Best Things To Do in Glasgow
Although Glasgow tends to be overshadowed by Edinburgh, travelers say Scotland's largest city is not to be overlooked. With an out-of-this-world shopping scene that features everything from couture items to thrift-shop steals (and all that lies in between), as well as a hot live-music scene, Glasgow offers an abundance of attractions to more than fill a vacation. Recent travelers especially recommend touring the City Chambers, the Riverside Museum and shopping in the Barras Market. For a little help navigating the city's top to-dos, consider signing up for one of Glasgow's top tours.
Updated January 29, 2016
- #1View all Photos#1 in GlasgowMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Travelers express astonishment at this museum's near pitch-perfection. The Burrell Collection's glass walls not only encase a variety of objects and artworks, but they also usher in the surrounding woodlands. In the collection, donated by the late millionaire Sir William Burrell, you'll find everything from Chinese ceramics to Rodin sculptures to more than 20 Degas paintings. After you've had your fill of the museum, you can wander around the surrounding Pollok Country Park.
Under normal circumstances, the Burrell Collection can be viewed for free. Travelers highly recommend you take advantage of this steal, saying the museum's variety of art and its milieu are beyond compare. However, in 2018, the museum temporarily closed for a major overhaul and is expected to reopen in the spring of 2021. During the renovation, tourists can visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which is hosting a series of free exhibits that highlight different items in the Burrell's collection.
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Dedicated to the city's patron saint, St. Mungo, the Glasgow Cathedral was consecrated in the 1100s but was finished around 300 years later. Of almost equal delight – to experts and travelers alike – are the cathedral's architecture (specifically the nave, crypt and chapel) and the legends surrounding St. Mungo's life. And in fact, the symbols found on Glasgow's coat of arms relate directly to the St. Mungo legends, including the tree, bird, fish and bell. (In brief: the tree refers to one that St. Mungo burned in a holy fire, the bird to one that he accidently killed but restored to life, the fish – depicted with a ring in his mouth – to an episode in which the saint orchestrated the retrieval of a piece of royal jewelry that had been lost in the Clyde, and the bell to one commissioned in the saint's honor.)
Recent visitors frequently described the building's architecture and stained-glass windows as "amazing." Reviewers also applauded the volunteer guides that are on hand to answer any questions and offer hourlong guided tours.
- #3View all PhotosfreeRiverside Museum#3 in GlasgowMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
This free museum displays the city's transportation history. Its holdings include everything from trains and buses to skateboards and baby carriages – more than 3,000 items in all. On a related note, the museum sits alongside the River Clyde not far from the iconic Finnieston Crane, a symbol of the period when shipping made Glasgow a key industrial hub. You'll also find a tall ship on the river that's free for visitors to peruse – a perk for recent travelers.
Some travelers highlight an exhibit recreating the cobblestoned streets of another era, while others enjoyed the Clyde Room's model boats. Visitors were also highly impressed with the in-house cafe. The museum is widely regarded as a great spot to bring children thanks to the engaging displays, including one that allows patrons to help put out a "fire" with an interactive fire engine. There's also a scavenger hunt for little ones.
- #4View all PhotosfreeCity Chambers#4 in GlasgowSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Accommodating some sort of governing body since the late 1800s, the Victorian-style City Chambers today hosts the Glasgow City Council. You'll find the impressive building on the east side of George Square, and if you take one of the building's free guided tours, you'll view an ornate entrance hall, the debating chamber, banqueting hall and some extravagant staircases, among other features.
Recent visitors expressed awe at the impressive building and its rich architectural details and said it is worth touring. Many of Glasgow's top tours make a stop at the City Chambers.
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The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is another favorite museum (that's also free!). Built at the turn of the 20th century to resemble a Renaissance-style castle/cathedral, the museum was closed for about three years in the early 21st century for major renovations. Now, the Kelvingrove is one of the most visited galleries and museums in Scotland. Amongst its collection of European masters, such as Botticelli and Monet, you'll discover exhibits on Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scottish storytelling and Scottish armory, among others. Other highlights include Salvador Dali's "Christ of St. John of the Cross" and a restored Spitfire plane that hangs from its ceiling. In all, the museum boasts 22 galleries and more than 8,000 objects.
Museum-goers express pleasure over the immensity and variety of the Kelvingrove's exhibitions. The museum houses an organ from 1901, and recitals are held multiple times a week, which past visitors recommend attending.
- #6View all Photos#6 in GlasgowParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Comprising about 360 acres, Pollok Country Park makes for a peaceful retreat – one that is peppered with grazing Highland cattle, formal gardens and long expanses of unadulterated Scottish greens. Among its highlights are the Pollok House – a Georgian Mansion built between 1747 and 1752 for a Scottish politician and philanthropist – and the Library and Parterre Garden, which feature clipped hedges, decorative ironwork and intricate flowerbed designs. The park is also home to the Burrell Collection – an art museum currently closed for renovations until 2021.
According to recent travelers, visiting the park is like going to the countryside – but without leaving the city. Runners and dog walkers in particular enjoy the park.
