V&A Dundee Visitor Guide

By Craig Neil
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Table of Contents


Summary

The V&A Dundee is a design museum on the city’s waterfront that celebrates Scotland’s design heritage and promotes Scottish design talent.

Entry to the permanent exhibitions is free but there are frequent temporary exhibitions that have a small charge. The attraction is situated next to the restored sailing ship Discovery.

Address:Riverside Esplanade,
Dundee,
DD1 4EZ
Opening Hours:Wednesday – Monday 10.00 – 17.00
Admission Price:Free main exhibition and temporary paid exhibitions
Parking:No on-site parking. Paid car parks across Dundee.
Contact:+44 (0) 1382 411 611
Facilities:Shop, cafe, restaurant, toilets, baggage store

The highlights

1: The museum is in a great location in Dundee, situated next to the waterfront and close to the town centre. If you’re in the area and wondering what to do, the V&A is an easy choice.

2: There’s a fascinating collection of exhibitions and displays in the V&A and you don’t have to be a design expert to enjoy them. In addition, the on-site cafe and shop are very good.

3: They’ve gone to great lengths to make design accessible to all ages. The temporary exhibitions, in particular, are worth a visit alone.

V&A Dundee

Visiting tips

1: Combine a visit with the RSS Discovery next door to experience two of Dundee’s best attractions in one day.

2: Or head to the McManus in the city centre which is one of Scotland’s top museums.

3: The Tatha Bar on the top floor of the V&A is a bit pricey but the views from the panoramic windows across the River Tay are lovely.


Overview

Think of Dundee and what springs to mind?

Images of Desperate Dan scoffing down a cow pie perhaps (Dundee is home to Scottish publisher DC Thomson), or maybe a big fat dollop of marmalade on your morning toast (Dundee is also the birthplace of the first commercially-made marmalade in Britain).

Perhaps your only recollection is looking at it from a train window as it trundles its way across the Tay Rail Bridge, or maybe you’ve never visited Scotland’s fourth-largest city at all.

Dundee is a curious place. It’s not exactly a tourist hotspot even though it’s full of tourist attractions, but thanks to the ongoing rejuvenation of the waterfront this once-maligned city is currently undergoing something of a renaissance when it comes to attracting visitors.

V&A Dundee

Chief amongst Dundee’s attraction highlights has to be the V&A design museum located on the £1 billion transformed waterfront next to Discovery Point and the restored sailing ship RRS Discovery.

The V&A museum is a building that makes no sense when you first see it set against the backdrop of the River Tay. It’s ultra-modern – all sharp corners and weird angles – and if you didn’t know better you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be the location for one of NASA’s new research facilities.

But take the time to wander inside and you’ll find a collection of Scotland’s best contemporary design artworks as well as galleries that showcase Scotland’s relationship with design over hundreds of years.

Your journey into the world of design begins even before you step inside the galleries because the main entrance hall is an architectural mind-boggler.

It’s incredible. For starters, the Tardis-like space is very futuristic and it makes you think it must be a creation from the pages of a Doctor Who story.

This building looks big on the outside but it somehow manages to look even bigger on the inside. Cathedral-like even. That’s the power of good design right there.

V&A Dundee

I guess it’s the effect the world-renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma was going for and his modern design slaps you in the face as soon as you walk into the main hall with its huge curved concrete walls and multi-layered wood panelling.

I can’t imagine a better way to get visitors in the mood for what the rest of this museum has to offer.

Moving upstairs from the café and souvenir shop you’ll find a hall that houses a restaurant, outside viewing platforms, learning studios and two exhibition areas with one housing the frequently-changing paid exhibitions and another hosting the free-to-enter Scottish design galleries.

These free galleries are fascinating and you’ll find something of interest whether you’re an avid fan of design or just have a casual interest in it, and across the collection of 300 exhibits you’ll find 15th-century manuscripts, 18th-century pistols, 20th-century bookcases and 21st-century technology.

It’s these wide-ranging displays that really bring home how important design is as it affects every part of our lives, and it’s good to know that Scotland has been at the forefront of international design throughout the ages.

V&A Dundee

Tourist information

Getting to the V&A is easy thanks to its location near the city centre. There are a couple of paid car parks nearby but if you want to take the train then Dundee South Union Street station is just a few minutes’ walk away.

Once at the museum you’ll probably want to go for a walk around it as it really is an amazing building (get your phone ready for a quick Instagram selfie next to the V&A sign), and once you walk through the arch near the entrance you’ll get a great view of the River Tay.

If you fancy a stroll before visiting the V&A there’s a riverside walk and cycle path running past the museum for around three miles to a nature reserve, while heading into the city centre will lead you into its shops (nothing to write home about) and McManus museum (fantastic place).

