Ideal for friends, family or even those travelling solo.
Back in the not so distant days of 2019, one of life’s great pleasures involved a spontaneous hop on a cheap flight somewhere on the continent, to settle into the rhythms of a foreign yet familiar city for the weekend. Paris for the Pompidou, Brussels for truffles, and Berlin for Berghain, if only we could get in…these trips brought colour and romance and we miss them.
But for safety’s sake, such jaunts are a thing of the past. That shouldn’t mean an impulsive weekend city break of local food, heritage and culture is completely off the cards; we’re just going to have to rethink how we do things a little.
On terra firma, Scotland boasts some of the most forward-thinking, exciting destinations out, and it’s here that we’re heading for our next long weekend. If you have the same idea and are looking for inspiration on tailor-made city breaks to suit any taste, then read on; here are 4 of the best city breaks in Scotland for 2020, IDEAL for friends, family or even those travelling solo.
IDEAL FOR FOODIES: LEITH, EDINBURGH
We’re starting out in Leith, the vibrant, creative soul of Edinburgh and the capital’s port district. When the sunshine (cheers Chief) hits the water just so, there’s no more magical place in Scotland. Indeed, last year, Time Out named Leith as one of the world’s ‘coolest neighbourhoods to visit right now’, and we couldn’t agree more.
One of the main factors contributing to Edinburgh’s city break credential’s is Leith’s food scene, which boasts two Michelin starred restaurants, cute cafes, some cracking bistros and gastropubs, and an excellent farmer’s market or two to boot.
The Kitchin, headed up by the irrepressible celebrity chef Tom Kitchn, has been celebrating Scottish produce with their precise ‘Nature to Plate’ cooking for 14 glorious years. Interestingly, only the first year was spent without a Michelin star, the famous red book acknowledging the Kitchin’s exemplary cooking soon after the restaurant opened. Following a period of closure due to coronavirus measures, the famous eatery reopened in late July. If you’re to choose one blowout meal, make it here.
Restaurant Michael Wishart is Leith’s other Michelin starred restaurant and is reopening on 14th August. Here the cooking pairs classical French technique with Scotland’s natural bounty and the results are top class. The lunch menu offer here is an absolute steal; on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 12:00pm to 1:30pm you can enjoy three courses for £38.50. Bargain!
For something a little less refined but still totally delicious, The Little Chartroom, a compact neighbourhood bistro whose plates pack huge flavour, has just reopened, albeit with reduced opening hours. Dinner is now served from Thursday through to Sunday, from 5pm until 9.15pm. Though the menu is tight, with just three or so items for each course, you’d be crazy to miss anything they’re cooking from the sea; the restaurant has a wicked way with fish.
Leith also boasts some amazing organic producers selling some of Scotland’s world-famous, prestigious ingredients. Should you have a kitchen in your accommodation, or simply for souvenir’s sake, do make sure you visit George Bower butchers, I. J. Mellis Cheesemongers, Welch Fishmongers and the Campervan Brewery, in particular, and pick up some goodies!
There are also two regular foodie markets, Stockbridge Market and Leith Market, held every Saturday between 10am and 5pm, right on the water’s edge next to the Kitchin. Make the most out of your short break by staying in a hotel near the one of the markets and looking for dinner bed and breakfast deals in Scotland – that’s breakfast, lunch and dinner sorted, then.
Phew, are you full yet?
IDEAL FOR MUSEUMS & ART GALLERIES: GLASGOW’S WEST END
We’re heading to Scotland’s second city next. If you’re into art and history, then you should join us.
Glasgow, an hour’s drive west from Edinburgh, is full of art galleries and museums, and is one of Europe’s most exciting destinations for culture. In fact, last year Glasgow was named culture capital of the UK by the European Commission.
It’s in the city’s West End where you’ll find the highest concentration of cultural hotspots. First on your itinerary should the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and its adjacent park, which you could easily fill a whole day seeing (the park is gorgeous for relaxing in).
