Dundee is a Scottish city situated on the east coast, a few miles inland, on the north bank of the river Tay. The Tay separates it from Fife (although road and rail bridges now connect the city to the Kingdom). Although surrounded by the farming counties of Angus and Perthshire, Dundee is not an overgrown market town like Perth up the river: the original mercantile burgh whose prominence was built on the sea trade with the Low Countries and the Baltic transformed completely during the industrial revolution period into something of a mill-town monstrosity: the wealth of the Dundee rich and the misery of its teeming tenements arose from the jute trade.
Historically, Dundee owed its original prosperity to its sea-trade - connected by ferry to North Fife, but principally concerned with trading with Northern Europe. In the 19th century, Dundee's port was of huge importance, its expansion linked to the jute trade from India and the south Atlantic whaling. By 1870, over 200 ships and 18 whalers were registered at Dundee docks.
Dundee is Scotland's fourth largest city and perhaps the most unloved of them all, known by the derogatory nickname of Scumdee. I can't help but think that this is connected to the fact that the modern Dundee developed (if this is the right word) as an industrial boom town, its mills staffed mainly by women and children, its streets mean and its jute barons choosing to live out of town, in the wealthy suburbs towards Broughty Ferry.
Still, modern Dundee, although not a top Scottish destination, and not a city in which one would necessarily want to live, has quite a few points of interest and is worth a visit if you are in the area, as well as being potentially a good base for further explorations.
City's main museum and art gallery, McManus Galleries, are currently (2009) undergoing refurbishment, but offer a good collection of historical exhibits and older art and promise to be much updated and better on re-opening.
Verdant Works is a museum-attraction that allows the visitors to experience and learn about jute industry in Dundee and the life in the mill town.
Dundee brands itself a "city of Discovery" and the RRS Discovery takes the pride of place on Dundee's river front, with a wonderful modern museum/exhibition centre at Discovery Point: all in all probably the best Dundee attraction for the whole family, from children to adults.
Still on the naval theme, frigate Unicorn - the oldest wooden man of war still afloat - is worth a look, moored on the other side of the Tay bridge from the Discovery Point, and near new shopping areas at City Quays.
Sensation, a modern hands-on science centre modeled on Glasgow's Stratosphere, concentrates on the physics and physiology of the senses and is an excellent if expensive example of the edutainment type of attraction: most appropriate for 7-11 year olds, but younger and older children (but probably not many teenagers or adults) will find it fascinating.
Mills Observatory, located on the Balgay Hill, is the only observatory in the United Kingdom to have been built specifically for public use and is free to visit, with various activities and exhibitions on offer.
Dundee's Contemporary Arts Centre is at the heart of Dundee's cultural life, with excellent exhibitions (free of charge), arts cinema, all kinds of classes and activities and a good cafe.
Dundee Rep is a home to Dundee Rep Ensemble, Scotland’s only full time, acting company as well as the home base of Scottish Dance Theatre and a venue for many visiting productions and creative learning activities.
Dundee has some good natural spaces, from the riverside walk to an excellent Camperdown Country Park, complete with a good small zoo (very reasonably priced and great for children), excellent playpark with a boating lake and a golf course.
University of Dundee Botanic Garden is not perhaps world-class, but a very pleasant nevertheless, with a herb garden, extensive area of parkland and two large greenhouses as well as a good cafe.
The Dundee Law (law means hill in Gaelic), a focal point of the city, topped by a Cenotaph, is worth a visit for fantastic views over the Tay estuary and beyond to Fife.
Dundee can be also used a base for exploring the surrounding areas, as it has good transport links and is surrounded by attractive countryside and historic towns.
Nearby Broughty Ferry, now a suburb of the city, has a bit of a beach and an attractive riverside castle (Broughty Castle), now a museum and free of charge. Close to the castle is another fantastic adventure playpark for children young and older.
Golf is available in Monifieth and further on in world-renowned Carnoustie, while St Andrews with all its attractions (including, but by no means limited to golf) is only about 45 minutes drive away and connected by bus service.
Arbroath, home of the declaration of Arbroath and the ruins of the Arbroath Abbey as well as beautiful, red sandstone cliffs (the cliff top path offers a good if occasionally precarious walk) is connected to Dundee by a regular and frequent bus service while nearby St Vigans has a good collection of Pictish stones.
Some visitors might want to go to Glamis (overpriced and not really worth it, unless you are a Royalty-obsessed American), but not far from Glamis is the area of Angus Glens, five glens (valleys) parallel to each other, all of them beautiful and offering plenty of walking opportunities, from easy, level ambles in Glen Isla to tackling the easternmost Munro (mountain over 3,000 feet) in Scotland, Mt Keen, whose ascent starts in Glen Esk.