Dundee is a Scottish city that is fast appearing on people’s ‘must visit’ lists when travelling through Scotland.. Small, but packed full to the brim of things to do, a weekend is the perfect amount of time for a city break in Dundee. The city has undergone a huge transformation in the last decade which has brought a spotlight onto its vibrant cultural scene thanks to its range of museums and galleries.
Dundee has a rich historical and industrial background which visitors can experience through its attractions such as the RSS Discovery, the Verdant Works, and the McManus Galleries. A real bonus is that it’s surrounded by so much natural beauty. The city is located on Scotland’s longest river, from which you can enjoy beautiful walks along the newly improved waterfront.
By train: A very scenic way to arrive into the city, the train ride from Edinburgh to Dundee hugs the coastline, offering travellers breathtaking views
Dundee is well connected to Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Edinburgh by train. There are also up to 20 trains per day from London to Dundee, some of these are direct but not all, so please plan your journey in advance. The direct trains will save you around an hour of your time, taking about 5 and a half hours.
You can plan your journey and book trains via Trainline.
By plane: Dundee has a small airport with flights to Belfast, London Heathrow and Sumburgh. Alternatively, both Edinburgh and Glasgow have regular flights to and from destinations within the UK, Europe as a whole, and further afield. I would recommend searching for flights through Skyscanner.
By road: Edinburgh to Dundee is 90 minutes by car, Manchester is five hours away and London is an eight hour drive.
Where to stay
I stayed at Hotel Indigo which is located in the city centre of Dundee, in a converted 19th century mill, making it a great place to base myself. Hotel Indigo is a brand I have enjoyed in various places around the world thanks to their ability to blend modern facilities and surroundings with elements of heritage that make the hotels unique to their destination.
Rooms are modern and spacious with a focus on comfort and style, each guest room has plush bedding, high speed WiFi, flat screen TVs and tea and coffee making facilities. There are a number of good dining options within the hotel itself, the Daisy Taster bistro offers a relaxing dining experience serving Scottish food using local and seasonal flavours, open for breakfast and dinner as well as lunch on the weekend.
Things to do in Dundee
Dundee offers a wide range of things to see and do, making it an exciting destination for visitors, it was even dubbed ‘Britain’s coolest little city’ by GQ magazine in 2015. From waterfront activities to outdoor exploration, visiting museums, going shopping and all that falls in between, there is more than enough to keep you going throughout a jam-packed weekend.
Visit Dundee’s V&A Museum
Not many people realise Scotland has its own V&A museum, and it’s the only other site outside of London. The museum aims to celebrate design, innovation, and creativity, quickly confirming itself as a key cultural institution within Scotland.
Just the building itself has caught the attention of architecture enthusiasts around the world thanks to its interesting design by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. Its location on the banks of the River Tay gives it an even more striking appearance, almost resembling the shape of a ship, a design inspired by the majestic cliffs of the Scottish coastline.
There is a range of galleries and spaces within the museum, showcasing a diverse collection of art, design, and cultural artefacts. The exhibits highlight both historical and contemporary design, exploring the impact of design on everyday life and society.
As of April 2023, there is an exciting new exhibition all about one of Scotland’s most well-known symbols… tartan! It seems everyone loves tartan so it is only right that an entire feature has been dedicated to this unique pattern.
Visitors can learn about the history behind the pattern and why it became so culturally significant within Scotland, and so well known around the rest of the world. More than 300 objects are on display including what is thought to be the world’s oldest tartan fabric, alongside more modern takes on the pattern from incredible designers such as Coco Chanel and Alexander McQueen.
Located on Dundee’s waterfront alongside the V&A museum, explore the RSS Discovery, built in and launched from Dundee before embarking on an iconic journey to Antarctica. The ship was equipped with advanced scientific instruments and carried a team of scientists, crew members, and officers, including Captain Scott.
Today, the RSS Discovery is cared for as a museum ship. It is open to the public for tours, so visitors can climb aboard and learn about the ship’s history, the crew’s experiences, and the scientific achievements of its expeditions.
The museum offers a range of interactive displays, presentations and interesting exhibits to showcase the ships construction, the scientific work conducted on its journeys, and the natural wonders of Antactica.
Opening hours differ between summer and winter so please check their website here before arriving.
