- Tourist Centre, Market Cross. Information staff who are happy to give you any information you need about Shetland, as well as touristy items and souvenirs for visitors to take away.
Either fly or take the ferry from the Scottish mainland. Some of these services also call at Kirkwall in the Orkneys.
Sumburgh Airport (LSI IATA) is Shetlands' main airport, 30 miles south of Lerwick in Sumburgh. This airport has flights by Loganair to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Kirkwall and Bergen. One flight a day is local, to Lerwick/Tingwall. Bus #6 runs between Sumburgh and Lerwick (every hour or two; 60 mins), and there is car hire at the airport.
Flights between the islands fly from 1 Lerwick/Tingwall Airport 4 miles north of Lerwick. These serve Fair Isle, Foula, Papa Stour and Sumburgh; in summer day-trips either way are usually possible. Flights are operated by Airtask on behalf of Shetland Islands Council, using a couple of BNF Islanders, so they're not infrequently grounded by the weather. Bus #23 (Lerwick to Voe, for Yell ferry) and Bus #9 (Lerwick to Walls) pass near the airport, but better take a taxi. By car follow A970 north, turn left onto A971; parking here is free.
Northlink Ferries run an overnight passenger and car ferry from Aberdeen, with some sailings also calling at Kirkwall in Orkney. See Shetland page for practical info. Ferries no longer run to Scandinavia, Faeroes or Iceland. Cruise ships often visit Shetland in summer.
There are a number of car hire firms. They all have offices in Lerwick and all can also arrange for vehicles to be collected either at the ferry terminal or airport. Or you can bring your car on the ferry from Aberdeen. Parking spaces can be tight downtown and near the water during busy times. Parking time restrictions also apply.
Once you've found a car parking spot it's generally easier to walk around the town centre.
A number of firms operate bus services in Shetland. The local council maintains timetable information.
3 Viking Bus Station is north end of the centre, beyond Fort Charlotte.
A number of the islands are connected to each other and the Shetland Mainland by small ferries operated by Shetland Islands Council. Most of these ferries are roll-on/roll-off type that can carry vehicles and passengers.
There are many taxi firms in Lerwick and all taxis are licensed by the local council. There is a taxi rank located on Victoria Pier which is in the centre of town.
- Lerwick is mostly a modern industrial town, with quays and marine industries sprawling along the shoreline. Scenically the best of it is one block back from the quay, along pedestrianised Commercial Street. Follow this past various Victorian buildings south out of town, onto Twageos Road, then out to the breezy headland of The Knab.
- 1 Fort Charlotte, Harbour Street ZE1 0JL. Keys available from staff on site Mon - Fri. A five-sided artillery fort, originally built in 1665 against the Dutch. Then it was demolished, rebuilt, demolished, then burnt by the Dutch just to make sure. The present structure dates from 1780, raised against American revolutionaries, but never saw action. It's no longer in a commanding position, as it's become hemmed in by modern buildings behind, and reclaimed land has extended the shoreline in front.
- 2 Clickimin Broch, in Loch of Clickimin (1 km SW of Lerwick, just after the roundabout on South Road), ☎ . Always open. A Broch (stone & turf fortified dwelling) occupied between 700 BC and 600 AD. It was built on an island in the freshwater loch - the water-level was lowered in the 19th C so it's now connected to shore by a broad spit and pathway. No parking on the road here, use side streets or buy something at nearby Tesco. Free.
- 3 Shetland Museum and Archives, Hay's Dock, Lerwick ZE1 0WP (200 m west of bus station). M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 12:00-17:00. Great modern museum, with the natural history, archaeology, history, and anthropology of the islands. Free.
- Up Helly Aa Exhibition, Galley Hall, St Sunniva St, Lerwick ZE1 0HL. Mid-May-Aug Tu 14:00-16:00 & 19:00-21:00, F 19:00-21:00, Sa 14:00-16:00. Every February the "guizer" volunteers start building a Viking longship in this shed. By midsummer the work in progress is on display, along with "Jarl Squad" regalia and film & photos of previous events. Then in late January there's a grand torchlight costumed procession and the ship is ceremonially burned. The ritual goes back to the 1880s when earlier yule torchlight revels were stamped out because of drunkenness and fire-raising. Adult £3, conc £1.
- 1 Clickimin Leisure Complex (Located next to the Clickimin Loch, it is well signposted). Shetland's largest leisure centre has a fantastic swimming pool and is a great place for other sporting activities as well, a great place for the whole family. It is reasonably priced.
- Up Helly Aa events are held around New Year in several locations in Shetland, but by far the biggest and most spectacular is at Lerwick. The name probably means "end of holidays" but it's gradually slipped back in the calendar to attract visitors, and now takes place on the last Tuesday in January. The next event is on Tues 29 Jan 2019. See www.uphellyaa.org for programme, but it's expected to start with a morning procession at 09:00. There's then a civic reception before the "guizers" embark on a series of visits to schools, care homes and the hospital. The evening torchlight costume procession starts at 19:30 (by which hour it's black night in Shetland), culminating in burning the Viking longship. The guizers are then entertained at a series of "Halls" - private receptions to thank their volunteer work over the year, not open to visitors.