- #7View all PhotosfreeKelvingrove Park#7 in GlasgowParks and Gardens, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
If you're planning to spend an afternoon at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, you should also allot some time for lounging in the lush, 85-acre Kelvingrove Park. You can walk along the River Kelvin, which meanders through the park, or stroll by the duck pond and numerous monuments before stopping by the park's open-air theater to see if any performances are being held. The park's facilities include lawn bowling greens, tennis courts and a skate park, among other amenities. It also hosts numerous seasonal events, including concerts in its bandshell.
Recent travelers highly enjoyed this park for its variety of things to do, and its proximity to the university makes it popular with students. What's more, reviewers applauded its clean facilities and peaceful atmosphere.
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What's more Scottish than Scotch whisky? For a reasonable price, visitors to Glengoyne Distillery – which originated in 1833 – can learn how the spirit is made and enjoy a complimentary dram (small drink). You'll also get a chance to see the distillery's waterfall and hidden glen.
Recent visitors praised the Glengoyne Distillery, saying the guided tour was very interesting and informative and that the sample was smooth. Others gushed about the beautiful grounds.
- #9View all Photos#9 in GlasgowMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Hunterian, which was founded in 1807, ranks as Scotland's oldest museum. It operates multiple venues on the main campus of the University of Glasgow, including the Hunterian Art Gallery and the Mackintosh House. The latter is a recreation of the former home of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the artist Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, who resided in the original house in the early 20th century. The home is furnished much as it was then using furniture of Charles Mackintosh's own design. Meanwhile, the Hunterian Museum houses exhibitions relating to archaeology, paleontology, entomology, ethnography, geology, medicine, numismatics and zoology. The Hunterian Art Gallery boasts works by prominent artists like Rembrandt, Rubens and James McNeill Whistler, as well as some modern British artists and works by Charles Mackintosh.
Past visitors typically found the Hunterian's diverse collections highly interesting, though some said the museum is somewhat difficult to find on the university's campus. The Mackintosh House in particular impresses visitors who have an interest in design.
- #10View all Photos#10 in GlasgowParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Botanic Gardens are yet another free attraction in Glasgow. Bursting with colorful flora and fauna along the River Kelvin, the gardens also showcase a number of greenhouses, including the fantastic Kibble Palace, which contains a rainforest of tropical plants and trees. The gardens offer a nice reprieve from the city, especially if you're on your way from the restaurants, bars, cafes and shops that line buzzy Byres Road. What's more, there are also well-regarded tearooms in the former curator's house near Kibble Palace serving breakfast and lunch.
Past visitors praised the gardens. Many travelers were especially drawn to the more exotic plants grown here, including the carnivorous ones in the greenhouse. Others recommended stopping here for afternoon tea.
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Located on the Glasgow Green – a park in the east end of Glasgow – the free People's Palace is a museum dedicated to the social history of Glaswegians. For instance, past exhibits detailed Glasgow's distinctive vernacular, while another displayed the desk of political activist (and Glasgow resident) John MacLean. Adjacent to the museum are the Winter Gardens – a greenhouse that acts as a cozy reprieve for people and tropical plants alike. Stop in for a coffee at the in-house cafe before venturing on.
While past visitors frequently called the exhibits both informative and entertaining, some say they might be beyond the grasp of young children.
- #12View all PhotosfreeThe Necropolis#12 in GlasgowMonuments and Memorials, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Adjacent to the Glasgow Cathedral, the Necropolis is comparatively new, dating back to 1830s, while the cathedral is several hundred years older. Approximately 50,000 people are interred here; not all of them have gravestones, but there are about 3,500 tombs. The cemetery, modeled after the famed Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, is often called Glasgow's Victorian "City of the Dead."
Recent visitors found that the garden cemetery also offers expansive views of the city of the living. Many simply find the hillside site a pleasant place to take a walk.
- #13View all Photos#13 in GlasgowSightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Visits to more than one distillery are certainly in order when traveling through Scotland. Clydeside Distillery, as its name announces, sits aside the River Clyde in what was once the Pumphouse, which originally controlled entrance to the Glasgow Queen's Dock. The maker of Clydeside single malt whisky is a relatively recent addition to the country's roster of distilleries, having started in 2017.
The distillery offers various tours. Its standard 60-minute tour, which includes tastings of three varieties of whisky, takes place hourly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets start at around 15 pounds (or around $19.50). The 90-minute Chocolate & Whisky Tour adds tastings of handmade artisanal chocolate to the mix; schedules vary by season and tickets cost around 28 pounds (roughly $36). On Thursdays, Clydeside also offers an in-depth two-hour tour conducted by the distillery manager. Tickets for the latter start at around 129 pounds (approximately $170).
- #14View all Photos#14 in GlasgowMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art – known as GoMA – in Royal Exchange Square displays local and international works by artists like Andy Warhol, John Bellany and David Hockney, among others. In addition to its four galleries, the building (which dates back to 1778) also houses a library and educational facilities, as well as a permanent exhibit that details the history of the building.
