16 Unmissable Things to Do in Dundee, Scotland

Nestled on the bank of River Tay, Dundee is one of the best places to visit in Scotland for all travellers. From exploring the vibrant Waterfront to visiting museums to discover the city’s unique history – there are plenty of attractions here for a great day trip from Edinburgh.

Referred to as the ‘City of Discovery’, Dundee has an illustrious industrial heritage. It was declared the UK’s first-ever UNESCO City of Design in 2004.

From jute and ship-building to medical research and video games – this city has embraced various industries throughout the centuries. Today, Dundee is a hub of innovation and creativity, making this thriving metropolis one of the best cities in Scotland to visit.

Best Things to Do in Dundee

1. Explore V&A Dundee

Standing at the vibrant waterfront of Dundee, this museum is an architectural landmark of Scotland. Opened in 2018, it is the first design museum in Scotland. Also, it is the first V&A museum outside London.

It was designed by eminent Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who drew inspiration from the rugged cliffs of the northeastern coastline of Scotland to create this building.

V&A Dundee offers a wide range of exhibitions showcasing the unique creativity and innovations made in Scotland throughout the centuries. 

From Scottish architecture to decorative arts, fashion and textiles to video games – they have a varied collection of over 300 objects. Don’t miss a visit to the restored oak room designed by Charles Rennie MacKintosh.

Also, they host various temporary exhibitions year-round. Entrance to this museum is free.

Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am- 5 pm.

2. Visit McManus Art Gallery & Museum

Located at the heart of Dundee city centre, McManus Art Gallery & Museum is one of the best free attractions in this city.

Before stepping inside, admire the stunning Victorian Gothic architecture of this historic building. Opened in 1867, this museum was designed by the renowned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott.

Across its eight galleries, the McManus houses an extensive collection of diverse objects on various subjects – from paintings and ceramics to archaeological specimens and fossils. 

Also, you will learn a great deal about the past and present of Dundee. It is fascinating to know about the colourful tales of the people who once called this city their home.

Their art collection showcases paintings and sculptures by both old masters and contemporary local artists. Highlights include works by renowned Scottish artists such as William McTaggart, Sir Henry Raeburn, and the Glasgow Boys.

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm. Sunday, 12:30 pm – 4:30 pm.

3. Experience Life at Sea aboard RRS Discovery

Moored on the banks of River Tay, right next to the V&A museum, the Royal Research Ship Discovery is one of the best family-friendly tourist attractions in Dundee. 

This historic ship carried Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton to their first Antarctic expedition in 1901.

It was the last traditional wooden three-masted ship made in the UK. Commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society, it was built in the shipyards of Dundee.

After the epic Antarctic expedition, this ship was used for various purposes, including serving as a training ship and for carrying out scientific research.

Hop onboard to explore this ship-turned-museum. You will get a fascinating insight into its heroic Antarctic exploration and other voyages. Plus, you will get a glimpse of what living in this vessel was like. There are various personal belongings and artefacts of the crew on display.

4. Take a Trip to St Andrews

Located only 10 miles from the city of Dundee, St Andrews is one of the most historic towns in Scotland. We would highly suggest adding this charming town to your travel itinerary.

From exploring majestic medieval cathedral ruins to sunbathing on sandy beaches, there is an array of diverse things to do in St Andrews. It is world-famous for being the birthplace of golf.

To reach this charming university town, catch a local Stagecoach bus service from Dundee Bus Station.

History buffs will love a visit to the historic St Andrews Cathedral. It was built in 1158 and was once the largest church in Scotland. Also, visit the nearby St Andrews Castle to learn about its colourful past. Golf lovers can’t miss playing at the Old Corse, one of the most iconic golf courses in the world.

Ramble along the beautiful West Sands Beach. This sandy beach was featured in the movie Chariots of Fire.

5. Experience Panoramic Views from Dundee Law

Created by volcanic activities millions of years ago, Dundee Law is a must-visit place for all travellers. 

