Things to do in Dundee, Scotland’s best-kept secret

Updated on 30 November 2019 | 1 Comment

This Scottish city might be relatively small but it packs a mighty punch. From the V&A north of the border to an exciting foods scene, here are the top things to do in Dundee.

Those smart folks at the V&A know Dundee is a special city. But it’s not just the new V&A Dundee that should be tempting you into a city break here, this Scottish charmer has an innovative spirit, gorgeous coastal location and some truly creative local restaurants to boot.

I fell in love with Dundee the first time I set foot here. This is a city that isn’t bashful about its success, but hasn’t trumpeted it either – so you might not know that Dundee was once home to one of Britain’s most successful industries, jute production, or that it has given the world Grand Theft Auto, marmalade and aspirin.

Tay Bridge, Dundee
Janusz Baczynski/Shutterstock

This isn’t a city to rest on its laurels. Dundee has a beautiful setting on the Firth of Tay too, where the regenerated waterfront has reconnected the city with its lifeblood docks. And there are Scottish chefs cooking up the best of the country’s larder, plus lively bars and great shopping.

Here’s how you can spend a wonderful weekend in Dundee:


Check in to: Malmaison Dundee. You’re just 300 feet from the waterfront at this Victorian stunner of a building, not to mention just a three-minute walk from the city’s train station. Rooms have a moody, chic vibe and some have views of the river. 


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Eat at: Castlehill. Don’t expect tartan and tweed at this all-Scottish restaurant, this is modern Scotland at its best. Chef Graham Campbell serves up Scottish produce such as venison from the Highlands, scallops from Shetland and cheese from Arran. Splash out on the five-course tasting menu for a real treat.

Have a pint in: Brewdog Dundee. Scotland’s maverick craft beer brand Brewdog have an especially spectacular bar in Dundee, in the neo-Gothic Royal Exchange building. Nab a booth and settle in to try what’s on tap – expect usual suspect Punk IPA as well as seasonal and guest ales.


Go back in time at: Verdant Works. Imagine the din of a working jute mill at this museum to Dundee’s history as “juteopolis”. Listen to the roar of the original machinery and hear the stories of people who worked here. Some three quarters were women and they enjoyed a freedom only working class men elsewhere could have imagined.

Verdant WorksVerdant Works/Facebook

Grab lunch at: Dundee Contemporary Arts. The DCA isn’t just home to two galleries showcasing contemporary art, a cinema screening alternatives to the blockbusters of the day and a shop selling local crafts and jewellery. It also has the laidback but stylish Jute Café Bar, serving sandwiches and lunch dishes such as fish and chips and duck salad.

Explore local history at: The McManus. This beloved art gallery has to be Dundee’s most gorgeous building, a Victorian Gothic palace in golden sandstone. Step inside and get lost in eight galleries of treasures, from ancient Pictish stones to the Tay Whale skeleton. The fascinating Making of Modern Dundee gallery tells the city’s success story.

Shop around: City Square. Dundee’s main square is pleasantly pedestrianised. Start here to shop local: try Arkive and Manifesto for men’s fashion or Mandi Candi for women’s. Don’t miss posing for a selfie with the Desperate Dan statue on High Street – he was created close by, by Dundee publishing giant DC Thomson, along with Dennis the Menace.

Have a special dinner at: The Newport. It’s worth taking a taxi across the Tay Bridge to Newport-on-Tay for dinner at this super creative restaurant from Masterchef the Professionals winner Jamie Scott. The tasting menu changes regularly but is always imaginative – think razor clam tacos and Mull scallops served with barbecued apples.

Drink in: Duke’s Corner. Whatever your tipple of choice you’ll find it at Duke’s. The numerous draft beers are served in four sizes – starting at a third of a pint so you can sample plenty – and there are classic cocktails and a decent wine list. There’s regular live music too.


Don’t miss: V&A Dundee. If you’re in Dundee after 15 September 2018 you won’t want to miss a visit to Scotland’s first design museum. The permanent gallery tells the story of Scottish design, from furniture to video games, while temporary exhibitions focus on different elements of design. The outside is seriously impressive too, a sleek ship-like fortress at the heart of Dundee’s redeveloped waterfront.

RRS DiscoveryDiscovery Point and RRS Discovery/Facebook

Imagine setting sail on: RRS Discovery. Right next to the V&A sits the Victorian wooden ship that took Scott and Shackleton to the Antarctic. Step aboard and find out what it was like to live aboard this Dundee-built ship for the three years it took to reach, explore and return from the frozen continent.

Lunch at: Chez Mal. Stroll back to the Malmaison for lunch in the elegant brasserie. Chez Mal’s specialty is steaks, cooked to perfection on a josper grill. Try the tasty côte de boeuf or share a 1.1 kilogram porterhouse. Save room for dessert – the sticky toffee pudding is delicious.

Hike up: Dundee Law. Work off lunch with a last view on the city, from the top of its highest point, Dundee Law. This extinct volcano has an easy path to its summit, where you’ll find views across the city and Firth of Tay and out into the Highlands beyond.

Main image above: Hufton+Crow



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