Dundee is a city that has a rich and varied history, located on the eastern coast of Scotland.
It is Scotland’s fourth-largest city, with a population of 148,210 people.
Dundee’s roots can be traced back to the late 12th century when it transformed into a burgh.
This period saw Dundee emerge as an important east coast trading port, with merchants plying their wares from the nearby Firth of Tay.
Today, Dundee continues to embrace its maritime heritage and is associated with many scientific discoveries due to Sir William Speirs Bruce’s research voyage aboard RRS Discovery vessel in 1901.
In recognition of its multifaceted history, Dundee has been tagged as “One City Many Discoveries” – representing not only its scientific activities but also its proud cultural heritage.
The city boasts plenty to do for locals and tourists alike; from local attractions such as The McManus Galleries & Museum and Verdant Works, both telling tales of Dundee’s remarkable industrial past; to the stunning natural surroundings offered by Riverside Nature Reserve.
There are also plenty of outdoor activities available in nearby Angus Glens where you can enjoy sublime mountain walks or take part in some fishing adventures on the lochs!
If you’re interested in seeing some the top things to see and do in Dundee, keep reading as I share my favorites!
Things To Do In Dundee
1. Discovery Point
Discover the incredible story of the RRS Discovery and its daring voyage to Antarctica at Discovery Point.
Located in Dundee, this five-star attraction tells the tale of Captain Scott’s heroic exploration over a century ago with multimedia displays, classic artefacts and interactive experiences.
Visit and explore the very ship that took part in this pioneering journey, which is now a museum exhibit that takes visitors on an awe-inspiring tour into history.
Discovery Point offers a unique insight into the incredible adventure of Captain Scott and his crew, who set out to be the first to reach the South Pole in 1901.
Here you’ll be immersed with the latest audio visual technology and computer-based multimedia displays as well as original items such as documents, maps and photographs from the expedition.
There are also various interactive activities such as dressing up as explorers or visiting replicas of their cabins below deck on board the ship.
2. The McManus Art Gallery & Museum
The McManus Art Gallery & Museum, located in Dundee, Scotland, is a historic and beautiful Gothic Revival-style building that has stood since 1867.
Commissioned as a memorial to Prince Albert, the building was funded by the inhabitants of Dundee and designed by the renowned architect George Gilbert Scott.
Upon its completion in 1867, The McManus housed a museum and art gallery with a collection of fine and decorative art as well as natural history displays.
By 1889 the building had been extended by four additional art galleries and four museum galleries.
For seventy-six years The McManus was administrated as part of the public library service before being handed over to Dundee City Council in 1949.
After undergoing extensive refurbishment work in 2010, The McManus re-opened its doors once more as Dundee’s premier public collections centre, providing visitors with an ever-changing array of unique exhibits from both historical and contemporary contexts.
3. The Dundee Law
Dundee Law is an ancient landmark that stands at an impressive height of 150 metres (500 feet) above sea level and appears prominently on the local skyline due to its summit which is topped with a large war memorial.
The Law has been a witness to many historic events throughout time. Archaeological evidence suggests it may have been used by human settlers as far back as 3500 years ago and there is also evidence that it was a Pictish settlement in the Iron Age.
Roman pottery has also been found from its summit which suggests that it may even have been used by the Romans as a lookout post.
On 13 April 1689, Viscount Dundee raised the Stuart Royal Standard on this very same hill, beginning the first Jacobite rising and cementing its place in history.
Its origin story dates back even further than this, however: it was actually created 400 million years ago when volcanic activity occurred in the area and shaped the landscape into what it is today.
Thanks to its long history and unique geological formation, Dundee Law remains one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks, with visitors coming from all around to admire its beauty and learn more about its past. With stunning views overlooking Dundee city centre and beyond, it truly symbolises the city’s strength and resilience throughout time.
4. Verdant Works
Verdant Works, located in Dundee, Scotland, is the only dedicated jute museum in the United Kingdom.
Given Category A listed building status by Historic Scotland in 1987, it is a historical landmark of national architectural importance and has been awarded several accolades for its cultural significance.
The museum tells the story of Dundee’s textile industries, particularly jute and linen, through its remarkable collections of machinery patterns, small tools, technical drawings, plans and testing equipment.
Additionally, there are archival documents including photos and costumes illustrating how clothing was made during the 19th century.
The high-mill section also houses an extensive numismatic collection.
