The NME guide to Dundee – the best eats, drinks, venues and shops in Scotland’s cultural gem

The coolest bars, venues, shops, and more in the city of discovery

Jute, jam and journalism – the ‘three Js’ that have shaped Dundee’s cultural heritage. The city is undergoing vast regeneration at the moment, spearheaded by last year’s opening of the award-winning waterfront V&A museum. We’ve picked out some of the main hotspots that the ‘city of discovery’ has to offer. From bars to shops to the best art and music venues, we’ve got you covered if you’re planning a trip to Tayside.

Words: Jamie Wilde

Where to drink

The George Orwell

Named after the literary figure, The George Orwell on Dundee’s Perth Road is popular with students and creative types alike. Punters flock to the dimly lit, atmospheric pub for its staple attractions including open mic nights and live DJ sets such as the Orwell Discotheque.

Art Bar

Head less than five minutes down the Perth Road from The Orwell and you’ll stumble across Art Bar. Situated directly across from the renowned Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art and Design (DJCAD), the snug layout and retro décor offers a comfortable getaway from the stresses of work and university life. The chefs also know a thing or two about pizza….

Draffens

You might struggle to find your way to this next stop. Hidden on Couttie’s Wynd just off the beaten track of the city centre, Draffen’s ‘secret’ bar can be found behind a seemingly innocent looking alleyway door for those curious enough to step inside. It’s decorated with an interior that pays homage to the roaring ’20s era. A true one-off, vintage experience.

Where to shop

Groucho’s

A firm favourite of The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, Groucho’s second-hand vinyl selection is second to none.

As Dundee’s oldest record shop this is a must visit for any avid record collector and music lover.

Manifesto

Looking for the latest designer trends? Commercial Street is home to Manifesto where you’ll find an unparalleled selection of the latest designer apparel including independent brands such as Dundee’s own clothing label Postal, which is currently making waves across Juteopolis and beyond.

Le freak Records

Having only opened last year, Dundee newcomers Le freak Records offer a quality selection of new and second-hand vinyl records. The Perth Road hangout has also become accustomed to hosting various in-store music events, with some of the best upcoming local talent pedalling genres from electronic to shoegaze.

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doing what i love🎼x

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CARTOCON

Another independent clothing store can be found on Dundee’s Perth Road. CARTOCON endorses forward-thinking fashion and menswear and, much like Le freak Records, an in-store DJ set is usually never far off the cards.

Art in Dundee

V&A

The V&A is a haven for art lovers and a must see attraction. Inside, its galleries lay host to numerous Scottish design artefacts. An emphasis on the video gaming sector in Scotland is soon to be endorsed by the museum. Even if art isn’t your thing, take a look at the building from the outside – it’s breathtaking.

DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts)

The DCA is a vital community hangout that boasts an independent cinema, a café/bar/restaurant, and specially curated art exhibitions. The DCA offers a unique all-in-one experience for its visitors any time of the day. If contemporary art is your vibe, look no further.

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"I tried to drown my sorrows but the bastards learnt to swim." . Flashback Friday to my placement in @dcadundee print studio when I was doing my Masters at @djcad_uod 2012-2013. . This was during the Sister Corita Kent exhibition. I created some illustrations, prints and texts inspired by the women artists I was influenced by at the time. . I then used a combination or litho printing and laser cutting to assemble the pieces as books that I displayed as an installation in the art school. I also made a small book about my experience. . This was great fun and I was really pleased with the work that came out of it. It was so inspiring to be in the studio and see all the artists working around me. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #art #illustratorsofinstagram #artexhibition #artinstallation #artistsoninstagram #dcadundee #dcaprintstudio #printing #lasercut #lasercuttng #litho #lithoprinting #printmaker #bookmaking #dundee #djcad #mfa #masteroffineart #women #womeninthearts #womenartists #sistercoritakent #traceyemin #barbarakruger #flashbackfriday #guerrillagirls #fridakahlo

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Music venues

Reading Rooms

Nicknamed the ‘Small Town Club’, this is one of the most important live underground music venues in Scotland. It has played host to a huge array of influential names in electronic music and beyond since it opened in Dundee’s Blackscroft over a decade ago. The former library has been expertly converted into a nightclub. The club has welcomed acts including Lee Scratch Perry, Afrika Bambaataa and Paranoid London but it has also championed local acts at monthly events (Jute City Jam, and 60’s influenced club night Locarno). A visit to The Reading Rooms is an essential on our Dundee to-do list.

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#readingroomsdundee top night!

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Underworld Café

Operating primarily as a café during the day, Underworld has built a reputation for hosting a wide array of different live music events over recent months. From DJ sets to live bands, its Tiki themed bar/venue downstairs area offers a genuine step into the ‘underworld’. A unique night here is guaranteed.

Conroy’s Basement

If you’re after a loud, sweaty, no holds barred gig in Dundee, Conroy’s Basement is your answer. The venue promotes local talent while also welcoming a variety of touring musicians. You’ll also find regular punk rock nights from local DIY label Make That a Take, meaning there’s definitely enough on offer to welcome newcomers and seasoned veterans alike.