Another name for Aberdeen is ‘The Granite City’, and the extensive use of this hard, sparkling rock ties the city together in much the same way that Paris is a whole through the use of its local limestone and sandstones. Unlike the celebrated beauty of Paris the buildings in Aberdeen constantly surprise visitors, who often have no idea they are coming to a place where architectural wonders overflow. From ancient places of worship to ultra-modern, award-winning towers, and a grand twin-domed theatre to university buildings that would be at home in Oxford or Cambridge, here’s our guide to the best twelve buildings to see in Aberdeen, with a few bonus locations thrown in too!
Although the title only mentions His Majesty’s Theatre, this is a row of three buildings that beautifully complement one another. From the theatre, with its twin domes and Frank Matcham design; to St. Mark’s church, its dome modelled on St. Paul’s Cathedral in Londo; and then to the Central Library, opened in 1892, these three buildings are a must-see. Across the road is Union Terrace and its lovely gardens, and a series of statues in the vicinity.
Old Aberdeen has a remarkably different character to the current city centre — which is not surprising as until 1891 it was a separate Royal Burgh. The area positively overflows with fascinating things to see, and a range of remarkable buildings. The Town House was built in 1789 and is such an architectural masterpiece that it actually features on the logo of The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.
From Aberdeen’s famous granite splendour to something utterly modern. Opened by the Queen in 2012, Aberdeen University’s new library can be seen from much of the city. An award-winning design, the cube shape is clad in glass with wavy vertical stripes, is eight storeys tall, and features a double-height ground floor. Inside is just as fascinating as out, with curving floors around a central atrium; a much more fluid interior, which acts as a foil to the straighter geometry of the outer.
Featuring several different architectural styles, different forms of granite, and a sense of awe and majesty, the late 19th century Marischal College buildings are often regarded as the finest example of Aberdeen’s granite masterpieces. The second largest granite building in the world, it is still owned by the University of Aberdeen, which formed from the union of Marischal College and King’s College in 1860, although it is now leased to Aberdeen Council. To make it even more spectacular, it was recently refurbished and renovated, including cleaning off a century of grime and making it shine once more.