There is always plenty to do, see, eat and drink in Aberdeenshire. There are also many annual events that draw people to the area. We’ve created a list of some of our favourites to help you plan your next visit to the region.
NuArt is a street art festival. It has become an annual fixture in Aberdeen since 2017 having first started in Stavanger, Norway in 2001. NuArt has slowly transformed Aberdeen into the street art capital of Europe. Visitors to the city can enjoy the large-scale work of celebrated muralists and if you’re here in June to see the festival itself, you can see work being created. Previously anonymous walls, plus some on quite prominent buildings, have become attractions in their own right. Smaller pieces of work add extra vibrancy and colour to the city centre. Don’t worry if you’re not here in June; the art stays in place and there are weekly walking tours that run to the end of August.
Spectra is another festival that makes a big splash on social media. “Scotland’s Festival of Light” features an array of breathtaking sculptures, projections, installations and experiences that use light as a central medium. Famous artists present their creations in, on and around iconic Aberdeen locations. The festival first illuminated the city in February 2014 and now draws 6-figure crowds of tourists and locals.
Aberdeen’s crime writing festival also takes place in February. Unique locations like The Anatomy Room deep inside the Gothic Marischal College and the 12th Century St Nicholas Kirk provide a fittingly dark atmosphere to selected readings. The Lemon Tree acts as the main festival hub for events large and small which are supported by many notable authors of the genre.
Haddo Arts Festival
The Haddo Arts Festival, 20 miles to the North of Aberdeen has run for over 10 years at the glorious Haddo House. The main focus is classical music including choral works and opera. Over the years literature, comedy, visual arts and poetry have become part of its rich tapestry. The 2023 festival is in October.
Other Art Projects
The Umbrella Project is on its second year. It features a wide array of umbrella installations around the city to raise awareness of neurodiversity. The Big Hop Trail is another charity run project. It is a sculpture trail that covers the North and Northeast. Large hare sculptures are decorated by local artists and placed around the region before being auctioned off to raise money for the Clan Cancer Charity. Trying to find as many as possible adds colour to a family trip.
The Midsummer Beer Happening
Stonehaven’s beer, street food and music festival has been running since June 2009. The modest first event came just after severe floods had affected the town and was swiftly embraced as a welcome diversion by the locals. As it has grown to attract drinks makers and customers from far and wide, it has never lost its sense of fun and community. It raises large sums for charity, helped by the associated cyclo-sportive that offers four routes to help people build up a thirst on the Saturday. It is a ticketed event, so plan ahead if you’re interested.
Aberdeen Restaurant Week
This event, promoted by Aberdeen Inspired sees over 50 establishments from street food vendors to bars, and family favourites to fine dining restaurants, offering special deals for the space of a week. It is a great way to taste the city and is set to become a regular fixture in the Aberdonian calendar. Restaurant Week 2023 runs from 7-20 August.
Aberdeen Cocktail Week
On a similar vein, Aberdeen Cocktail Week (ABZCW) runs from 18-24 October. Wristband holders get to sample exclusive drinks, reduced price cocktails and foodie offerings. There are mixology demonstrations and one original creation will be crowned cocktail of the year.
A mention should also go to the Old Aberdeen Whisky Festival, which is set to be bigger this time around on 2nd Sep 2023 at the St Machar Bar, Aberdeen.
Traditional Scottish Events
In 2023, Aberdeen’s Duthie Park hosted the European Pipe Band Championships and Hazlehead Park hosted Aberdeen’s Highland Games. These are popular events and there are many more across the region during the summer months. Braemar is a well-known highland games if you’re prepared to travel inland. There are others in Lonach, and Aboyne. Keep an eye on the Highland Games and Festivals site to find an event that suits you and bear in mind that many are ticket only.
Fringe and Comedy Festival
In 2022 there was a successful Aberdeen International Comedy Festival with many household names. Sadly, there is not much to say about 2023 yet but watch this space. Meanwhile, an embryonic fringe is emerging. The 2023 event is in mid-August. Hopefully, these events will grow. There is generally comedy to be enjoyed at one of the theatres or on Saturdays at the Blue Lamp Pub.
Christmas and Hogmanay
The Aberdeen Christmas Village was a big success in 2022 and it is back for 2023. The magical market will be on for the six weekends leading up to Christmas Day (17 Nov to 23 Dec) with a unique line-up of businesses and creatives, while raising vital funds for local children’s charity, Charlie House. There are various Hogmanay Events, the large Aberdeen celebration takes place at Schoolhill with music, drinks, food and fireworks. Stonehaven has its fireballs parade. In reality, wherever you are in Aberdeenshire, or Scotland as a whole, there will be a celebration that suits, from a traditional ceilidh to a modern fireworks display. Just make sure to plan ahead and book if necessary!
We hope our guide has given you some ideas. There is always something to enjoy in this great county.