If shopping tops the list of your favorite pastimes, then Aberdeen City and Shire won't disappoint.
From designer boutiques to a host of high street names, you'll find all the labels and top quality outlets you'd expect from a major city.
The city has for centuries been the main shopping destination for a huge catchment area, and a popular destination for European shoppers taking a weekend break. With its striking skyline, historical old town and impressive granite buildings this is a prosperous, cosmopolitan city.
The great range of excellent shopping centers ensures that you'll always be able to find exactly what you're looking for and if it's something more exclusive or a little quirky that you're after, one of Aberdeen's independent retailers will be able to provide that too.
At a mile long, Aberdeen's Union Street is Britain's longest high street and is jam packed with a host of household names and high street favorites. At the upper end you'll find the newly opened Hugo Boss, G-Star Raw and Cruise, along with premium stores like Jaeger and Jones the Bootmaker.
Cruise, which opened in the autumn of 2007, is one of the UK's leading independent luxury retailers with a fantastic reputation not only for designer brands, but as a showcase for fresh cutting edge fashion. Brands currently available at Cruise include Gucci, Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, Dior, Hugo Boss, Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, Fendi, Chloe and Jimmy Choo to name a few.
At the bottom end of Union Street, just before it meets the historic Castlegate, is The Bon Accord St Nicholas Shopping Center.
Right in the heart of the city it has a fabulous range of stores and is the prime retailing area in Aberdeen. The biggest shopping center in the city, it is split into two buildings and has three floors extending to 630,000 sq ft over two levels. Built in a serpentine shape to maximise shop unit frontage, it is covered by a barrel vaulted glazed roof with a 90-ft high glazed dome.
Flagship stores include New Look and Monsoon, one of the largest in Scotland, a large Boots and Woolworths and shops such as The Body Shop, River Island, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Ortak and Oasis. A new Costa Coffee will revive the most weary shopper, while the restaurants within the Upper Mall, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, located at either end of the Center, remain a poplar rendezvous for a casual lunch and a catch-up with friends. And of course, there's a Starbucks, with an outdoor sitting area, if you fancy a spot of cafe culture.
Just across from the city's Union Terrace Gardens, The Mall Trinity is a great, one floor shopping center with around 27 stores including Debenhams, Argos Extra, T-Mobile, HMV, Superdrug, Waterstones and a large Primark.
Cobbled Belmont Street, known for its trendy bars, cafes, and art house cinema, is also the location for The Academy shopping center. Surrounding an Italianate style piazza, it has an excellent range of upmarket brands and individual shops, coffee shops, bars and restaurants, and the open-air piazza is often a focus for live entertainment throughout the summer months. Here the style conscious will find independent shops such as Attic, AB10 and Concept, which specialises in casual designer-ware for men. A true style leader in Aberdeen, Attic is constantly introducing new collections including UARM, Green Apple Tree and Six Pack. AB10 has everything from footwear to accessories, with many main stream brands including G-Star, Ted Baker, Miss Sixty, Replay, Firetrap and Gio-Goi.
Nicknamed 'Little Chelsea', the Thistle Street area of the city is the acknowledged style quarter of Aberdeen with a range of independent shops stocking everything from clothes, shoes and accessories, in addition to gift shops, delicatessens, French bakers, florists and art galleries . Bellino and Hamish Munro both have excellent ranges of shoes by continental designers, and if you need a dress for a big night out, try Frox – with everything from funky to formal, it's evening wear with attitude. Esslemonts and Esslemonts 2 stock a stylish choice of menswear and women's fashion from leading brands such as Camel Active, Tommy Hilfiger, Remus, Hobbs and Turnover.
Verdict, also on Thistle Street, stocks a wide range of really unusual designer clothing and accessories that are both wearable and glamorous. From contemporary evening wear and associated accessories through to casual jeans and edgy tops, Verdict was named by style guru Caryn Franklin as one of the top ten independents in Scotland.
For stylish, classic designs Kafka, just around the corner in Alford Place, has the latest from Armani, Burberry and Prada, while Kafka for men can be found on Rosemount Viaduct.
Aberdeen's up and coming area, The Green, is home to a range of first class bistros and fine dining, and a number of trendsetting shops have also opened in the area, including Coco Violet, designs for the cool and trendy. It houses an eclectic collection of fashion for the woman that wants to stand out from the crowd, with stunning items you won't find anywhere else in Aberdeen, let alone the UK. For shoes with a difference take a look at Fenner and Coburn at Netherkirkgate with an impressive collection of distinctive designs.
Meanwhile Zoomp, tucked away in Jopps Lane behind John Lewis, has a wide range of clothing covering everyday casual to Jimmy Choo and Matthew Williamson.
If it's a retro feel you're after, head to The Closet in Jopps Lane for quirky, vintage retro – an Aladdin's cave of retro finds and one off pieces, or nearby Retrospect, which was recently featured in Vogue magazine, while Vintage Phoenix in Chattan Place will tailor your finds to fit.
Jewelery, art and antiques
Aberdeen is not known as the Silver City for nothing – the sparkling granite buildings that make up much of the city are testament to that – however the city is also the home of some independent jewellers who can design that signature piece to celebrate a very special occasion .
