Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city and it certainly has a big personality. It’s edgy, vibrant and bold. As the slogan goes ‘People Make Glasgow’ and I would wholeheartedly agree (most of my family are from Glasgow!)
Glasgow is often overlooked in favour of Edinburgh, however, I can tell you that it’s most definitely worth a visit. Many years ago, a Glaswegian friend of mine told me that you need to ‘look up’ when visiting Glasgow and indeed she’s right – there is so much stunning architecture. It’s also such a family friendly city with so much on offer for children and is very easy to get around the city centre as it’s been designed on a grid system of streets.
In this guide, we’ll cover the different areas of Glasgow including the city centre, the West End, the East End and the Southside.
How to get around Glasgow
Glasgow has a great public transport network and you can easily get around the city by bus, subway, train or using the Hop-on Hop-off bus. There are of course taxis and ubers available too.
For bus travel, you can refer to the official timetables and route maps to find the most suitable bus for your journey. Download the First Bus app here.
Another option is the subway, fondly known as the “Clockwork Orange,” which consists of a circular line with 15 stations covering key areas of the city. Download the SPT Subway app here.
Trains are another reliable mode of transportation, with Glasgow Central and Queen Street serving as major railway hubs. They provide efficient connections both within Glasgow and to destinations beyond. Download the Scotrail app here.
The Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing bus is also a great option if you’re short on time and want to avoid navigating the network of public transport. Click here to book your tickets.
Things to do in Glasgow City Centre
Glasgow city centre is fairly compact and as mentioned above is easy to get around as it has been designed on a grid system like many modern American cities. You can easily walk to all the main sites within the city centre.
Visit Glasgow City Chambers
Let’s start with the City Chambers! Dominating George Square, in Glasgow’s city centre, you’ll find the impressive Glasgow City Chambers, home to the headquarters of the city council. The grand building dates back to 1888 when it was inaugurated by Queen Victoria! It has some rather impressive interior spaces. You can pop into the building to wander yourself (only the ground floor) or join a guided tour which will give you access to additional spaces. The tours showcase the ornate rooms and delve into Glasgow’s fascinating history.
Tours take place daily on weekdays at 10:30am and 2:30pm (excluding public holidays). To secure your spot, we recommend arriving at least half an hour before the scheduled tour as bookings are not available in advance. This is one of the many free things you can do in Glasgow!
Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)
Contemporary art in Scotland has its main home at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, aka GoMA. Here you can see a huge range of works from local and international artists, and there are always special temporary events and exhibitions as well as the permanent displays. Banksy even chose it as the venue for his ‘Cut & Run’ exhibition (summer 2023).
It’s free to get into GoMA, and no prior booking is required. The only exception applies to some paid expositions and events. GoMA is among the more popular Glasgow attractions, not least among arty types.
Duke of Wellington Statue
This is a real symbol of Glaswegians’ sense of humour. Standing proud in front of Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), a stone’s throw from George Square, you’ll find a statue of the Duke of Wellington, the celebrated military leader. However, chances are you’ll spot a traffic cone perched upon the Duke’s head! A ritual started by drunken students many years ago and that continues to this day!
This seemingly unconventional tradition has transformed the statue into an iconic representation of Glasgow’s unique spirit. The cone, often seen as a symbol of light-hearted rebellion, captures the city’s vibrant and irreverent character.
Merchant City in Glasgow is centred where the city’s import and export trades once prospered. Old warehouses are now packed with smart shops, plus stylish bars, cafes and restaurants. This is one of the most pleasing places to visit in Glasgow.
All the fun can be found on George Square, Ingram Street and the surrounding area. In addition to eating, shopping and drinking places, the Old Fruitmarket and City halls also host regular concerts.
Glasgow Police Museum
At the Glasgow Police Museum you can follow the history of the UK’s very first police force, from around 1900 to 1975. Drop in for free whenever you feel like it, and you’ll be rewarded with a TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award winning museum.
The life and times of worldwide policing can also be discovered here at the International Police Exhibition. For fun things to do in Glasgow whatever the weather, add this one to your list.
City Centre Mural Trail
The idea for a mural art trail came to life in 2008 and was part of the ‘Clean Glasgow’ initiative. The Council wished to mitigate against the impact of urban life, rejuvenate streets, revitalise derelict and vacant buildings through the use of street art. The street art definitely enriches the city centre and has led to an increased footfall in certain areas of Glasgow.