Visitors to Verdant Works can explore the life of mill workers through interactive displays as well as browse artifacts from different eras.
Having being granted Recognised Collection of National Significance status in 2008; Verdant Works offers an insightful journey into Dundee’s past with plenty to see and do for people from all walks of life.
5. V&A Dundee
V&A Dundee, the first design museum in Scotland and the first Victoria and Albert museum outside London, opened to the public on 15th September 2018.
It is situated on the banks of River Tay in Dundee, an area steeped in history and natural beauty.
The building, designed by internationally renowned architect Kengo Kuma, was inspired by Scotland’s eastern cliff edges.
Its contoured façade is made up of 1,000 pre-cast stone panels of varying sizes along with 200 tonnes of Scottish granite.
The idea for V&A Dundee originated at the University of Dundee back in 2007 when Professor Christopher Breward proposed a museum dedicated to design.
This subsequently led to an international design competition which took place in 2010 and saw Kengo Kuma chosen as the winner out of a shortlist of six Architects.
Visitors can explore three different permanent galleries: ‘Scotland – Designing Identity’, ‘Gallery 1 – Exploring Design from Around The World’ and ‘Gallery 2 – Living With Design’. There are also changing exhibitions throughout the year which will bring together historic and modern design from around the world that explore challenges we face today such as health, energy and sustainability.
6. HMS Unicorn
HMS Unicorn is an impressive sight to behold – a living relic of the Age of Sail that has been preserved and maintained for nearly 200 years.
The Leda-class frigate was constructed in 1824 at Chatham Dockyard in Kent, England, and still stands tall today as part of the National Historic Fleet.
This formidable sailing warship never saw combat, but its impressive frame serves as a reminder of the power and prestige of the British Navy during this era.
Unique for its time, HMS Unicorn was built with diagonal riders made from iron straps and iron “knees”, which greatly strengthened the ship’s hull.
It was also incredibly advanced for a sailing vessel of its time, featuring state-of-the-art masts and sails plus copper sheathing on the hull to prevent marine growth.
Fittingly, HMS Unicorn only ever went to sea once in its lifetime; it undertook a journey from Chatham to Dundee, during which it was under tow by another vessel.
For 140 years following this voyage, HMS Unicorn served as a hulk and depot ship, with superstructure added over the main deck for habitation.
The vessel remained relatively untouched until the 1960s when steps were taken to convert it into a museum ship; today it is open to visitors in Dundee.
Interestingly enough, HMS Unicorn’s sister ship HMS Trincomalee has also been restored and can be found at Hartlepool Marina as part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
7. Mills Observatory
Mills Observatory is a unique and historic building located in the city of Dundee.
It is the first purpose-built public astronomical observatory in the UK and was opened to the public in 1935.
The observatory is classically styled in sandstone and has a distinctive 7m dome which houses a variety of instruments for observing the night sky.
The main telescope of Mills Observatory is a 400mm (16inch) Dobsonian reflector acquired in 2013, but it also houses Victorian 0.25m (10 inch) Cooke refractor from 1871 and a 0.3m (12 inch) Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope purchased in 2006.
Furthermore, visitors to the observatory can admire its planetarium based around a Viewlex Apollo projector as well as its Planet Trail on Balgay Hill which represents our Solar System in miniature form.
Visiting Mills Observatory provides an exciting learning experience for those interested in astronomy or just curious about the night sky above us.
8. Dundee Science Centre
Dundee Science Centre is an incredible interactive science museum in Dundee.
It is part of the Scottish Science Centres Network and registered as a charity under Scottish law.
This wonderful centre was opened in July 2000 as part of the Millennium Commission Projects and since then has enjoyed tremendous success.
The main aim of the centre is to increase public understanding and appreciation of science and technology, while encouraging people to explore and discover fun facts about the scientific world.
To make sure everyone can enjoy this amazing experience, Dundee Science Centre relies on funding from public donations and corporate sponsorships.
With these contributions, visitors can learn through life sciences, sensory experiences and robotics interactions.
Each exhibit has been specially designed to be interactive so that people can engage in hands-on activities and really understand how things work on a deeper level.
9. Dundee Botanic Garden
The Dundee Botanic Garden is a stunning 9.5-hectare oasis embracing the banks of Scotland’s River Tay.
Its south-facing slope provides a beautiful surrounding and ideal conditions for an impressive array of conifers, broad-leaved trees and shrubs, tropical and temperate glasshouses, water gardens and herb gardens – all brimming with native British plants and species from around the world.