Family-owned Finnies the jewelers, has Scotland's largest stock of diamond jewelery – and biggest collection of grandfather clocks. As well as over 26 watch brands, you'll find unusual gifts including silver snooker chalk holders. Jamieson and Carry is another family firm, established in 1733. From pearls to pendants it's a firm favorite with jewelery lovers. You can even commission a special piece to be individually designed and made in-house. Sandy Menzies Designer Jewelers present a constantly evolving range of contemporary jewelery. The design and production of commissioned pieces in precious metals and gemstones is also available, while George Kite on Holburn Street features a range of modern Scottish designers.
For antiques, head for the city's West End, where you'll find Elizabeth Watt on Thistle Street, specializing in ceramics, silver and jewelery while Rendezvous, on Forest Avenue, has great art deco finds as well as contemporary art. Thistle Antiques on Esslemont Avenue is the place to go for gorgeous antique mirrors and lamps, and Atholl Antiques on Great Western Road has quality furniture and paintings. For antique maps, go to Colin Wood on Rose Street, who carries a very fine range.
Gallery Heinzel specialises in contemporary Scottish art from its base in Aberdeen's Thistle Street. The gallery hosts up to 10 exhibitions a year showcasing the work of established and emerging Scottish artists. The Carby Art Gallery, in a contemporary art space, offers a unique gallery experience. Resident artist Ian Carby, famed for his vibrant landscapes and shoreline scenes, exhibits alongside international and local artists with sculptures, ceramics, jewelery and photography
If you're searching for that special gift that's a little bit different from the run of the mill, Nova on Chapel Street has long been a favorite with Aberdonians. Its comprehensive gift selection ranges from the cool and funky to the classic while Annie Mo's, on Holburn Street and the bottom end of Union Street, also stocks an unusual range of gifts along with some beautiful furniture.
Aberdeen's Country Fair is a monthly market with over 30 stalls of fresh farm produce, local crafts, home-baking, food and drink. The main market takes place on the last Saturday of every month and there's a smaller weekly version every Saturday at the Academy Shopping Center. One of the largest markets in Scotland, it provides local farmers and crafters the opportunity to showcase their quality home-grown and handcrafted products. A typical Aberdeen Country Fair will feature everything from Aberdeen Angus beef, fish landed at Aberdeen and Peterhead Harbors, local fruit and vegetables, baking, cheeses, confectionary, Scottish whiskey, wines and handmade
Three or four times throughout the year, and in the weeks leading up to Christmas, you'll find Aberdeen's popular International Market, one of the largest and most successful of its kind. The annual three-day event offers a wide range of European and British foods with 70 stalls including fresh French fruit and vegetables, French, Dutch, Scottish and English cheeses, hams from Spain, biscuits from Brittany, and a variety of French breads. You'll also find an array of fine textiles, accessories, and arts and crafts on offer.
Shopping in the Shire
You don't always need to visit the City for shopping, as Aberdeenshire also has a great range of shops. Quirky craft shops abound, and there are a number of stylish clothes shops that are well worth a visit. In Inverurie try Altro Designer Wear on North Street for D&G, Versace, Armani, Guess, Hugo Boss, and G-star. B's Knees Too (and original B's Knees in Oldmeldrum) carries a fabulous range of clothing and accessories from casual wear to exclusive evening wear and a wide range of bags, shoes and jewelery. A branch of Attic has recently opened in the town too.
Thirty minutes drive from Aberdeen City center, Royal Deeside is a treasure trove of galleries, craft shops and exclusive outlets, many of them with Royal Warrants.
The royal village of Ballater has a good selection of individual shops and boutiques, many carrying the Royal seal of approval. There are a few surprises too, such as the Chocolate Box, which also sells Lulu Guinness handbags, and Foxy for an eclectic range of clothes, jewelery and furniture.
Aberdeen will see huge changes in the next few years as part of the Bon-Accord Quarter Masterplan which will completely redevelop the city center around the Bon Accord St Nicholas Shopping Center, Marischal College and St Nicholas House. This will involve building a second floor on the single-storey St Nicholas Center and then connecting it to the Bon Accord Center via an enclosed bridge across Schoolhill. Further phases of the Bon Accord Quarter scheme will see the total retail space expand to in excess of 1million sq ft. The plans include a glass walkway to connect the Bon Accord St Nicholas centers and an improved link to the John Lewis department store, which will form an anchor at the far end of the shopping mall, with Marks and Spencer at the Union Street end. The scheme is expected to be completed by 2010.
The Bon Accord Center will also see a new entrance being built at Gallowgate with another wing added to house more retail units. This is currently under construction and is due for completion next year, and will include a huge new Next, the largest in Scotland.
A new retail center on the corner of Market Street / Union Street is also proposed. This will refurbish and reconfigure existing properties, including Aberdeen's Indoor Market, to create modern retail space and it will also provide improved access to the historic Green area of the city.
Due to be completed in 2009, the Union Square project will provide Scotland's second-largest shopping center, complete with a multiplex cinema and links to a new transport hub at the nearby Aberdeen railway station and the Guild Street bus station.
The new developments are expected to bring a number of new stores to the city and will confirm Aberdeen's position as the premier shopping center in the North of Scotland.
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