There are now around 30 of these bright and colourful installations which adorn various buildings in the city. It certainly ranks among one of the more quirky and unusual things to do in Glasgow.
The Tenement House
I’ve visited the Tenement House several times as we have a National Trust of Scotland membership and every time, I feel like I’m walking into my wee Gran’s flat. It was really special to visit with my Mum a few years back as the tenement is very much a replica of the type of property she grew up in the 1950s and 60s.
A tenement flat is a type of building typical of the late 19th / early 20th century. This property was home to Miss Agnes Toward for 54 years (1911-1965) and has remained largely unchanged from when she lived in it. It contains many original objects and items of furniture which provide a fascinating record of how many of the people of Glasgow would have lived at that time. It’s one of the must visit places in Glasgow for history fans.
Shop til you drop
Shopping till you drop is always one to add to your Glasgow bucket list. The city’s retail scene offers so much choice, though, so where do you even begin? Our favourite spots are Buchanan Galleries, Princes Square, Sauchiehall Street and the St Enoch Centre.
Find more than 80 stores at Buchanan Galleries, including a large branch of John Lewis. Also on Buchanan Street is Princes Square, home to over 25 shops. For big high street brands such as Primark or TK Maxx head to Sauchiehall Street, or pick the St Enoch Centre for shopping plus entertainment, dining and leisure.
It might not seem like an obvious Glasgow tourist site but it’s certainly the perfect place for the bookworms amongst you! The Mitchell library is Glasgow’s biggest reference library and one of the largest in the UK. It’s home to over a million books and boasts an extensive collection of books, archives, and resources spanning various subjects and eras. It serves as a treasure trove for researchers, students, and avid readers alike. You can head there if you’re interested in researching family history, have a coffee in the cosy café area or simply marvel at the beautiful architecture. The library’s iconic green dome is a familiar sight on the Glasgow skyline.
High Tea at “Mackintosh at the Willow”
This is one of Glasgow’s hidden gems and a must for all the Charles Rennie Mackintosh fans! Designed by the famous Glasgow-born architect, artist and designer, “Mackintosh at the Willow” is his last surviving tea room. Nestled on Sauchiehall Street and spread over three floors (including a roof terrace), this establishment is more than just a tea room; it’s a living piece of art. You have a choice of indulging in the tearoom’s culinary delights or booking onto a guided tour + visit of the exhibition (or both!) Make sure you book ahead as it’s a very popular place.
Live music at the Clutha Bar
Located along the banks of the River Clyde, the Clutha Bar holds a special place in Glasgow’s heart. Beyond being a beloved pub, it carries a profound sense of history and community. The Clutha’s walls have echoed with laughter, live music, and camaraderie for generations, making it a hub for locals and visitors alike. It’s also been placed on the map thanks to its bright street mural adorning the side of the building as well as the recently commissioned Charles Rennie Mackintosh mural overlooking the beer garden. It’s also the perfect place for an evening of live music. Oh, and don’t miss their pizza and a pint offer!
Things to see in Glasgow’s East End
The East End of Glasgow is a blend of old and new, where historic landmarks like the iconic Barrowland Ballroom stand alongside contemporary creative spaces. It can easily be reached on foot from the city centre or by public transport.
Glasgow Cathedral is an impressive piece of architecture dating back almost 900 years and is well worth a visit. Located a short 15 minute walk from the city centre, you’ll find a mix of modern day street murals as you approach this ancient building. Indeed, works started in 1136 making it the oldest building in Glasgow as well as the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland. Its distinctive green roof is particularly special as it is the only mediaeval cathedral in Scotland (along with St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney) to have retained its roof following the Reformation.
St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art
A stone’s throw from the cathedral and you’ll find this interesting museum. Built in 1989 as a reconstruction of the old Bishop’s Palace, the museum provides information on religions from around the world, including those from antiquity. Set over 3 floors, the museum is named after St Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow.
While it might seem strange to suggest visiting a graveyard, the Necropolis is definitely worth adding to your Glasgow must-visit list. This Victorian cemetery is modelled on the famous Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris and is the final resting place of many distinguished individuals. As you wander through its grounds, you’ll encounter an array of impressive tombstones and statues that pay homage to the eminent and wealthy figures laid to rest here. Among them, a towering monument commemorates the renowned John Knox, a prominent leader of the Reformation.