V&A Dundee

Next door to the V&A is the Discovery Point attraction and its faithfully restored 1901 sailing ship RRS Discovery while the Dundee Science Centre is around a 10-minute walk away on the other side of the train line.

Suffice to say you won’t get bored with an afternoon visit to this city.

The highlight of The Waterfront though is the V&A museum and you’ll find plenty of things inside it to keep a family occupied for most of an afternoon.

There’s a superb artisan café in the enormous downstairs space of the main hall with a gift shop next to it that features lots of cleverly-designed gifts (well, they would be, wouldn’t they) for the home, but if you’re after a good read you’ll find plenty of art and design-themed books in there as well.

Moving upstairs (either via the staircase or the lift) you’ll step onto the upper floor where you’ll see the Tatha Bar and Kitchen to one side and a viewing terrace on the other.

V&A Dundee

The terrace offers a good view across the River Tay but I recommend spending some money and sitting in the Tatha Bar instead. There’s another viewing terrace in there with riverside views and it’s a brilliant place to grab a coffee and a bite to eat at the end of your visit to the museum.

There are toilets and learning studios next to the restaurant but it’s the exhibition halls that are the main draw for tourists.

The biggest (and I guess, best) exhibitions are the paid ones and you can get tickets from the exhibition shop in the area outside the entrance.

These exhibitions change during the year so there’s no point in me detailing what they’re all like but they vary from video games to historic clothing.

V&A Dundee

Ticket prices are reasonable at around £9 for an adult although you can get them cheaper if you’re a student or eligible for a concession, so I’d check the V&A website for each exhibition to see if you can get a discount before heading to the till.

The free Scottish Design Gallery permanent exhibitions are on the other side of the hall and they’re chock-a-block full of gizmos and gadgets from Scotland’s history.

During a visit you’ll discover display cases full of beautiful artworks, furniture and clothes as well as specially commissioned pieces by Scottish artists.

The free galleries are separated into different sections like The Story of Scottish Design and Design and Society, and you’ll find an entire Charles Rennie Mackintosh room in there too.

V&A Dundee

It’s genuinely interesting stuff and you’ll no doubt enjoy the displays but I think you’re going to struggle to keep young children entertained.

That being said, if you’ve got youngsters you’re probably better off taking them to the free family-oriented design workshops that are held every Sunday, and the V&A team also run frequent family and community programmes that aim to inspire kids to get interested in the world of design.

To my mind, Dundee is a vastly underrated city that has loads of excellent visitor attractions, with the V&A museum being my personal pick of the bunch. I reckon if you’re ever in the city you could do a lot worse than head down to The Waterfront to go check it out.


Tourist map of Scotland

V&A Dundee,
1 Riverside Esplanade,
Dundee,
DD1 4EZ

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Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

Dundee & Sidlaw Hills – 380 Explorer.

Dundee & Montrose – 54 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Things to do nearby

McManus Museum. Albert Square, Meadowside, Dundee DD1 1DA. 13-minute walk. A superb free to visit museum and art gallery located in a magnificent Gothic-revival building in the heart of Dundee. The McManus features a maze of rooms with displays covering natural and local history.

Dundee Museum of Transport. 10 Market Mews, Market St, Dundee DD1 3LA. 26-minute walk. A museum dedicated to Scotland’s transport history. A range of exhibits covers trams, rail, shipping and cars and many of the displays can be interacted with.

D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum. Carnelley Building, University of Dundee DD1 4HN. 11-minute walk. A natural history museum founded in the 1880s that is part of Dundee University. The museum is open to the public on certain days only. See the university website for details.

Dundee Science Centre. Greenmarket, Dundee DD1 4QB. 9-minute walk. Science and learning centre that serves to educate and entertain the public with a collection of science-themed exhibitions and displays.

RRS Discovery. Discovery Point, Discovery Quay, Dundee DD1 4XA. 1-minute walk. A restored 3-mast sailing ship situated in a purpose-built dock next to the V&A Museum.

The Discovery was built in 1901 and visitors can learn her history on a self-guided tour. A shop, café and education centre are located next door at Discovery Point.


Frequently asked questions

How do I get to V&A Dundee?

Address: 1 Riverside Esplanade, Dundee, DD1 4EZ

Directions map: Google Maps

Is the V&A in Dundee free?

There is no fee to visit the V&A Dundee, but some exhibitions are paid upon entry. Visit the tickets page for the latest entry prices.

How long does it take to go around V&A Dundee?

It takes approximately one hour to view the permanent displays at the Dundee V&A. Plan longer for the café, shop and paid temporary exhibitions.

Is there parking at the V and A Dundee?

There is no visitor car parking at the V&A Dundee but there are pay and display car parks throughout the city. The nearest car park is at Discovery Point (Address: Green Circular, Dundee DD1 4XA).