“Oh… so where are you from in Scotland? Edinburgh? Glasgow?”
Whenever I answered that, no, I lived in Dundee, Scotland, all I’d hear would be a whole lot of crickets. That’s because until recently, no one was really that fussed on Dundee. It very much lived in the shadows of its more well-known counterparts in Scotland. However, that’s now beginning to change, which is mostly to the £1 billion waterfront redevelopment centred around the stunning V&A Dundee design museum. There’s been a whole heap of investment in the place and the city is now shaking off its underdog status and starting finding its feet as a creative and cultural centre. All while remaining as charmingly down-to-earth as ever, of course. As someone who has lived in Dundee for over 10 years I’m very happy to fight its corner, so let’s take a look at some of the best things to do in Dundee…
What to do in Dundee
You can’t come to Dundee and not visit the V&A museum. The building itself is absolutely breath-taking and is designed as a homage to the dramatic cliff faces of Scotland. Step inside and it’s just as good, with a café, restaurant, and a roster of excellent exhibitions – such as the current one about the inventor of the miniskirt, Mary Quant. Take your time to wander around, grab a coffee either inside or at one of the cute coffee vans parked up outside and don’t forget to enjoy the sparkling views of the River Tay from the terrace.
Dundee is a lot more than just the waterfront though. There are a ton of things to do in Dundee: step aboard Dundee-built ship the RSS Discovery, explore the underground vaults, do the Open Close art trail, or you can even try your hand at wakeboarding at Foxlake Dundee – really, where else could you do something like this right in the centre of town? If you fancy working up an appetite even more then climb the Law to enjoy some glorious views of the city, or why not hire some bikes from the train station and cycle through to the nearby seaside village of Broughty Ferry? Explore the castle, eat ice cream from Visocchi’s ice cream parlour, or explore the lovely boutique shops on the high street.
Where to drink in Dundee
Like a secret bar? Then Dundee is the place to be, as there’s actually a couple of secret bars in the city. The original and best, however, is Draffens, which is located behind an inconspicuous doorway in the centre of town. Once you find it you’ll be greeted with a speakeasy vibe, mood lighting, and the strongest cocktails in town. Like your rum? Then the King of Islington is an award-winning bar tucked away behind some unassuming signage with a rather excellent selection of rums to choose from. For cocktails and beats, head over to Bird and Bear, or enjoy the cool AF graffitied décor of Abandon Ship next door. Traditional pubs more your thing? You can’t do much better than Trades or the Phoenix.
Where to eat in Dundee
Dundee is packed full of independent restaurants. Pacamara is great for brunch, Mozza does great pizza and if you want some nibbly bits with your wine then the aptly named The Wine Press is a great shout. However, my favourite spot to eat is tiny Mexican restaurant Mas in the west end of the city. The décor is cute, with chipboard panelling, raspberry-coloured leather sofas, and geo tiles, and their food is to die for. Expect small plates of light, fresh, Mexican street food served alongside the most delicious margaritas I’ve ever had. Yum!
Where to stay in Dundee
If I didn’t live here I would absolutely love to have a good excuse to spend a night or two at Staybridge Suites in Dundee. Created out of a refurbished mill building – there are quite a few of these in Dundee thanks to the city’s industrial past – this place is stylish, contemporary and cool. Prefer something that’s located right in the centre? Try Malmaison, which is just across the road from the train station. Expect dark walls, cosy faux fur throws, and even a nod to Dundee’s comic heritage with the Dennis the Mennace prints on the wall.