Scotland can sometimes be overlooked as a location for a city break, particularly if it doesn’t involve Edinburgh or Glasgow. This could be considered as doing the country a disservice, as there are many places worth exploring outside the two major cities. One of these is Aberdeen, at the mouth of the River Dee on the eastern coast of Scotland. Roughly two-and-a-half hours from Edinburgh, and about 2h45m from Glasgow, Aberdeen is the third-largest city in Scotland, and can be a useful base if you wish to go further north into the Highlands.
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Given its location, Aberdeen may understandably be dismissed as being not easy to get to. This is, however, not true. There are frequent trains to Aberdeen from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and there are also some direct services to London and other parts of the country. It’s also worth noting that Caledonian Sleeper’s Highland service goes directly between London and Aberdeen, so this is an option which is well worth considering if you want to combine rail travel and overnight accommodation into one. If you’re coming from further afield, then Aberdeen Airport is worth considering, with a bus link to the nearby Dyce station which has direct services into Aberdeen itself.
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There are a number of ways in which you can get around Aberdeen, and we’ve detailed the most recognisable ones below.
To plan your journeys around Aberdeen and the surrounding area by bus, including real-time departures, download the Sojo app.
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Getting the best-value rail tickets possible is something that we at Trainsplit are sure many people want to do. This can include booking in advance, using a Railcard if you have one, travelling outside peak times, and – of course – splitting tickets via our website. If you’d like further information on any of these, please get in touch, and we’ll do what we can to assist you. We do have a comprehensive guide here at Trainsplit on the booking process, which we hope will be very useful, and we’ve covered some of the main points below.
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If you know when you are planning to travel, booking early can save you money on your train tickets. With Advance fares becoming available up to 12 weeks ahead, this is a great way to save on your rail travel.
Teamed up with a railcard, you can get up to a third off the cost, saving you more money on your train tickets. If you make a lot of train journeys, a railcard will pay for itself in no time.
With Trainsplit’s unique journey planner, we search for the best-priced train tickets for your journey. You can easily discover the best split ticketing combinations that maximize your savings on train tickets, and best of all, Trainsplit will do all the work for you and doesn’t charge a booking fee.
If you don't need to travel early in the morning, consider traveling off-peak to save money on more expensive train tickets. Trains are also likely to be quieter during off-peak hours, which usually start from around 09:30 onwards.
Take a look at Group Save train tickets. These are a great way to get discounted train fares for groups of people traveling together.
If you are not traveling from London, why not consider a route that doesn't go via London? Cross Country trains operate routes to Bristol Temple Meads that avoid London, providing a great way to reduce train travel costs. Using Trainsplit’s journey planner, you can search for cheaper routes to Edinburgh, potentially saving you money on your train tickets.
If your journey is delayed, you may be entitled to delay compensation on your train tickets.
By following these tips, along with using Trainsplit’s unique journey planner to find the best train ticket deals, now is the perfect time to explore new destinations.
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Bay of Nigg, Aberdeen | Image credit: Deano1903 | Getty Images
What is there to do in Aberdeen, then? Read on and find out just a few things that the city and surrounding area have to offer.
Perhaps the most well-known sport in Aberdeen is football, with Aberdeen FC being the city’s biggest club. Based at Pittodrie Stadium to the north-east of the city centre, the club has played in the top flight of Scottish football since the 1905-06 season. They’ve won the league on four occasions, both Scottish cups a number of times, and even won two European trophies in the 1980s. The European trophies are of note due to being won under the managerial reign of Alex Ferguson, who went on to achieve great success with Manchester United following his appointment there in November 1986 until his retirement from football management in May 2013. In terms of other sports in Aberdeen, there are a number of golf courses, with one of them – Kings Links – located next door to Pittodrie Stadium. There are other sports with a presence in the city, including swimming, rugby union, and athletics.
