Expats moving to Scotland's Granite City are sure to find the lifestyle in Aberdeen enjoyable. The city's diverse array of after-hours attractions caters to a range of tastes. Whether in the mood for the consumer comfort of retail therapy, the constant beat of clubs and bars, or the green silence of nature, there's always something to get up to in Aberdeen.
Shopping in Aberdeen
The main shopping area in Aberdeen is Union Street. Known as Granite Mile, Union Street houses numerous shops, bars, clubs and restaurants. Just around the corner is the biggest shopping centre in Aberdeen, Union Square, which has an assortment of high-street and upmarket retailers, restaurants and a cinema.
Expats after a more authentic experience should visit the Merchant Quarter. Situated between the city’s major malls, the Quarter's historical architecture is an attraction in itself. There are restaurants and bars, live music and entertainment venues, and a shopping section filled with quirky boutiques to explore.
Nightlife in Aberdeen
There's plenty of nightlife to explore in Aberdeen. For starters, no expat can be called an Aberdonian until they have been to one of its traditional Scottish pubs. Aberdeen’s pubs are the perfect spot for enjoying the company of friends, watching sport, drinking ale and sampling the city’s best pub grub.
Expats wanting to dance into the wee hours won’t be disappointed either. Covering a broad range of electronic genres, live music and 80s oldies, the city’s club scene caters to eclectic tastes.
For more refined surroundings, there are various cocktail bars in Aberdeen as well as a few comedy clubs.
Sports and outdoor activities in Aberdeen
Expats will be able to enjoy a range of outdoor activities in Aberdeen. The city is well-known for the green spaces that offset its granite facade, having won the Royal Horticultural Society Britain in Bloom award a number of times.
Residents can escape the city’s commotion in Aberdeen's urban parks, flower gardens, and numerous national parks and leafy estates, all within driving range. Part of the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail, the picturesque beaches around Aberdeen are another popular way to get some respite from the ups and downs of city life. Water sports such as surfing, diving and sailing are all popular pursuits.
See and do in Aberdeen
Characterised by beautiful granite architecture, a rich maritime history and natural beauty, new arrivals will have no shortage of things to see and do in Aberdeen. All too often overshadowed by Edinburgh in the sightseeing stakes, the tourist's loss is the local's gain.
The royal holiday home Balmoral Castle has been in the British royal family since 1852 and was described by Queen Victoria as her "paradise in the Highlands". The grounds are open to the public from April to July each year.
Cairngorms National Park
Extending over the Cairngorms Mountains, the national park is the largest in Britain and offers activities such as mountain biking, skiing, horse riding and white-river rafting.
Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail
The beaches around Aberdeen form part of the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail. The route consists of 165 miles (265 km) of pristine natural scenery, picturesque towns and gorgeous beaches, each one with its own unique atmosphere.
Annual events in Aberdeen
The packed calendar of events in Aberdeen means that expats will have numerous opportunities to enjoy themselves and get involved in the local culture. Here are a few highlights.
This dazzling light show, complete with dramatic artwork projections on famous city buildings, attracts just short of a million visitors annually and is held at various sites throughout Aberdeen. Every year has a distinct theme.
Braemar Gathering (September)
Part of the traditional summer highland games, the Braemar Gathering is traditionally attended by the royal family and attracts large crowds every year, who come to watch bagpipe bands, tug-of-war events and catch a glimpse of the queen.
Aberdeen Winter Festival (November/December)
This fun-filled festival is made up of various events held in Aberdeen throughout the festive season. From Christmas markets to carol concerts and outdoor ice-skating, there are plenty of opportunities for the whole family to get into the festive spirit.
Where to meet people and make friends
Settling into a new city has its challenges, and trying to meet locals and make new friends can be a daunting prospect. Having a shared interest often helps, so here are a few clubs worth looking into.
Though primarily made up of expats from the US and Canada, this association welcomes fellow expats from around the world. Along with general meet-ups, members can also join special activity clubs within the association, like book club and a moms-and-tots group.
Artists of all ages and skill levels are welcomed at the Northern Arts Club. The club offers a number of classes, including life drawing and landscape painting.
Outdoorsy expats are sure to enjoy exploring Aberdeen's gorgeous countryside with this friendly club. Hikes and walks are held every two weeks, and there are also extra social activities and occasional weekends away organised by the group.
►To learn about the city's best annual events, see What's On in Aberdeen
Are you an expat living in Aberdeen?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Aberdeen. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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