Everything you need to know about the V&A museum Dundee – from what to see to where to eat. Because all that culture is hungry work, right?
I’m actually surprised it’s taken me this long to write a post about the V&A museum Dundee, considering its blockbuster status in the city I live in, but here we are.
The reason I haven’t is possibly because the V&A has been open for a while now and is almost starting to feel like part of the furniture… albeit a very expensive or statement piece of furniture.
That was exactly its intention however. When it first opened, the architect of the V&A Dundee said that he wanted the museum to be a “living room for the city” and in many ways, it is. You can visit for a morning coffee and breakfast roll, wander around the free exhibitions at your leisure, or relax on one of the terraces and enjoy shimmering views of the River Tay.
I guess what I mean to say is that it’s not this stuffy place that you feel out of place in if you’re not part of the design community. It’s relaxed and welcoming, and I love that.
What is the V&A Dundee?
Sorry, I might have jumped ahead of myself there. You might be thinking: yoo hoo over there, can we dial back and start with what the V&A Dundee is first please? Of course. The V&A Dundee is a design museum and it forms the centrepiece of the very expensive waterfront redevelopment that’s been rolling out over the past few years.
It opened in 2018 to much fanfare and has been a mainstay on the tourism circuit ever since. I say mainstay… what I mean is a total game changer. If some people had a certain perception of Dundee before the V&A then that is now a-changing. We’re maybe not at total rebrand status just yet, but let’s just say it’s getting closer.
Now let’s jump into my complete guide to the V&A in Dundee…
V&A Dundee: an introduction
What does the V&A Dundee stand for?
It stands for the Victoria and Albert museum. The original V&A museum was founded in 1852 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, so that’s where the name comes from. The original museum is located in South Kensington in London and has been in operation for over 150 years. The V&A Dundee is the first V&A museum outside of London.
Who designed the V&A Dundee?
The V&A Dundee architect is world-renowned architect – or ‘starchitect’ – Kengo Kuma.
What was the inspiration for the design of the V&A Dundee?
The inspiration for the museum is drawn for landscape in nature and, specifically, the cliff faces of North East Scotland.
Some of you may be scratching your heads wondering why Dundee was chosen as the location for the V&A Dundee museum. As I just mentioned, it’s the only V&A museum outside of London, so it’s a pretty big deal. Why not Edinburgh or Glasgow then?
Well, Dundee was chosen as the location for the V&A Dundee museum because of its connection to design. In case you didn’t know, Dundee a UNESCO city of design, which means that it’s recognised worldwide for its contribution to the design sector. It’s the UK’s first and (so far) only UNESCO city of design so it’s a pretty big deal!
Here are a few other ways Dundee has contributed to design…
- Video game Grand Theft Auto was created in Dundee
- Iconic comics The Dandy and The Beano originated in Dundee
- The city is known for hard-wearing woven material jute
- It’s also well-known for medical research, including the invention of aspirin
- Orange marmalade Keiller’s marmalade was created in Dundee
What is there to see at the V&A Dundee?
As you might expect from the title, the exhibits at the V&A are all themed around the idea of design. I’m not going to lie, this was a little different for me. I’m more used to moseying around art galleries, so a dedicated design museum felt like a little bit of a curveball.
What you can expect to see is design in all its formats: textiles, fashion, technology, and more – and the ways it’s innovated, challenged, and enriched lives through the centuries. The thing about design is that it touches all of us, maybe more than we even realise.
Exhibitions at the V&A Dundee: what’s on
There are two main exhibition spaces at the V&A Dundee, the permanent exhibition and the temporary exhibition. The former, the permanent exhibition, is also known as the Scottish Design Galleries, while the temporary exhibition changes every six months.
There’s also a smaller gallery space on the upper foyer, which is the Michelin Design Gallery.
Permanent exhibition at the V&A Dundee
Also known as the Scottish Design Galleries, this is where you can expect to see the very finest of Scottish design. This exhibition space really does show the depth of Scottish design, with everything from a Christopher Kane dress, an illuminated manuscript, a winged tiara, and a wearable device that uses AI to monitor a patient’s vital signs. Oh, and that’s before I even get to the absolutely charming Charles Rennie Mackintosh oak tearoom.
Highlights of the Scottish Design Galleries
- Charles Rennie Mackintosh oak room
- Diamond winged tiara
- Hunter wellies
- Christopher Kane dress
Temporary exhibition at the V&A Dundee
As I mentioned, the V&A Dundee switches up its temporary exhibition every six months. There have already been a whole host of exciting exhibitions at the V&A, and the themes have been broad, innovative, and intriguing.
The V&A opened in 2018 with the Ocean Liners exhibition which I adored. As a Titanic fan it was great to see authentic exhibits from the ship as well as a deeper dive into the impact of ocean liners since their emergence in the 19th century, pun entirely intended.
Following that was an exhibition on Videogames which tied in neatly to Dundee’s status as an innovator in this sector. Then came the retrospective on 1960s fashion designer Mary Quant, who has long been billed as the inventor of the mini skirt – as well as her famous five-point Vidal Sassoon haircut. However, she was most famous for her disruptive design, which challenged gender stereotypes and created a new wave of feminism.
What’s coming up at the V&A Dundee?
Night Fever: Designing Club Culture
It’s all about going ‘out-out’ at the next exhibition at the V&A Dundee – as it celebrates all things club culture. Clubs have long been places of escapism and this exhibition looks at some of the most iconic nightclubs and how they shaped club culture as a while. There’s also a section of the exhibition which focuses purely on Scotland’s club culture, which sounds intriguing. I’m not sure any of my dodgy hangouts will be included though!