Are you a Sports Fan? Trainsplit has partnered with Pledgeball, a grassroots charity that rallies fellow fans to take action to protect where we play, making changes that improve our air and our green spaces. It can be as simple as swapping to reusable water bottles or taking the train to a match instead of driving. Fans, players, clubs, grassroots teams – the impact we can have together is game-changing.
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For those who are interested in the history of Aberdeen, it’s worth visiting the Aberdeen Maritime Museum on Shiprow when it reopens in the spring of 2024 following refurbishment and maintenance works. Conveniently located a short distance from Aberdeen station and near to the harbour, the museum was established in 1984 and covers the city’s long & interesting relationship with the North Sea. The museum’s exhibits cover trading, fishing, shipbuilding, and more recent developments including the offshore energy industry. Some parts of the museum itself date back to the late 16th century, and there are several ship models, one of which dates back to 1689. Currently, there are virtual tours available online while the museum is closed, and you can find out about these – as well as further details on the museum – HERE. If you’re interested in military history, then the Gordon Highlanders Museum on Viewfield Road in the west of the city is well worth a look. The museum covers the history of the Gordon Highlanders line infantry regiment of the British Army, which existed from 1881 to 1994 when it merged with the Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons). Exhibits cover the Napoleonic Wars, actions in India, Afghanistan, and South Africa, through to both World Wars and the Cold War. There’s also a replica WW1 trench, and the museum also contains some volunteer-maintained gardens. For further information on the museum, please visit the website HERE.
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As has been mentioned, there are a number of museums in Aberdeen worth visiting to delve into the city’s history. If you want to take in some other cultural options, then Aberdeen has plenty to choose from. For art lovers, there’s the Aberdeen Art Gallery just to the north of Union Terrace Gardens in the centre of the city. The gallery has exhibits spanning over 700 years, and has a focus on Scottish art, with items from Ken Currie, Gilbert & George, and Bruce McLean on display. Other artists with works on display include renowned Cornish sculptor Barbara Hepworth. For theatrical performances, the largest theatre in Aberdeen is His Majesty’s Theatre, located to the north-west of Union Terrace Gardens. There are other theatres located around the city, including Aberdeen Arts Centre, the Lemon Tree, and the Tivoli. For music, there are a number of venues, including Aberdeen Music Hall on Union Street and P&J Live to the north-west of the city and just south of Aberdeen Airport. P&J Live is the largest arena in Scotland in terms of seating capacity, and has hosted a number of acts over the years, including Alice Cooper, Michael Bublé, Westlife, and more. As with other arenas, P&J Live also hosts non-music events, with some events including Russell Howard, Disney on Ice, and WWE Live.
Scottish Haggis, Neeps, Tatties and Whisky | Image credit: Cogent-Marketing | Getty Images
One of the most important questions people will likely have when looking at booking a holiday somewhere is ‘What food options are there?’. As is the case with any city, Aberdeen has a wide variety of restaurants on offer, with prices to suit all kinds of budgets and cuisines to suit all kinds of tastes.
To the south-west of the city centre lies Madame Mew’s Thai Café, a popular Thai restaurant, with a substantial & varied menu covering many aspects of Thai cuisine. There are a selection of starters, including ‘Kung Hm Pha’ (deep-fried king prawn spring roll) and ‘Neau Yam’ (BBQ beef marinated in oyster sauce and on skewers). Salads and soups include ‘Yum Nuea’ (Thai grilled beef with spicy salad) and ‘Tom Yum Kung’ (king prawn spicy sour soup with coconut milk and lemongrass). The main courses on offer are extensive, and cover options such as ‘Madame Mew’s Moo Dad Diaw’ (deep fried sun-dried pork marinated in oyster sauce with coriander seed), ‘Nam Pek Kai’ (deep fried sour chicken wings with garlic and white pepper), ‘Madame Mew’s Pad Thai’ (stir-fried noodles in Pad Thai sauce with vegetables and a choice of chicken, pork, beef, or seafood), ‘Kuay-Tiao Moo’ (pork soup with rice noodles, pork, fish balls, and vegetables), ‘Kaeng Kiaw Wahn’ (Thai green curry in coconut milk, Thai aubergines, sweet basil, and rice, with a choice of chicken, pork, beef, or seafood), and many more. There are also a number of drinks options – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – to suit anybody.
