As Scotland’s biggest and loudest city, you’re going to love exploring all of the cool things to do in Glasgow. Overlooking the River Clyde on Scotland’s west coast, the locals will quickly tell you that their city is a much trendier version of Edinburgh!
Glasgow is always up-and-coming, and you’ll find that this is a city that’s constantly on the move. This is an exciting destination to visit, and you’ll love how Glasgow has moved on from its industrial past but has lovingly preserved its Victorian heritage along the River Clyde and within the city center.
You’ll find beautiful 19th-century buildings along Buchanan Street, George Street, and Royal Exchange Square, where historic architecture mixes with high-end retail outlets, cool cafes and bars, and contemporary art galleries and museums.
As Scotland’s most populous city, you’ll find that Glasgow plays host to some of the country’s best festivals, including the biggest Hogmanay celebrations on New Year’s Eve. The city is home to some of Scotland’s most important cultural institutions, too, including the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Theatre Royal, and the National Piping Centre (where you can learn to play the bagpipes like a true Highlander!).
And once you’ve seen all the best Glasgow sightseeing attractions, it’s time for a dram or two of Scotch whisky or an escape to the beautiful surrounds of nearby Pollok Country Park or Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
With so many things to do in Glasgow, we won’t be surprised if you don’t know where to begin. That’s why we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to see in Glasgow to help you plan the best itinerary. Stick to these fun and unique Glasgow bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’re going to have an incredible time exploring Scotland’s largest and most exciting city!
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Top 15 Things to do in Glasgow
1. Stroll along Bustling Buchanan Street
Start your Glasgow sightseeing tour with a stroll along one of the city’s most famous and historic thoroughfares. Buchanan Street dates back to the late 18th century, and it’s home to a beautiful array of Victorian-era architecture in addition to Glasgow’s most upmarket shops.
What we love most about Buchanan Street, though, is that this really is the place to start your journey in Glasgow. Buchanan Street stretches from the Buchanan Galleries in the north down to St. Enoch Square in the south. While you can walk the entire length of the street in just 10 to 15 minutes if you’re in a hurry, there’s a whole lot waiting for you in the surrounding squares and arcades if you’ve got the time.
This is central Glasgow, and if you start walking south from Buchanan Galleries, you’ll pass by Glasgow Central Station on your left before meeting St George’s Tron Church in the center of Nelson Mandela Place. Take a detour here, and walk along W George Street to George Square, where you’ll find Glasgow’s most important public square. George Square is surrounded by elegant Victorian architecture, including the City Chambers and statues of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Queen Victoria.
Follow Queen Street south of George Square, and you’ll find yourself in Royal Exchange Square, home to some of Glasgow’s grandest public buildings, the Gallery of Modern Art, and a famous statue of the Duke of Wellington that often finds itself with a stolen traffic cone for a hat after Glasgow’s students have been drinking beer all night!
Walk through Royal Exchange Square, and you’ll meet up with Buchanan Street again. Stop off at the Willow Tea Room for unique art-nouveau decor and some much-needed refreshment before strolling down to St Enoch Square and the end of the road.
2. Explore 22 Galleries at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the best Glasgow attractions – and best of all, it’s completely free to visit! Spare a few hours to visit Glasgow’s premier museum and art gallery because there are 22 individually-themed galleries for you to explore.
You’ll be impressed as soon as you arrive at the entrance to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum because this Victorian-era building was built to awe at the end of the 19th century. The grand, almost-palatial architecture was inspired by the Spanish Baroque style that was popular at the time, but it was firmly grounded using local Glaswegian materials and techniques.
The museum first opened in 1901 and underwent a massive refurbishment in 2006 that modernized the facilities and updated the exhibits over a century after it was first established. The scale of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is enormous.
You’ll be greeted in the Centre Hall by the reconstructed skeleton of a Diplodocus dinosaur that’s been affectionately nicknamed Dolly. The journey continues as you venture through the prehistoric era before learning about Scotland’s earliest human beings and the long transition toward the modern Scotland that we know today.
