Aberdeen is a coastal town in Scotland that has a little something for everyone. It’s the third largest city in Scotland and is known as the oil capital of Europe. Both of these contribute the the greatness Aberdeen offers.
Flying into Aberdeen, you’ll be greeted with food from around the world, a great beach promenade, and beautiful castles within a short drive from the city. After living in Aberdeen for two and a half years, I’ve created this guide to a fantastic weekend in Aberdeen, adaptable for all travelers!
Let’s dive in.
Where to Stay in Aberdeen
While there are big loads of hotels you can stay at in Aberdeen, thanks to the oil industry, we recommend staying in one of these traditional Aberdeen bed and breakfasts. Staying at a bed and breakfast, you’ll get to enjoy a traditional Scottish breakfast, while having a more homey stay than the big box hotels bring.
Bed and breakfasts in Aberdeen are typically located on the outskirts of town, where you’ll be able to enjoy more of the Scottish countryside while still being a stone’s throw away from the city life.
Day One in Aberdeen
Hire a Car
Car hires for Aberdeen are really quite cheap. We’ve rented a car in Aberdeen for only £9 a day using these Scottish car hire tips.
If you don’t want to rent a car, you can take the public transportation, as it’s pretty good in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Except for visiting the extra castles and doing the whisky tour on day three in Aberdeen, everything else in this weekend guide can be easily accessed with public transportation if renting a car isn’t for you.
However, with that said, public transportation in Scotland is pretty expensive. If you can get a good deal on your car hire in Scotland, you’ll be saving money by having your car in the city.
Grab some local Scottish food
Make your way to Hass’s Fish and Chips for some of the best fish and chips in Scotland. You won’t find a sit-down restaurant here, but instead, a traditional Scottish chippy, where your food is ordered to go.
Order a Haddock super, it’s a big piece of fish with all the chips (fries) you can imagine, and be sure to have both the salt and vinegar on top.
After your order is ready to go, you have two choices to enjoy your meal, Duthie Park or Aberdeen’s Beach.
Duthie Park is a massive park in Aberdeen with both indoor and outdoor gardens. You’ll find people walking their dogs here, workout classes going on, and loads of people just enjoying the large grassy area.
The best part of Duthie Park is the David Welch Winter Gardens. This is a perfect escape on a cold or wet day in Aberdeen. The winter garden is a large indoor garden with multiple different rooms that are acclimated to the needs of the plants in the room!
Go from walking through a room with plants you’d find in a rainforest, to walking through a desert room with cactus! And don’t worry, there are tables and chairs both inside and outside the indoor gardens, making it the perfect place to enjoy your fish and chips.
Aberdeen’s Beach Promenade
A beach in Scotland isn’t like a beach in a tropical destination, however, it’s still a welcoming experience in Aberdeen. Park on the Footdee end of the beach, where you’ll find free parking and public restrooms.
Find a spot to sit and watch the waves roll in as you enjoy your meal before joining the locals in a walk down the large promenade. There’s something so calming about a fresh sea breeze blowing in your face.
Along the beachfront, you’ll also find small ice cream shops, cafes, and even a theme park!
Codona’s Amusement Park is opened year-round, offering both indoor and outdoor activities. In the winter months, some of the attractions at Codona’s are closed due to the wet weather that winter in Aberdeen brings, but there’s still fun to be had here!
Before jumping back in your car to head to your accommodation, be sure to walk through the historic village of Footdee.
Step back in time as you wander through the walkways and alleys of Footdee. This is a true hidden gem in Aberdeen and is a place overlooked by many travelers.
Footdee is a small plot of land on the corner of the river and the ocean that used to be a Fisherman’s village. Walking through Footdee, you’ll see homes that are still in their original state and others that have been remodeled in recent years.
This little area in Aberdeen is a true step back in time, and is full of small coastal village charm!
After visiting Footdee, either head to your accommodation for a relaxed evening, or head to downtown Aberdeen, where you’ll find a lively night scene and oftentimes free parking after five.
Day Two in Aberdeen
Wake up and enjoy your breakfast before jumping in the car to visit some of the most popular castles in Aberdeenshire!
Ran by the National Trust of Scotland, Drum Castle, and Gardens is a castle in Scotland that is still fully intact and set up in the same way it was when it was last occupied by the Irvine Family.
Visiting this castle, you’ll be able to walk the grounds and tour inside room by room with your ticket. Walk through the main halls, see the baby nursery, and marvel at the amount of books in the book room!
If the bats aren’t roosting in the main tower, you’ll even be able to go up into the tower and learn of the history of what these tower walls have seen!
When you’re done soaking in all of Drum Castle, make your way to Stonehaven. On the way, be sure to stop in a grocery store and grab a meal deal to enjoy a picnic at the next Scottish castle.
Visit Dunnottar Castle
A second castle in one day is the way to go when in Aberdeenshire! Don’t worry castles in Scotland vary dramatically from one to the next, and Dunnottar Castle is a polar opposite to Drum Castle.
Located in Stonehaven, a super cute coastal village near Aberdeen, you’ll find Dunnottar Castle. This castle sits on a high peninsula overlooking the sea. It’s arguably the most famous castle near Aberdeen.