With an elevation of 572 feet above sea level, this wee hill is the highest point of the city. From the summit,  you will get uninterrupted panoramic views of the city rooftops, the Firth of Tay and the surrounding countryside.

Archaeological excavations have uncovered ancient fortifications here. Today, it is a popular destination for local joggers, walkers and photographers. 

At the summit of Dundee Law, you will find a war memorial, another landmark of this city. It was erected in 1923, commemorating those who lost their lives in both World Wars. 

From the city centre, follow the waymarked trail. It takes 30-40 minutes to arrive at the top, depending on your pace.

6. Explore the Captivating Glamis Castle

Located about 12 miles from Dundee, Glamis Castle is one of the best castles in Scotland. It is the ancestral home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne.

The history of Glamis Castle dates back to 1372. It is famous for its association with William Shakespeare’s famous play Macbeth and was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. 

Also, Glamis is one of the most haunted places in Scotland. There are numerous legends and lore surrounding it. One of the most famous tales is that of the Monster of Glamis, a deformed child allegedly hidden away in the castle.

Take a tour of this castle to admire its gorgeous interiors and learn about its rich history. Rooms are decorated with antique furniture and paintings. After visiting the castle, wander around the surrounding gardens. There are various walking trails.

From Dundee, it takes only 20 minutes to drive here. Alternatively, you can catch a bus.

7. Discover Sculptures Around the Dundee Streets

While walking around the city, keep your eyes peeled for some unique and quirky statues. There are over five hundred pieces of public art scattered all around Dundee.

Look out for the famous statue of Desperate Dan with his faithful pooch Dawg, followed by Minnie the Minx, on the High Street. These popular cartoon characters are from the long-running Beano comic series from the 1930s, created by Dundee-based publishers DC Thompson.

Just a few steps from Desperate Dan is the dragon statue, another beloved sculpture of Dundee. While you might not expect to see a dragon here, they commemorate the mythical tale of the Nine Maidens.

Just beside the Steeple Church, you will find five playful penguin statues. They pay homage to Dundee’s maritime heritage. Similar to the iconic Duke of Wellington statue in Glasgow, these penguins are often dressed up by the locals at various events and celebrations.

Also, look out for the Polar Bear on High Street, Lemmings on Perth Road and Oor Wullie on Albert Square.

8. Soak up the sun in Broughty Ferry

No visit to Dundee would be complete without exploring the nearby Broughty Ferry. Even if you are in this city on a day trip from Glasgow or Edinburgh, you can easily add Broughty Ferry to your itinerary. This charming suburb is located only about four miles from the city. 

One of the main tourist attractions here is the Broughty Castle Museum, a 15th-century fortress on the banks of River Tay. Today, it serves as a museum and showcases the fascinating history of this area.

Just a short walk from the castle, Broughty Ferry Beach is a beautiful sandy stretch, perfect for a relaxing day out. Depending on the weather, you can swim, sunbathe, picnic or enjoy a leisurely walk along the beach. Also, take a ramble around the lovely promenade. You will get stunning views of the Tay Estuary from there.

Broughty Ferry is home to various vibrant boutique shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs. Explore Brook Street and Gray Street for a unique shopping experience.

Those interested in architecture can visit the nearby Claypotts Castle. This well-preserved Z-plan tower house dates back to the 16th century.

9. Explore Dundee’s Industrial Past at Verdant Works

Verdant Works is one of the best places for visitors interested in discovering the rich industrial heritage of Dundee. Located inside a former jute mill, this museum provides a glimpse into the flourishing jute industry that began in the early 19th century. 

Quickly, this city emerged as a global hub for the production and trade of jute, a natural fibre made from the jute plant primarily sourced from Bengal and used in making sacks, ropes, and other essential goods.