As its name would indicate, the Gallery of Modern art appeals especially to those with an interest in modern art. Nevertheless, past patrons appreciated both the exhibits and the historic building housing them. Visitors frequently remark on the statue of the Duke of Wellington that stands outside the building that always has an orange traffic cone on its head (which is not part of the gallery's official collection). However, some art lovers find the GoMA somewhat small.
- #15View all Photos#15 in GlasgowSports, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSports, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Glaswegians are famous for their love of football (or soccer to Americans), which makes Celtic Park – home of the Celtic Football Club – an obvious destination for those who want to learn more about local life. Plus, the stadium is an attraction itself: It's the largest stadium in Scotland, with a capacity to welcome more than 60,400 fans.
Even if you're not in Glasgow for a match, you can take a tour of Celtic Park, which includes visits to the home team dressing room, the boardroom, the trophy room, the tunnel to the pitch and the dugout. Tours occur every half hour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sundays, unless games are scheduled, in which case tours take place only in the mornings. Less frequent tours are also offered during the week. Tour tickets for adults cost 13.50 pounds (or around $17.50). Admission for children 11 and younger starts at 8 pounds (or approximately $10).
- #16View all Photos#16 in GlasgowEntertainment and NightlifeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and NightlifeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Citizens Theatre, aka "the Citz," is the self-proclaimed "home of great theatre in Glasgow." Its dramatic offerings range from contemporary classics to new Scottish plays to shows for children. Countless famous performers have appeared on its stage since the 500-seat theater opened in 1878.
Over the years, the theater has won praise for its inventive staging of both traditional and contemporary works, as well as for the refreshments on offer in its bar.
- #17View all Photos#17 in GlasgowMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Though named for the patron saint credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland in the sixth century, St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art strives to promote greater understanding among people of all faiths – and those with none, too. It sits on the site of a former medieval castle and was designed to evoke that style. In addition to a variety of art and artifacts related to the world's religions, the museum has a cafe that opens on what purports to be the oldest Zen garden in Glasgow.
While perhaps appealing most to people with an abiding interest in religious history and culture, St. Mungo's is generally regarded as highly informative and entertaining. Past patrons also appreciated the cafe. However, a few noted that the museum could use more space for all its artifacts.
- #18View all Photos#18 in GlasgowMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Among noted exhibits at the Glasgow Science Centre are the twirling 417-foot Glasgow Tower, a planetarium, an IMAX theater and exhibits exploring everything from the human body to energy. There's also a theater for live science demonstrations. The center hosts special events for both adults and families. If you have small kids in tow, consider a trip here.
Recent travelers said kids will want to spend all day here exploring the interactive exhibits. However, this museum wasn't a favorite among teenagers or adults traveling without little ones. The high price of admission was another common gripe among recent visitors. (Admission to all the facility's attractions requires various add-ons to the basic single-day admission ticket.) Yes, you can spend half a day at the Glasgow Science Centre, and you'll need to do just that to get your money's worth.
- #19View all Photos#19 in GlasgowSportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Motor sports venues are not as common in Scotland as, say, football arenas, which makes the home of the Glasgow Tigers rather special. The motorcycle team competes select days of the week from April through October, and the motorbike races are especially popular with families. The Tigers trace their lineage back to 1946, where they competed in various venues through the decades before settling it at Ashfield Stadium in 1999. (The site became Peugeot Ashfield Stadium in 2015.)
Recent visitors raved about the conditions of the facilities, and said it's a hit with kids.
- #20View all Photos#20 in GlasgowMuseumsTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
The Tenement House, which is operated by the National Trust for Scotland, is a kind of walk-in time capsule. Its restored rooms show how a particular Glaswegian, one Agnes Toward, lived from 1911 to 1965. The furniture and other personal possessions on display (including a coal-fired stove and a blackened bar of soap) aim to provide insight into not only what middle-class life was like in the early to mid-20th century, but also what it was like to live as a single working woman at that time.
Past visitors regularly praised the staff here for being informative and helpful as they impart insights into the ways people of another era lived.
- #21View all Photos#21 in GlasgowMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Scottish Football Museum, situated within the Hampden Park stadium, houses thousands of objects of potential interest to sports fans. Among them are the original Scottish Cup – the world's oldest national trophy – and a recreation of the stadium's first dressing room. The museum has a hall of fame celebrating some of the country's most accomplished players. It also screens film clips from storied moments in Scottish football history.
Visitors, even those who aren't ardent football fans, usually find the extensive exhibits of cups, jerseys and gear to be rather interesting and informative. The staff generally wins praise for being consistently friendly and helpful.
- #22View all PhotosfreeBarras Market#22 in GlasgowShopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDShopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Barras Market, which encompasses a collection of street vendors, indoor markets, shops and pubs, lures bargain hunters and seekers of curiosities. The market dates back to the early 20th century, when vendors sold goods from handcarts.
Some recent travelers disappointingly noted that the Barras Market has declined in quality, calling the goods for sale "junk." However, the majority of visitors seemed to enjoy their few hours digging through piles of flea market goods and haggling in the market, with some even describing it as a "treasure hunt." Indeed, what some might call seediness is for others precisely the appeal of a place like this.
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