When visiting Dunnottar Castle, you won’t find a castle fully intact. Instead, you’ll see the gorgeous castle ruins from the town of Stonehaven, and as you approach the castle, you’ll notice it’s a big, walled-in castle and castle grounds on the cliff.
After visiting the Dunnottar Castle, you have to stop at the Carron Fish Bar.
Indulge in a Scottish Delicacy
A deep-fried mars bar? Yes, it’s as intriguing as it sounds.
The deep-fried Mars bar is believed to have been invented in the Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven. And while there is a mix of stories around the birth of this invention, it’s still a Scottish delicacy you don’t want to miss.
Just picture a warm chocolate candy battered and fried with caramel oozing out of every bite. It’s rich and delicious, and my mouth is watering currently just thinking about having one.
After indulging yourself in this tasty treat, walk off the sweetness along the waterfront.
Stroll Along Stonehaven’s Waterfront
Similar to the beachfront in Aberdeen, but a bit less crowded, the waterfront in Stonehaven is a fantastic place to enjoy a walk. You’ll Dunnottar Castle in the distance and in fact, you can even walk from the town of Stonehaven to the castle itself.
Along the waterfront, you’ll find multiple cafes and small restaurants where you can pop in and grab a bite to eat or warm up with a nice cup of tea before leaving Stonehaven.
Depending on what time it is, either head back to your accommodation for the night go back to the city and shop, or enjoy a night in Aberdeen. You can even grab a drink or a meal inside a church turned into a restaurant at Soul.
Day Three in Aberdeen
The final day in Aberdeen! After enjoying breakfast at your bed and breakfast and packing up your room, either take on some of the activities from the first day in Aberdeen that you may have missed depending on your flight time or wander through the historic buildings in Aberdeen.
If you have a late flight, visit a couple more castles along the Scottish Castle Trail and do a whisky tasting to end your weekend in Scotland.
Wandering the Streets in Aberdeen
If you’ve yet to visit Scotland, just simply getting lost in the city streets of Aberdeen is a great thing to do. You’ll find yourself walking on cobblestone streets, turning corners to buildings with spires and cathedrals galore, and restaurants, breweries, and bars that college towns often bring.
Grab a beer at Six Degrees North and walk through the University of Aberdeen campus by the Kings Link Golf Course.
If you have a later flight today, head out into Aberdeenshire, and explore more castles in Aberdeenshire.
Visit More Castles Near Aberdeen
Crathes is the sister castle to Drum Castle. If you get an early start on your second day in Aberdeen, you could very likely visit Crathes after Drum Castle and before heading to Dunnottar.
This road leads to multiple other castles in Scotland known as Scotland’s castle trail.
Up the road from Crathes Castle and about an hour outside of Aberdeen, you’ll find Balmoral Castle. Balmoral Castle is the castle where the queen used to reside when visiting Scotland. So tours of this castle aren’t so much a thing, however, when the royal family is away, the castle grounds are open.
Don’t fret though, if you get to Balmoral Castle and the castle is closed to visitors, there’s a distillery just behind the castle grounds!
Whisky Tasting at Royal Lochnagar Distillery
Royal Lochnagar is a distillery in Scotland that is famous for kings and queens visiting the distillery, hence the “royal” in the name.
This distillery is part of the Scottish classic malts and is a well-manicured distillery in Scotland. Be sure to check for opening times and tour hours, as you don’t want to drive all the way here for it to be closed.
With that said, the drive to Royal Lochnagar from Aberdeen is one of the most beautiful drives in Scotland. There are multiple castles on the way, the road is pretty wide for Scotland standards, making it easy to drive, and the views are incredible!
After finishing up your whisky tour, head to the airport to catch your flight out of Aberdeen.
Personalizing Your Weekend in Aberdeen
The above ideas for a weekend in Aberdeen are just, ideas. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on this list. In the end, enjoying your time in Aberdeen is more important than stressing about seeing it all.
If you have an early flight on your last day in Aberdeen but still wish to see Crathes Castle and Balmoral Castle, and even do the whisky tasting and tour, you can easily do that all right after visiting Drum Castle on the full day you have in Aberdeen.
Those three things, are all found on the same road that Drum Castle is on, so visiting them would easily fit into that day. In doing so, you’d be saving Stonehaven and Dunnottar Castle for its day on your last day in Aberdeen.
If you’re visiting Aberdeen for the weekend from Edinburgh, Stonehaven is located between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, so I suggest swapping your Edinburgh itinerary around to fit Stonehaven into the beginning or the end of your trip.
And, because I know not everyone likes the same things to eat, I’m going to add a little list of our favorite restaurants in Aberdeen below, in case fish and chips aren’t your thing.
A super healthy restaurant/cafe serving up some amazing coffee and quick and healthy meals.
This Thai food is done right! Delicious every time!
EFES Original Turkish Kebab
Hands down, the best kebab in Aberdeen. Their sauces are top-notch, and the portions are large!
Indian cuisine with so much flavor and the perfect amount of spice. Our go-to Indian take out in Aberdeen.
This article originally appeared on The World Overload. Featured Photo Credit: Heather Arbour