It’s been a while since I’ve been in a club in general – even in pre-Covid times. To me, this is the perfect way to dive into club culture without having to, well, actually go to a club.
Night Fever opens on Saturday May 1
Frequently asked questions about the V&A Dundee
Where is the V&A Dundee?
The V&A Dundee is located in the heart of the £1 billion waterfront redevelopment in Dundee, and it really is the jewel in the crown of the city. It’s nestled on the edges of the River Tay and has proven itself a worthy companion to the RRS Discovery whaling ship next door. I honestly can’t imagine the Discovery standing there alone now!
What are the opening hours of the V&A Dundee?
The V&A is open Thursday-Monday, 10am-5pm. It reopens on Saturday May 1!
Is V&A Dundee free?
It’s free to walk into, yes, although in these times of social distancing you will have to book a free timed ticket to enter the museum. You can do that quite easily on their website.
The permanent exhibition is free all the time – that’s the Scottish Design Galleries to you and me. For the main temporary exhibition at the V&A Dundee, you will have to pay.
Long story short however, there’s plenty of museum to enjoy completely free!
How much is the V&A museum?
Tickets prices range from £6-£12
Members of the V&A go free.
How do you book the V&A Dundee?
It’s quite straightforward – head over to their website to book your ticket.
Anything else you should know?
V&A Dundee shop
Obviously I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the shop at the V&A Dundee… except that I do because it’s actually really good! They do exclusive retail collaborations so you can expect to see beautiful pieces on sale by design studios such as Tom Pigeon, comics publishers DC Thomson, and Donna Wilson, who makes wonderful knitted creatures and blankets. Every time I walk past her cute Selkie design it gets even harder not to buy it!
I also bought a print of a charcoal sketch of the V&A museum months ago, which was an absolute steal from the shop at £5. It now hangs proudly in my bathroom and looks great!
Where to eat at the V&A Dundee
Soaking up all that design innovation is hungry work, right? Here are a few places that you can get a tasty bite to eat either in or just outside the V&A museum in Dundee…
Tatha Bar & Kitchen
The Tatha Bar and Kitchen is the in-house restaurant at the V&A Dundee museum. It’s located on the upper level and boasts an outdoor terrace which I haven’t yet tried – the last time I was there it was mid-November and far too cold – alongside some rather lovely views of the river. Inside, the décor is clean and simple. It really lets the striking nature of both the indoor and outdoor spaces sing – which I love! But let’s move onto the food…
You can order anything from coffee and cake, to deli rolls, to a sticky pulled pork burger and fries. Basically, it’s a relaxed space that’s perfect for a light lunch – or into the evening.
There’s another cafe on the ground floor of the V&A which is a super-chilled spot to grab some coffee and cake and do a little bit of people watching.
Heather Street Food
If you’re looking for street food in Dundee then it doesn’t get much better than the charming street van outside the V&A Dundee, the aptly named Heather Street Food. It serves a rather beguiling combination of bagels, donuts, and hot drinks and having tasted the donuts I can personally testify to how good they are. They come in rolled in sugar of which there are three variations – sugar, cinnamon, and rose sugar – and topped with honey or Nutella. Yum! It’s super popular so get there early if you don’t want to queue.
Janettas ice cream Dundee
I’m popping this in because the famous St Andrews gelateria Janettas has recently announced that it’s opening a new place just along from the V&A Dundee. This one is takeaway only but I’m fine to walk and eat when it tastes this good! The urban beach on the waterfront will be opening shortly too, which will be the perfect spot to perch!
Things to do in Dundee
You might be reading this post thinking, well, the V&A Dundee sounds pretty decent, but is it worth making the trip just for that? Like, what else is there to do in Dundee? Well, there’s actually more than you may think.
Here’s a quick taster…
- Speakeasy-style secret bars
- Amazing street art trail
- Water sports in the city centre
- Underground vaults
- Independent restaurant scene
Want to know? Check out some of these posts for a deeper dive into Dundee…
- 25 things to do in Dundee
- The best restaurants in Dundee
- The best free things to do in Dundee
- Breakfast and brunch spots in Dundee
How do I get to the V&A in Dundee?
Location-wise, the V&A Dundee is pretty much as central as can get and is well-connected to all forms of public transport. It’s also very accessible on foot.
V&A Dundee address: 1 Riverside Esplanade, Dundee, DD1 4EZ, Scotland
Yes, Dundee has an airport. It may be small but it’s perfectly functionable and you can catch a flight direct to Dundee from London. The airport is located around a 10-minute drive from the city centre in the west end of the city, so not far away at all really!
If you’re catching the train to Dundee to visit the V&A museum then I’ve got some good news for you. Your travel time to the V&A museum after arriving form the railway station in Dundee is less than 60 seconds. After you exit the train station all you have to do is turn right, cross the road, and you’re there. Talk about efficiency!
Travelling to the V&A Dundee by car? There’s street parking in the city centre but if you don’t want to cruise around looking for a space I would head to the Overgate shopping centre in town, which is only around 10 minutes-walk away. There are also carparks at Yeaman’s Shore opposite the railway station and at the Olympia leisure centre.
The bus station in Dundee is located in the eastern edge of the city centre but like with most places in Dundee it’s not too far away – I’d estimate a 10 to 15-minute walk to the V&A.
The V&A Dundee is actually located ON the cycle path in the city so if you’re planning to arrive on two wheels the museum is pretty much perfectly placed.
As I mentioned, the V&A Dundee is located in the centre of town so it’s super accessible on foot. If you want to enjoy some fresh sea air and a riverside walk after seeing the museum then you’re pretty perfectly placed to do so.