Although at times overshadowed by more famous Scottish cities, Dundee is a dark horse that should not be overlooked when it comes to that wanderlist. Brimming over with historic sites and cool attractions, check out our guide to the best fun in Dundee.
The star of the Discovery Point show is the RRS Discovery, a three-masted beauty of a 1901 vessel who, with Captain Scott at the helm, expanded the frontiers of exploration in Antarctica. This multi award-winning self-led attraction documents Discovery’s legacy from her birth in Dundee to the crews that graced her decks.
Basking at the mouth of the River Tay, Broughty Castle is home to its very own free museum and gallery filled with paintings and displays documenting the heritage of the local people. Although constructed in 1496, this coastal castle underwent multiple sieges, battles and attacks, leading to its rebuilding during the 19th century to improve the Tay’s shoreline defense system.
Verdant Works is a bridge leading to Dundee’s past as an industrial textile epicentre. Overrun with ceiling beams and natural light dancing in from the perfect square window panes, this lofty converted mill helps paint the picture of local jute production during the 19th and 20th centuries. A must-see and the UK’s only designated jute museum.
Dundee Science Centre
Beyond the utilitarian exterior of the Dundee Science Centre awaits a hub of scientific appeal destined to tickle the interest of those sparked by all facets of life. The array of hands-on exhibits place the centre at the top of the list for perfect family-friendly day out activities. And yes, big kids are just as likely to be entertained!
Camperdown Country Park
Consisting of over 400 acres, Camperdown is both imbued with neoclassical beauty (in the form of Camperdown House) and Dundee’s biggest public park. Suited to leafy wanderings, the space is punctuated with rows upon rows of trees spanning around 190 species and a wildlife centre.
Like something from a Wes Anderson movie set, McManus Galleries operates out of a striking gothic revival building guarded by brooding steps. And yet, inside is where the magic happens. The curved glacial white ceiling and ethereal rays cast a calming ambience over the museum and art gallery collections, which span the entire gamut from natural history and fine art to decorative art. An unmissable attraction for art-hungry wanderers.
Ignore the somewhat disheveled appearance and revel in the wonder of the world with a stargazing extravaganza at the Mills Observatory. Taking the crown as the UK’s first ever purpose-built astronomical observatory, this gem of a star spot holds the key to a fully computerized telescope, planetarium shows and displays revolving around space exploration and astronomy.
Dundee Contemporary Arts
A hotbed of innovation and epiphanies, Dundee Contemporary Arts is one of the city’s most adored cultural gems. Playing to all kinds of creativity, this arty space ticks every box with its two contemporary art galleries, two-screen cinema, print studio, visual research centre and happening café come bar purveying tasty delights. From indie films to arty musing moments, the possibilities are endless.
Dundee is the doyen of Scotland’s burgeoning video game scene. A masterpiece by artist Alyson Conway, the weirdly adorable Lemmings Statues found frolicking around Perth Rd pay homage to the video game characters created by DMA Design, the brains behind the original GTA titles. Gamers in the know can’t surpass such a unique photo op!
Monikie Country Park
Suited to those days that demand doing something involving the outdoors, Monikie Country Park is bursting with adrenaline-inducing fun. Activities range from paddle boarding and zip lining, to mountain biking and BBQ-ing. Those in it for the thoughtful meanders can delight in the many walking trails and Denfind Bird Sanctuary.
Desperate Dan Statue
A mandatory selfie site, the High Street Desperate Dan Statue is the perfect tool to up the Instagram game. Notorious for his wild west ways and love of cow pies, this comic strip icon wowed the UK with his cameo in The Dandy in 1937. As home to DC Thomson — Dundodian media powerhouse and Dan’s publishers — it’s only fitting that the city hosts this legendary statue.
Tealing Earth House
Less of a house and more of a trench, Tealing Earth House is an underground passage or stone-lined souterrain dating all the way back to the Iron Age. Although its use is debated, there’s no denying that it was unearthed during the 1800s. Based solely on evidence from within the chamber, archaeologists suspect its roots likely point to the early centuries AD, sometime during Roman occupation of Scotland.
A sizeable chunk of an extinct volcano, Dundee Law is a soothing staple in the city’s varied skyline, with its history dating back to around 400 million years ago. Topped with a towering monument, archaeological findings revealed prehistoric graves and confirmed that it once served as an Iron Age hillfort.
The Reading Rooms, with its cool industrial interiors, is a leading light in Scotland’s underground club scene. This former library is a hotbed of creativity and home to a bespoke music collective offering a smorgasbord of musical styles — including electro, dubstep, reggae, funk and soul, techno and rockabilly — that amalgamate to an inimitable party atmosphere with live music and off-the-hook beats.
HM Frigate Unicorn
As the oldest UK-built ship still bobbing about, HM Frigate Unicorn plays a starring role in Dundee’s harbour-side heritage. A little rougher around the edges than the RRS Discovery, yet just as magical, HMS Unicorn — 46 gun barrels and all — dates back to 1824, predating many of the city’s buildings. Aptly named, the unicorn has long been the heraldic symbol of Scotland.
Dundee Repertory Theatre
With artistic director Andrew Panton holding the reins and two creative ensembles under one roof (Dundee Rep actors and the Scottish Dance Theatre), this charming company puts on life-affirming productions time and time again, including a roller-coaster ride of internationally acclaimed shows.
A culinary beacon in Dundee’s foodie scene, Castlehill Restaurant has mastered contemporary Scottish cuisine while showcasing the best of local produce. The snug space is brimming with effortless style and the dishes presented as edible art. Critically acclaimed Chef Graham Campbell is a dab hand at wild foraging, which no doubt adds to Castlehill’s elevated essence.
Praised as one of Scotland’s more out-the-box fortresses, Claypotts Castle dates back to the 1500s. A place of architectural intrigue, this Scottish gem boasts its original timber roof, rounded towers, stair turrets, stand-out attic corbelling and garnished elevations.
Agacan Kebab House
Dancing with artwork, mosaics and vibrant pops of colour, Agacan Kebab House is part gallery, part Turkish restaurant. This multifaceted local institution serves up a storm in the form of authentic traditional Turkish kebabs and meze infused with flavour and love.
V&A Museum Of Design Dundee
A testament to Dundee’s rich design heritage, the V&A Museum of Design Dundee is set to descend upon the city in 2018. This already iconic cabinet of curiosity is Scotland’s first ever design museum and the only Scottish location to showcase V&A international touring exhibitions outside London. Through drawing upon historically significant objects and globally renowned collections, this hotbed of innovation is a platform for Scotland’s design gurus to expand all creative realms.