Despite being Scotland‘s metropolis, Glasgow remains somewhat unknown to visitors who prefer to linger in idyllic Edinburgh. Indeed, it’s hard to compete with a city that boasts a medieval castle and nearly 1000 years of bloody royal history. And for those wondering what to do in Glasgow, well, you won’t be bored, that’s for sure! Scotland’s music capital, a hub for architecture and design, a gateway to the Highlands, and a friendly city… it’s an unpolished gem hidden at the reaches of the River Clyde.
Welcome to Glasgow!
How to visit Glasgow, Scotland
Getting around Glasgow
The city of Glasgow is quite spread out, and it can sometimes be daunting to travel from one neighborhood to another. Four solutions:
- Taxis, which are inexpensive
- Bicycles, available for rent
- The subway, adorably retro and easy to use with only about ten stations
- The Hop-On Hop-Off bus, which offers a narrated two-hour tour of all the city’s major attractions. It’s one of the few places where this kind of bus is really worth the money.
Why does Glasgow have a bad reputation?
Although Glasgow got a lot of bad press in the 80’s and 90’s due to its industrial decline and the serious socio-economic problems that followed, the city has risen from the ashes and now has a gritty, survivor side that hasn’t come without hard work and a bit of an East London vibe.
But with a Scottish accent.
How many days to visit the top things to see and do in Glasgow, UK?
The ideal length of time to visit Glasgow and see its main attractions can vary. If you’re in a hurry, a well-organized itinerary can allow you to see the essentials of the city in one day. However, to fully enjoy all that Glasgow has to offer, a stay of 2 to 3 days would be more appropriate.
Treat yourself to a journey through Glasgow’s architectural odyssey. You’ll see the name Charles Rennie Mackintosh come up repeatedly as he became, in a sense, the father of Glasgow style. You’ll notice his influence on several buildings built at the turn of the century. Some even call him the Gaudí or Frank Lloyd Wright of Glasgow!
These tours are full of anecdotes and details that would otherwise go unnoticed if not for the knowledgeable guides.
If the weather turns bad (which, let’s face it, is likely in this rainy country), the brand new Riverside Museum on the banks of the River Clyde is one of the most interesting museums in the UK. It tells the story of Glasgow through its transportation and maritime life, with 3,000 objects of all kinds, including an antique subway car and a large sailing ship.
Drinking whisky in Glasgow: The Pot Still
An evening in Glasgow, no matter what day of the week it is, always feels a little like Saturday to Glaswegians, and must pay homage to the amber nectar that has made the country famous. The bartender at The Pot Still, who boasts an impressive collection of nearly 700 bottles, takes his customers seriously. He makes it his personal mission to find THE Scotch that will please your taste buds, whether you’re a connoisseur or a novice.
There’s even a guided whisky tour in Glasgow city centre! On foot, of course. Truly one of the best things to do in Glasgow and a frankly fun way to meet other like-minded travellers.
And for a more in-depth experience of whisky in Glasgow, head over to the Clydeside Distillery and learn all about the behind the scenes process.
Free things to do in Glasgow: the Glasgow Botanic Gardens
This large, lush park, an oasis in the heart of the city, contains some of the finest Victorian glasshouses in the country. When the sun deigns to grace Glasgow with its presence, this is where all the locals gather, picnic in one hand and toddler in the other.
This is a great place to unwind from the busy city centre, take in the glorious botany, enjoy one of the most glorious green spaces in Glasgow.
University of Glasgow
Situated on a green hill, the University of Glasgow campus is practically an open-air museum, thanks to its Gothic architecture and courtyards. Out of context, you might think you were at Hogwarts…
West End and Ashton Lane
Welcome to an independent shopping paradise! If the Style Mile near the station has all the big brands, it’s the West End where you’ll find trendy boutiques and vintage shops. And then there’s Ashton Lane, a pretty cobbled pedestrian street where the terraces of local pubs and cafes offer a 100% local atmosphere.
The best restaurants in Glasgow to discover Scottish cuisine
- Mother India Café: Modern British cuisine is also synonymous with curry; it would be unthinkable to miss it. This small, always busy restaurant serves absolutely delicious small Indian dishes for just a few pounds sterling.
- Ox & Finch: If the phrase “Scottish tapas” raises more than one eyebrow, rest assured, it’s not an oxymoron. Glasgow’s food scene has come a long way in the last 10 years, and this restaurant has made a name for itself with an innovative menu that blends European trends with local produce.
- Kember & Jones: The real treat here is to sit outside and soak up the Glasgow rhythm over a coffee. Don’t hesitate to order a pastry, they’re all excellent.
- Old Salty’s: Offers an unpretentious menu of Scottish specialties, including haggis and ultra-fresh fish and chips, that will make both the most and least gourmets’ mouths water.
- The Gannet: A pinnacle of Scottish gastronomy, right in the heart of cool Finnieston. To enjoy it without breaking the bank, go for the three-course prix fixe menu at lunchtime.
- Papercup: A very friendly third-wave coffee shop with beans roasted right in Glasgow. If it’s not raining, take a seat on the terrace and watch the Glasgow morning come to life.
- Willow Tea Rooms: The perfect place for tea in Glasgow, period. Right in the city centre, too!
- Gin71: If you prefer gin to whisky, head to this Victorian-era bar. They boast the most extensive gin menu in Scotland!
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
The saffron-colored stone and baroque style give this place an undeniable charm, a feeling confirmed by a free tour of its 22 interior galleries, some devoted to taxidermy and natural history, others to one of the world’s largest collections of armor. Kelvingrove and the Louvre have one thing in common: sometimes it’s hard to know whether the museum itself or the artifacts it contains are the more iconic landmarks…
A little tip: check the museum’s schedule before you go. Classical concerts are often held in the Great Hall of Kelvingrove Art Gallery, which has fabulous acoustics. An opportunity not to be missed! Perhaps the best things to do in Glasgow for art enthusiasts.
King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut
Glasgow is Scotland’s music capital. And this venue is at its epicentre. Having hosted headliners such as Oasis, Mumford and Sons, Radiohead, The Killers, Florence & The Machine and many more, it’s a must-see for music lovers in Glasgow.
It’s a precious chance to attends shows in not just a great place, but the most esteemed live music venues that marked the musical story of Glasgow.
This grand country house, built in the 18th century, is a showcase of opulent Edwardian life, where sumptuous Spanish art, intricate woodwork, and plush furnishings transport visitors back to a bygone era. Pollok House is home to an impressive collection of Spanish paintings, the largest of its kind in the UK outside of London, featuring works by El Greco, Goya, and Murillo among others. Beyond the art, the lavish interiors, the well-preserved servant’s quarters, and the surrounding gardens offer a glimpse into the lifestyle of the aristocratic Maxwell family. For those seeking tranquility, the estate’s sprawling grounds provide the perfect backdrop for leisurely walks, where one can stumble upon the serene White Cart River, charming walled gardens, and, if lucky, the resident Highland cows.