've never really noticed all the street art under the arches too. You can see the Aberdonians flocking to Union Terrace Gardens whenever it's sunny - picnics and Starbucks on the grass seems like to go to activity for teeny boppers. There are other parks around the city that are worth visiting if the weather is good enough! - Hazelhead Park, Seaton Park (during the day) and Duthie Park (which has a glass complex full of exotic plants to explore/get you out of the rain!).
The Art Gallery has been closed for a year or so at the time of writing because they're doing a huge £30 million redevelopment. Before it was close for construction, I spent a lot of time here. I'm not the most "in-touch" with Art or can reel off the comparisons between two historical paintings but I like the quiet space. They frequently change the exhibitions to keep it fresh so you can visit over and over again. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they've been up to behind that scaffolding! There's talk of a lovely roof terrace overlooking Union Terrace Gardens as well as opening up the Cafe to have outside seating for those few sunny days we get every year.
Throwback to my childhood with a visit to Cadonas down at the beachfront! There's two parts to Cadonas - the Amusement Park and Sunset Boulevard. The Amusement Park has a Ferris wheel, haunted house, a rooftop roller coaster and a lil Caterpillar ride which terrified me as a child. You can buy a wristband for all day access to the rides in the amusement park for around £14. Sunset Boulevard is indoors and has 10-pin bowling, arcades, mini-golf and a restaurant with pool tables. People tend to head to the bowling lanes for after work "nights out" or birthdays etc. It's quite cheap at about £5 per person per game and there's a bar nearby to get your courage up and "shots-on-target" down. It's a good laugh and there's a Cinema next door as well as a few restaurants if you want to make a night of it.
Aberdeen University looks like something from Harry Potter (I've only watched the first two films but I know the aesthetic!). It was founded back in 1495 by a dude called William Elphinstone (he was the bishop of Aberdeen at the time) and is Scotland's third oldest university. The surroundings of the university match the old timey architecture and you can kill a good few hours wandering round - if the weather is good! The campus has a Botanic Garden too which is 11 acres long so you can choose to zone out there and become one with nature - you lil hippy.
Aberdeen started as a small village and this little fishing village dates back to Medieval times. It's a little collection of small cottages down by the harbour and it's a great walk (and a great insta pic mission!). The houses are squeezed together and are so small that they make me feel like I'm not a little human. Everyone that lives there is lovely and will always be up for a chat or give you a "Good Morning!".
Places to Eat
We eat a LOT when we're out. We've been to some fancy places, some quick eats and quite a few takeaways! Whenever we go for a date night, we try to eat local and want to support all the independent places dotted around Aberdeen. The Foodie Quine has put together an amazing list of all the local eats around town (which is practically my food bible), so you should definitely take a look at that list too!
This is probably our favourite restaurant in town. It's where I awkwardly asked Scott to be my boyfriend and it's where we've spent a lot of time consuming a lot of gin and tapas! The portions are classic tapas style so we always get 4-6 plates for the two of us (but we eat biiiig portions!). Our favourites are the classic Patatas Bravas, Croquetas, Albondigas and (my favourite) Queso De Cabra Al Horno! They have a good drinks menu too and a bar area if you fancy drinks without the food!
I'd say this was a must visit if you're in Aberdeen for a weekend. The price can be a bit on the expensive side but for the mix of atmosphere (live bands), great food and aesthetics, it's worth it. The restaurant has been build into a converted Church which looks amazing. They've kept quite a few of the original features so it gives it a nice hipster/young alternative vibe - which I'm all for! They've got a lovely mix of whiskeys, gins, scottish food and desserts to choose from so definitely worth a visit!
Scott's favourite. It's authentic Italian food that will make you feel stuffed for the gods! I've never left there without feeling totally satisfied with all my food and loving life. Scott likes their seafood dishes too so they must be nice! He comes from a fisherman's family so I trust his judgement, even if I can't stomach half the stuff he can! The waiting staff are lovely and so friendly - I'm still not sure if they're all actual italian or they just get taught how to perfect the accent before getting hired haha!
A lovely locally owned Japanese place hidden away round a back street. We discovered this from the Foodie Quine's list of independent places I've linked above. I'd describe it as Japanese Tapas, so it's best to order a few different dishes between you so that you try a variety! The prices are reasonable and we've spent a lot of time there gluggin the wine and making our way through the pile of dishes on our table.
It's easy to be put of by the greyness of the city but Aberdeen can make for a great weekend!
For years I focused on getting out of Aberdeen but writing lists like this helped appreciate how much Aberdeen has to offer. I'd actually struggle to fit everything into one weekend! I haven't even touched on all the extra activities you can get up to in Aberdeenshire! Get organising your weekend by choosing your perfect hotel below. Take note of our favourites at the top of this post!
This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything there is to do in Aberdeen. Checkout the Culture Trip's Top 10 things to do for more!
Have a great day and a great weekend ❤