Aberdeen is a lively, cosmopolitan and stunningly elegant city. Located on the North-East coast of Scotland, Aberdeen is famous for its ornate architecture. Aberdeen is a vibrant harbour city that has moved with the times, remaining a hub of modern commerce in Scotland. It’s an exciting and ambitious city with excellent travel connections, located in the beautiful scenery of Aberdeenshire.
Is Aberdeen a good place to live? Aberdeen has a lot of good points, including a low cost of living, high overall employment and fairly high wages. It’s also a fascinating and historic city with plenty of activities and things to see. There is a large disparity between the richest and poorest neighbourhoods.
Maybe you’re thinking of moving to a UK city and are looking for an outstanding neighbourhood to settle in. Perhaps you’ve been offered a place at one of Aberdeen’s universities or you’re moving to Aberdeen for work. Whatever your situation, if you’ve landed on this page you have questions about Aberdeen.
- What’s the population of Aberdeen?
- What is Aberdeen famous for? What are the schools in Aberdeen like?
- Why is Aberdeen called Granite City?
Keep reading to find out more about life in Aberdeen.
Is Aberdeen a good place to live?
For those moving to UK cities, particularly those planning a move to Scotland, Aberdeen should definitely be high on the list of possible locations.
The city of Aberdeen is highly rated by many surveys considering the quality of life, with some results placing it as the best city to live in Scotland — not to mention as one of the most desirable cities in the UK. Known as the Granite City or sometimes the Silver City, Aberdeen is so named for its beautiful granite buildings that sparkle brilliantly on sunny days.
There is a very severe divide between the wealthy and less well-off in Aberdeen. A highly ambitious city, Aberdeen is an economic powerhouse in the region — but it does have some areas where the benefit of this wealth has been slower to manifest. Some of the less affluent neighbourhoods include Balnagask, Manor Avenue, Northfield, Sandilands Drive, Seaton and Tillydrone. To be fair, however, these are not necessarily “bad” places to live; there are some nice properties to be found there. More affluent areas include Angusfield, Bieldside, Cults, Milltimber, Queens Road and Rubislaw.
Crime levels are somewhat lower than the UK average; compared to any other large city in the UK, Aberdeen is generally very safe. Crime has dropped significantly in recent years, with violent crime, in particular, seeing a very significant downswing. It would be fair to say that there are no really dangerous neighbourhoods in Aberdeen.
There is the usual rowdiness around the city centre in the evenings and at night but it would not be accurate to say that it was significantly worse than anywhere else in the UK. In particular, Aberdeen residents report lower levels of harassment based on ethnicity or gender.
Schools and universities in Aberdeen are generally good and education is emphasised quite heavily in the city’s culture. Like the majority of Scotland, Aberdeen places a lot of weight on studying a breadth of subjects (as opposed to England, which emphasises an in-depth focus on a smaller range of subjects). University degrees are quite intensive and cover a lot of material; degrees in Scotland take four years rather than the three you would expect to study in England.
There are numerous quality primary schools — 54 state primaries in all, along with a number of alternative and specialist private primary schools. Secondary education is not selective, with comprehensive schools and sixth form colleges replacing grammar schools. Cults Academy, Aberdeen Grammar School and Oldmachar Academy are some of the best known secondary schools in the city; Aberdeen Grammar School (no longer a grammar school these days but a comprehensive) is particularly famous, with notable alumni including Byron.
Once they reach 16, students have a choice of remaining at secondary school or going on to one of Aberdeen’s sixth-form colleges. These include North East Scotland College, a very large and well-reputed institution with numerous campuses all over the city, and various private options.
Aberdeen is noted for its two universities. The University of Aberdeen first opened its doors in 1495 and remains a very prestigious establishment. There is also the more recently instituted Robert Gordon University. Both establishments score highly for academic excellence and for the quality of the student experience.
Transport links to and from Aberdeen are of very high quality. Within Aberdeen itself, a combination of some very narrow roads and somewhat limited local bus services can make getting around a little tricky if you live in some outlying neighbourhoods. That said, if you’re careful about choosing a location that’s either close to the centre or well-served by public transport, there are some excellent routes. Much depends on your needs and where you choose to live.
Road and rail links to Aberdeen are very good. Aberdeen rail station connects to the UK’s main rail network and trains run as far afield as Penzance. There are regular connections to major cities in Scotland, such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as services to London and other cities in England. The Caledonian Sleeper service runs from Aberdeen, providing direct overnight connections to London.
Social life in Aberdeen is outstanding. Younger residents are especially well-served, as you might expect from a city with such an unusually high percentage of university students. There are all the usual bars, pubs and clubs that you’d expect to find in a major British town, along with lots of highly individual independent options. These include theme bars like The Moorings (a pirate-themed tiki bar) as well as more traditional pubs like the Illicit Still.
Culture is heavily emphasised, with multiple major festivals and many performing arts events. There are several theatres (the most notable being His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen Arts Centre and a small local theatre called The Lemon Tree) and various cinemas; as well as mainstream chains, you can also enjoy arthouse films at the Belmont Filmhouse.
