Aberdeen may be known as the Granite City thanks to the grey stone with which most of the city was built, but if you’re looking for things to do, somewhere to spend an evening with friends or listen to live music, this city is as colourful as they come.

The city is somewhat one of Scotland’s hidden gems, with a number of shopping, dining, and drinking hotspots. Our Aberdeen hotel is close to the city centre but tucked away in a quieter spot, making it the ideal place to retire to after a day of shopping and sightseeing.

There’s plenty to discover in and around Aberdeen, so we’ve put together a guide to some of the best places to visit.

Union Street and the City Centre

Union Street is Aberdeen’s main thoroughfare, lined with grand, grey sandstone architecture and plenty of pubs, bars, shops and restaurants. Here, you’ll also find Union Square, which is Aberdeen’s top shopping destination and features over 50 shops.

If you’d prefer to immerse yourself in art and culture, there are plenty of art galleries and museums in the city centre. The Aberdeen Art Gallery is currently undergoing a major revamp and is due to open in Autumn 2019. Nearby, the Aberdeen Maritime Museum showcases the city’s long relationship with the sea, including a unique collection of ships and displays on the North Sea oil industry.

Whether it’s a day of shopping or sightseeing, you’re bound to need a rest, so why not head back to Mal to get ready for the night ahead? With our Stay, Drink & Shop offer, you can get bed, breakfast, a cocktail and a shopping voucher for Union Square – the perfect Aberdeen shopping break!


Merchant Quarter

The Merchant Quarter is part of Aberdeen’s medieval centre and is considered the beating heart of the city. Here you’ll find an array of independent shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as an eclectic mix of bars, live music and entertainment, so you certainly won’t be stuck for choice.

The Merchant Quarter is the place to be if you’re into live music, and home to the Music Hall. For other live music venues in the city, check out the Lemon Tree, and the Barn, as well as the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre. If you’re a film buff, be sure to visit the Belmont Filmhouse, an independently owned cinema which shows not only the latest releases but international films too.

Why not treat yourself to dinner and a movie? At our very own Chez Mal Brasserie, you’ll find an array of delicious dishes served with passion and personality, such as our honey and soy glazed pork belly or our zesty rigatoni primavera. Afterwards, grab a cool cocktail at Malbar before heading down to Filmhouse for a night at the movies!


Hidden gems

There’s plenty of things to do in Aberdeen city centre, but further out in the outskirts of the city, there are a few hidden gems that might just fly under the radar.

The David Welch Winter Gardens at Duthie Park are one of Europe’s largest indoor gardens, located just to the south of the city. This spacious greenhouse complex is home to a diverse range of plants and flowers creating the perfect environment for a relaxing stroll, and even better for those rainy days! Duthie Park itself provides acres of parkland complete with a boating lake and adventure playground for the kids.

To the north of the city centre, you’ll find Old Aberdeen – a historic borough packed full of interesting buildings and places to eat and drink. Here, you’ll find the Brig o’ Balgownie, an ancient bridge built in 1320, and Powis Gate, a pair of 19th century towers that look like they’re straight out of a fairy-tale. The beautiful cobbled streets of Old Aberdeen alone make this place worth a visit.

To the east of the city, close to the harbour, lies the old fishing village of Footdee, known by locals as ‘Fittie’. This medieval village is made up of tiny cottages and outhouses, all uniquely designed to resemble an eclectic patchwork of colour and curiosity. It is now a conservation area, which the locals are proud to show off.


Getting out of the city

If you’ve explored the city and need to dust off those cobwebs, there’s plenty to do and see in surrounding Aberdeenshire.

Just a 30-minute drive north of the city, you’ll find the stunning Pitmedden Garden & Museum of Farming Life. The 17th-century walled garden is a snapshot of Scottish Renaissance in rural Aberdeenshire, close to the towns of Pitmedden and Ellon. Over 30,000 bedding plants make up colourful designs interspersed with fountains, and topiary – the perfect place to wander and unwind.

Just over an hour’s drive from Aberdeen is Balmoral Castle, a stunning estate house near the village of Ballater. The castle is famous for being the official Scottish residence of the Royal Family and the Scottish retreat of choice for the Queen’s annual trip to Scotland. During the Spring and Summer months, up until the end of July, the grounds are open to the public, so you can experience life as a Royal, if even just for a moment!

Finally, a trip to Aberdeenshire wouldn’t be complete without seeing the famous Dunnottar Castle. Perched on a cliff edge just 30-minutes outside of the city, this medieval fortress is a dramatic reminder of Scotland’s past. The evocative ruin was once the home of one of Scotland’s most powerful families and is an unforgettable experience for anyone who visits!

If you haven’t yet decided where to stay during your trip, Malmaison Aberdeen offers the perfect base to relax, work or play. We’re based in the city centre and just a 15-minute walk to Union Street. With stylish rooms, an inner-city spa and a fabulous contemporary restaurant, Malmaison is more than a place to rest your head. Why not book your stay today?