Outside of London, the Kelvingrove is the UK’s most visited museum, and is free to enter, with the art gallery housing paintings from Monet and Rembrandt amongst others. The connecting park is worth your time, equally. With tennis courts, a bowling green, skatepark and bandstand, it’s a favourite focal point of those wanting to kick back on a sunny day. The museum is set to reopen later in August.
Just a half mile’s walk from Kelvingrove and towards the River Clyde is the Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel. Here, at Glasgow Harbour, you’ll find a striking, hyper modern building housing a collection of cars, trams and bikes and other more esoteric transport items, all made in Scotland. There’s also a fantastically detailed recreation of a 1890s Glasgow city street, ‘Kelvin Street’, which you can wander down, putting the vintage transport options in context and giving you a glimpse into 19th century Scottish city life.
Outside the museum, check out The Tall Ship, a restored sailing ship docked in the harbour which you can board to enjoy exhibitions documenting Glasgows’ rich maritime history.
The West End also boasts the University of Glasgow, one of the world’s oldest, and all open to the public. Inside you’ll not only find stunning architecture, including the majestic cloisters, which will have you feeling like you’re arriving at Hogwarts, but also the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.
This is Scotland’s oldest museum (the superlatives keep coming!) and it houses a hugely diverse collection, with a focus on Zoology and the animal kingdom especially. The adjoining art gallery is most famous for its Mackintosh and Whistler collections, and contains works of art from a wide variety of prestigious painters. The Hunterian is set to open later in August.
And if you’re keen to continue feeding your fascination with nature, Glasgow Botanic Gardens is just a ten minute walk away. Expect weary legs and an educated mind after such a wholesome, active day.
IDEAL FOR DESIGN BUFFS: DUNDEE
The only UNESCO City of Design in the UK, Dundee is arguably the country’s most forward thinking and creative, with a hugely prestigious history and focus on the future, equally. A city whose innovations and discoveries led directly to the aspirin, Grand Theft Auto and the Beano and Dandy comics? Count us in! If design is your thing, too, then Dundee is the perfect city break for you.
Your first stop should, without doubt, be V&A Dundee, Scotland’s first design museum and only the second V&A Museum in the world, following London. That’s not to say it’s a carbon copy of the original; Dundee’s version is much more focused on Scottish design and innovation in particular, and is well worth a visit to get acquainted with a visionary element of the country’s history. In welcome news, V&A Dundee reopens at the end of August.
Next, a word on the city’s most famous (now 80 year old) residents. In City Square, you’ll find Bash Street and statues of characters from The Beano and the Dandy. Follow up this meet and greet with the comic book stars with a trip to McManus Art Gallery and Museum (reopening on 20th August) which has eight galleries devoted to the history of design and Dundee, as well as art from all over the world. Most excitingly, there’s an 80 Years of Beano exhibit.
For something a little different, Mill’s Observatory, a sandstone dome on the outskirts of the city, is home to an enormously powerful telescope and regularly hosts events in its planetarium.
IDEAL FOR FLORAL FANATICS: ABERDEEN
Aberdeen is a city of great juxtaposition, famed both for its ubiquitous granite architecture and citywide kaleidoscope of floral arrangements. We’re visiting to focus on the latter this time; here, there are a rumoured 11 million daffodils, 2.5 million roses and 3 million crocuses in the city, all on show in Aberdeen’s gorgeous 45 parks and gardens.
Those are some serious numbers, and the city has won numerous awards for its dedication to flora, most recently the Royal Horticultural Society’s 2019 Growing Communities award. This year, Aberdeen is a finalist in the Britain In Bloom competition.
City breakers should head to the 44 acres of Duthie Park, on the banks of the River Dee, where you’ll find a huge display of giant cacti in the park’s very own Winter Gardens. Or, consider Hazlehead Park, on the outskirts of Aberdeen and a lot more wild, with 180 hectares woodlands and paths, as well as some spectacular rose gardens. In the Old Aberdeen area of the city, Seaton Park is one of the city’s most well maintained. That, or you could just follow your nose; the aroma of flowers in the city is heavenly!