It’s a fairly steep walk up to the top of the hill, however, you’ll be rewarded with some great panoramic views of the East end of Glasgow and the impressive Cathedral.
You can join a free guided tour which is run by “The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis”. Booking in advance is essential, and donations are warmly welcomed as they contribute to the conservation and restoration efforts of this remarkable site.
This is such a fun thing to do if you’re visiting Glasgow’s east end! We highly recommend you join a Tennent’s Brewery Tour for a behind the scenes glimpse into the art and science of beer production. The guides are fantastic – especially Kyle – who’ll give you great insight into the brewing process in a true Glaswegian style. Think banter, laughs and lots of entertainment. The tour culminates in a well-deserved tasting session where you can sample the finished products and appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into every pint.
Bag a Bargain at The Barras
Whether you’ve picked up any Glaswegian during your travels or not, the name of The Barras is more self-explanatory than it may seem. The term literally translates as ‘barrow’, in the barrow boys and girls of any busy market.
The Barras market in Glasgow’s East End is a must if you’re there on a weekend as it’s closed during week days. Expect iconic archways, global food options and plenty of bargains to be had. It’s ideal for sampling a slice of local life too.
Glasgow History at The People’s Palace
The People’s Palace and Winter Gardens teaches visitors all about city life here since the mid 18th century and is one of the must visit attractions in Glasgow’s east end. There is also a glasshouse on site, and the 5th Earl of Rosebery opened the museum in 1898. The collection includes film, prints, photographs and other objects telling the intriguing story of Glasgow’s past.
If you’re visiting the People’s Palace, you can’t help but notice the impressive fountain stands proudly in front of the museum. Measuring 14 meters in height and dating back to the late 19th century, Doulton fountain is the world’s largest terracotta fountain. The Royal Doulton company donated it to the city to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It then served as a focal point for the Glasgow International Exhibition back in 1888. It was originally erected in Kelvingrove Park at the time of the exhibition and was subsequently moved to Glasgow Green in 1890 before finding its current resting place in 2004. You’ll notice Queen Victoria presiding at the top of the fountain along with representations of Britain’s four colonies (at the time): Australia, Canada, India and South Africa.
Glasgow Green is the city’s oldest park, dating back to the 15th century. It’s situated on the Clyde’s north bank, in the East End. St Andrew’s Suspension Bridge joins the gardens to the south bank of the river.
This 55 hectare site offers lovely outdoor spaces, and is within easy walking distance of the city centre. For family activities in Glasgow on a sunny day, there’s nowhere better to be than this Green Flag Award winning public park.
Admire McLennan’s Arch
Standing at the Western entrance to Glasgow Green, you’ll find the impressive McLennan’s Arch. It’s hard to believe that this structure was originally located on Ingram Street in 1792 and fronted the façade of Robert & James Adams’ Assembly Rooms. It was moved a further 3 times (1894, 1922, 1991) before finding its current resting place.
Places to visit in Glasgow’s West End
When it comes to vibrant, arty and culturally rich neighbourhoods, Glasgow’s West End shines as an absolute gem. With its dynamic arts scene, trendy cafes, world-class restaurants as well as its charming streets and lanes, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in this lively area.
Art & Artefacts at Kelvingrove Museum
Located within the park of the same name, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has lots to offer and is also among the top free things to do in Glasgow. It was fully overhauled during a three year renovation programme, before reopening in 2006.
Kelvingrove offers 22 themed galleries. Around 8,000 items can be found within these, and included are artworks from a range of eras, arms and armour, and objects relating to natural history. Items to look out for include a Spitfire plane, an Asian elephant and a Salvador Dali painting.
If you’re seeking things to do in Glasgow for families, how about a visit to Kelvingrove Park? This green outdoor space by the banks of the Kelvin is where you’ll find Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, plus a whole lot more besides.
The park dates back to Victorian times, and occupies an 85-acre site. It was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton. As well as the gallery here, you’ll also find a bandstand, tennis courts, bowling greens, cafes and a trio of children’s play parks.
