Licensed To Thrill: Discovering The New Dundee

One of Great Britain’s most northerly cities, Dundee can often fall by the wayside, overlooked in favour of heavy hitters like Edinburgh or Glasgow. There’s a lot to be said about the Scottish town, however, and with renovations coming in thick and fast, Dundee is well and truly changing its image. With a makeover of the city’s famous waterfront and the arrival of Britain’s second V&A Museum, Dundee is on the up and up, providing any intrepid traveller with the experience of a lifetime.

Take To The Seas

Dundee is a smörgåsbord of cultural delight, and with countless developments in progress, you might really be stretching your time to fit in all that the city has to offer. If you do only one thing, however, you must head to the waterfront. The shining star of the city, Dundee’s waterfront stands gleaming before the River Tay, the cityscape rising over the waters in architectural triumph. One of the best ways to get your bearings is to head to the waters and hop on a Pirate Boats tour. Setting sail on the River Tay, the trip takes in local sights like picturesque Broughty Castle, the Larick Beacon, and the newly designed V&A Museum. What better way to take it all in?

Brush Up On Culture

When you’re back on dry land, it’s more than worth checking out the much-anticipated museum. Designed by Kengo Kuma, the V&A is the new waterfront’s crowning glory, and it only gets better on the inside. With Scottish design proudly on display, the museum pays homage to the oft-forgotten Scotland, putting its best and brightest in the spotlight.

V&A Dundee (visitscotland.com)

Take In The Classics 

Of course, Dundee was a cultural hotspot long before the arrival of the V&A. Its McManus museum has been holding fort for the past 150 years, offering up some of the best art and artefacts around. Among medieval Scottish torture devices, you can also expect to stumble across impressive painting collections and take in the mammoth River Tay whale skeleton. Having undergone a renovation in 2010, the museum is as contemporary as ever, putting local culture at the heart of everything it does.

Lose Yourself To Nature

Green spaces abound in the city of Dundee, and the Slessor Gardens are some of the very best around. One of the newest public spaces in the city, Slessor Gardens play host to open air events, and are often the location of choice for a bevy of outdoor gigs. Need a little quiet? There are a number of calmer places in which to get away from it all, and for some quiet historical learning, a Discovery Walk pays homage to some of the city’s greatest citizens.

Take A Trip Down Memory Lane

Once the best department store in the city, Draffens was closed down in the 1980s and seemingly left to ruin. In recent years, however, it has been given new life, and rather than reopening its doors as a commercial mecca, Draffens’ basement now functions as a fully fledged speakeasy. Sporting an unsigned entrance, the new Draffens is every bit as hidden as its historical counterparts, and houses just as much jazz. Pop in for a quick cocktail and get consumed by the charm of Draffens for hours. Cocktails are hand poured and invented on site, and are well worth sampling before your time in the city is up.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.