The museum holds a unique array of artifacts, including mummified heads, an Egyptian sarcophagus, a World War II Spitfire fighter plane, and more. The art galleries hold some of Europe’s most treasured works of art, including Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí and works by Rembrandt, Monet, and Vincent van Gogh.
3. Experience Glasgow’s Unique Cultural Heritage
Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city, and while Edinburgh might be the capital, you’ll find that many of the nation’s cultural institutions actually have their home here. During your stay in the city, you’re going to have lots of opportunities to get cultural, and we’ve got more than a few recommendations to start you off!
The Theatre Royal is Glasgow’s oldest theater, and you’ll love how this beautiful Victorian building is the base for the Scottish Opera and the Scottish Ballet. If you’re a fan of the performing arts, then you can also book a ticket to see the Royal Scottish National Opera in Glasgow, which often plays at the esteemed Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
If you prefer contemporary culture, then you’ll find films to watch at the Glasgow Film Theatre and comedy acts at the Tron Theatre, while every summer, the city is taken over by epic music festivals, including the Riverside Festival and TRNSMT.
4. Time Travel at the Riverside Museum
One of Glasgow’s most exciting projects is the Riverside Museum, where history collides with the city’s future ambitions in a unique setting. Located on the banks of the River Clyde, the Riverside Museum is on the site of a former shipyard in Glasgow’s regenerated Glasgow Harbour district.
You’ll be awed by the modern architecture, as the Riverside Museum was designed by famed architect Zaha Hadid before opening in 2011. Outside the museum, you’ll find the Glenlee, a three-masted, 19th-century sailing ship that’s traveled the world and is now preserved in the harbor on the River Clyde.
The authentic sailing ship is part of the Glasgow Museum of Transport, which any traveler should find fascinating. This museum is part of the Riverside Museum project. Inside, you’ll see thousands of different modes of transport and types of vehicles that were popular in the past, as well as exhibitions that speculate how we might travel in the future.
5. Delve into Glasgow’s Past at the People’s Palace
For a unique insight into the lives of Glaswegians through the last three centuries, a visit to the People’s Palace is one of the best things to do in Glasgow.
You’ll find this people-focused museum in the middle of Glasgow Green, a large public park that overlooks the River Clyde. The museum first opened in 1898, although it’s been updated since in order to tell the continuing story of the people of Glasgow from the 1750s onwards.
You’ll learn all about the lives of average Glaswegians and discover how things have changed since the industrial revolution. The People’s Palace is also home to the impressive Winter Gardens, a wonderful glass-domed greenhouse that’s packed with tropical flora.
6. Explore the Spooky World of Glasgow’s Victorian Necropolis
If you’re looking for unusual places to visit, the city’s Victorian-era Necropolis should be at the top of your Glasgow bucket list! This vast Necropolis was the city’s main burial ground from the 17th century onwards, and it’s estimated that some 50,000 Glaswegians are buried over the 37 acres of grounds.
It might sound like an eerie place to visit, but each of the headstones and graves has a unique story to tell. The best way to visit the Necropolis is on a guided tour. These are run regularly by the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis group, who look after this historic Glasgow attraction.
The Victorian Necropolis is situated next to the impressive Glasgow Cathedral, one of the city’s oldest buildings. The cathedral dates back to the 12th century, although major refurbishments in later centuries ensure that the architecture is a colorful mix of medieval, reformation-era, and modern styles.
7. Discover Glasgow’s Most Famous Architect at the Mackintosh Centre
You’ll have seen the work of Glasgow’s most famous architect, even if you have no idea who he is! Charles Rennie Mackintosh is somewhat of a legend in the city, as he designed many of Glasgow’s most important public buildings.
The Victorian-era architect-designed Scotland Street School is now a museum dedicated to telling the story of education in Glasgow. He also designed the Willow Tea Room, where you can enjoy a delectable afternoon tea in a delightfully traditional setting. He’s also the architect behind Queens Cross Church, Hill House, the former offices of The Herald newspaper, the Daily Record newspaper, and much more.
You can learn more about his life and work at The Lighthouse, the first building he ever designed, where you’ll now find the excellent Mackintosh Centre.
