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Here’s a city that looks and feels quite different. Not just on a summer’s evening, when you can walk the main street in daylight at 11pm. Not just because that same main street – the mile-long Union Street – is lined with classic granite buildings that help make this “one of the most architecturally distinctive cities in Europe” (The Scotsman – one of Scotland’s national newspapers).
But mainly because this isn’t just a city by the sea, it’s a city of the sea. A city where ships dock right up against the city-centre streets. Where urban dolphins leap at the harbour mouth. Where locals paddle-board and surf off the city beach. And golden sands stretch for miles – towards vast dunes to the north and high cliffs to the south. It’s a city of rivers too, where the Dee and the Don meet the sea, bringing crystal clear waters from the Cairngorm mountains.
This is a city with not one but two Old Towns: Old Aberdeen, with its cobbled streets, mature trees and 15th century fortified cathedral – where Aberdeen’s first University was founded in 1495. And then there’s Footdee – known locally as Fittie – a quirky fishing quarter at the water’s edge, with squares of tiny cottages, flower-filled gardens and brightly painted outhouses, their eccentric decorations drawing on the city’s seafaring soul.
Aberdeen is a cosmopolitan and connected place – with people working and studying here from across the world, their accents mixing with the sound of local Doric, an original Scots language. Up to now, it’s a city that’s been mostly off the tourist map. Which all adds up to a different sort of city altogether.