If you’d like good-value Italian food, then look no further than Mozza. Located in Union Square Shopping Centre, and a short walk from Aberdeen station, Mozza is ideally located for anyone who wants to grab a bite to eat before, during, or after a shopping trip. The menu is simple, but contains a great amount of variety to suit individual preferences. Items to start off include Scottish buffalo mozzarella with a number of different extras, from simply extra virgin olive oil to Parma ham and extra virgin olive oil. There’s also a few different focaccia choices, both simple and filled. Also, why not try the ‘Arancino Carne’ (deep-fried breaded rice balls with Bolognese sauce, stuffed with peas & cheese, served with a spicy ketchup dip)? Pizza is, perhaps unsurprising, Mozza’s speciality, with the pizzas being numbered according to the toppings. Particular highlights include the number 2 (tomato sugo, fior di latte mozzarella, basil, extra virgin olive oil, grated parmesan), the number 5 (tomato and ’nduja sugo, fior di latte mozzarella, Spianata Calabrese salami, ricotta cheese, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil), and the number 11 (fior di latte mozzarella, gorgonzola, Parma ham, with fig, pear and white balsamic jam, rocket, crushed walnuts, extra virgin olive oil). You can even let the chefs get creative and come up with a unique surprise if you wish!
Sushi can have a reputation of being a more premium dining option. Not so at JW’s Sushi, sited roughly half a mile from Aberdeen station. The menu is varied, with many different items to choose from. One particular focus is the specialities, including ‘Unagi’ (traditional roll featuring eel, avocado, and cucumber). Of note is the number of inside-out rolls, such as ‘Crispy Dragon’ (fresh salmon and avocado inside-out roll with crispy onions and sriracha mayo), and there’s also the ‘Tokyo Sushi in a bowl’ (assortment of fish and vegetables presented in an artistic manner). For those who may want something a bit more traditional, there’s ‘futomaki’ (traditional style roll with avocado and cucumber featuring a variety of fillings), ‘nigiri’ (oblong moulded rice with a choice of topping), ‘temaki’ (cone-shaped sushi with cucumber and avocado with a variety of fillings), and ‘sashimi’(fresh tuna or salmon). There are also a number of set menus available, which can be a great way of sampling a variety of sushi options without breaking the bank.
Whether it’s as a takeaway or a meal out, Indian cuisine is one of the most popular in the UK. Some of the best examples of Indian cuisine in Aberdeen can be found at Monsoona, a short walk from Aberdeen station. The menu has a lot of choice, so we’re sure you’ll find something you like here. Available appetisers include pakoras, chicken/lamb tikka, and samosas. Alternatively, why not try the sea bass, marinated in lime juice, sea salt, and spices, shallow-fried with olive oil and served with some salad? In terms of the mains, this is where the sheer variety becomes apparent. There are classic dishes such as the madras, the korma, and the bhuna, plus many more. If you want something a bit different, then consider the sea bass Ceylon fish curry (fried sea bass cooked in Ceylon sauce [coconut and tamarind]). Also worth looking at are the chef’s specials, including the hariyali (cooked with fresh mint, coriander, yogurt, and green chili in a tomato & onion sauce), the achari (cooked in a rich texture of spices and lime pickle, with garlic, ginger, onions, and chilies), and the Naga Zhaal (onions, green peppers, garlic, coriander, special chili pickle, fresh herbs). There are many side dishes such as the vegetable bhajis which can be serves as either a main or a side dish. Many extras are available as well to add on to your meals, including rice, poppadoms, breads (naan, chapati, and roti), and multiple dips.
