Weekend in Aberdeen - what/how to do
February 2, 2014 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Late afternoons/evenings next weekend in Aberdeen: tips to make the most of?

I'm in Aberdeen for college next weekend, and am free from 5 Fri, Sat and Sun. I'll be based in Bucksburn, getting in and out of town on the bus/taxi. Have never been into Aberdeen before, intend to go my own, want to a. stock up on UK groceries also clothes and b. have a look round and a drink etc (am also posting to IRL)
People who know Aberdeen: what are the main shopping areas for chain stores, and are there any slightly "alternative" areas/places for clothes etc like Afflex/Northern Quarter in Manchester?
What bus ticket should I get for maximum freedom/flexibility?
Is there anything particular on next weekend/gigs etc and whats the best listings site/publication?
What is Aberdeen centre/port area like for going round on your own?
(I would love to go to the Maritime Museum but it closes too early, where else can I (easily, safely) go to get a feel for the maritime/industrial action of the city
Anywhere particular to avoid? How mad/dodgy does it get on a Friday and Saturday evening in comparison to eg Liverpool/Manchester etc, and are there any particular pubs or caffs where a woman on her own can have a pint, listen to music/comedy and not get looked at funny/hassled? When does Saturday change from a shopping crowd to a going out crowd?
Also any particularly good Indian/Japanese places?

this got vague, appreciate any info!
posted by runincircles to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know Aberdeen brilliantly, but in the absence of any other answers..

Union Square shopping centre, adjoining the station, has a good selection of clothes shops, pretty much set up to cater to the city's wealthy oil industry workers.

Unfortunately this means that the main shopping street is pretty run down and tends towards pound shops and poky versions of high street department stores (at least the portion of it I shopped in about six months ago before giving up and going to US).

The other advantage of Union Square is that you'll be under cover, and in my experience, it's always raining in Aberdeen. Always. And grey. So, so grey. And rainy.
posted by penguin pie at 8:38 AM on February 2, 2014

I was in Aberdeen by myself a few years ago and went to a couple of things at The Lemon Tree - a gig and a comedy show. If I recall correctly, there was a big notice board just inside the entrance with details of all sorts of things going on in the area.
posted by essexjan at 10:19 AM on February 2, 2014

Drinks: The original Brewdog bar and the new sixdegrees north .
posted by stuartmm at 11:50 AM on February 2, 2014

Just stay away from any bars near the harbour - Skate Row etc.

Most chilled pubs are in the Belmont Street area.
posted by kariebookish at 12:46 PM on February 2, 2014

Only visited Aberdeen once. I remember it for two things.

1. It was the coldest place I have ever been to.
2. It has the best Indian restaurant I have ever visited.

Cinnamon on Union Street
posted by handybitesize at 5:56 AM on February 3, 2014

Pubs: The Grill on Union street has an amazing amber wall of whiskey running behind its extensive bar, and whiskey-tasting menus (6 selected drams for a round figure). It may not look terrific from the outside, but it's definitely worth a visit. The Prince of Wales has a fine selection of real ales. The Brewdog bar (already mentioned) is neat, and barely a stone's throw away on Littlejohn St is Six Degrees North, which stocks a wide variety of Belgian bottled beers. Under The Hammer, nearer the Justice Mill lane area (clubs, student nightlife), is worth finding - a basement bar, candles on tables, good vibes.

Shopping: a new shopping centre (Union Square) is right next to the railway station. There are 3 others in a line heading north (St Nicholas Centre, Bon Accord). Alternative shopping is mostly around Belmont Street, and at the West end of Union street around Thistle lane. There are bits and pieces of independent shopping up in the 'West End' - Rosemount area.

Eating: Cafe 52 is great. Yatai do good sushi. A trip to The Ship Inn at Stonehaven harbour is well worthwhile (their booze is good too, but the cullen skink is off the hook) - it's only a short trip on the train heading south, and there's a great cliff-top walk (20mins?) to Dunnotar Castle.

