Imagine gleaming, silvery buildings; golden, sandy beaches; verdant, flower-filled gardens. Where are you thinking of? Perhaps not a city on the east coast of Scotland – but Aberdeen has all of the above and bags more besides.
It’s also home to two universities, with students making up around 20% of the city’s 250,000 population, so if you’re thinking of studying there you’ll be in good company.
We asked University of Aberdeen student daisydaffodil and other TSR members to tell us what they love about Aberdeen. Here's what they had to say...
What to see
Aberdeen Art Gallery is free to enter and is as striking inside as it is out, with its marble interiors and grand facade. Inside, your culture fix is taken care of with works by Boudin, Monet, Pissarro and Renoir, while the Memorial Court, a white-walled circular dome, is a peaceful spot that serves as the city’s main war memorial and also commemorates the 1988 Piper Alpha oil rig disaster.
To the north of the city centre, Old Aberdeen is home to the University of Aberdeen's King's College Campus and various notable landmarks such as The Powis Gates, St Machar’s Cathedral and The Old Town House. Seaton Park lies on the banks of the River Don. “There's a lovely walled garden in Seaton Park,” says daisydaffodil. “When you descend the stairs from Hillhead you'll see another set in front of you. Climb them!”
For more contemporary entertainment, there are four cinemas - Belmont Picturehouse which shows more arty, independent films, Vue on Union Street, Cineworld at the beach and Cineworld in Union Square. Talking of Union Square, the modern shopping centre – which opened in 2009 – houses a number of high-profile brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch and an Apple store.
Eats and drinks
As with any city, there are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to choose from. “The Bobbin, a lovely studenty pub just opposite King's College Lawn on King Street, does good food, cheap drinks and pool tables,” says daisydaffodil “Don't forget either to go to Kilau,” she adds. “This gem of a place is situated right in the heart of Old Aberdeen campus on the High Street and sells wonderful wee cakes, brownies and sandwiches. It also does lovely teabags, and various exotic drinks including real ginger beer.”
Looking for some posh nosh to cook at home? Head to the Aberdeen Country Fair that springs up on Belmont Street on the first and last Saturdays of the month. Its stalls sell traditional Scottish food – Aberdeen Angus beef, locally caught fish, whisky and cheeses – alongside handmade crafts.
"The Manchurian on Causewayend (just off the big roundabout by Morrisons) does huge portions of genuine Chinese food for pretty good prices," says TSR member Becca-Sarah. "La Lombarda isn't particularly cheap but the food is great and it's a perfect place to take a date. It's a really cosy restaurant on Castle Square at the end of King Street, and claims to be the UK's oldest Italian restaurant.
"Heavenly Pizza is now way out of town on Great Western Road, but they deliver. Prices are comparable to Dominos, the pizzas are way better (chilli beef with creme fraiche!), and they also do an incredible 18-inch supersize pizza! Though the winner in pizza size terms has got to be PHD - 23-inch Gatecrasher pizzas!"
Come night-fall and Belmont Street is a hub for the city’s bars and drinking dens. Brewdog on Gallowgate is crammed with interesting craft beers, while Siberia offers dozens of flavoured vodkas – including unusual options such as chilli and curry! Or take a trip to Aberdeen's oldest pub, Ma Cameron's, which opened in 1789.
“Moorings is an exceptional place for a good night out,” says daisydaffodil. “They do all manner of drinks including banoffee beer and genuine Absinthe, they do a lot of acoustic nights and you get a discount if you’re dressed in pirate gear. It’s just by the harbour, head down Market Street and turn left.”
Windmill Brae, accessed via a tunnel beneath Union Street, is home to many of Aberdeen’s nightclubs including the cavernous Tunnels - a focus for the city’s live music scene. The Lemon Tree also has regular live music and comedy nights.
"Thains late night bakery on George Street is a must for a cheeky snack on the drunken walk home!" says TSR member fiona_123. "It opens at 2am on and stays open until around 6pm the next day." From Wednesday morning, it’s open right through until Sunday morning, too.
Out and about
Aberdeen is a city full of parks: 13 of them, as well as plenty more green spaces too. TSR member daisydaffodil’s favourites are Duthie Park: “It has huge indoor gardens that smell lovely and are a fab treat in the winter when it's freezing!” and Hazelhead Park with its “huge maze, outdoor gardens and even a blimmin’ aquarium!”
Of course, there’s also the beach – a long stretch of golden sand perfect for walks or even a bit of dolphin-spotting. Make your way to the harbour mouth and you’ve got a great chance of spotting them playing out in the sea.
“The beach has a relatively big funfair - the waltzers are always good. There’s also a 3D cinema, arcade games, ten-pin bowling alley and pool tables,” says daisydaffodil.
As well as everything on the Aberdeen doorstep, there’s plenty more to see just outside.
"It's definitely worth going into the hills," says TSR member F1 Fanatic. "There are several good ski runs in driving distance and great Munro walking in the Cairngorms a couple of hours away.
"Braemar is probably the best place to go, and Balmoral Castle is on the way. Every year they hold a Balmoral 10k run where you can go in the grounds if you're prepared to do your bit for charity."
Daisydaffodil adds: “Head south to Stonehaven, about 20 minutes on the train, for its lovely castle and beach.
“Make it a plan as well to nip to the smaller villages – such as Newburgh, Balmedie and Cruden Bay. The ones on the coast are usually very tourist-friendly.”
Nearby Oldmeldrum is home to Glen Garioch Distillery – Scotland’s most easterly distillery and also one of its oldest.
And, if you fancy going further afield, ferries travel to Orkney and Shetland from Aberdeen, while several mountains for skiing and snowboarding can be reached within two hours.