18 Things to Do In Aberdeen That Don’t Involve Alcohol, Coffee or Going to the Beach


Alcohol free Aberdeen isn’t as grey as it may seem #StillAberdream


#1 Parks

Duthie park spreads itself along the side of the River Dee. From the winter gardens in their massive greenhouses with giant cacti, to its excellent slopes for sledging in winter and its many playsets, you can easily spend a few fun hours out of your flat or the library here.

Know how to play chess? Head over to Victoria Park where you will find two giant chess boards.

#2 Discover Aberdeen and its surroundings with guided tours

(My Photograph: Marischal College)

Wondering about Aberdeen’s past? Want to learn more about it’s rather dark and grim past? I recommend the self-guided walking tours you can find on TripAdvisor. They are cheap (£4) and full of facts and anecdotes. I doubt you’ll see the city in the same way again. You can also take a boat tour around the harbour. If you have a more particular type of tour that you want to do (especially animal-watching tours as we can spot seals, dolphins and whales close to the Aberdeen shore), I would recommend visiting the Aberdeen Tourist Information Centre, which will be able to help find a tour more tailored to your wishes.



#3 Nuart

Like art? Then this is the event for you - an international public (street) art festival which has been happening in Aberdeen during April annually since 2017. Promoting art as part of people’s everyday lives, it brings artists from their basements and studios out into the open as they take over the city’s walls. If you like walking, you can use the map on the website below to find all the current murals in town.


(From: https://www.visitabdn.com/listing/nuart-aberdeen)

#4 Boat cruise to Orkney or the Shetlands

With Northlink ferries you can leave the Aberdonian greyness and head out on the open seas to explore the islands at the top of Scotland. This link leaves once a day in the early hours of the evening to Stromness, Kirkwall and Lerwick. You’ll arrive in Lerwick early in the morning and can use the next 12h to explore the town or the surrounding countryside. You then have the choice of catching the evening boat back to Aberdeen or staying a night or two. Don’t forget the student discount! https://www.northlinkferries.co.uk/

#5 Aberdeen’s cemeteries

Weird addition to this list? Probably, but it’s nearly Halloween. Let the hauntings begin! From the style of the tombstones to the havens of peace and quiet they form in the middle of a bustling city, what more is there to say? Well, maybe consider St. Machar’s cemetery as your next haunted location to visit. Between ghost sightings and the tale of how William Wallace’s arm might be buried in the cathedral’s wall, it will no longer be just “that church you go past to get to uni every day”. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/AttractionProductDetail-g186487-d210322-a_aidSuffix.cart-a_partner.Viator-a_product.110804P191-Aberdeen_Harbour-Aberdeen_Aberdeenshire_Scotland.html

(My photography: St. Nicholas Cemetery)

#6 Bowling

Whether at Cadona’s or Lane 7, bowling is a great way to bring friends together, both beginners and semi-professionals (we all have that one friend who thinks they could make a career out of it, right?). Expect epic wins and epic fails in equal quantities.

#7 Cinema

At least one person has suggested the cinema when you have wanted to do something alcohol-free, haven’t they? Well, it may seem an old, boring example, but you could try and mix it up. Ever been to the first possible viewing in the morning? Maybe try a Tuesday at 1pm. Go watch that film that you wouldn’t normally see, you might be surprised.

#8 Taking centre-stage(ish)

Why not take advantage of Aberdeen’s great performance scene? Between His Majesty’s Theatre, the Music Hall and the Lemon Tree, there is a diverse range of performances on offer. Stand-up comedians, ballet, concerts of all genres, dance, theatre, opera… Everybody can find something they will enjoy. These are just a few examples. There are many places in town which offer this type of entertainment.


#9 Escape rooms

Mix adrenaline and brains and you get the perfect teamwork game. Three locations offer multiple different scenarios which you will have to escape from. Seriously fun to do with friends, and relatively cheap (it’ll cost you less than what you’d probably spend on a night out), why not see if you can survive and solve the puzzles?




#10 Paintball

Need to blow off some steam after a long week or just want to prove that you’re the best shot? Look no further. Lots of fun for everyone. Both paintball locations are on Union Street, so there’s no excuse for it being “too faaaar”.



#11 Codona’s

(From: https://www.thousandwonders.net/Codona%27s+Amusement+Park)

How can you miss the view of Codona’s lit-up wheel at night? Most of us have thought, at one point or another, that we should check it out, but have we? Between bowling, laser-tag, dodgems, a ferris wheel, mini-golf, and an arcade, there’s more than enough for a fun afternoon. They also have a restaurant and bar for when you need a bit of respite.

#12 Golf

For a city which can sometimes seem as if it’s been invaded by golf courses, how many of us have actually ever played a game? Take a chance and try it out, there are plenty of places to go. If getting the ball into the hole sounds too complicated, why not consider the King’s Link driving range?


#13 Museums

There are plenty of museums in Aberdeen and they’re not as boring as they may sound. Learn about Aberdeen’s sea-related history at the Maritime Museum, Aberdeen’s past at the Tolbooth Museum (located in an old prison), go back to your childhood at Aberdeen’s Science Centre which has plenty of interactive experiments, or visit the newly opened Aberdeen Art Gallery. While on campus don’t forget about the Sir Duncan Rice Library Museum, the Zoology Museum or the King’s Museum which have both permanent and temporary collections.

(From: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/museums/exhibitions/zoology-museum-588.php)

#14 Pancake Sundays

Enjoy delicious pancakes at Foodstory for a lazy Sunday brunch. Foodstory also offers weekly yoga, meditation and life-drawing classes. Every month there is a Roots and Reggae night, as well as many other events. For £3 entry, why not try it out instead of the usual clubs?


#15 Beach clean-up

Environmentally-conscious people might want to check-out the beach clean-up that the Aberdeen University Marine Society host a few times a year.


#16 Highland Games

Want to see muscly bearded men throw massive stones and huge logs around all to the sound of bagpipes? Try out the Highland Games, which come to Hazlehead Park in the middle of June every year. If you’re not Scottish and have never been before, I would highly recommend, even if it’s just so that you have an interesting story for your friends back home.

(From: https://www.myhighlands.de/tipps/highland-games-schottland-termine/)

#17 Christmas Drive-in cinema

If you or a friend own a car and like Christmas movies, then this is a classic winter event just for you. Take some blankets and some hot chocolate and experience cinema the “old-way”.


#18 Shopping and Thrift shops

For anyone living in the Granite City, it will have been evident by now that there is an abundance of thrift shops. Here are a few of my favourites.

Maidinvinyl is my go-to for second-hand records as they are of very high quality and the store have an excellent selection. https://maidinvinyl.co.uk/

For books and music, Oxfam on Back Wynd is a fantastic shop with friendly and helpful staff and an eclectic selection of books, ranging from classics, to course textbooks, to Scottish literature, through foreign language books and comics. Where else could you find a German language encyclopaedia on Middle-Eastern and Islamic architecture next to Robert Burns and Tolstoy?

For those of you who enjoy vintage items of clothing, The Closet is just the place you need. A brilliant selection of clothes with the sweetest staff. You can also find them on Instagram @ClosetVintageAbdn.