The High Mill is the oldest part of Verdant Works. You can see the original machinery and learn about the jute production process. The Weaver’s Cottage recreates the living conditions of mill workers. It provides insight into the daily lives of the workers and the socio-economic conditions of Dundee.

The Social History Gallery explores the broader impact of the jute industry. This section delves into issues such as labour rights, child labour, and the role of women in Dundee’s society.

Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm.

10. Visit Mills Observatory

Perched on the summit of Balgay Hill, Mills Observatory is the first purpose-built public observatory of Britain. It was established in 1935 from generous donations by John Mills, a local businessman and an amateur astronomer. 

Today, it serves as an ideal place for anyone seeking to learn about distant planets, galaxies and stars. Equipped with a Victorian refracting telescope, they offer unparalleled views of the night sky.

Depending on the season you are visiting Dundee, you can participate in a stargazing session or catch a planetarium show. Plus, they host several permanent and temporary exhibits on various aspects of astronomy and space science.

While here, meander around beautiful woodland trails surrounding the observatory. You can admire lovely panoramic views over River Tay and the city.

11. Learn the Fascinating Tales of HMS Unicorn

Moored at Victoria Dock in Dundee, HMS Unicorn is the oldest ship in Scotland. Designed by Sir Robert Seppings, a pioneering naval architect, she was constructed at the Chatham Dockyard in Kent. Launched in 1824, it was one of the last frigates built for the Royal Navy.

Today, this grand vessel is turned into a museum. It is one of the must-visit tourist attractions in Dundee for history buffs and maritime enthusiasts.

Over the past two hundred years, she has served in various capacities and has many intriguing stories to tell. Exhibits onboard provide insights into the daily lives of sailors, the ship’s construction, and its role in naval history. Visitors can explore the beautifully preserved gun deck, the captain’s cabin and the Gun Room.

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

12. Discover Dundee Science Centre

Opened in 2000, this is a hub of discovery and learning and one of the best things to see in Dundee for science enthusiasts. They offer various interactive exhibits and hands-on experiences that ignite curiosity and inspire a love for science in all age groups.

From physics and chemistry to biology and environmental science – you will have the opportunity to learn about various scientific fields at  Dundee Science Centre. One of the highlights is the medical section, where visitors can learn about medical technologies. 

Also, take a fascinating look into the world of robotics and artificial intelligence. Kids would love the space exhibit, which allows visitors to immerse themselves in the wonders of the cosmos.

13. Explore the nooks and crannies of Dundee for Street arts

If you loved exploring the Mural Trail in Glasgow, we would highly recommend discovering the street art scene of Dundee. This city boasts a collection of beautiful murals and graffiti by local artists.

Also, they add colour and beauty to the otherwise dingy alleyways and hidden corners. They tell a unique story and showcase the creative side of this city. 

The street art scene of Dundee is relatively new, but it is evolving fast. In 2017, the Open/Close initiative was launched to encourage street art. Although it started with painting a few doors, today, there is a dedicated mural trail which you can follow to find the street murals dotted all around the city.

Look out for the Michael Marra mural by Michael Corr at Aimer Square, the Close Encounters mural on Cardean Street, and the Still Game murals on Mary Ann Lane.

14. Sit Back with a Picnic and Enjoy the View from Magdalen Green

From the city centre, follow the riverside path along River Tay to visit Magdalen Green, the oldest public park in Dundee and one of the most beloved outdoor spaces in the city.

This park boasts a rich history dating back to the 17th century. It is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. This park is a popular place for local dog walkers and joggers. Also, you can admire a stunning view of Tay Bridge, River Tay and Fife from here.

At the heart of the park is the beautiful bandstand. Built in 1890, it is an architectural gem. It hosts live music performances on Sunday afternoons during the summer months.

15. Visit Dundee Contemporary Arts

Established in 1999, Dundee Contemporary Arts is a fabulous spot for exploring contemporary art and culture. Today, it has grown into one of Scotland’s leading art centres. It has a dedicated space for modern art, film, and community engagement.

