Scotland's northern gem, Aberdeen has become one of the richest cities in the UK thanks to a tide of North Sea Oil. The city exudes elegance and class, from the wine bars of its city center to the Royal Estate at Balmoral.
The "Granite City" was here well before the oil began to flow, and it has a gorgeous historical core, with boutiques housed in 18th-century premises on Union Street, superb museums, and fabulous food (and whisky).
You can escape to sublime golf courses on the coast, tour the castles and pubs of Royal Deeside, or confine yourself to one of the UK's most atmospheric, beguiling cities.
Aberdeen is serious about heritage and art, and it has the museums to back this up. The Aberdeen Maritime Museum is a standout attraction, showcasing the city's ocean-going past, but the excellent collection at Aberdeen Art Gallery is just as engaging.
Some of the finest malt whiskies in the world are produced on the River Spey, a short drive from Aberdeen. The city makes the perfect base for tasting tours to legendary distilleries like Glenlivet and Glenfiddich and is a must for scotch fans.
Aberdonians may be hard-working, but they love to unwind, and Aberdeen is not short of entertainment options. Far from it. There are massive outdoor festivals like Enjoy Music in Hazlehead Park, constant classical performances at Aberdeen Music Hall, and ballet and opera at His Majesty's Theatre.
Aberdeen is probably Scotland's gourmet dining capital. The wealth of the city means that there are more high-class eateries in the Granite City than anywhere else in the nation, including exceptional restaurants like Granite Park and the Braided Fig. Expect succulent Scotch beef, just the way you want it.
Aberdeen has long been favored by royalty. In fact, it's one of the British monarchy's homes away from home, with Balmoral Castle just a few miles outside the city. A driving tour of Royal Deeside is a must, with castles and enchanting small towns like Braemar, and some truly stunning scenery.
Aberdeen can be visited pretty much all year round. With sophisticated cultural attractions on offer, even winter can be a good time to explore the city (although brace yourself for some serious cold). The best time for general sightseeing, whisky tours, and golf is summer. From late June to mid-August, the weather is warm and ideally set up to get out and about.
Aberdeen International Airport (ABZ) provides flight connections to London and Paris, so it's easy to reach from North American cities. It's around seven miles from the center of town, and the best route into Aberdeen is the 727 airport bus (runs every 20 minutes, £2.90). Otherwise, you can rent a car or expect to pay £20 for a taxi.
Aberdeen has direct train connections to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London, and Guild Street Station is right at the heart of town. Companies operating on the London-Aberdeen route include Virgin and CrossCountry, and there is a Caledonian Sleeper service between the two cities as well.
If you are driving north from Edinburgh, take the M90 and then the A90 at Perth, which runs along some of Scotland's most beautiful coastline, all the way into Aberdeen.
Aberdeen has daily bus connections with other Scottish cities as well as London, with both Megabus and National Express running services into the city. The main bus station is on Union Square, also at the center of town.
In the Aberdeen area, you can choose from luxury city center hotels and quirky B&Bs in Old Aberdeen to coastal accommodation and rural castles. If you need to be near the beach, the DoubleTree by Hilton has great sea views. Brentwood Villa is a lovely B&B in Old Aberdeen, while leading 4-star city center options include the modern Rox and the Malmaison Hotel.
Central Aberdeen - Aberdeen's downtown is set back a few hundred yards from the docks and is home to the city's major attractions. Architectural delights like St Mary's Cathedral mingle with museums and galleries in a walkable, elegant urban core.
Aberdeen Beach - although it's not famous as a beach destination, Aberdeen does have a long, sandy beach and a resort atmosphere. The beach is a great place for a summer vacation, with adventure sports centers, amusement parks, and an excellent public golf course, all within a few minutes of the city center.
Old Aberdeen - surprisingly, the city center isn't the oldest part of the city. That's reserved for northern or Old Aberdeen, which is home to the city's university. Possessing a very distinct identity, Old Aberdeen has attractions like the Zoology Museum, medieval chapels, and brick-built ancient streets. It's a magical neighborhood to visit.
Buses are the main form of public transportation in Aberdeen and First Aberdeen and Stagecoach provide a reliable service. Buses run from 5:00 until midnight and cost £2.20 for a single fare (exact change will be needed). Day tickets are also available, and cost £4.
You'll find taxi ranks dotted across the city center, and they are the best place to pick up a ride, as Aberdeen's taxi fleet doesn't have any distinguishing branding. Fares are regulated at £2.40 for the first 950 yards (870 meters), and then there's a charge of £0.20 for every 180.5 yards (165 meters).
Having a car makes it much easier to explore Royal Deeside and the Malt Whisky Trail, and local rental outlets include Europcar, Avis, and Enterprise. Rates can be as low as £10 per day in some cases, making car rental an excellent transportation option.
Aberdeen has some elegant squares and shopping streets that equal anything in Edinburgh. The city's shopping hub has been Union Street for over a century, which is where you'll find international chains. However, shopping malls like the Trinity Shopping Centre and the Bon Accord & St Nicholas are great alternatives, with plenty of independent stores to check out.
If you need to shop for food or any other groceries, Aberdeen's supermarket selection includes Tesco, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Asda, and Sainsbury's. Prices will be fairly high by Scottish standards (it's a rich city), with a gallon of milk costing around £3.20 and 12 eggs £1.80.
Aberdeen has a huge range of gastropubs, brasseries, and international dining options. Some of the best gourmet restaurants include Granite Park, which focuses on seasonal British produce, Cafe Andaluz, which looks to southern Spain for inspiration, and Montmartre, a classy French brasserie. But there are plenty of Japanese, Indian, and Korean eateries around too. A sit down meal at an upmarket place like Granite Park will cost about £25 with two courses included.