Looking for the coolest city in Scotland? With galleries galore, top museums, vibrant restaurants, bars and great shopping, Glasgow is a city with a creative vibe. Here are 10 things to do in Glasgow.
Things to do in Glasgow
1- Visit Kelvingrove
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the most popular UK museums outside of London. There are 8000 pieces on display spread over 22 themed galleries. It also has a new temporary exhibition space, lecture theatre, education rooms, restaurant and shops.
One of the key pieces is a WWII Spitfire LA198 which was flown by the 602 City of Glasgow Squadron. The beautifully restored aircraft hangs from the ceiling of the West Court.
Other displays include a life-sized skeleton cast of a Ceratosaur, a collection of Egyptian treasures on loan from the British Museum and the controversial Dali painting Christ of St John of The Cross which – after heated public debate – was returned to Kelvingrove from the nearby St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art.
The value of Kelvingrove’s collection is estimated at around £600 million. Entry to the museum and guided tours are free.
2- Wander down Buchanan Street
Admire the grand Victorian architecture along Buchanan Street. As it’s also Glasgow’s main shopping street, you’ll quickly give your credit card a good workout.
The Argyll Arcade, Britain’s oldest covered shopping arcade (established in 1827), is Glasgow’s headquarters for the city’s top
The Argyll Arcade, Britain’s oldest covered shopping arcade (established in 1827), is Glasgow’s headquarters for the city’s top jewellers.
Head for the designer boutiques in Princes Square, a beautifully converted 19th-century warehouse worth walking into simply to admire its glass canopies, wrought metal balconies and wall mosaics.
You’ll find the big designer names like Armani, Escada and Ralph Lauren in the Merchant City area, once home to the 18th-century tobacco barons now Glasgow’s main haute-couture neighbourhood.
Pop into the historic Willow Tea Rooms for a spot of afternoon tea among the high-backed chairs and clean lines of Glasgow’s favourite architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
3- Glasgow Green
James II granted Glasgow Green to Bishop William Turnbull and the people of Glasgow in 1450.
In those days it was used as a common ground to perform mundane tasks such as washing, bleaching linen and drying fishing nets, as well as grazing and swimming.
Today, Glasgow’s oldest city park covers 55 hectares of open space that is used for concerts, fireworks displays and major events.
At the edge of the park is the city’s social history museum, People’s Palace. Housed in an elegant 19th century red sandstone building, the museum documents the story of the people of the city (from 1750) with three floors of paintings and photographs.
Wander next door into the Victorian glasshouse of the Winter Gardens where you can warm yourself up with a hot drink in the café among tropical plants. Admission to both People’s Palace and Winter Gardens is free.
4- The Burrell Collection
Built as a result of an architectural competition run in 1971, The Burrell is nestled in the woodland setting of Pollok Estate, a 141-hectare property that was presented to the City of Glasgow as a gift by Anne Maxwell Macdonald (the 11th Baronet of Pollok).
The museum holds a vast collection of 9000 artworks that were also gifted to the City of Glasgow by avid art collectors Sir William Burrell and his wife Constance.
There’s something for every taste in this vast collection including works from ancient civilisations – such as China, Egypt, Greece and Rome – to modern sculptures by Epstein and Rodin.
Artworks also cover a diverse range, from medieval art to European masters to Islamic art.
Architectural items, such as medieval arches, have been cleverly integrated into the design of the building. Admission to The Burrell Collection is free.
5- George Square
Tour the City Chambers at George Square. Located in Glasgow’s historic heart, the City Chambers has been the headquarters of the city council since 1888.
Tours are free and run twice a day (10.30am and 2.30pm). Also located at George Square is the Glasgow Tourist Information Centre (tel: + 44 0 141 204 4400).
The hop-on hop-off bus also begins its run at George Square and the pre-recorded commentary begins by providing interesting historical snippets about the stately statues in the square. Tickets for the bus cost £13 (adult), £7 (child) and are valid for 24 hours.
6- Charles Rennie Mackintosh trail
Charles Rennie Mackintosh is to Glasgow as Gaudi is to Barcelona.
The legacy of this world-renown Glasgow architect, designer and artist can be admired in the architecture and interior designs of many of Glasgow’s buildings.
The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society has a new Mackintosh Trail Ticket that provides entry to key Mackintosh attractions (such as The Mackintosh House, The Lighthouse, Glasgow School of Art, House for an Art Lover, The Hill House, The Mackintosh Church and Scotland Street School). Cost of the ticket is £12 and it includes unlimited travel on public transport.
7- Trendy West End
Soak in the vibrant atmosphere created by restaurants, bars and street musicians in the West End after dark.
Catch a lunchtime performance at the West End’s most popular entertainment venue Oran Mor.
Set in a converted church, their theatre programme – which is known as A Play, A Pie and A Pint – attracts the city’s best writers and actors.
Byres Road is a treasure trove of unique boutique dress shops, interior design shops and trendy cafes.
8- Glasgow Harbour
When the regeneration of Glasgow Harbour is complete, the area promises to become an attraction that pays testimony to the city’s past as one of the UK’s major shipbuilding centres.
Residential areas, a three-kilometre riverside walkway, cycle paths, landscaped areas, as well as retail, leisure and museum precincts are underway.
During the 19th century, the Clyde River was one of Britain’s most prominent shipbuilding rivers and the term “Clydebuilt” was an industry benchmark for superior quality.
Today, the Glenlee (better known as The Tall Ship at Glasgow Harbour) is a precious historical reminder of Glasgow’s glorious shipbuilding past and is only one of five “Clydebuilt” ships in the world that remain afloat.
9- Hunterian Art Gallery
While the Hunterian Art Gallery displays art works from well-known masters such as Rembrandt and Rodin, it’s most famous for its substantial collection of paintings by American-born James McNeill Whistler who lived and worked in Britain and France. Admission to the art gallery is free.
10- Glasgow Science Centre
Interactive exhibits, shows and workshops are housed within three sleek titanium-clad buildings.
The centre also contains Scotland’s only IMAX theatre and the Scottish Power Planetarium where a Carl Zeiss Starmaster projector provides the opportunity to investigate the mysteries of space beneath the planetarium’s dome.
Where to stay in Glasgow
Stay at Hotel du Vin & Bistro, which has beautifully appointed luxurious rooms, an impressive Scotch Whisky room and a bistro that’s the buzz of the town.
Looking for more places to visit while in Scotland? Have you been to Stirling? It’s the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. Here’s a great guide to Stirling.