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Why Go to Glasgow

Just a few decades ago, Glasgow was a gray, gritty city of dank pubs and homely slums. However, the same dogged Glaswegians that survived years of deterioration kindled a cultural rejuvenation in the '80s and '90s, fanning the flames of urban renewal throughout the city. Today, Glasgow offers a high-intensity clubbing experience; a surprisingly good art scene; a live-music scene, which has discovered the likes of Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol; and numerous places to shop that range from the Barras Market and vintage shops to the jewelry at Argyll Arcade and designer stores.

When visiting, be careful not to criticize Glasgow in favor of its eastern neighbor. Though it's often depicted as the rough-and-tumble sibling of picturesque Edinburgh, Glasgow has its own pictorial side. Art Nouveau architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, left his mark on many of the buildings. And expansive Kelvingrove Park, the cobblestone Ashton Lane and the soaring Glasgow Cathedral are just a few examples of the city's unique and indeed ambient appeal. And it's this combo of the charming and edgy that will make Glasgow memorable for you.

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Glasgow Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Glasgow is the months between March and August when temperatures reach their peak and daylight hours are long. On the flip side, the winters are characterized by bitter cold and short days. Budget airlines, flying from London Heathrow (LHR) or other major hubs, have made Glasgow travel relatively affordable year-round. But to find deals on hotels, you should book a trip over the weekend when business travelers have returned home.

Weather in Glasgow switch to Celsius/mm

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Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

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What You Need to Know

  • Lost and found If you lose your way in Glasgow, look for a Glaswegian wearing a bright red coat. Most likely he or she is a City Centre Representative, whose job it is to give directions. 
  • Curry capital The self-proclaimed "Curry Capital of Europe," you shouldn't leave Glasgow without a bite or two of Indian food.
  • Close to the North Pole Glasgow is just close enough to the North Pole that it sees super short days in the winter and gloriously long ones (15 hours!) in the summer.

How to Save Money in Glasgow

  • See a show Live music is playing nearly every night, and some tickets are quite cheap. Plus, you'll be experiencing a key Glaswegian attraction. See what bands are playing here.
  • Book a weekend or winter trip Hotel rates tend to drop on the weekends when business travelers have returned home. Wintertime's cold, short days also force rates down.
  • Cash in on the free attractions Glasgow is a big art city, and many of the best museums, including the Gallery of Modern Art, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, and the Burrell Collection, are free.

Culture & Customs

Be careful when discussing your preference of Edinburgh/Glasgow at the expense of Glasgow/Edinburgh. Lonely Planet says, "Their rivalry with Edinburgh is fierce and folk are full of contempt for what they see as a prissy, right-wing establishment on the east coast, full of toffs with clipped accents and, infuriatingly, holding the title of capital city. However Glaswegians remind themselves that Edinburgh may be the capital, but Glasgow has the capital."

Like its United Kingdom neighbors, Scotland pays for its pints with the pound. Since the pound to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates, be sure to check what the current exchange rate is before you go. Major credit cards are accepted at most restaurants and shops.

As for tipping at restaurants: A 10 percent tip is usually added to bills, though you should tip five-to-10 percent more depending on the service. Leaving nothing extra is commensurate to saying you were poorly served. 

What to Eat

Scottish specialties include haggis served with neeps and tatties (grated sheep's organs and mashed potatoes and turnips) and Cullen Skink (a soup made of smoked haddock and potatoes). Enjoying an afternoon tea, complete with crumpets, is another favored Scottish pastime, and Indian fare now ranks high in the city's cuisine scene. Deep-fried everything, especially deep-fried pizza, seems to be another Glaswegian forte.

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Safety

A bit grittier than Edinburgh (its eastern counterpart), Glasgow sees its fair share of crime, but most of it is inflamed by drugs or too much alcohol and amongst local Glaswegians. Lonely Planet does warn tourists against participating in any Orange marches, which relate to the centuries-old hostility between Protestants and Catholics.

Getting Around Glasgow

The best way to get around Glasgow is by foot. Many of the best things to do are located in the city center, and the grid layout makes it very easy to navigate. But several attractions are on the outskirts, necessitating the use of the public transportation system or a car. Black taxis are also available, and you can hail these on the streets or find them in taxi ranks (or lines) throughout the city center. If you took a plane into Glasgow International Airport (GLA), you can take a train, bus, taxi or rental car the 10 miles into the city center.

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Entry & Exit Requirements

You'll need a valid travel document, preferably a passport, to travel to the United Kingdom and then to re-enter the United States. Upon your arrival, customs officials might ask for proof of sufficient funds for your stay; they also might ask for proof that you will be returning to the U.S., in the form of a letter from an employer or proof of other responsibilities and ties. Note that U.S. citizens do not need a visa unless they plan on staying longer than six months. Visit the U.S. State Department's website for the latest information on the U.K.'s foreign exit and entry requirements.

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