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A talking cactus, enchanting castles: How to spend 36 hours in Aberdeen

Things to do in Aberdeen
Looking for things to do in Aberdeen? Here are five things to see if you have 36 hours or less. Source: Michal Wachucik/AFP

Are you a wanderlust at heart? Or maybe you’re an international student based in the UK who is keen to do some exploring up north? Whatever the case may be there are plenty of things to do in Aberdeen or even Aberdeenshire in Scotland. 

This city, located in North East Scotland, has a scenic natural beauty that can’t be experienced anywhere else. With the breathtaking views of its mountains and lochs, all the way to its stunning cathedrals, cobbled streets and historic architecture you’re bound to be blown away by its remarkable attractions.

We’ve narrowed down some of the spectacular attractions you can explore that will be the talk of your friends and family back at home if you have just 36 hours to spare. 

5 exciting things to do in Aberdeen 

DAY ONE

things to do in aberdeen

Looking for things to do in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire? You can’t miss a visit to the Dunnottar Castle. Source: Dunnottar Castle Facebook

Visit Dunnottar Castle

First on our list of things to do in Aberdeen is a visit to Dunnottar Castle, an Instagram-worthy location that also doubles as a photographer’s paradise.

Unchanged: According to its website, Dunnottar Castle is located on a rocky outcrop along the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail, just under two miles south of Stonehaven and 20 miles from Aberdeen International Airport.

You can purchase tickets to visit this magical location for under £10.

Check out the floral fixtures at the David Welch Winter Gardens

About a 10-minute drive away from the university is the David Welch Winter Gardens. The gardens host a diverse range of rare and exotic plants, and is one of Europe’s largest indoor gardens and Scotland’s third most visited gardens.

The indoor space, located in Duthie Park, occupies 44 acres of land filled with open green spaces, trees, seasonal flower beds and cascading ornamental ponds.

While there, pay a visit to the Temperate House, Corridor of Perfumes, Fern House, Victorian Corridor, Japanese Garden and Tropical House.

The garden also includes the Arid House, which is home to one of the largest collections of cacti and succulents in Britain and the world’s only talking cactus!

On top of checking out the magnificent display of plants, you can also participate in boating and enjoy concerts at the bandstand. If you visit during the summertime, you could spot the popular Opera in the Park.

Explore the works of creative geniuses at the Aberdeen Art Gallery

About a 10-minute ride away from the garden is The Aberdeen Art Gallery. The gallery is home to some of the finest collections of artistic geniuses, which features artwork dating back to the 18th century to modern works.

The Art Gallery’s building is made of pink stones, setting itself apart from a city of grey-tone buildings.

Some of the most impressionable works featured at the Aberdeen Art Gallery include that of French impressionist painters Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Another remarkable artwork display includes a Tracey Emin installation as well as a piece by Richard Wright.

Admission to the art gallery is free and there’s a little café if you need a rest after all that walking. The Art Gallery is also a 10-minute walk from the train and bus stations.

Restaurants in Aberdeen: Dine with a view of the sweeping coastline at the Silver Darling

If you don’t mind splashing a bit of money on food, consider treating yourself to a dining experience that combines a scrumptious meal with a pleasant view when you have a three-course meal at the Silver Darling. It is located on the harbour of Footdee (also known as “fittie” by the locals) just outside an old fishing village at the east end of the Aberdeen harbour.

Here, you’ll find fresh fish and shellfish dishes alongside a variety of meat and seasonal game favourites. The restaurant is popular among many and has gotten plenty of rave reviews on Google.

If you head upstairs, you’ll get to bask in the magnificent panoramic view of the harbour and Aberdeen. You might spot ships and, if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of seals and dolphins too.

DAY TWO

Visit Balmoral Castle, where the queen spends her summers

If you’re visiting Aberdeen, it’s worth getting up early to make your way to the Balmoral Castle, an expansive and majestic summer residence of Queen Elizabeth II. Depending on where you’re travelling from, it could take you an hour or more to get here, to factor in travelling time when making a visit.

Balmoral guided tours are available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays during November and December. There is also a guided tour package which can be purchased for 15 pounds for adults. Its website notes that the Ballroom is the only room open to visitors in the castle, and your guide will give you plenty of time here as there is a lot to see.

Here’s a fun fact: According to reports, Prince William and Kate Middleton’s “third home” — the Tam-Na-Ghar cottage — is located close on the grounds of Balmoral. The home, however, is shrouded in secrecy.

We hope this guide on things to do in Aberdeen will help you make the most of your time in the city!