Dundee has been named one of the best places in Europe to visit this year by Lonely Planet, placing sixth on the list behind Italy’s Emilia-Romagna, Spain’s Cantabria and Provence in France.
The travel guide praised the Scottish city for its growing cultural scene, along with the transformation its historic waterfront. Dundee has a history of innovation and became the UK’s first Unesco City of Design in 2014.
“While visitors have always been assured of a friendly welcome, Dundee has often been overlooked by travellers to Scotland, but that should be set to change,” says Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s editorial director.
The list is compiled annually by Lonely Planet’s European experts, to reveal their pick of the most exciting and underrated destinations to visit across the continent. Others in the top 10 this year include Greece’s Small Cyclades islands, Friesland in the Netherlands and Vilnius in Lithuania.
Here are a few reasons why Dundee could be a top choice for your next mini-break…
The waterfront has undergone a massive transformation
“We are just over half way through a 30-year master plan to completely transform the waterfront and reconnect the Tay with the heart of the city,” says Councillor John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council. It’s costing £1billion and encompasses 240 hectares alongside the River Tay.
V&A Dundee is opening this summer
Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the £80m V&A Dundee Museum of Design is set to open on Saturday, September 15, and is really the focal point of the waterfront regeneration. The museum will showcase the work of Scottish designers, from Charles Rennie Mackintosh to Holly Fulton.
Hall says: “The opening of V&A Dundee is a really exciting moment that marks the city out as well worth a visit, but throw in nationally-important museums and attractions and its dynamic, creative spirit, and travellers will find a city boasting plenty to discover.”
It’s setting is pretty special
Sitting on the north shore of the Firth of Tay, the famous iron Tay Rail Bridge stretches over the river. It’s primarily for trains – but there are two viewing platforms for views over Dundee and the river. You can still see some parts of the original bridge in the water which collapsed in 1879 in a storm, killing 75 people on board a train. The present bridge took nine years to build and opened in 1966.
One of the city’s top attractions is Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s famous polar expedition vessel, the RRS Discovery, built in 1900 and sailed for the Antarctic in 1901, where it was trapped for two winters in ice. The nearby museum delves into the history of the ship and Antarctic exploration, but on the vessel itself you can visit the cabins, gallery and officers’ wardroom, among other things. Tickets start from £6.25 for children and £11.25 for adults. See dundeeheritagetrust.co.uk.
There’s a Desperate Dan statue in the main square
Edinburgh may have Sir Walter Scott but Dundee has a Desperate Dan, a much-loved children’s comic book character from The Dandy. The comic has been published by Dundee firm DC Thomson since 1937 and a statue was erected in City Square, the heart of Dundee, in 2001.
The Jute Museum at the Verdant Works
The museum tells the story of Dundee’s industrial textile heritage, set in a beautifully refurbished mill. Visitors can see how mill workers lived and worked in an industry that was very much a the heart of the city. Tickets cost from £6.25 for children and £11.25 for adults (you can also purchase joint tickets for both Verdant Works and Discovery Point for a discount).
If you want to get out of the city centre, four miles east you’ll find the seaside town of Broughty Ferry. Its history dates back to first settlers in the early 1440s, and King James II built a castle here in 1454, before it became a fishing village. Now, it’s a pretty town with beaches, parks a promenade, and some of Dundee’s best restaurants and shops.