Is Aberdeen a good place to work?
If you’re moving to Aberdeen, you’ll find it an excellent place to work. The employment rate stands at around 79 per cent, higher than the national average. Around 47 per cent of Aberdeen’s residents works full-time, indicating that underemployment isn’t really a problem in the city.
The best news of all is the average wage: a mighty £32,000, rates of pay in Aberdeen stand head and shoulders above the national average. This reflects the preponderance of engineering jobs to be found in the city.
Aberdeen was originally a maritime and fishing city. Over time, the economy shifted towards other forms of commerce. The most dramatic change for Aberdeen was the discovery of oil in the North Sea, which transformed Scotland’s fortunes and led to Aberdeen’s economy going over to one based on energy technologies.
The oil and gas industry dates back to the 1800s but really took off in the 1960s. The city began branding itself as the powerhouse of Scotland, with new entities setting up to handle these resources, creating new technologies and opportunities. North Sea Oil is less abundant today but is certainly a long way from running out; in the meantime,
Aberdeen has pivoted to apply its expertise as a hub for oil extraction to other forms of fuel and energy technologies. “The City of Oil” has reinvented itself as “The City of Energy”. This means that there are a great many career opportunities in the energy and engineering sectors. Some of the better-paid and most popular jobs include positions in operations management, mechanical engineering and project engineering.
For prospective employers and those considering starting a business, Aberdeen is a good option. Buffered by the energy industry, the economic downturn hit Aberdeen somewhat less dramatically than some other cities in the UK.
By the early 2010s, Aberdeen had recovered significantly and is generally seen as one of the better places to start or relocate a company. The pool of educated and skilled workers is very good, thanks to the city’s culture of education and the long-established university.
The city’s excellent commercial and transport infrastructure also help support business growth. (One minor gripe for Scottish businesses is the lack of really fast internet connections in parts of the city; the average broadband speed is only 13.85Mbps. Mobile phone coverage is also rather patchy, although this is improving.)
Is Aberdeen a good place to buy a house?
Aberdeen is an excellent place to buy a house. The types of property on offer range from recent builds of varying size and quality, to Victorian and pre-Victorian homes.
Whatever you’re looking for — be it a modern home with the latest technological and environmental improvements, or the character and charm of a historic structure — you’re likely to find it here. If you’re prepared to venture a little outside Aberdeen proper, you can find traditional cottages and barn conversions in wonderfully scenic locations.
The combination of a low cost of living, high wages and lower house prices attract a lot of savvy buyers. While prices in the centre of Aberdeen are quite high (similar to London in some neighbourhoods), surrounding districts are less expensive and the average house price in Aberdeen is around £164,000. That’s significantly lower than elsewhere in the UK, especially for a city the size of Aberdeen. Housing stocks are fairly plentiful but there is enough pressure to drive up demand.
Because of the variation in house prices from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, Aberdeen is a very good location to take your first step onto the property ladder; there are plenty of properties in different bands so you can easily take a step up or down. Aberdeen is also a good choice if you’re interested in joining the buy-to-let market. Single-room rents in house-shares, such as those favoured by students, are a popular money-spinner for those starting out — the huge student population ensures a ready demand.
It’s entirely possible to find a single bedroomed flat in an inexpensive area such as Torry for £40,000 or less. These properties tend to be smaller and the neighbourhoods are less affluent; however, you can still find quiet streets and nicer properties in these areas. By contrast, a large property in a desirable area such as Bieldside or Angusfield could cost as much as £900,000. The average price of a home is very modest, however. A single-bedroom house in Aberdeen will cost around £132,500. A three-bedroom home in the city will cost roughly £245,000 while a large five-bedroom property can cost around £376,000.
Rents in Aberdeen are very modest. The average price for a single-bedroomed house is less than £500. The average rent for a three-bedroomed house is £1000 pcm, while a large five bedroom property rents for under £2000 pcm.
The houses you will find for sale or rent are generally quite spacious, although obviously, the amount you’ll pay per square foot will vary depending on the neighbourhood. Flats are considerably cheaper than houses and tend to be quite comfortable, so they’re well worth looking over even if you’d normally prefer a house.
Is Aberdeen a good place to retire?
If you’re considering moving to UK cities for your retirement, Aberdeen is a comfortable place to settle down. Most retirees prefer to settle property in the outlying areas, which are often very picturesque. A location on the outskirts of Aberdeen gives you the best of both worlds: rural and coastal character, a restful atmosphere and pleasant surroundings, with easy access to the city centre when you want it. It’s worth keeping in mind your transport needs when choosing the neighbourhood where you’ll settle down; some neighbourhoods are better connected than others, especially if you wish to use public transport.
One-bedroom retirement flats go for around £80,000. One of the best things about retirement properties in Aberdeen is the availability of larger retirement homes for sale; depending on your budget and where you plan to live, you can find multi-bedroom retirement flats and houses that are often hard to find.
