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Aberdeen-really the most dismal city of Scotland?

A few months back I took the leap to move from buzzing Edinburgh to Aberdeen, which is mostly known to be grey due to the high number of granite buildings. My friends thought this to be a rather strange move and asked me “Why are you moving to Aberdeen, you are not even working with gas or oil?” One was even making a Harry Potter reference, texting me “How is…..? Oh I don’t even dare to pronounce the name.”

Last Tuesday,  the 3rd of February 2015, Urban Realm ( awarded Aberdeen with the title of the most dismal town in Scotland. Two of the reasons were the dismissal of the Union Terrace Gardens project in 2012 and missing out on being shortlisted as City of Culture 2017. 

In my opinion Aberdeen is not a city that opens itself up that easily. In the time before Christmas I really missed a Christmas market. Maybe it was made of granite and perfectly camouflaged. Edinburgh, by comparison, presents itself on a silver plate and you are being spoon fed the whole time you are there. However, after living in Aberdeen for a while I am starting to realize that they don’t compare. Aberdeen is a hard nut to crack, but once its open it has a soft core.  When I heard about the award I was wondering whether it is responsible to award a title like that? Can it be an opportunity or will it just enforce the negative image?

It does draws attention, yet, it also raises questions and debate, which is the main aim of the award. Steve Harris, chief executive of VisitAberdeen, said: “I am pleased that we have been given this award as anything that draws attention to Aberdeen can only help people realise how preposterous and ignorant its award is.” ( But is it?

Having heavily relied on oil and gas for the last decades, other areas are undervalued (underdeveloped). We are living in a time when it becomes continuously more apparent that those resources are running out. Altough BP doesn’t give any detailed numbers on how many oil fields in the North Sea are in the red, we know that fossile fuels are not endless. This could be a wake up call for the city council to shift its’ focus and move step by step towards other areas, such as tourism.

When I visited old Aberdeen just a few days ago I started to realize what wonderful facets the city has. Old Aberdeen is gorgeously cute and the architecture on Union Street is diverse and beautiful. But tourists often don’t have time to scratch off the grey. They need to be taken by the hand and that’s what needs work. Aberdeen has potential, but as a visitor and as a tourism professional I have to say, it has a long way to go. And that doesn’t include building another shopping center.

What are your opinions on the Plook on the Plinth Carbuncle Award and on Aberdeen as a tourism destination? Please comment below, I am very curious.



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4 thoughts on “Aberdeen-really the most dismal city of Scotland?

  1. j.Frost on said:

    Great article It worth mentioning that Aberdeen has great people. some dodgy area, like most places but all in all a safe and friendly place. I have lived here 15 years now and although I am thinking that its time to leave the citys main draw back is its lacking culture or inability to spend on its people, rather than on attracting oil companies, or more and more hotels… or shopping malls.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. franzi5ka on said:

    Thank you for the comment. Yes, Aberdeen is full of lovely and very helpful people. This is something that needs to be transferred into a tourism strategy to raise awareness to all the other facets Aberdeen has, apart from oil and gas. It should be a no brainer that money gained through oil and gas should be reinvested into the city life to raise the quality of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hyper_bloke on said:

    I think every time that they announce that a new shopping mall is going up, I have a major rant about it! The city is over run with poor planning decisions, but they are always decsions that you could see are obviously wrong long in advance. The new mall they are planning on building I think especially will be a massive mistake as that could be a great focal point for a tourist area. The whole thing about this award though, is whether the council actually pay any attention to it… hopefully they will before it’s too late and the city is the laughing stock of the country.

    I agree though, they people are awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    • franzi5ka on said:

      Hello and thank you for your opinion. Yes, I think the same about the city planning. Especially that specific central space would be so valuable as a touristic focus point, as you are saying. I really hope the council pays attention to the reasons why Aberdeen got that award and doesn’t dismiss it as “nonsense”. But I get the vibe that the council is not that much interested. It would be a big project, to aim to turn Aberdeen into a tourism magnet. This involves long term planning, intelligent city development and a serious strategy. But it would benefit the city so much. Something to start off with would be to create a central pedestrian area and a wee park, a focus point to start with, as you were saying.


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