The Top Things to Do and See in Dundee, Scotland

Dundee's traditions of science, discovery and the arts make it a great place to visit
Dundee's traditions of science, discovery and the arts make it a great place to visit | © / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Madeleine Bazil
25 August 2020

Scotland’s fourth-largest city is often overlooked by tourists, but it is full of hidden gems. From its historic origins and beautiful waterfront to the city’s traditions of science, discovery and the arts, Dundee is well worth a visit. Here are the top must-dos in the eclectic city of Dundee.

RRS Discovery

Museum, Historical Landmark
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The RRS Discovery (Scott's Antarctic Expedition vessel), Dundee, Central Lowlands, Scotland, UK
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
The RRS Discovery, the last British ship built in the traditional three-masted wooden style, was constructed in Dundee and served as the vessel for the British National Antarctic Expedition: Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton’s successful inaugural voyage to the Antarctic. Today, she is docked at Discovery Point, where visitors can tour the museum to learn more while enjoying the atmosphere of Dundee’s scenic waterfront.

Verdant Works

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Dundee historically was the provider of much of Britain’s jute, and this museum provides an immersive peek into the history of the city’s working class, featuring interactive activities, a film show and multimedia computer displays. Bring the family along for this fascinating museum, which is engaging for all ages.

The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum

Building, Memorial, Museum
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The McManus Gallery art gallery and museum in a fine George Gilbert Scott gothic revival buiding in Dundee Scotland
© Mark Sunderland Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
This stunning Gothic Revival building houses Dundee’s primary art collection: eight light-filled open-plan galleries, containing artworks spanning 400 million years of human history. When you’ve had your fill of the art and artefacts, stop by the shop of the McManus for jewellery, books and artefact reproductions, and then sit down and enjoy the ambience at the café’s outdoor terrace.

Mills Observatory

Museum, Architectural Landmark
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Head over to Britain’s first purpose-built public observatory, built in 1935, for a planetarium, displays about space exploration, talks and workshops, solar viewing and a Victorian refracting telescope fitted with high-level technology. Admission to the Mills Observatory and displays is free, with a small charge for shows at the planetarium.

Gate Church International, Dundee

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Built as St Mark’s Church in the mid-1800s in Gothic style by Pilkington and Bell, this historic church features stained glass windows created by Stephen Adam in 1903, an ornately constructed timber pulpit, and still has its original light fittings and pews. Short tours are available Tuesday through Friday.

Fisher and Donaldson

Bakery, Dessert, $$$
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If there’s one bakery that’s been a regional institution for nearly a century, it’s Fisher and Donaldson. With four of its seven outposts located in and around Dundee, a trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without a pit stop at this family-owned bake shop. Don’t even think about leaving without buying one of their renowned fudge doughnuts.

Take a trip to St Andrews

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St Andrews, Scotland
© Gary Beach / Alamy Stock Photo
A 20-minute drive or 30-minute bus ride will take you across the Tay Bridge and into Fife for a day trip to the historic St Andrews, home of golf and the University of St Andrews. The charming small town boasts three beaches (one of which, West Sands, was immortalised in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire), picturesque 600-year-old university buildings and, of course, the world-famous Royal and Ancient Golf Club – don’t forget to take a photo at the Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course’s 18th hole.

The Flame Tree Cafe

Cafe, Coffee
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Ever eaten a bagel with a rainbow pattern on it? No? Want to? Then head to the unique and wondrous Flame Tree Cafe, just down from Telford Beacon. Aside from the famous rainbow bagels, it offers a wide selection of locally sourced dishes as well as coffees and juices, cementing its reputation as one of the best cafés in Dundee.

HMS Unicorn

Museum, Historical Landmark
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Figurehead from HMS Unicorn
© David Cattanach / Alamy Stock Photo

Dundee is home to not one, but two fully explorable dry-docked ships. Where the Discovery has been heavily renovated, the HMS Unicorn is one of the six oldest intact ships in the world, and much has been done to retain the look and feel it had when it launched in 1824. You can learn all about her wartime exploits and see what it was like to live on board, including many letters and documents written and received by former crew members throughout the frigate’s life.

Dundee Law

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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Dundee War Memorial on Law Hill, Dundee.Memory of the Dundee men who lost their lives in the great war 19-14-1918. Image shot 2011. Exact date unknown.
© sandy young / Alamy Stock Photo
Much like Edinburgh, Dundee is a city of inclines, and has a large hill right in the middle – in this case Dundee Law, the highest point in the city. You can spot the war memorial at the very top from almost anywhere, and the journey up to find it is a worthwhile one. You can see the entire city and beyond from the top, as well as getting a closer look at the memorial, which has its flame lit on the most significant days of remembrance.

Innis and Gunn Brewery and Taproom

Brewery, $$$
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Among the most well-known brewers in Scotland, Innis & Gunn has three taprooms around the country – Edinburgh, Glasgow and, of course, Dundee. As well as trying fresh pours of all of their beers, including a few rarities not available anywhere else, you can learn about their cask-ageing techniques and try some great food.

Henry the Luxury Vintage Bus

Architectural Landmark
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Walking tours are all well and good, but how about riding in a luxuriously upholstered vintage bus which has been christened Henry by the tour company? Available for private bookings, Henry will take you all over the city, stopping off at key points like the Law and Broughty Castle. The host driver will teach you plenty about Dundee along the way, and who doesn’t want to sink into an armchair whilst being ferried past such interesting and beautiful scenery? Nobody, that’s who.

Dundee Botanic Garden

Botanical Garden
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No city is complete without a good garden, and Dundee’s 9.5-hectare (23-acre) Botanic Garden fills the requirement nicely. It sits right on the bank of the River Tay, and is home to a wide-ranging collection of plants from all across the planet. Included are a tropical glasshouse, evolution garden and Australasian garden. The entire garden is also rich with conifers and other large trees, and guided tours lasting around 90 minutes are available daily.

Additional reporting by Callum Davies.

These recommendations were updated on August 25, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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