The garden was founded in 1969 as part of Dundee University’s Department of Botany. It was designed to provide students with an environment in which to develop their knowledge of botanical science by first-hand observation of plant growth and development.
The collection has expanded since then to include many diverse habitats from around the globe, so there is always something interesting to discover!
Visitors can explore the garden’s winding pathways lined with vibrant displays of colour, enjoy its countless hidden treasures tucked away in alcoves along the way and learn about the unique ecology it contains.
10. Camperdown Wildlife Centre
Camperdown Wildlife Centre is a fascinating animal park situated in Dundee, Scotland. It sits within the wider Camperdown Country Park, which covers over 400 acres (1.6 km2) of land.
The Wildlife Centre is home to over 300 animals from 50 species and provides an educational and enjoyable experience for visitors.
This includes rare animals such as the European pine marten, which can only be found here in Scotland.
The Wildlife Centre also has a rich history, having formerly been home to two brown bears, Comet and Star, who lived there for several years before being re-homed in 2010.
In addition to these, you can find camels, wallabies and lemurs roaming freely around the grounds of the park.
The abundance of wildlife makes it a perfect spot for budding wildlife photographers!
The centre is also an active member of BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums).
This means that they are part of a network dedicated to conservation efforts worldwide and are committed to providing excellent care for its animal inhabitants in order to ensure their longevity here at Camperdown Wildlife Centre.
With over 190 species of tree planted throughout the park, Camperdown Wildlife Centre offers great opportunities to both nature lovers and animal enthusiasts alike; making it one of Dundee’s most beautiful attractions.
11. Tay Rail Bridge
The River Tay Rail Bridge is an iconic structure located in Scotland, connecting the city of Dundee to Wormit.
Spanning a length of 2.75 miles (4.43 kilometres), this double-track bridge is one of the longest bridges in the United Kingdom and a feat of engineering.
Construction on the original, single-track lattice bridge began in 1878, but tragically it collapsed during a severe storm just over a year later, claiming 79 lives.
In response to the tragedy, engineers began planning for its replacement: a stronger and more resilient iron and steel bridge that could withstand even harsher weather conditions.
Work on the new bridge started in 1883 and was completed in 1887 with the opening ceremony conducted by HRH Prince Albert Victor of Wales.
The new bridge featured two tracks allowing trains to pass from both directions simultaneously – greatly increasing transportation efficiency and passenger safety.
Today it’s a great sight to behold from Dundee and is amazing for photos.
12. Broughty Castle Museum
Broughty Castle Museum is a historic site located on the banks of the River Tay in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, Scotland.
It is believed to have been built by George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus around 1495, although it was fortified in 1454.
This impressive structure contained a four floor main tower house at its centre, which was added by Andrew, 2nd Lord Gray who was granted the castle in 1490.
The castle has had a tumultuous history – it was briefly ceded to James IV of Scotland by Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus and then passed through the hands of Patrick Lyon, 1st Earl of Strathmore before being taken over by the Crown.
The castle served as a military facility until 1928 when it became home to Dundee Burgh Police.
During World War II it was used as an anti-aircraft battery and many of its features remain today such as long-range guns and pill boxes.
Today Broughty Castle Museum is run by the city council and is open to the public from April to October every year.
Visitors can explore its fascinating interior filled with interactive exhibits and artefacts that tell stories about the area’s fantastic past.
13. Dundee Museum Of Transport
Dundee Museum of Transport is a self-sustaining Scottish Charitable Organisation and an invaluable resource for the study of transport in Dundee, and more broadly across Scotland.
It opened its doors on 26 April 2014 in one main hall and expanded over the next two years, opening Halls two, three and four to house its vast collection of artefacts.
From buses, trams, motorbikes, pushbikes, cars, ships and trains there is something for everyone to enjoy!
The museum has recently been granted a lease extension by Market Mews until 2024 which guarantees its presence in the city centre for at least another five years.
This provides ample time for visitors to explore the rich history of transport in Scotland at their own pace.
The permanent collection is regularly updated with new acquisitions from private collections or donations from local enthusiasts and businesses.
In addition to the regular collection there are also temporary exhibitions each year that focus on a particular topic relating to transport.
Currently on display is ‘The Future of Transport’ which explores how our current transportation systems are impacting climate change. Anyone visiting won’t want to miss out on this thought-provoking experience!