Retirement properties vary in price depending on where you plan to settle. In the most affluent and sought-after areas, you could find yourself paying upwards of £400,000 for a three-bedroom retirement home. Larger retirement properties of four or five bedrooms are unusual. For those who need an affordable property in a pleasant area, there are lots of very nice park homes (static caravans) for sale in Montrose for around £125,000.
You can find lovely retirement flats around the city for around £500, with most being one or two bedroomed flats or studio apartments. There are plenty of purpose-built retirement properties as well as adapted standard properties that come with a discount for clients over a certain age. The retirement villages around King Street are inexpensive and comfortable if you’re looking for a flat to rent.
Is Aberdeen a good place to visit?
When it comes to tourism, Granite City has plenty to attract visitors. Aberdeen is an excellent place to visit; luckily more and more people are catching on and Aberdeen is taking its place as a major centre for tourism. As well as the attractions of the city itself, there’s plenty to do in the surrounding region of Aberdeenshire.
Perhaps the most popular season for a break in the Granite City is during the summer. Contrary to stereotypes about Scottish weather, Aberdeenshire enjoys long, bright summers with many hours of daylight thanks to its northerly situation. The city is at its best on these bright, sunny days, with the granite of its buildings glittering in the sun that shines for as many as 18 hours at midsummer. The durability of granite has allowed Aberdeen’s architectural details to remain remarkably crisp — when cleaned, the buildings look as if they had been put up yesterday rather than a century ago.
There are too many notable landmarks in the city to list here. Many of the most dramatic buildings are concentrated on Union Street and Castle Street. These include the Trinity Hall, the Music Hall, the National Bank of Scotland and the New Town House (one of Aberdeen’s most important landmarks). Other landmarks that repay a visit include St. Machar’s Cathedral and the Brig o’Balgownie: Scotland’s oldest bridge.
As you’d expect from such a historic city, Aberdeen has plenty of museums where you can explore its maritime and industrial past. There’s the award-winning Aberdeen Maritime Museum, where visitors can learn about everything from shipbuilding to the oil industry.
The Maritime Museum is held in Provost Ross’s House, the second oldest house in the city — well worth a visit in its own right. If you’re wondering what the oldest house in the city might be, it’s Provost Skene’s house.
Another major tourist attraction, Provost Skene’s house is now a museum where the public can admire its medieval architecture. The Tolbooth Museum has its permanent home in the Castlegate building, the city’s oldest extant building; here you can dive into Aberdeen’s judicial past.
One of the more recently opened museums is King’s Museum, a small university museum that opened in 2011. This museum exists to house exhibits from the currently closed Marischal Museum. These include artefacts and works of art from locations all around the world, many of them very rare. The exhibits are rotated regularly so there’s always something new to discover.
Culture and the arts are a huge part of life in Aberdeen. One cultural must-visit is the Aberdeen Art Gallery. As well as its prestigious collection of visual art from the 1600s to the late 20th century, the gallery also houses a war memorial. Aberdeen is noted for its vibrant theatre scene; His Majesty’s Theatre is the place to see major productions, while smaller local productions and charity events are hosted at The Lemon Tree theatre and Aberdeen Arts Centre.
A short distance outside of Aberdeen, you’ll find Dunnottar Castle. This fortress stands on a headland on the north coast; it’s noted for both its historical significance and architectural interest. Although many of the buildings are in ruins, much of the main fortress remains largely intact and is open for guided tours by the public.
If you’ve had your fill of history and culture, you could change things up with an excursion to GlenDronach Distillery. Lying a short bus trip from the city’s main bus depot, this famous distillery offers tours and tastings in a scenic location. The county of Aberdeenshire has some amazing scenery; hikers often use the city as a base for expeditions into the surrounding countryside. The hills and coastal region offer spectacular walks.
If you don’t want to venture outside of the city, Aberdeen still has plenty of green spaces to explore. The city’s 45 parks are a point of pride. Duthie Park is one of these — a sprawling landscaped park, it offers paddle-boats and kayaks for rent during the summer months. Duthie Park is also home to the spectacular David Welch Winter Gardens, with their collections of rare tropical plants. Another famous Aberdeen park is Johnston Gardens, a frequent winner of “Britain in Bloom”, an award celebrating the finest gardens in the UK. The city’s largest green space is Hazlehead Park, a vast 180-hectare stretch of parkland and woodland that was once the estate of a stately home (Hazlehead House).
For families, Aberdeen Beach comes highly recommended. It offers miles of smooth golden sands, sea bathing in the summer months, and an excellent safety record. As well as the soft sandy beach, you’ll also find a plethora of other fun things to do. Choose from traditional amusements at the family fun fair and Beach Leisure Centre, or go skating year-round at the Linx Ice Arena. You’re also within a stone’s throw of some really good seafood: there are numerous restaurants overlooking the beach that serve the very freshest locally caught fish.
Another family-friendly destination is Doonies Rare Breeds Farm. This is a real working farm, home to an assortment of rare breeds of sheep and cattle. Visitors can feed and interact with the animals in a safe and supervised manner, making Doonies Farm a favourite with families and school parties. The best time to visit Doonies Farm is in the spring when younger visitors can meet lambs, chicks and other baby animals.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.