Immerse in Nature at The Botanics
Flora from all over the planet can be seen at close range in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens. The site hosts over 9,000 species of plants, and offers both temperate and tropical glasshouses. Strolling through the gardens is another of the top things to do in Glasgow for free, so it’s ideal if you’re on a budget.
The pleasant position close to the banks of the River Kelvin also adds to the appeal of The Botanics in Glasgow. If you want to linger for longer, you can also pick up refreshments at the lovely coffee shop.
If you’ve come to Scotland for its many centuries of history, then a Glasgow must see for you is going to be the local college. Glasgow University is steeped in history, and is the fourth oldest to be found within any English-speaking country.
The respected institution is also a world top 100 university, and also one of the four ancient Scottish universities along with Aberdeen, St Andrews and Edinburgh. The Hunterian museum and The Cloisters can also be found at Glasgow University.
You have two options to explore the campus: embark on a self-guided tour by checking out the link below or join a guided campus tour. Scheduled tours are available from Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, and for larger groups or special occasions, you can arrange a personalised tour.
Also referred to as The Undercroft, The Cloisters are also situated within the Gilbert Scott Building at Glasgow University. One of the really cool things to do in Glasgow is to capture on camera the soaring arches here for posterity.
The Cloisters connect the East and West quadrangles at the university, and also lead to the equally breathtaking Bute Hall. These incredibly photogenic arches and their handsome supporting columns have even featured on famous TV shows such as Outlander.
Artistic Vibes at The Hunterian Art Gallery
The Hunterian Art Gallery aims to share both classic and modern art in a more meaningful way with both local residents and visitors. It forms part of The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow, which also includes general and zoology museums.
The Hunterian Art Gallery displays a wide range of works, including those by under-represented artists. Its exhibits include a large print collection, a sculpture garden, and an evolving programme of contemporary art exhibitions. It’s among the best places to visit in Glasgow when you want to get an overview of art through the ages.
Scottish Design at Mackintosh House
Mackintosh House now forms part of the Hunterian Art Gallery. It’s a faithful reproduction of the interior of the local home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a famous Scottish designer, architect and artist.
The original house at 78 Southpark Avenue was demolished during the 1960s, but many of the original fixtures, fittings and furnishings were carefully preserved. For any fan of interior design, this is a must do in Glasgow.
The Hunterian Museum
The Hunterian is the oldest museum in Scotland, and can also be found at the university. It’s a hive of activity, with research projects always going on and an ever-changing range of special collections to see.
The Hunterian is among the top places of interest in Glasgow, with plenty of events, displays, exhibitions and venues to choose from.
Deep in the West End of the city is Ashton Lane, home of several of the more quirky things to do in Glasgow. This cobbled street offers a selection of bars and restaurants, plus a fully licensed boutique cinema (see below).
The renowned Ubiquitous Chip restaurant can also be found at number 12. This is a famous city eatery featuring lush foliage, fairy lights and elegantly executed dishes.
The Grosvenor Picture Theatre on Ashton Lane
As mentioned above, you can find the Grosvenor cinema on Ashton Lane. This is Glasgow’s oldest (and only fully-licensed) cinema dating back to 1921! This historic gem brings movies to life with its old-world charm, comfortable leather seating and modern cinematic experiences not to mention its café and The Gardener bar where you can even participate in a cocktail masterclass.
Foodie Heaven in the West End
There’s a thriving culinary scene in Glasgow’s West End. From cosy cafes serving artisanal pastries to upscale bistros crafting innovative fusion dishes, the West End caters to every palate. There are so many places to choose from, however, here are few of our favourites: Hanoi Bike Shop for Vietnamese cuisine with a modern twist (their pho bowls are a must – see picture above), the legendary Ubiquitous Chip on Ashton Lane, Ka Pao for a culinary blend of southeast asian food, the Stravaigin for fantastic locally-sourced ingredients and the wonderfully quirky Oran Mor for ‘a play, a pie and a pint’ in a converted church.
The Hidden Lane
Located in Glasgow’s Finnieston area, this is a real hidden gem in Glasgow’s West End. The trendy area of Finnieston is very much up and coming and is home to many bars and restaurants. This little lane called the Hidden Lane is worth the detour. You’ll find cute colourful buildings, various independent artist and designer shops as well as the must-visit Hidden Lane Tearoom.
