Glasgow wears its heart on a slightly grungy, but very endearing sleeve.
For too long Scotland’s largest city was often glossed over by travellers in favour of Edinburgh up the road. Times have changed and today Glasgow offers visitors access to a seemingly bottomless well of contemporary creativity and culture, which sits in stark and fascinating contrast to its industrial past. In short, Glasgow is the working class hero that loves a night at the opera.
Glaswegians are warm and welcoming, and while there’s a good chance you won’t understand a word the locals say with their notoriously broad accent, a nod and a smile will usually get you through.
Enjoy this Glasgow travel guide.
Glasgow’s diverse cultural scene is one of the best reasons to spend some quality time in this city.
Designated a European Capital of Culture back in 1990, the arts scene in Glasgow has continued to evolve into one of the most vibrant, exciting and occasionally subversive in the world.
The classic cultural offerings are extensive. The city is home to the prestigious Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and the National Theatre of Scotland, which adapts itself to a variety of performance spaces.
Art lovers can have their pick from some of Europe’s finest museums and galleries, among them the mind-boggling collections of the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art, Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the interactive Riverside Museum and the funky Glasgow Tramway — unofficial home of the Turner Prize. For something completely different, a visit to The Glue Factory arts space reveals an inspiring microcosm of creative mayhem.
Musically, Glasgow marches to a variety of beats. Take a guided walk along ‘Music Mile’ and discover everything from the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to King Tuts Wah Wah Hut — the venue where Oasis was discovered and signed.
With access to fabulous fresh local produce, Glasgow is a foodie’s delight.
The city serves up its own versions of tradition in an equal measure of ritzy restaurants, uber-trendy eateries and cheap and cheerful nosh houses.
Book a table at gastronomic icon Rogano to get a taste of authentic Scottish cuisine (yes, there’s haggis). You’ll be occupying seats kept warm by some of the most famous names in Hollywood history.
If you can get your jaws around the burgers at Lebowskis you’ll become somewhat of a local legend yourself, while for something more casual but out-of-this-world delicious, Crabshakk does exactly what it says on the tin, and a whole lot more. It’s seafood heaven.
Reputedly the birthplace of chicken tikka masala, if there’s one style of multicultural fare that Glasgow can’t get enough of, it’s Indian. Mister Singh’s India in the city centre is a must-try and offers a delightful fusion of cultures with kilt-wearing waiters serving up haggis pakora.
You could spend weeks working your way through Glasgow’s historical attractions and you’d only just be scratching the surface.
The city’s medieval roots can be explored through the architecture of the Glasgow Cathedral, Provan Hall (watch out for the spectres that are said to appear at windows to spook passersby), the Tolbooth Steeple — a seven-storey former prison and execution site, and Crookston Castle — located just outside the city but well worth visiting.
For those more interested in modern industrialised history, the People’s Palace (and Winter Gardens) takes you on a fascinating journey back in time to explore the evolution of the city from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
George Square — the city’s main civic precinct — was laid out in 1781. Here you can pay homage to the 12 statues of the city’s most famous sons and daughters, including poet and lyricist Robbie Burns and Queen Victoria.
The mecca for fashionable Glaswegians is ‘The Style Mile’.
This square mile in the centre of the city comprises a huge array of big name retailers, designer boutiques and high street favourites (more than 200 stores in total), and is billed as the next best thing to London’s West End. If you’re in the market for a girl’s best friend, the Argyll Arcade houses shoulder-to-shoulder high-end jewellers.
For something a little less mainstream, fabulously quirky independent boutiques and retailers can be found at Cresswell Lane in the West End. Trawl the stores for vintage finds, retro fashion and second-hand furniture, then finish off with an olde worlde cuppa and cake at the Cup & Saucer Vintage Tea Room.
Kicking back and relaxing is a serious job in Glasgow.
More often than not it involves the partaking of a wee dram — aka the famous Scotch Whisky. If you take your drinking seriously, a drive out to Glengoyne Distillery is a dream come true (if not a hangover in the making), while an evening at Nice ‘N’ Sleazy will introduce you to the real Glasgow. It’s been around since the early nineties and has become somewhat of a notorious (in a good way) watering hole.
For a less exuberant way to relax and unwind, numerous parks and gardens beckon. The Glasgow Botanic Gardens make a wonderful place to hang out and are also home to Kibble Palace, Britain’s largest glasshouse (which is the perfect place to warm up in winter!). You can also wander along the river from the gardens to Kelvingrove Park and back into the West End on part of the famous Kelvin River Walkway. If there’s a more relaxing way to finish up in Glasgow, ah dinnae ken…
Five tours we love
Explore Glasgow’s multifaceted West End on this three-hour walking tour to some of the best off-the-beaten-track bars in the precinct. This tour is the complete package, covering culture, whisky and food.
There is nothing like a local’s perspective to bring a destination to life, and this popular five-hour walking tour with a local guide covers all the must-see Glasgow sights. You’ll also take in some of the city’s hidden gems.
Glasgow is a magnet for musicians, and this two-hour guided walk along ‘Music Mile’ will immerse you in the city’s melodic pedigree. All guides are enthusiastic music fans.
Travel to historic Stirling Castle and glorious Loch Lomond, and sample the liquid wares of Glengoyne Distillery on this fabulous small-group day tour from Glasgow.
Immerse yourself in the stunning Scottish Highlands on this top day out from Glasgow. You’ll travel with a small group through magnificent Glencoe and spend some time soaking up the visual splendour of legendary Loch Ness.
Do you have any tips to add to our Glasgow travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please send us a message.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Julietta Henderson is a travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. She has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind and an open-ended ticket.
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