Known throughout Scotland as the granite city, Aberdeen has a thriving cultural and commercial life. The city also offers easy access to Royal Deeside in the Cairngorms to the west, sandy beaches to the north and Speyside whisky country to the northwest.

Overlooking the busy harbour, the Maritime Museum includes a replica of a North Sea oil platform. Some galleries are in the Provost Ross's House, the city's oldest building, and cover Aberdeen's history of shipbuilding, whaling and fishing (+1224 337700; Shiprow; 10am-5pm Tues-Sat, 12pm-3pm Sun; free).

Just 800m east of Castlegate is Aberdeen's two-mile beach. The Esplanade includes Codona's Amusement Park, complete with dodgems and a log flume (+1224 959 5910; Beach Blvd; 10am- 12am Sun-Thurs, 10am-1am Fri-Sat; pay per ride).

Aberdeen Art Gallery exhibits the work of past and contemporary Scottish and English painters. Hogarth, Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst are just some of the notable artists represented here (+1224 523700; Schoolhill; 10am-5pm Tues-Sat, 2pm-5pm Sun; free).

The fishing village of Stonehaven with its cliff-lined harbour is 15 minutes by train (or 45 minutes by bus) from Aberdeen. A pleasant 15-minute walk south along the clifftops leads to the dramatic ruins of Dunnotar Castle (£5).

In the heart of the Speyside whisky-distilling region 1¼ hours' drive from Aberdeen, Dufftown has six distilleries and is a must for connoisseurs. Ask at the tourist office for the Malt Whisky Trail, a self-guided tour around the stills (+1340 820501).

The Globe Inn is a pub with wood panelling and walls hung with old musical instruments. It serves real ales and a good range of malt whiskies, and has live music at the weekend (+01224 624258; 13-15 North Silver St; 12pm-12am Sun-Thurs, 12pm- 1am Fri & Sat).

Upmarket fish and chip shop Ashvale Fish Restaurant has won several awards. The Ashvale Whale - a  1lb haddock fillet in batter - is the house speciality; finish it and you get a free dessert (+1224 596581; 42-48 Great Western Rd; 11.45am-11pm; takeaway £3-£5, mains £7-£11).

Café 52 serves some of the most inventive cuisine in the northeast. Dishes include its signature main - a Thai seafood stockpot (+1224 590094; 52 The Green; lunch & dinner; mains from £12).

Foyer is an art gallery as well as a restaurant, run by a charity that works against homelessness. The seasonal menu might include roasted chump of Buchan lamb with sautéed Jerusalem artichoke (+1224 582277; 82a Crown St; lunch & dinner; mains £12-£18).

Housed in a former customs office by the sea, The Silver Darling (slang for herring) serves Scottish seafood. The lunch menu offers good-value gourmet dishes such as roast monkfish with grilled chorizo and ratatouille purée (+1224 576229; Pocra Quay, North Pier; lunch and dinner Mon-Sat; mains £19-£22).

The friendly, 64-room Brentwood Hotel is set in an attractive granite townhouse. It is conveniently located, but its rather plain decor is unlikely to turn heads (+1224 595440; 101 Crown St; from £59).

The Royal Crown is a typical Aberdeen B&B, located in a modest granite house. The terracotta colour scheme, cluttered furnishings and patchwork quilts make for a warm welcome from the often steely weather outside (+1224 586461; 111 Crown St; from £60).

City Wharf Apartments offers a variety of luxury serviced apartments, in modern and traditional styles, in Aberdeen's redeveloped quayside. Oak kitchens, leather sofas, woodburning stoves and harbour views are all part of the package, as is the daily maid service (+1224 589282; 19-21 Regent Quay; special offers from £60).

The location of Twentyfour Shorehead, in a former cooperage (barrel-making workshop), can't be beat. It is the last house at the end of a road overlooking the harbour. Rooms are light and white, and binoculars are provided for seal-spotting (+1569 767750; 24 Shorehead, Stonehaven; from £75).

The grand Victorian facade of the Aberdeen Douglas Hotel is impossible to miss. A historic landmark, it first opened its doors in 1848. Recent renovations have seen rooms revamped in nautical navy and gold or wine-red colours with mahogany furnishings (+1224 582255; 43-45 Market St, from £125).

How to go
British Airways, bmi, easyJet and Flybe run services to Aberdeen Airport from a number of British cities, including Manchester, Birmingham and London (£99). Trains run from London King's Cross (£128; 7½ hours).

Find your way
City buses are operated by First Aberdeen with fares starting at 70p. Scottish Citylink runs buses to Crathes Castle and Braemar. Car rental is available from Arnold Clark (from £25 per day).

The article 'Mini guide to Aberdeen, Scotland' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.