Over the years, DCA has hosted numerous groundbreaking exhibitions featuring both emerging local artists and renowned ones around the world.

From visual arts to interactive installations, the centre offers something for every art enthusiast. Notable past exhibitions include works by internationally acclaimed artists such as Mark Wallinger and Clare Woods. Regular film screenings at the DCA cinema feature an eclectic mix of independent, international, and classic films.

This centre also organises workshops, artist talks, and educational programmes, making art accessible to everyone.

16. Discover the Museum of Transport

Located a bit outside of the Dundee city centre, the Museum of Transport offers a fun-filled day out for kids. You will get a glimpse into the evolution of vehicles and the transportation heritage of this city.

Founded in 2010, this museum houses an enormous collection of vehicles, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits that tell the story of transport through the ages. It is housed in a former tram depot.

It is fun to see all the modern and vintage cars and motorbikes. They also feature an array of public transport, including buses, trams, and trains. In addition to land vehicles, the museum contains various models of ships and boats.

They regularly host special exhibitions and events, ranging from classic car shows to themed workshops. You can catch a local bus to get here. Otherwise, it will take about 25 minutes to walk here from the city centre.

Where to Eat and Drink in Dundee

This city has a diverse food scene. So, whether you are looking for a cosy cafe, lively cocktail bar, or fine dining experience, you will find plenty of options in Dundee.

Empire State Coffee Artisan Roasters and The Flame Tree Cafe are two popular cafes in the city. Their menu includes everything from hearty breakfasts to light lunches.

For lunch or dinner, head to Tahini for some delicious Lebanese foods and Taza Restaurant for an Indian buffet.

If you fancy a traditional pub with a welcoming atmosphere, visit The Phoenix at Nethergate. Also, you can pop inside Tickety Boo’s on Commercial Street or Duke’s Corner on Brown Street to enjoy a pint and some classic pub fare.

Map of all the Tourist Attractions

Click on this link to open the Google Maps. We have added all the attractions mentioned in this travel guide. Plus, we have also marked the cafes, restaurants and pubs we think you might like. This map works offline. You can save it on your phone.

How to Reach Dundee

You can easily reach this city from all the major cities and towns of Scotland using various public transport.

By Train: This city is well-connected by train, making it a convenient option for many travellers.

If you are travelling here from Edinburgh, catch a direct train service from Waverley station, which takes roughly an hour and 15 minutes. 

To reach here from Glasgow, hop on board a direct train from the Glasgow Queen Street station. The journey takes around an hour and a half.

There are direct train services from London Kings Cross as well, operated by LNER, which takes roughly six hours. Also, you can catch the overnight Caledonian Sleeper train from London Euston. Book your tickets in advance for the best prices.

By Bus: The Megabus operates frequent direct bus services from Edinburgh and it takes about an hour and a half. They also run bus services from Glasgow Buchanan bus station, which takes about two hours. Also, there are electric Ember buses from Glasgow and Edinburgh.

By Car: This city is well-connected by major highways, making it accessible from various parts of the UK.

From Edinburgh, take the M90 motorway north, then the A92 to Dundee. The journey takes approximately 1.5 hours. From Glasgow, take the M80 motorway and continue on the A9, followed by the A90. The drive takes about 1.5 hours.

How to Get Around Dundee

Dundee train station and Seagate bus station are located in the heart of the city centre and are within walking distance of all the major tourist attractions. The best way to explore this city is by foot. 

If you want to explore the suburbs and the nearby towns, catch local buses operated by Xplore Dundee and Stagecoach. 

Whether you are a history buff, a culture lover, or an outdoor adventurer, this city offers something for everyone that will captivate your heart and imagination.

So, don’t forget to add Dundee to your travel itinerary for your next holiday in Scotland. We hope this guide was helpful in planning a trip to this bustling city.

With Love, Moumita & Sankha

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