Lerwick has the best shopping in Shetland . . . since frankly it's the only shopping. There's Tesco near the south end of town, plus a variety of shops in town centre.
- Anderson & Co, 60-62 Commercial Street. Various clothing items.
- High Level Music, 62 Commercial Street. Music.
- Shetland Fudge Company, Esplanade. Very nice fudge handmade in Shetland.
- The Wine Shop, Commercial Street (next to tourist info). Various different wines from around the world as well as liquor and beer, including local brews.
- 1 The Toll Clock Shopping Centre, 26 North Road. Scotlands most northernly indoor shopping centre has a great variety of local shops and is a perfect place to go if the weather turns bad.
- Harry's Department Store, Esplanade. Big department store selling a variety of items.
- Westside Pine, Esplanade. Sells a variety of items made from pine wood.
- Rod and Line, Harbour Street. Fishing supplies shop.
- 1 [dead link] Havly Cafe, 9 Charlotte St, Lerwick ZE1 0JL (central), ☎ . Mo-Sa 10:00-17:00. Small cafe with hot drinks, light food and baked goods. Free wifi.
- Peerie Shop Cafe, Campbell's Close, Esplanade ZE1 0LL. M-Sa 08:00-17:00. Tiny place with a couple of outdoor tables, good coffee & brownies.
- 2 Grand Hotel, Commercial St. Daily 12:00-14:00 & 18:00-21:00. They have a formal restaurant as well as a more informal lounge to get food at. Serves locally sourced food.
- 3 Queen's Hotel, Commercial St. Daily 12:00-14:00 & 18:00-21:00. They have a restaurant that is accessible from the opposite side of the building from their bar. Reservations are recommended as they can get quite busy in the evening.
- Fort Cafe & Take Away, 2 Commercial Road, Lerwick ZE1 0HY. Fish & chips.
- At the bus station are Great Wall (Chinese) and Raba (Indian / Nepalese), both open daily.
Lerwick has a few pubs and bars. Some are pubs on their own and some are hotel bars that are open to and frequented by non residents:
- Thule. Not the most salubrious of bars but generally always busy at the weekend. Boilersuits and work boots are perfectly acceptable dress!
- The Lounge. This centrally located bar is popular with locals and visitors. There are two parts to it; the downstairs is the "public bar" which is very basic, Upstairs the "lounge" bar is much nicer and far more comfortable. Quite often has impromptu live traditional music.
- The Douglas Arms (Marlex), 67 Commercial Street. Another bar that is really two bars in one. The public bar is again very basic. The Lounge bar half is far more cosy with dark wood tables and a fireplace.
- Captain Flints. A pirate theme bar right in the centre of Lerwick. Can be very busy at times
- Da Wheel Bar, 13 Commercial Road, ZE1 0LX. There are two bars here. The "public bar" is located downstairs and has a pool table and the "lounge bar" has a big dance floor.
- The Ferry Inn.
- Da Noost.
- Grand Hotel and Queens Hotel, see "Eat" listings.
- Baroc. One of the nightclubs in Lerwick.
- 1 Islesburgh House Hostel, Islesburgh House, King Harald Street, Lerwick ZE1 0EQ, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 1600 - 1630, 2145 - 2215. 64 bed hostel run by the local council, affiliated to SYHA. Book by email or phone. Oct-March is cheaper, but Up Helly Aa in Jan is peak rate. Shared room around £20 pp, own room from £40.
- 2 The Shetland Hotel, Holmsgarth Road, Lerwick ZE1 0PW (Opposite ferry terminal), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Slabby building, but comfy 3-star, handy for ferry and short walk to town.
- 3 The Lerwick Hotel, 15 South Road, Lerwick ZE1 0RB (off A969 south side of town), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Three-star run by Brudolff Hotel Group.
- Kveldsro House Hotel, Greenfield Place, Lerwick ZE1 0AQ (East along alley from jcn A969 & Knab Rd). Comfy, welcoming 4-star with good restaurant. Run by Brudolff Hotels who also run Lerwick Hotel and Shetland Hotel in town.
- 1 Shetland Library, Lower Hillhead. Mon, Thu 10:00-20:00, Tue-Wed, Fri-Sat 10:00-17:00, Sun closed. 16 computers in the Library Learning Centre and Wi-Fi, both free.
Most of Shetland can be visited on a day-trip from Lerwick. Highlights include:
- Jarlshof, the prehistoric settlement at Sumburgh, next to the main airport 30 miles south;
- Scalloway, Shetland's second largest town and home to Scalloway castle, is only a 6 mile drive away;
- Noss is a small island nature reserve with spectacular sea-cliffs, reached via the island of Bressay, a short ferry-ride from Lerwick;
- Trondra, Burra and East Burra are three small isles on the west coast, connected to Mainland by a road;
- Yell & Unst are the two islands north of Mainland, linked by short ferry crossings; here you reach the northern tip of the British Isles and UK.
Otherwise, return south (perhaps via Orkney) to the Scottish mainland. You'll have to return there to reach other island groups such as the Hebrides.