Must-Visit Attractions in Dundee, Scotland

Claypotts Castle is one of the top attractions in Dundee and dates back to the 1500s
Claypotts Castle is one of the top attractions in Dundee and dates back to the 1500s | © allan wright / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Tori Chalmers
1 September 2020

Although at times overshadowed by more famous Scottish cities, Dundee is a dark horse that should not be overlooked. This city offers castles, museums, galleries, cafes and much more. From Glamis Castle to the Mills Observatory, here’s our guide to the best of Dundee, Scotland.

RRS Discovery

Museum, Historical Landmark
Map View
The RRS Discovery (Scott's Antarctic Expedition vessel) with the Tay Bridge behind, Dundee, Central Lowlands, Scotland, UK
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
The star of Dundee’s Discovery Point show is the RRS Discovery, a three-masted beauty of a 1901 vessel that, 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.

Broughty Castle

Museum, Historical Landmark
Map View
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 defence system.

Verdant Works

Museum
Map View
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 square window panes, this lofty converted mill helps paint the picture of local jute production during the 19th and 20th centuries. Verdant Works is the UK’s only designated jute museum – and a must-see.

McManus Galleries

Building, Memorial, Museum
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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. This is an unmissable attraction for art-hungry wanderers.

Mills Observatory

Museum, Architectural Landmark
Map View
Ignore the somewhat dishevelled 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 spot holds the key to a fully computerised telescope, planetarium shows and displays revolving around space exploration and astronomy.

Dundee Contemporary Arts

Art Gallery
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DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre) entrance in Nethergate Dundee Scotland UK
© John Peter Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
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, a two-screen cinema, a print studio, a visual research centre and a happening café.

Lemming Statues

Memorial
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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 Road pay homage to the video game characters created by DMA Design, the brains behind the original Grand Theft Auto titles. Gamers in the know can’t surpass such a unique photo op!

Monikie Country Park

Park
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Two empty wooden piers on the banks of the Reservoir at Monikie Country Park on a sunny afternoon in February.
© JJ Walters / Alamy Stock Photo
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 the Denfind Bird Sanctuary.

Desperate Dan Statue

Memorial
Map View
Statue of Desperate Dan from the Dandy Comic with the Caird Hall in the background, High Street, Dundee
© Sheila Taylor / Alamy Stock Photo
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. It’s only fitting that the city hosts this legendary statue, as it’s home to Dan’s publisher – media powerhouse DC Thomson.

Tealing Earth House

Historical Landmark
Map View
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. Archaeologists suspect that its roots point to the early centuries CE, sometime during Roman occupation of Scotland.

Dundee Law

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
A sizable chunk of an extinct volcano, Dundee Law is a soothing staple in the city’s varied skyline, topped with a towering monument. Its history dates back to around 400 million years ago, and archaeological findings revealed prehistoric graves and confirmed that it once served as an Iron Age hillfort.

Reading Rooms

Nightclub, Cocktails
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The Reading Rooms, with their cool industrial interiors, are a leading light in Scotland’s underground club scene. The 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.

HMS Unicorn

Museum, Historical Landmark
Map View
Figurehead of H M Frigate Unicorn
© Allan Coutts / Alamy Stock Photo
As the oldest UK-built ship still bobbing about, HMS 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.

Claypotts Castle

Historical Landmark
Map View
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.

V&A Museum Of Design Dundee

Building, Museum
Map View
V&A Dundee design museum designed by Kengo Kuma at Riverside Esplanade Dundee Scotland
© Mark Sunderland Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Open/close Dundee

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Dundee has a strong street art community, who have embarked on a number of citywide projects over the years, and open/close is perhaps the most well known. There are two trails – one through the city centre and another winding through the old mills and jute factories in Stobswell – which cover the dozens of doorways, shutters and walls painted by artists from all over the world.

The Tay Rail Bridge

Bridge
Map View
Anyone heading into Dundee by train will experience this astounding bridge first hand, but to truly appreciate it, you need to see it from below. When it was originally completed in 1878, the six-year project was the longest bridge in the world, and while it no longer carries that crown, it’s a masterpiece of engineering, and it also features a viewing platform so you can look over the Firth of Tay.

Glamis Castle

Historical Landmark
Map View
Glamis Castle, family home of of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother), Angus, Scotland, UK
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
It’s a 12mi (19km) journey north of the Dundee city centre to reach Glamis Castle, but a worthwhile one to be sure – it’s where Macbeth murdered King Duncan. Okay, it’s where Shakespeare set that part of the play, but the point still stands, and if you add to that the numerous spooky stories associated with it (ghosts, monsters, even the devil himself), then you’ve got a very dramatic tourist experience.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Cathedral
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Although smaller than its counterpart of the same name in London, the Dundee edition of St. Paul’s Cathedral is also worth seeing. It’s situated in the middle of Old Town, instantly recognisable for its 213ft-high (65m) tower and neo-gothic design. The nearby Howff graveyard is also a great place to explore.

The Dundee Museum of Transport

Museum
Map View

Having opened in 2014, the Dundee Museum of Transport is one of the city’s youngest museums, but don’t be mistaken; it meets the same standards as its older siblings. As well as getting a thorough education on Dundee’s rail and maritime history, you can see the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a recreation of Preston Watson’s 1909 prototype plane, Plane One.

Additional reporting by Callum Davies

These recommendations were updated on September 1, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.