This post is also available in: German
Located in the North-east of Scotland, right on the North Sea, the port city of Aberdeen is a beautiful place to visit. Often overlooked by guidebooks and tourists alike, the third largest city in Scotland is a great weekend destination with plenty to keep you busy. The best part is that the city is so well funded by the North Sea oil industry that most of the main cultural attractions are free. Here are 7 Free Things To Do In Aberdeen, Scotland![box type=”info”]This article is part of the free Backpacking in Europe Guide where you find more great information, resources and destination guides to plan & organize your trip to Europe![/box]
1) Walk on the beach
Just a short distance from the city centre, the sandy Aberdeen Beach stretches for two miles between the Dee and the Don rivers. A boardwalk runs just above the beach as well, so you can enjoy the sound of the waves as you linger on the sand, or while you're pounding the pavement for an evening run. Either way, you'll love taking in expansive views of the sea, listening to the seagulls and watching the occasional surfer when the winds are high.
2) Aberdeen Maritime Museum
This museum traces the history of Aberdeen's harbour, one of the oldest in the world. The city's fascinating journey from being a medieval fishing village to a powerhouse of industry when oil was discovered in the North Sea is told through multiple exhibits. In the modern day exhibits, you can enjoy seeing what daily life is like for offshore workers.
3) Aberdeen Art Gallery (and other museums)
For a small city, Aberdeen has an impressive art gallery with work dating from the 15th century to present day. Housed in a beautiful 19th century building, the museum also hosts free lunch hour concerts and lectures.
Other museums in Aberdeen that are free to visit include the Marischal College and Museum, the second largest granite structure in the world and Provost Skene's House.
4) Fishing Village of Footdee
Footdee (pronounced Fittie) is a small fishing village located south of the city centre by the Aberdeen harbour. The village dates back to medieval times but people still live in the little cluster of cottages that are huddled together with their backs to the sea, as protection from the rising tide and winter gales. The village forms a two squares, one around an old church, which also serves as meeting house.
Wandering the village is a fun way to step back in time to the days when Aberdeen's primary source of income was found through fishing the North Sea instead of mining its oil.
5) The Aberdeen Harbour
Just beyond the fishing village is Aberdeen's harbour at the mouth of the Dee River. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the harbour boasts being Britain's oldest business (est. 1136). For certain it is one of Europe's busiest ports with the constant coming and going of offshore supply boats, ferries and fishing boats.
You can stand in the harbour and watch the boats, or walk to the harbour's edge and try to catch sight of seals and dolphins that often play near the entrance.
6) Walking Tour Of Old Aberdeen
A visit to Aberdeen would not be complete without taking a stroll through Old Aberdeen. Located just north of the city center, Old Aberdeen has some of the most exquisite architecture in the city.
Don't miss King's College, the third university founded in Scotland in 1495 or the beautiful St. Machars Cathedral, which dates from the 19th century. Both are free to tour.
Some might argue that Aberdeen's greatest offering is its proximity to the Highlands. You do not have to go but ten or twenty minutes outside of the city before you are surrounded by the views of Scotland that you always see in pictures. The breath-taking hills of Aberdeenshire are free for the wandering, and are a wonderful place to get lost for a day.
Though it does frequently rain in Aberdeen, the clouds often clear off in the afternoons, making the granite buildings sparkle in the sunlight. In the summertime, stretches of 20 hours of daylight make up for the dark winters, but it's best to be prepared in any season by bringing rain gear.
Accommodation, Transportation & Must Eat
Aberdeen isn‘t a big city, therefore you can find nice accommodation options and the prices aren‘t as high as for example in London – why not stay in a Hotel? Use this page to get an overview.
Get in & around
Although Aberdeen is remote it‘s very easy and fast to access by plane – the airport is located 11km outside the city centre and connected with 727 bus route.
by plane – there are various connections from and to Aberdeen International Airport (ABZ), especially within Great Britain. Check Skyscanner for the cheapest connections to Aberdeen.
by train – There are regular connections to London, Edinburgh and Manchester, the main station is Aberdeen Railway Station located in the very center of the city. Check RailEurope for connections.
A very typical Aberdeen speciality is a „rowie“ which is something between a croissant and a pancake – they are very salty and mostly served plain or with butter and jam. You can buy this snack in supermarkets and bakeries.
More free things to do in Aberdeen? More suggestions?
We love to hear them! Just share it below in the comment section – I will add the additional tips from time to time.[author image=”http://www.back-packer.org/wp-content/uploads/Alison1.jpg”]Alison Chino wants to live in a world where the adventures are new every day, the soups feed a crowd and the kids still play outside.
As a family travel and food blogger, her travel tips, stories about expat life in Scotland, yummy recipes and camping menus can be found several times a week at alisonchino.com. Follow along via Twitter and Instagram![/author]