Just north of the Bon Accord Terrace Gardens to the west of the city lies ‘The Spiritualist’, a bar known for its impressive cocktail menu. They also have some great food options as well, so this can be a great place to spend an evening. The small plates include haggis & cheese croquettes served with house brown sauce, salt & pepper chicken with garlic aioli, and ‘tequila prawns’ (king prawns marinated in tequila, with pineapple carpaccio, and red & yellow capsicum). If you want something perhaps a bit lighter at lunchtime, why not try one of the sandwiches, such as their take on the club sandwich? Also very much worth considering are the hanging kebabs, including steak & peppercorn (chargrilled Scotch beef fillet tails, courgette, peppers, with peppercorn sauce poured over at the table). If you want fish & chips, then you’re covered here, with battered haddock from Peterhead, skin-on fries, garden peas, tartare sauce, and grilled lemon.
If you enjoy Spanish cuisine, then look no further than Café Andaluz on Union Street, roughly a ten-minute walk from Aberdeen station. One of the most popular ways to sample Spanish cuisine is tapas-style, with a number of small dishes on the table, and this is what Café Andaluz specialises in. The vegetable tapas section includes patatas bravas (fried cubed potatoes, spicy tomato sauce, aioli), pimientos de padrón (pan-fried strong-flavoured small green peppers, served with sea salt), and tortilla Española (thick omelette filled with potato & onion, served with Pixto salsa). Fish & shellfish tapas include calamares (crisp-fried calamares served with fresh lemon & smoked paprika aioli), el bacalao (fresh Atlantic cod, creamy leek, basil & white whine sauce, and mejillones a la marinera (fresh Shetland mussels cooked in white wine, shallots, and garlic, finished off with fresh cream). Meat tapas dishes include chorizo al vino (sliced Brindisa Parilla chorizo sautéed in red wine), chuletas de Cordero (pan-seared lamb chops marinated in traditional Adobo seasoning with mint yogurt), and pollo rebozado con miel (chicken fillets in a light crispy batter drizzled with honey & grain mustard dressing). It wouldn’t be a Spanish restaurant without paella, of course, and Café Andaluz serves three different ones to suit varying tastes.
Given its location on the coast, you’d perhaps expect seafood restaurants in Aberdeen. One such example is the Moonfish Café, just off Union Street and to the south of the city centre. There is a focus on quality seafood, and the restaurant has featured in the Michelin Guide since 2018. The menu can change depending on availability of ingredients, but the sample menu gives a good indication of what the restaurant offers. Starters can include beetroot carpaccio (with nettle pesto, orange, and hazelnut), and smoked salmon rillette (with pickled cucumber and toast). Main courses include lamb rump (with sprouting broccoli and anchovy Hollandaise), Isle of Mull cheddar soufflé (with creamed leeks and onion relish), and halibut (with Jersey Royals, grilled onion, and beurre blanc). For dessert, why not try the pistachio tres leche (with strawberry and cardamom), the buttermilk parfait (with roasted peach and ginger tuile), or the European cheese board with sourdough crackers and plum chutney? One thing the Moonfish Café is known for is its extensive gin list, with a number of gins being from Scotland.
