When one thinks of the perfect autumnal or winter break in the UK, Scotland is usually at the forefront of everybody’s minds – and for good reason. So, when VisitAberdeenshire invited me to spend a weekend in Aberdeen, I certainly couldn’t resist revisiting the city in November. Here, I found alternative ways to enjoy the season, like walking the Brig O’ Balgownie Bridge and Seaton Park. As I wandered about, I couldn’t help but imagine Aberdeen would make for an excellent weekend away at any time of the year.
This post is a paid partnership with VisitAberdeenshire and LNER trains, but all thoughts, opinions and photographs are my own.
How To Get To Aberdeen
Taking the train to Aberdeen is by far the most comfortable and pleasurable mode of transport. I caught the LNER train in York, which is also a London to Aberdeen train starting at London King’s Cross.
The train’s sleek exterior is matched by its spacious carriages, with WiFi, plugs, and USB sockets. The industrious among you will take the opportunity to work, whereas I indulged in watching the gorgeous scenery pass by, coupled with a mini Netflix binge whilst I had the chance to unwind for a couple hours! There is a menu with hot and cold selections, and the incredibly friendly staff offered me extra food for the duration of the journey. So, I munched on a bacon butty, an apple, bags of crisps, and pain aux chocolat whilst enjoying the incredible views of the Scottish countryside out the window.
Where To Stay In Aberdeen
In a place known for being the ‘granite city’, The Chester Hotel is a delightful oasis of charm, grandeur, and cosiness that’s easily reached from the train station by taxi. Since I arrived after 9 pm, the friendly staff escorted me to my Classic King room, which was more than spacious! The lofty black floor-to-ceiling curtains, finely-textured headboards, and tall wardrobe added a touch of understated glamour. Everything felt arranged precisely for the guests’ comfort, from these vertical furnishings to the horizontal pop of yellow on the bedding and the beautiful rainfall shower. It’s no wonder The Chester Hotel is thought to be one of the best luxury Aberdeen hotels.
The rest of the hotel continues this blend of sophistication and down-to-earth aesthetic, incorporating lots of natural light and exotic-looking trees. There’s plenty to convince you to remain within this 5 star hotel in Aberdeen, especially the dining options. These include outside eating in marquees or cosying up in The Gallery.
Things To Do In Aberdeen
You can get to the city centre from the hotel on the First Aberdeen’s No. 11 bus and quite handily, you will find the bus stop directly outside the hotel.
Walk Brig O’ Balgownie
As local legend would have it, the 13th-century Brig O’ Balgownie was first built by Bishop Henry Cheyne and completed by Robert the Bruce. Its tranquil location has inspired the work of many creatives, including Lord Byron’s poem, Don Juan. Today, it continues to captivate the imagination of walkers, artists, and photographers, as do the charming cottages surrounding it. If you’re looking for some free things to do in Aberdeen, then a walk to visit this beautiful bridge should be at the top of your list.
Stroll through Seaton Park
In any city, it is unusual to find an expansive area of greenery; but Aberdeen’s Seaton Park is the exception to the rule. In Gaelic, the name “Seaton” means “peaceful retreat”, and this park’s 27 hectares have everything you need for a tranquil excursion, including a walled garden, otherwise known as the “Secret Garden”, a fountain that marks the site of the original Seaton House; the River Don, a formal garden, wetlands and the Motte of Tillydrone. If your weekend in Aberdeen involves children, there’s a playground here featuring train carriages that I know little Heidi would love!
Marvel at St. Machar’s Cathedral
From Seaton Park, I walked to its neighbour, St. Machar’s Cathedral, which overlooks the park. It is believed to be here that William Wallace’s arm is buried in the wall. This place added an element of unparalleled beauty to my Aberdeen city break. While the domineering twin fortified towers are a statement piece, they don’t hold a candle to the interior stained-glass windows and striking heraldic ceiling.
Discover Old Aberdeen
One of the top free things to do in Aberdeen is to explore Old Aberdeen. Here, you’ll want to discover its meandering cobbled lanes bordered by quaint rows of houses, especially the picturesque Chanonry and Don Street. Among the numerous historical sites to visit is Powis Gate – two cylindrical towers marking the entrance to Powis House. Their minarets exude a fairytale-esque vibe, while King’s College resembles a real-life Hogwarts. You can also visit the Cruickshank Botanic Garden, Zoology Museum, and Merchant Quarter.
City Centre Nuart Trail
From Old Aberdeen, it takes around 25 minutes to walk to the city centre. However, you can take the No. 1 or 2 bus from King Street. In the city, I went about looking for Aberdeen’s street art. Nuart Aberdeen first launched in 2017 to support local and international artists by giving them a space to produce sculptures and murals. For any creative person, this is one of the must-experience things to do in Aberdeen, as you’ll get to see some incredible original pieces of art.
Lunch at The Braided Fig
A weekend in Aberdeen wouldn’t be complete without a decadent lunch break, and The Braided Fig fulfils this wish in both style and quality cooking. As soon as I entered the room, there was an array of warm orange lighting, contrasted with the white ‘fig tree’ installation, which had a very Londonian, cosmopolitan vibe with its snaking fairy lights. The menu is extensive, and I selected the sourdough bread with chicken butter to start and then the chicken schnitzel with Lyonnaise potatoes, black pudding purée, tender-stem broccoli, sun-blushed tomatoes, basil, and lemon aioli which was utterly delicious.
Visit Provost Skene’s House
To add some history to your Aberdeen city break, head to Provost Skene’s House, the oldest town house in Aberdeen. Built in 1545, Provost Skene’s is a rare example of medieval burgh architecture; and, for any who appreciate old buildings that look as if they could tell a story or two, this is a jewel for you! Inside the newly-refurbished building is a tapestry of information celebrating the revolutionary people of the northeast of Scotland and Aberdeen, including Margaret Myles. She was a reformer of midwifery and helped reduce the death rate at childbirth.
Refreshments at No. 10 Bar and Restaurant
Every weekend in Aberdeen deserves an evening of fine dining, and the multi-award-winning No. 10 Bar and Restaurant is your golden ticket. The fact that it’s in the basement of a big townhouse makes this establishment so exciting, and its exposed brick walls and wooden flooring evokes a cosy and relaxed atmosphere. I ordered the baked lemon sole served with parsley potatoes, roast red pepper and red onion salad, lemon and herb butter, and crispy capers. To put it plainly, this was delicious and cooked beautifully.
Discover the Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum is an award-winning tourism hotspot that’s among the top free things to do in Aberdeen. Overlooking the harbour, the Maritime Museum has a vast collection explaining Aberdeen’s long, prosperous, and tragic history with the sea. It’s also the only place in the U.K. where you can learn about the North Sea oil and gas industries and what they mean to Aberdeen’s residents.
Brunch at The Craftsman Company
I had my last meal at The Craftsman Company to round off my weekend in Aberdeen. I devoured a good fry-up at this independent coffee and alehouse while watching the baristas making beverages from home-roasted beans. If you need a caffeine pick-me-up in the mornings, The Craftsman Company let you take away freshly-roasted beans, which sounds like a tremendous deal! You can also sample their lager – wittily called ‘Lager Than Life’ – or one of their cocktails, such as the Breakfast Mar-tea-ni.
As my train home whipped past the Scottish countryside, I reflected on all the things to do in Aberdeen. I concluded once again, after my second visit, that it’s an incredibly relaxing city that more visitors should be putting at the top of their travel list, and I hope you’re among them!
If you’re interested in a trip to Aberdeen then you might find my previous posts useful for discovering more to do in the city and Aberdeenshire on the whole.
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