From ancient castles, festivals of all flavours, to delicious dining experiences, buzzing nightclubs to historic bars, world-class art and architecture, each of Scotland’s seven cities offers unique sights and experiences that will live with you for a lifetime.
Whether it’s Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Stirling, Edinburgh, or Glasgow, each offers year-round visitor attractions, events, and study opportunities, as well as providing the perfect stepping off point to explore the rest of our beautiful country.
Read on, for a whirlwind guide to Scotland’s magnificent seven.
Scotland’s most northern city – situated on the northeast coast, where the river Ness meets the Moray Firth – Inverness is the cultural capital of the Scottish Highlands. Small, but perfectly formed, it’s the ideal size to explore on foot (bring your hiking boots and you can also visit the scenic Great Glen, and the delights of nearby Loch Ness).
Although Inverness was one of the chief strongholds of the Picts, one of Scotland’s ancient tribes, it now a largely Victorian city, it’s quirky shops and cafes, covered market, riverside setting, and ‘castle’ – previously home to the local council – give it a unique air.
Home to Inverness College – part of the University of the Highlands and Islands – the city also provides a year-round calendar of events and festivals, with the Eden Court Theatre providing a haven for drama fans, while Leakey’s Second-hand Bookshop – housed in a former church, and often voted the most beautiful bookshop in Scotland – is a must for literature lovers.
The city’s many bars and restaurants serve up top quality local food, often with a side order of traditional music. All that perhaps explains why Inverness has twice been voted the UK’s ‘Happiest City’.
Harry Potter fans, both young and old, will also enjoy a visit to the nearby Glenfinnan Viaduct. Time your visit right, and you might see the Royal Scot steam train racing across it
With good road, rail, and air links, Inverness is also the perfect starting point for the North Coast 500 – Scotland’s answer to Route 66, and to explore the Speyside Whisky Trail.
Plan your visit, and make a date with Nessie, at: Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Visitor Guide - VisitAberdeenshire (visitabdn.com)
Scotland’s ‘Granite City’, situated in the north-east, where the rivers Dee and Don flow into the North Sea, has long been famed as Scotland’s oil capital, but is now reinventing itself as a centre for green and renewable energy.
Formerly one of Scotland’s top fishing ports, pay a visit to Fittie – a town within the city; a series of historic terraced squares and cottages, built in 1809 by architect John Smith, is just bursting with character and maritime charm.
If you have to ask for directions, you might have to retune your years, with many Aberdonians still speaking the local dialect, known as Doric.
Aberdeen gets its ‘Granite City’ tag from its stonework, almost unique in Scotland. The magnificent Marischal College, in Broad Street, now home to Aberdeen City Council, is said to be the second biggest granite building in the world.
Wherever you go in Aberdeen, you know this is a city of the sea, with ships docking right in the city centre harbour, dolphins dancing within site of the shore, and a great stretch of beach right on its doorstep.
Step away from the water, and the cobbled streets of city’s historic Old Town, including its 15th century fortified cathedral, provide a fascinating glimpse into Scotland’s past.
Mark you, with a 14,000-strong student population, made up of more than 130 nationalities, Aberdeen is also a lively, vibrant place, with the city’s many bars, music venues, and restaurants offering something for everyone.
Well served by road, rail, and air links, the city also provides the perfect base to explore the wider inland and coastal delights of Aberdeenshire, an area dotted with historic villages, castles, golf courses, and whisky distilleries.
Plan your visit at: Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Visitor Guide - VisitAberdeenshire (visitabdn.com)
Once known as the city of ‘jute, jam, and journalism’, Dundee – the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design - has recently reinvented itself as city of art, innovation, and computer gaming.
Situated near the mouth of the Tay estuary – Scotland’s longest river – the city is dominated by The Law, an ancient volcanic hill which provides a stunning viewpoint over both the city and the rolling countryside beyond.
Another easily walkable city, it’s home to an art college, two universities, an award-winning theatre, and, since 2020, V&A Dundee, an eye-popping design museum, set right by the river.
Once one of Scotland’s great whaling ports, the skills of the local shipbuilders were used to create the RSS Discovery, the ship doomed Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott took to the South Pole. Today, as a visitor attraction, moored just beside the V&A, it’s a permanent reminder of the city’s proud maritime past.
Although the city’s jute industry has long disappeared, a visit to the Verdant Mills Museum gives you a glimpse of how the city built its fame and fortune. The suburb of Broughty Ferry, home to the ‘Jute Barons’, boasts some of the largest and finest Victorian villas in Scotland, and once laid claim to more millionaires to the square mile than any town of its size in Britain. Even better, Broughty Ferry boasts a lovely beach, as well as a castle, great cafes, pubs, and eateries.
Back in the city centre, the Victorian McManus Gallery, in Albert Square, displays some of the city’s treasures, as well as art from around the world – much of it purchased by those jute millionaires.
Across from the gallery stands the offices of publisher DC Thomson, birthplace of The Beano comic, which has been keeping readers, young and old, entertained for over 80 years.
That creativity still powers the city today, with Dundee home to many world-beating computer games studios.
Take in a show at the Dundee Rep Theatre, a film or exhibition at the nearby Dundee Contemporary Arts, and finish your evening in one of great bars and restaurants dotted along the city’s Perth Road.
Don’t be a stranger, find out more at: Visit Dundee - Make A Visit To Dundee Special!
We’ve more for you to see and do; next time, we’ll visit Perth, Stirling, Glasgow, and Edinburgh.