Aberdeen, Scotland: 5 budget tips for exploring the Granite City region

Posted in: Scotland


Aberdeen is knows as "Granite City" with plenty of beautiful examples of historic architecture. Photo: mallitch

Aberdeen is an appealing city, sturdy and solid. In part, this observation is architectural. The city’s predominant building material is granite, something that gives central Aberdeen an attractive if austere uniformity.

Aberdeen is also the center of Scotland’s oil industry—even the whole continent. The city uses the tagline “Energy capital of Europe.” As you might expect with a moniker like this one, Aberdeen is well off. And with visitor traffic largely coming from business travelers, it will probably never be one of Europe’s least expensive cities to visit. But it’s a great little city that Cheapos will enjoy, and these penny-stretching tips will be especially welcome to help ease the burden on your pocketbook.

1. Consider a weekend visit to save on hotels

Aberdeen’s hotels can be very expensive. Aberdeen is a business-friendly town full of oil industry players all week long. Hotel rates match the expense accounts of this market. But executives skedaddle on weekends and rates plummet. Some mid-range hotels even offer weekend packages. Shop around on budget hotel sites like EuroCheapo, and you can probably find a good deal.

Marischal College is the home of the Aberdeen City Council and a grand symbol of "Granite City." Photo: Alex Robertson Textor

Marischal College is the home of the Aberdeen City Council and a grand symbol of “Granite City.” Photo: Alex Robertson Textor

2. Visit the city’s excellent and free museums

Entry to the Maritime Museum and the Aberdeen Art Gallery are free of charge. Both are worth a visit. The Maritime Museum (on Shiprow) is great for young kids, with exhibits on shipping, the oil industry and fishing. The Aberdeen Art Gallery (on Schoolhill) has some wonderful galleries devoted to 19th and 20th Century British painting. It will soon close for a two-year redevelopment project. While dates haven’t been confirmed yet, the latest information I was able to tease out of a gallery employee suggests that the museum won’t be closed until early 2015. Another fun place to explore is Marshall College with


Ballater is a quaint Victorian village outside of Aberdeen. Photo: Alex Robertson Textor

3. Pick up a bus pass to explore the area

£13.50 gets you a six-zone dayrider bus pass good for exploring Aberdeenshire far and wide. Tickets can be purchased from the bus driver on board. The town of Ballater, about 90 minutes from Aberdeen, is a compelling Victorian village. Located within the Cairngorms National Park, the largest national park in the UK, Ballater is a stone’s throw from Balmoral Castle, the royal summer residence. It is also home to the old Royal Station, previously Balmoral’s royal train station and today the tourist information center and a small museum.

The lovely harbor in Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen. Photo: Mia

The lovely harbor in Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen. Photo: Mia

4. Award-winning fish & chips on the coast

Closer to Aberdeen is Stonehaven (zone 3, or a £7.50 dayrider ticket), a charming seaside village located just 15 miles south of the city center. Stonehaven has a picturesque harbor and is perfect for an afternoon or morning visit. For those looking to indulge in one of Scotland’s favorite delicacies, there is an award-winning fish and chips shop called The Bay that should not be missed.

5. Grab an affordable (and delicious) lunch at Food Story Cafe

Just a block away from Union Street, a central artery, Food Story Cafe (15 Thistle Street) is a sweet little delicatessen serving up delicious breakfasts and lunches. The place is always bustling, and the fresh sandwiches and soups are very good. A tasty combination will run you only £6.50.

Thanks to Inverness-based travel writer Simon Varwell and Aberdeen resident (and former New Yorker) Rachel Kelly for their Aberdeen advice and tips.


About the author

Alex Robertson Textor

About the author: Alex Robertson Textor is a London-based travel writer and editor. He has written for Rough Guides, the New York Times, and Public Books, among other publications; he also guided the tablet magazine Travel by Handstand to two SATW Foundation Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism awards. With Pam Mandel, he writes copy and generates ideas as White Shoe Travel Content. He is on Twitter as @textorian and maintains his own blog, www.textorian.com.

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