8. Escape the City with a Trip to Pollok Country Park
On the south side of the River Clyde, you can find Pollok Country Park, which we’re sure you’re going to agree is one of the best green spaces in Glasgow. You’ll love how close to the city Pollok Country Park is, but you’ll also appreciate how far removed this gorgeous public space is from the urban confines of Glasgow’s city center.
You’ll have 146 acres of beautifully maintained and landscaped gardens to explore when you visit Pollok Country Park. The scenery here is surprisingly diverse. One moment you’ll be strolling through woodland, and the next, you’ll find yourself walking along the gentle banks of the White Cart Water River.
Pollok Country Park is set around Pollok House, a grand country house that was the family home of the Maxwell’s for centuries. The house itself is open to the public, and you can learn more about the lavish lifestyle lived by one of Scotland’s oldest noble families as you tour through elegant hallways and admire the extensive collection of artwork on display.
Pollok Country Park is also home to the magnificent Burrell Collection, where you’ll find an impressive array of artwork collected from around the world. The collection was curated by Sir William Burrell. The wealthy Glaswegian merchant gathered together artwork from across Europe, China, and the Islamic world before donating the collection to the people of Glasgow.
9. Enjoy a Dram (or Two!) of Scotch Whisky
No trip to Scotland is ever complete without enjoying a dram or two of authentic Scotch, and in Glasgow, you’re going to be spoiled for choice when it comes to the local whiskies. Like anywhere in Scotland, Glasgow has its own local distilleries, and you’ll find that the best distillers have been perfecting their craft for centuries!
For whisky lovers, one of the must-do things in Glasgow is a tour of The Glasgow Distillery. This is Glasgow’s original distiller of single malt whisky, and they’ve been producing fine Scotch for thirsty Glaswegians since 1770.
Less than an hour’s drive north of central Glasgow, you can escape the city and visit one of Scotland’s best single malt producers when you book a tour of the Glengoyne Distillery. Surrounded by glens and mountains, you can taste the essence of the Highlands when you sample a whisky that’s been delicately crafted and refined since 1833.
Back in the city, and overlooking the banks of the River Clyde, you’ll find one of Glasgow’s newest distillers. The Clydeside Distillery may have only opened in 2017, but the founders have an impressive personal and family history of whisky distilling to draw on.
Generations worth of knowledge has gone into their new single malt whisky, and we’re sure you’re going to love its distinctive lowland-style taste when you take a tour of the distillery.
10. Play the Bagpipes at the National Piping Centre
A visit to The National Piping Centre is easily one of the most unique things to do in Glasgow. This fascinating cultural center is home to bagpipes, tartan, kilts, and haggis. There really is no better place to learn about Scotland’s enduring traditions than here!
The National Piping Centre exists to protect “piping,” the historic musical tradition that’s based around the “Great Scottish Bagpipe.” The National Piping Centre preserves centuries-old bagpipes and other Highland traditions within the Museum of Piping, but there’s much more to experience than this.
If you’re musically inclined, you can take a piping course or schedule piping lessons with Glasgow’s best bagpipe musicians! You can even stay the night in tartan-styled rooms at the Pipers’ Tryst Hotel. Plus, you can also enjoy delightful traditional dishes such as haggis (including a vegan version of this Scotch classic), sticky toffee pudding, and Glaswegian mac ‘n’ cheese at the Pipers’ Tryst Restaurant.
11. Take a Day Trip to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Glasgow is a great city to explore, but sometimes you just need to bask in the beauty of nature. Luckily, even central Glasgow is never too far away from the wilds of the Scottish Highlands. With a quick trip, you can find yourself basking in the glory of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, which is just an hour’s drive from the city.
This beautiful national park protects iconic Loch Lomond, a large inland lake (or loch) that’s surrounded by the spectacular hills, mountains, and glens of the Southern Highlands. Loch Lomond is one of the largest lakes in the United Kingdom, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities for wild swimming, kayaking, boating, and hiking when you visit the loch.
Loch Lomond is where the famous Scottish Highlands really begins. You can even attempt the challenging hike to the summit of Ben Lomond, which at an altitude of 974 meters is one of Scotland’s tallest “Munros,” or mountain peaks.