Other activities: if it's wet, there's a huge indoor climbing wall / skate park at Transition Extreme, down on the sea front. There's a 'pleasure beach' of amusement arcades etc. The harbour is busy with activity but right at its mouth (North side) is a strange miniature village called Footdee, which you can wander around. You can walk the coast North up to the other river mouth, the Don, which and as you head West (inland) from there you enter a nature reserve (seals bask on the mudflats in summer), and it brings you round to through Seaton Park to Old Aberdeen, where there's St Machar's twin-spired cathedral, a botanical garden with arboretum, and the University, connected by wee cobbledy streets. South of the railway station there's Duthie Park, which has a neat Victorian hothouse. Peacock Visual Arts is very good, as is the Aberdeen Art Gallery at the end of Belmont St / next to Robert Gordon University. His Majesty's Theatre hosts ballet and dramatic arts. There are several cinemas, the Belmont Picturehouse is probably best for catching anything that's not entirely mainstream, and hosts other things as well. The Lemon Tree has already been mentioned for performance stuff. IMP (Interesting Music Promotions) have been putting on exactly that (Michael Gira, the Boredoms, Caribou etc) for years, often at The Lemon Tree and The Tunnels.

Coffee: The Beautiful Mountain is great, as is The Coffee House very nearby. If you're around Old Aberdeen / the University, then pop in at Kilau (check opening times at weekends) or their fancy new library building (great views over everything - just ask to look around as a visitor).

Indian: I rate Rishi's - seriously good, tucked away, not much to look at from outside, but definitely worth it. George Street has a fair number of outdoor-gear stores, and there are more and more attempts at indie shops, but with mixed success.

It's a working port, so you can't really get directly harbour-side (there's a big fence keeping you apart from the boats), but you'll be close enough to see the oil-rig supply vessels. It's safe enough by day, a bit grim in some areas. Better on the North side. There was a TV show about Aberdeen Harbour (it was BBC - on the iplayer - so it might have been upped to youtube somewhere). Like I said, you can see Footdee, up at the mouth of the harbour, and see ships coming in and out (as well as whales and other sea mammals in spring) right up next to the pilot's lookout, beside The Silver Darling, an up-market fish restaurant.

Of the pubs I've mentioned, I'd say they're all safe places to be having a pint on your own - busy, so you'll not be conspicuous and so they're full of character(s), but not rowdy. Union St and Belmont Rd get a bit, um, sticky at about 2am, but they're very safe (well lit, well trafficked etc) before that.

I don't really know about bus tickets, but you can almost certainly buy a 'day rider' for maximum flexibility/cost effectiveness. In my experience, Aberdeen is certainly (on average) more expensive than most other Scottish places - the oil industry has created a wealth-bubble, so prices are inflated as a result. Bus travel makes sense if you're planning on going far afield, but since most of the stuff is around Union St / Belmont, you probably don't need a day-rider bus ticket. Say you went up to Old Aberdeen, that's just a return ticket, and it'd probably be cheaper than the day rider. I recommend getting on a train South to Stonehaven, or else getting out North to the beautiful sand-dunes of Ythan and Newburgh (hotly contested a while back by Donald Trump, who, so the allegations went a while back, may have influenced council voting to enable himself to install a golf course near this protected site). Or head up the Dee inland towards the Balmoral estate and the impressive Cairngorms...

Wow, this sounds like a tourist brochure. I just find it pretty easy to remember all the places I like about the city - I lived there for a couple of years, a couple of years ago, and while I was reluctant to arrive there at first, I've come to regret leaving. I struggle to name any of the places I like in the current place I live. Aberdeen's granite isn't all grey, it sparkles in the street lighting on a rainy evening. Good memories, good times. Have fun!
posted by Joeruckus at 11:13 AM on February 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Cor! Thanks very much everyone who answered! Especially Joeruckus, that's me sorted when I'm there in April and June too then!
Got me pub, restaurant and Shazia Mirza on the Saturday for starters.
posted by runincircles at 5:48 AM on February 4, 2014

Well this worked out. Had fab meet up with dead nice Mefites at Brewdog and Six Degrees North, wandered through the harbour and out along the promenade, heard a folk sesh in the Prince of Wales and saw a punk band in the Tunnels, had a nice window shop in Union Sq. Ta muchly all!
posted by runincircles at 7:08 AM on March 12, 2014

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