The Stand Comedy Club
Another fun u is The Stand Comedy Club. If you fancy an evening of laughs, belly-aches and entertainment, comedy then book up some tickets to the Stand Comedy Club. Located in the basement of a former school, you’ll be entertained by performers.
Top tip: make sure you arrive at least half an hour before the start of the show to avoid having to sit in the front row (unless that’s your bag of course 😉
Concert at the Armadillo SEC or the OVO Hydro
If you love music and want a night out to remember while in Glasgow, the Armadillo SEC or the OVO Hydro are some of the best concert venues in the UK, let alone Scotland. For fun activities in Glasgow, treating yourself to a ticket for a favourite act has to be up there.
The SEC Armadillo is on the banks of The Clyde and is a smart, purpose-built venue. Also part of the same complex – the Scottish Event Campus – is the OVO Hydro. This is named after its original sponsor Scottish Hydro Electric: the OVO comes from its current backer.
The Riverside Museum
The Riverside museum is home to many interesting exhibits including the world’s oldest bicycle, the oldest horse-drawn trams and the metro that would have gone around the city at the time. The museum was purpose-built, and is situated where the Clyde and Kelvin rivers meet.
Technology and transport are key themes here, showcasing human advancement. Browsing the 3,000 or so objects clarifies the city’s importance when it comes to heavy industry such as train manufacture, shipbuilding and other forms of innovative engineering.
The Tall Ship
For seafaring sorts, The Tall Ship has to be one of the Glasgow top attractions. Named Glenlee, the Victorian sailing ship is situated by where the Kelvin and Clyde rivers meet in Govan.
The fully restored ship is free to explore, and has a colourful history. After being built here in Glasgow, during her days she spent time with the Spanish Navy. She was saved from scrapping in 1993 by the Clyde Maritime Trust.
Whisky Tasting at The Clydeside Distillery
Surely one of the most cool places in Glasgow for whisky lovers is The Clydeside Distillery. It’s the ideal place to sample a wee dram or two of fine Scotch whisky. This is the city’s first single malt distillery to be established in more than a century.
At The Clydeside you can take a tour, shop for whisky and merch, and of course sample the products. There’s also an eatery here – serving food that pairs well with whisky, of course.
Things to do in Glasgow’s Southside
Usually referred to as “The Southside”, this is a more residential sprawling part of Glasgow stretching from the south bank of the river Clyde towards Shawlands and even Giffnock.
Glasgow Science Centre
This is an awesome place to visit for a family day out in Glasgow. It’s located on the south side of the Clyde river and almost directly opposite the Clydeside Distillery. The science centre is set over three floors and provides over 300 interactive science exhibits, robotics, intriguing illusions and much, much more. In fact, there’s so much to do you’ll have trouble fitting it all in! There’s an additional charge for the Planetarium. Highly recommended for all ages. Click here for information on how to get to the Glasgow Science Centre.
House for an Art Lover
Located to the south of the city in the beautiful grounds of Bellahouston Park is the House for an Art Lover. Inspired by a design from the renowned Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the house was built in 1996 and is a masterpiece that pays homage to the architect’s distinctive style. Inside, the elegant interiors showcase Mackintosh’s attention to detail, with every corner displaying his innovative approach to design. Beyond its architectural allure, House for an Art Lover hosts a variety of exhibitions, workshops, and events that celebrate the visual arts. It’s also a popular wedding venue!
Pollok Country Park
Pollok Country Park has been named the best park in both Britain and Europe, so surely it has to be worth a look. The park occupies around 146 hectares, and offers large swathes of garden and woodlands to create a peaceful environment far removed from the inner city.
Whether you’ve exhausted all the fun things to do in Glasgow city centre or not, then Pollok Park is worth adding to your itinerary. There’s nowhere better to stretch your legs – and take in the views.
The Burrell Collection
The Burrell Collection is situated within Pollok Country Park, on the southwestern side of Glasgow. The building houses a unique assortment of decorative items acquired by a wealthy local family.
Exhibits to see include woven tapestries, pieces featuring ceramics and glass, and an array of other objects. A major overhaul was completed here in 2022, making this popular collection even more attractive than before. Not only is the Burrell Collection one of the best things to see in Glasgow, but it’s also free to get in!