Hailed the world’s coolest city by the Wall Street Journal, Dundee’s star is rising. You’ll find independent food and shopping, rich creative heritage and fizzing nightlife. Plus any city using its public library as an underground club is definitely worth a visit.
Bask: River Tay
This one’s optional of course. But if you’re up early or indeed, going home late, you might spot a gorgeous sunrise on the River Tay. Dundee has been hailed Scotland’s sunniest city, thanks to its south-facing position. But if you’re still in bed, the sunset will look quite similar…
Fuel: Flame Tree café, Exchange Street
Grab a monster portion of vegan breakfast at the Flame Tree café. Run by Australians who know their coffee, this is just the first stop on Dundee’s burgeoning independent food trail. The menu is innovative and delicious and the psychedelic bagels will wake you up for sure. There's a crocodile Dundee joke in here somewhere.
Pose: Desperate Dan and the Lemmings
Pose with a lifesize statue of Desperate Dan on the high street, plus companion lemmings, penguins and dragons around the city. These jolly oddities are nods to Dundee’s gaming and comic ingénue: Grand Theft Auto, Lemmings, Dandy and The Beano were all created here and the comic capers continue in the beautiful McManus gallery.
Print: Dundee Contemporary Arts
Sometimes weird, always wonderful, this world-class centre is the beating heart of modern Dundee creativity. It features significant artists, has two cinemas, the popular Jute bar and a shop selling gifts you really want. The highlight is a creative centre and lithograph room where you can design your own prints - like this steampunk parrot.
Get battered: Tailend fish'n'chips
Taking the humble fish and chip to a whole new Dundee-style level, Tailend batters every sea creature of the deep and serves it with mushy peas. Fill up on juicy prawns, fishcakes and the divine Abroath smokie. Take it away and eat on the beach, or go posh and enjoy a cheeky Ogilvy vodka cocktail inside. It’s not too early.
Mooch: city centre boutiques
Once famous for its jute – a type of material – Dundee’s industrial spaces are now full of creatives whose goods flow into boutiques and pop-ups around the city centre. Lose yourself in a shopping vortex of emerging jewellery designers, vintage shops and comic-y objects of desire. Many offer workshops, so you can pick up a new skill and pass the creativity on.
Linger: V&A Design Museum
There’s a huge buzz about this liner-like structure on the riverfront. Built by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the V&A Museum of Design Dundee will open in 2018 and will be the jewel in Dundee’s crown. The first British design museum outside of London, it sits next to Captain Scott's reverent RRS Discovery, which is poetry in itself.
Slather: Apex hotel
With £1bn makeover underway, a walk along the riverfront is worthwhile. There are new things popping up all the time, from District 10 – an artists’ community housed in shipping containers, to a beach/ice rink. Finish your stroll with an afternoon tea at the Apex hotel. Dundee invented marmalade so it’s only respectful to slather it on loads of cake.
Wonder: Dundee Science Centre
A world from the dusty labs of yore, the Dundee Science Centre is full of jelly brains, optical illusions and interactive exhibits. Leave your adult self at the door and get stuck in. Explore Dundee’s significant contribution to science, from sending the first wireless broadcast to inventing the first adhesive postage stamp.
Eat: Castlehill Restaurant
When you see a chocolate, tonka bean and sweet cicely soufflé on the menu, you know the chef’s pretty good. The Castlehill Restaurant is the only AA double rosette-winning restaurant in town and serves sophisticated Scottish fayre minus the shortbread or chocolate fudge. There is an excellent whiskey menu though and a wine menu as good as the soufflé.
Sup: Duke's Corner
Skip coffee and have an espresso martini at Duke’s Corner on Brown Street. Serving more than 30 types of beer, classic drinks and cocktails, it’s loved by locals and newbies alike, and the cavernous place hosts everything from live gigs, to film nights and DJ sets. A snuggly outdoor bit offers stars and blankets with your booze.
Dance: Reading Rooms
Once upon a time, there was no iconic club night in Dundee. So the locals created it… in this Victorian public library. There’s something gleeful about alternative club nights in a learned environment and the Reading Rooms have become the stuff of legend. Head here for high profile visiting DJs playing everything from punk to techno to reggae to dance. Ever wanted to shout in a public library? Now you can.
Sleep: Malmaison Dundee
Curl up in these cosy numbers at the Malmaison Dundee. Located in the former Tay Hotel 100m from the riverfront, the quirky chain has revived the famous building. The result is historic character and modern flair: domed ceilings, wrought iron staircase, jewelled velvets and a killer bar.
Good to know: Broughty Ferry
Just seven minutes by train from Dundee, is Broughty Ferry. Dubbed the ‘Brighton of Scotland’, this lovely retro fishing village offers boutique shopping, excellent restaurants and the Rockhill manicured gardens. Take some air on the beach or climb up to Broughty Castle for stunning views of the River Tay.
Train: 5 hours, 53 minutes from London Kings Cross
Coach: 10 hours, 55 minutes from London Victoria Coach Station
Fly: 1 hour, 45 minutes from London Stanstead