For fine dining with a stunning view, why not consider The Silver Darling on the coastline at Aberdeen Harbour? Focusing on local produce, particularly on seafood, The Silver Darling promises a laid-back yet sophisticated atmosphere in which to enjoy your meal. Options for starters can include cullen skink (made with home-smoked haddock, topped with toasted oats, served with homemade bread), seared Shetland scallops (roasted pumpkin and brown butter purée, toasted pumpkin seeds, maple pancetta crisps, balsamic gel), and crispy pork cheek (Pedro Ximenez prunes, caramelised cauliflower purée, pickled cauliflower). For mains, you can choose from dishes such as seared wild halibut (smoked paprika parmesan crust, chorizo-braised hispi cabbage, chickpeas, mussel and samphire stew), market catch of the day, confit duck leg (duck fat roasted potatoes, spiced red cabbage, cherry sauce), and butternut squash & sage linguine (sage & squash purée, roasted squash, Parmesan herb crumb, crispy sage). The dessert menu includes mulled winter fruit crumble (topped with nut crumb, lemon curd ice-cream), Bailey’s parfait (espresso ganache, chocolate crumb, salted peanut brittle), and an artisan Scottish cheese platter (crackers, Arran Oaties, frozen grapes, Bramley apple chutney). It’s also very much worth noting that there are two platters with a wide variety of seafood on them, and oysters & mussels are also available to purchase. There are multiple drinks options available, too, and it would be remiss of us to not mention the wine list, which has a sizeable selection available to suit all tastes.
Found on Union Street, and a short walk from Aberdeen station, lies Vovem. The restaurant’s main focus is on steaks, which are cooked with similar methods to those found in Argentina, with other options being available for anyone who may wish to have something different. For starters, why not try the ‘Vovem classic Caesar salad’ (crispy breaded chicken, smoked maple bacon, garlic & herb croutons, shaved Parmesan, baby gem lettuce, homemade Caesar dressing – there’s also a vegetarian version available), dry-aged beef fillet carpaccio (mixed rocket salad, shaved Manchego, beef dripping croutons, honey mustard dressing), or the prawns pil-pil (king prawns sautéed in chilli & garlic, fresh herbs, sourdough toast)? There are also a number of sharing options to choose from in the starters section. For mains, there are of course a wide variety of steaks (including cuts aimed at being shared between multiple diners), with many sauces, butters, and sides to choose from as accompaniments. Some of the other available mains include maple-glazed chicken poussin (roast chicken served on the bone, Tenderstem® broccoli, roast baby potatoes, glazed carrots, chicken jus), whole BBQ sea bass (coal-fired sea bass, buttered greens, pickled lemon salsa, skinny fries, salad), and grilled cauliflower steak (garlic & chive mash, Tenderstem® broccoli, Café de Paris sauce). For dessert, some of the options include sticky toffee pudding (homemade sponge, date purée, toffee crumb, toffee sauce, vanilla bean ice-cream), vanilla & cinnamon crème brûlée (with homemade almond cookie), and a sharing cheese selection (selection of Scottish cheeses, quince, caramelised onion chutney, fresh grapes, apple, walnuts, oatcakes). A two-course lunch menu is available with a selection of dishes to choose from. The wine list is extensive, with many examples to select from across the globe.
Mercat Cross in Aberdeen | Image credit: Susanne Neumann | Getty Images
There are of course other things to do in Aberdeen. For example, why not consider a walk in Union Terrace Gardens near the city centre or Duthie Park Gardens on the banks of the River Dee to the south of the Ferryhill district of the city?
If you’re travelling with children, then it’s worth considering Aberdeen Science Centre on Constitution Street to the north-east of the city centre. The exhibits on offer cover energy, space, the life sciences, and many more, with a lot of interactivity to engage everybody.
If you’re looking for a spot of retail therapy, then three of the best places to visit would be Union Square Shopping Centre on Guild Street next door to Aberdeen station, Bon Accord Aberdeen (roughly a ten-minute walk north of the station), and Trinity Centre on Union Street just to the north of the station). Given the city’s location on the coast, it’s perhaps not surprising that there are some boat tours on offer, with details HERE.
We hope we’ve managed to convince you to consider a break in Aberdeen. If we have, then fantastic! You’ll of course want to work out how to travel there and back, and we would very much recommend travelling by train, as you can enjoy some of the wonderful Scottish scenery en route. For the best-value train tickets, don’t forget to use our website, and please do get in touch if you have any questions. We’re on hand to assist you with any queries you may have.
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