Many people have few kind words to say about Aberdeen. 'Granite city' is the industrial capital of the northeast has its fair share of hallowing, icy offshore gales. However, whether you love it or hate it, you can't deny that Aberdeen has character and has made an impact historically; the now abandoned Rubislaw quarry was once the biggest artificial hole in the ground in Europe and Aberdeen still reigns as the continent's 'Oil Capital.'
Many residents and visitors share a fondness for the city and it has won Britain in Bloom a record breaking ten times; Aberdeen must have something going for it! Looking past its grey Victorian skeleton the wealth of artistic talent is striking. Lavish theatres and dingy music venues alike are the platform for home-grown comedians, dancers, singers, actors and rock, folk and indie groups to show Aberdeen what they've got. The acts will certainly put a smile on your face and provide the perfect distraction from the drumming rain outside. A good time to visit would be during one of the city's festivals such as the Aberdeen International Youth Festival held annually in August, which attracts over one thousand new performing talents from all over the world.
Aside from its oil, Aberdeen's gem is its beach. Stretching over 2 miles, the clean sandy seashore rises and falls into dunes and is a popular spot for fish and chips and a leisurely paddle in the summer sun. Go in winter too if the climate does not faze you. Then, when the sun goes down, head inland and enjoy a pint of fine beer or ale in one of Aberdeen's public houses. With more pubs per head than any other city in Britain, you will certainly find something that suits you, be it a traditional alehouse, a quirky tavern or a dingy student retreat. Several pubs also serve good food, local fish catches and dishes from further afield, and frequently have live music to liven your spirits and brighten the atmosphere.
Aberdeen Art Gallery is worth a visit. The chic marble interior displays a dynamic range of contemporary collections predominantly derived from local talent but also celebrating artists the likes of Scottish and English painters Gwen Hardie, Stephen Conroy and Joan Eardley. Linked to the gallery is the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, which celebrates Aberdeen's maritime culture, landscape and industry and teaches visitors about the North Sea petroleum industry. The view over the harbour is also worth a look in. Take a trip through time at Provost-Skene's House, where period costume and furniture lead you on a journey through Aberdeen's 17th, 18th and 19th century history. Admission is free to all three of these attractions.
If these sites appeal then you may also take interest in the Gordon Highlander's Museum, which commemorates what Winston Churchill once described as 'the finest regiment in the world': The Gordon Highlanders in the Boer War. The museum holds childrens' activites as well as conferences and dinners. The Stratosphere Science Centre is fun for all the family, offering an ever changing array of science discovery activities geared to make interactive scientific discovery enjoyable for kids and adults.
Although Aberdeen does not have the wealth of historical sites as Edinburgh or Glasgow, Dunnotar Castle is just a thirty minute drive away and is truly spectacular. The fortress balances on a cliff edge, seemingly fragile, but still as sturdy as the day it protected the Scottish Crown Jewels from the force of Oliver Cromwell's army. In the north of the city itself, the expansive beach is a must see. Famous for its golden sand and elegantly curving shoreline, it is a stunning site as well as being great for surfing and windsurfing. The famous Esplanade is splattered with gaudy arcades, fairground rides, dodgems and tenpin bowling, true British style. It may be tacky but it is a lot of fun and an all-day wristband for the rides costs a reasonable £12. If the crowds of over-excited youths are a bit much, the beach has calmer sections towards the south bank of the River Don, where a bird-watching hide offers peace and tranquillity.
See a contemporary dance, music, drama, literature comedy show at the Lemon Tree, a traditional opera, musical or ballet at the more conventional Her Majesty's Theatre or a classical concert at Aberdeen's Music Hall. The standard is inspirational. A Sunday evening in Aberdeen is not without seeing boyracers parading their 'pimped-out' cars down the Boulevard. Whether you admire the handiwork, or merely gawk at the over-the-top tinted out windows, this is a site that adds to Aberdeen's idiosyncrasy.
Think about the what the 'Granite City' truly is. Grey does not need to have pejorative connotations; when the sunlight catches the stone the shimmering silver is nothing short of magical. This can be seen at its best on Union Street, often nicknamed the 'Granite mile,' which is lined with characteristic Victorian buildings and is also the best spot for shopping in the city.
Avoid going for too long; once you have experienced the finer things in Aberdeen there rests little else to keep you there. Only hard-core outdoor lovers should brave Aberdeen's beach in winter. It is a beautiful stretch, but be careful of the strong gales. Keep your wits about you and ensure you are in a group if you go to certain areas such as Swan Meadows and North Dean.
Try a pint of beer or ale in one of Aberdeen's pubs. The Prince of Wales does good ale and will serve you a fine meal, Ma Cameron's, which used to be an inn and stables, is Aberdeen's oldest pub and has a hearty bar menu with popular dishes including steak and ale pie and fish and chips. On the other hand, the dingy yet novel Blue Lamp is popular amongst students and the Lemon Tree Café is a bohemian bar and music venue with a bimonthly programme of rock, folk and jazz acts. Although Aberdeen's nightlife is not the best, there are a few of clubs to try such as Snafu and Pearl Lounge if you're after a night out. In addition, try locally caught fish at the Foyer restaurant, which is a renovated church as well as being a gallery and has an excellent reputation.
Experience the world's largest multi-arts festival for young people at the annual summer Aberdeen International Youth Festival. Aberdeen's artistic culture is further honoured at the Aberdeen Jazz festival, Word, the University of Aberdeen's literature festival and DanceLive, Scotland's only contemporary dance festival. Performing arts fanatics and admirers, you will be in your element.
Bring back fish, fresh from the fisherman's boat, sold in the market on Albert Basin just as it was centuries ago. You'll need to be quick off the mark though, as vending is predominantly from dawn until 08:00.