Dundee is just one of those cities that we instantly love. Compact, underrated, on-the-rise, yet also understated.
Dundee isn’t a boastful city, even though is could be. There’s stacks to see and do in the city centre, and with recent and ongoing development of its northern shore to the River Tay, the city has the buzz of a place that has aspirations of higher things.
We visited without really knowing what to expect (Dundee isn’t a city you hear much about), but we went away having had a great time and keen to share what we’d experienced.
Best things to do in Dundee, Scotland
For a compact city, Dundee has a surprisingly long list of things to see and do. Here are our recommendations, based on our own experiences of visiting the city.
Opened in 2018, the £80.1m V&A (Victoria and Albert) is Scotland’s first museum dedicated to design. The building itself, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, is striking and well worth walking around either before or after your visit inside. When you are inside, you’ll discover a series of permanent exhibits (such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s remarkable Oak Room), as well as one or two temporary exhibitions. Entry to the permanent collection is free, while there’s a charge for everything else.
The bright and airy Tatha Bar & Restaurant (1st floor) has a handful of veggie/vegan options and a lovely outdoor terrace with views of the River Tay and the RRS Discovery in its adjacent dry dock.
The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum
Fans of fine and decorative art will love The McManus, as will fans of Gothic Rivival-style architecture. The exterior of the category A listed building is quite stunning, thanks in part to a multi-million pound restoration in 2007. The collections range from paintings to historic artefacts that chart the story of Dundee. Entry is free.
Around 400 million years ago, volcanic activity resulted in the creation of a 174 m (571 ft) hill. Today, that hill provides fabulous views of much of Dundee and the River Tay and is known to locals as Dundee Law. Other than a large war memorial, a car park and an aerial, there’s not a lot to do at the top, other than enjoy the views and congratulate yourself on reaching the top (assuming you walked).
You can reach the top by car, but you’ll feel a greater sense of achievement if you walk (30 minutes from the city centre). Thanks to the road network, getting there on foot is a little bit tricky. Google Maps will get you there, with a little bit of extra thinking on your part.
The 20 year old HMS Unicorn is, according to those who maintain her, “the most original old ship in the world.” Incredibly, the Unicorn is still afloat in the city’s Victoria Dock. Visitors are welcome to explore the multiple decks, some of which go surprisingly deep and have back-creakingly low ceilings (tall people, you’ve been warned). As well as collections of original artefacts, there’s also a really interesting exhibition on Mermaids and monsters from the deep.
Dundee Contemporary Arts
Dundee Contemporary Arts is a cultural centre with gallery spaces, a cinema, workshops and a cafe. With a free ticket (which you can buy either in advance online or in person on arrival) you can access whichever exhibitions happen to be on during your visit. By their own admission, some of the exhibitions “can often be strange and unusual,” a statement we can certainly attest to.
As you’d expect, charges apply to visit the cinema, which screens a wide range of arthouse and (occasionally) mainstream films.
Best vegan/veggie cafes and restaurants in Dundee, Scotland
Veggies and vegans needn’t worry about going thirsty or hungry in Dundee. The city has lots of really great options for us. We’ve listed a few of the places we visited during our visit below, but do check out HappyCow for even more options.
A vibrant and youthful-feeling Mexican cantina and bar on the periphery of the city centre. The 100% vegan menu contains delicious antojitos (small plates), tacos and loaded fries, with frozen mojitos to wash everything down. Everything we tasted was fresh, good value and beautifully presented.
Quirky Serendipities is a social enterprise cafe located in the city centre. The organisation that runs the cafe provides locals with learning disabilities, autism and mental health barriers the opportunity to train and develop their skills by working
We chanced upon Luigi’s on our way back down from Dundee Law (see above). There are five excellent, authentically-made veg/vegan pizzas on the menu, plus a handful of sides and desserts. The homemade cashew cheese is made on site and tastes great. If you’re not in the area and/or don’t fancy the uphill walk from the city centre, download their app for deliveries.
Can be rather busy, but definitely worth the wait. Takeaways/deliveries only.
A cute, local spot for breakfasts and lunches with a decent selection of vegan choices. Between 1000-1400, a vegan sharing board is available. We found this to be a little bit pricey for what it was, but we still enjoyed it (especially the vegan croissant). The other options might be better value.
A lively and popular bar with 30-somethings and those with a slightly alternative leaning. An extensive drinks menu (with lots of house cocktails) is supported by a decent selection of vegan bar snacks. We heartily recommend the Spit Roasted Pineapple gin and tonic with a side of cauliflower bites.
Plan & Book your visit to Dundee
In this section, we’ll go through how you can plan and book your visit to Dundee.
Flights to Dundee
Dundee airport is very small and is currently served by one airline (Loganair) with flights to/from Belfast and London.
Skyscanner* is a great place to start your search for the best prices on flights to Dundee. They compare fares from multiple airlines and travel agents all at once.
Trains to Dundee
Dundee railway station is very well connected to Scotland’s other major cities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Perth) and even has a handful of daily services to/from London. As such, travelling to Dundee by train is the best option for most people.
Booking your train tickets in advance not only brings peace of mind, it also often means you pay the lowest fare. To find the best value train tickets to Dundee from anywhere, we recommend Trainline*.
Since trains produce significantly less CO2 than planes, taking the train is a Responsible Travel Choice.
Buses to Dundee
Megabus operates good value services (though they can also be very lengthy) to Dundee from cities all over Scotland and England. If you’re not on a really tight budget, the train is the best option (see above).
Search and compare bus fares with Busbud*, which offers comprehensive and up-to-date timetable and ticket price information for destinations all over the world.
Taking public transport is a Responsible Travel Choice, as sharing your journey with others is much better for the environment than taking journeys by car.
Getting around Dundee
Dundee is a small city and very easy to explore on foot. If you’re travelling outside of the city centre, good value and reliable buses are available, or you can hire a taxi.
For those with limited mobility, the city centre if mostly flat, but steep hills lie to the north as you head towards Dundee Law.
Hotels and Holiday Homes in Dundee
Dundee has a few good accommodation options, with most of the best options being provided by chain hotels.
During our visit, we stayed at Premier Inn Dundee Centre*. We don’t make a habit of staying in Premier Inns, but we were pretty delighted with this brand new, purpose-built hotel. The price was pretty unbeatable and the location, right on the banks of the River Tay and immediately next to the V&A Dundee, was spot on.
Other options we’d consider are Sleeperz Hotel Dundee*, which sits directly above the city’s main railway station and Hotel Indigo Dundee*, which offers smarter, contemporary rooms, though at higher rates.
For general accommodation searches, we recommend Tripadvisor*.