Adult tickets are £9.25, concessions £7.25, and children £5.50.
The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum
Take an exciting journey through Dundee’s history within The McManus Galleries, a symbolic cultural institution in the city’s centre.
Built in the late 19th century, the galleries are housed in an impressive Gothic Revival building, designed by George Gilbert Scott, with distinctive spires and ornate stonework. It has become a standout landmark within Dundee thanks to its beautiful exterior and the collections and exhibitions that await inside.
Inside, visitors can admire a diverse range of art, artefacts and displays that trace the city’s evolution from its beginnings, the industrial era, and the cultural, social and economic changes that have shaped Dundee into what it is today.
There is also an impressive gallery of artwork that showcases works by Scottish and international artists spanning different periods and styles.Admission is free of charge and the galleries are open 7 days a week, Monday to Saturday from 10 am until 5 pm, and Sundays from 12.30 pm to 4.30 pm.
More things to do in Dundee
Dundee Botanic Garden
Known for its diverse collection of plants and commitment to conservation, education, and research, the Dundee Botanic Gardens is always an enjoyable visit. Overlooking the banks of the River Tay, the gardens spread across 9.5 acres featuring extensive glasshouses and several outdoor themed gardens.
Discover the Dundee Botanic Garden opening times here.
There are several well regarded paddleboard and outdoor pursuit companies running in and around Dundee, including Valhalla Escapes which offer equipment hire and lessons if you wish.
Situated in a former jute mill building, the Verdant Works offers an interesting insight into the history and heritage of the Dundee’s jute industry. The building has been restored to recreate the working environment of the time when jute manufacturing and trade played an important role in the city’s economy.
The museum delves into the jute manufacturing process as well as exploring the working and living conditions, and daily lives of the people involved in jute production. Visitors can learn about the social reforms, labor movements, and trade unions that emerged during this period.
Discover the Verdant Works opening tines here.
Broughty Castle Museum
Don’t forget to visit Broughty Castle Museum, a 15th century fortress that now houses a museum. Built at the mouth of the River Tay, the castle was there to defend against the English, successfully protecting the area in 1547 during an attack, but falling to Oliver Cromwell and his army in 1651 during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.
Broughty Castle is a popular tourist attraction, offering visitors the opportunity to explore its historical significance and enjoy the picturesque setting. Discover visitor information and opening times here.
The best places to eat in Dundee
Dundee is a great destination for food lovers thanks to its diverse culinary scene offering a wide range of dining options and places to drink.
Newport Bakery: For sweet treats and good coffee
Take your pick of Dundee’s best pastries and bread, freshly made each day and brought to the city centre’s Newport Bakery location.
Delicious Danish style pastries sit alongside doughnuts, croissants and cruffins, whilst those wanting something more savoury can take their pick from the deli counter opposite.
The Giddy Goose: For stone baked pizzas and cocktails
On the menu you can expect to find a range of burgers, Neapolitan style pizzas, pasta and loaded fries… you certainly won’t go to bed hungry!
If you are visiting in the summer time I would highly recommend grabbing a table in their sought after terrace, a great way to spend a night chatting, sipping on cocktails and eating great food.
You can check out the menu at the Giddy Goose here and make a booking.
Small but well-loved, the Selkie sits on a quiet street in Dundee. With a ceiling set up as a giant cloud, and an interior that has been designed with Instagram in mind, it’s more than the decor that leaves people feeling good.
The Selkie boasts an extensive menu of light bites, sweet snacks, and their famous Spanish tapas. Not only do they serve great food, but it is a family run business that also gives back to their community, serving over 3,000 free meals and advocating for good causes.
Franks Wine and Pasta Bar
Who doesn’t love pasta?! Franks Pasta Bar in the heart of Dundee is a reminder of why this great dish never gets old.
Beautiful and sophisticated, it is a great venue to spend an evening, with a menu offering a selection of antipasti, pasta, and desserts. Guests might turn the page and expect to see a list of pizzas, but it is named Frank’s Pasta Bar after all, they stick to what they are great at, full of flavour and extremely satisfying pasta dishes.
If you decide to take a trip to Dundee, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Please note this post was return as part of a sponsorship with Visit Scotland, all thoughts, recommendations and reviews are my own.