There are charming loch-side and hill-top villages to visit, excellent hiking trails through woodland, glens, and countrysides, and so much more adventure awaiting you in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park!
12. Cycle (or Run) the Forth & Clyde Canal Towpath
Do you love long-distance adventures? Then you’ll love tackling the cross-country Forth & Clyde Canal Towpath, which connects Glasgow with Edinburgh.
Designed in the late 18th century, the Forth & Clyde Canal was built to connect Scotland’s east coast with the west coast. While Scotland’s industrial days are far behind it, the canal’s towpath has since become a popular walking, running, and cycling route that starts in Bowling (just outside of Glasgow) and ends in Edinburgh Quay.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not cycle the entire 66-mile route? It’s a unique way to travel between Scotland’s two most important cities. Plus, you’ll enjoy seeing a mixture of industrial history and re-emerging nature as you cross the Scottish Lowlands.
If you haven’t got time, then you can just cycle, walk, or run shorter sections of the canal towpath as it makes its way through Glasgow’s northern suburbs.
13. Walk the Remains of the Antonine Wall
Have you heard of Hadrian’s Wall? This was the great, coast-to-coast wall that was built by the Romans in 122 AD to protect their empire from northern invaders. But Hadrian’s Wall is located far to the south of Glasgow, and many assume that was the furthest north the Romans ever made it.
That assumption would be wrong because actually, the Romans built another wall to the north of Glasgow. This is the Antonine Wall, and work started on this immense defensive project in 142 AD.
The Antonine Wall wasn’t built of stone, like Hadrian’s Wall, but the massive earthworks and ditches still scar the landscape today. The wall stretched from the Firth of Clyde right across to the Firth of Forth, and many of the archeological remnants still remain in the Glaswegian suburbs.
To the northwest of Glasgow, you can walk along sections of the wall that pass through Duntocher in the city’s expanding suburbs. While in Bearsden, you can see the excavated remains of a Roman fort and bathhouse.
To learn more about the Antonine Wall in general, you can visit the excellent Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, which is home to many artifacts and archeological finds that have been collected along the route of this old Roman monument.
14. Indulge in a Saucy Tikka Masala Curry
If there’s one dish you have to try when you’re in Glasgow, it’s a tikka masala. It might sound strange traveling all the way to Scotland for a curry, but Glasgow is the legendary birthplace of one of the nation’s most popular British-Indian dishes!
Glasgow’s curry houses have been tempting locals and tourists alike since Indian immigrants first started arriving in the city in the 19th century. That’s when this distinct style of curry, influenced by the spices and culinary techniques of India, but blended for milder British tastes, began to evolve.
The tikka masala (usually served as a chicken tikka masala) is said to have arrived on the scene in the 1970s when a chef at the Shish Mahal Restaurant in Glasgow decided to mix tomatoes with cream to create a new curry sauce that was an instant hit with the Brits. The Shish Mahal Restaurant is still serving up tikka masala, but you’ll need to book your table in advance, as this place is super popular!
15. Celebrate Hogmanay like a Glaswegian
If you’re searching for fun things to do in Glasgow, then there’s no better time to visit the city than during Hogmanay. This is Scotland’s famous (and occasionally infamous) New Year’s Eve extravaganza, and Glasgow is one of the best places to celebrate. If you can time your visit right, this is a must on your Glasgow bucket list!
Hogmanay is a celebration of the New Year, but this is a celebration that goes back centuries. Hogmanay is thought to trace its roots back to a mixture of Norse and Gaelic traditions, including celebrations of the winter solstice and events such as Samhain and Yule.
There are many unique customs to be seen on Hogmanay, including First Footing, when you try to be the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or family member’s home in the New Year.
As Scotland’s largest city, you can expect celebrations in Glasgow to be huge. As well as New Year’s fireworks and countdowns, you’ll find raucous concerts and festivals taking place over the Hogmanay period. Parties don’t always just last for one night, either, and Hogmanay celebrations can go on for days in Glasgow!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Glasgow. What’s your favorite thing to do in Glasgow?
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