Glasgow is often overshadowed by the neighboring city of Edinburgh which, unfortunately, means many visitors to Scotland skip it completely. But Glasgow actually has a lot of charm, and so many reasons that you should spend at least a day or two checking out the highlights.
We’ve compiled our list of 10 things you must do during a visit to the city of Glasgow which includes epic city views, unique street art, a bit of history, and a lot of booze.
Glasgow: Things to Know Before You Go
- The currency in Scotland is the Pound Sterling (GBP). At the time of writing the conversion rate was £1.00 GBP to $1.27 USD.
- The primary language of Scotland is Scottish English, with Scots and Scottish Gaelic as minority languages. But don’t be surprised if you have to ask the locals to repeat themselves once or twice as the Scottish accent can be incredibly difficult to understand.
- The best way to get around Scotland is to rent a car and explore at your own pace. The Q-Park St. Enoch is a centrally located, reasonably priced parking garage in Glasgow so you won’t have to worry about your car while you’re out exploring.
- Scotland is expensive to visit but luckily there are loads of free things to do in Glasgow.
- Of course, spending a weekend in Edinburgh is also a great idea so make sure you have time for both cities.
Where to Stay in Glasgow
If you want to stay in the ultimate luxurious hotel during your trip to Glasgow, look no further than the 5-star Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel. This beautiful building dates back to 1823 and has been updated with sleek decor and a lavish onsite spa. It’s the perfect place to pamper yourself!
Apex City of Glasgow Hotel is a gorgeous 4-star hotel located in the heart of the city. Rooms have modern decor and ultra-lush beds so you’ll get an amazing night’s sleep. You’ll have every amenity you could want at the Apex and you’ll love the delicious food in their lively restaurant!
Top 10 Things to do in Glasgow, Scotland
1. Tour the Glasgow Cathedral
The Glasgow Cathedral (also called Saint Mungo’s Cathedral) is a beautiful medieval building with massive arches and spectacular stained glass windows. The first stone that was laid in 1136 was done so in front of King David, and the church was finally consecrated in 1197. People have been worshipping under its roof ever since.
Visitors are welcome to enter the building all year round for free. Be sure to check out the crypt under the church which was used as the inside of the L’Hôpital des Anges in the second season of Outlander. The cathedral even has some Outlander memorabilia for sale in the gift shop in case you’re a big fan of the show.
Be sure to check out the crypt under the church which was used as the inside of the L’Hôpital des Anges in the second season of Outlander. The cathedral even has some Outlander memorabilia for sale in the gift shop in case you’re a big fan of the show.
Entrance fee: Free! Although donations are appreciated.
Hours: From April – September the church is open from 9:30am – 5:30pm on Monday through Saturday and from 1:00pm – 5:00pm on Sunday. From October – March it is open from 10:00am – 4:00pm on Monday through Saturday and from 1:00pm – 4:00pm on Sunday.
2. See the View from the Necropolis
As you leave the Glasgow Cathedral you’ll see a hill to the east filled with old stone tombstones. This is the Glasgow Necropolis where it is estimated that 50,000 people have been buried and 3,500 tombstones mark their graves. There are quite a few haunted places in Glasgow, but the necropolis definitely tops the list!
Take the bridge that is through the gate on your left as you exit the cathedral. Built in 1836, the “Bridge of Sighs” was the common route for funeral processions and is now the main entrance to the necropolis. Walk up to the top of the hill for beautiful panoramic views of the city.
3. Check out the Street Art
As you wander around the city of Glasgow, be sure to look up at the buildings as you pass. There are beautiful street murals everywhere! And surprisingly, they are all easy to find on Google Maps as many are part of a “Mural Trail”.
Be sure you don’t miss “St. Mungo”, “Tiger Style Mural”, “Wind Power Mitchell Street”, and “The World’s Most Economical Taxi”. You’ll be impressed by the level of detail on these massive creations, especially in the incredibly realistic-looking portraits!
4. Visit the Lighthouse
For something off-the-beaten-path in Glasgow, head to The Lighthouse. It is inside Scotland’s Center for Design and Architecture which is a visitor’s center, an events venue, and a space for exhibitions. And while the building itself and the exhibitions are interesting, the Lighthouse is the real highlight of the space.
Head to the third floor and through the exhibition hall to the spiral staircase. You’ll climb up several flights until you reach the small outdoor platform at the top where you’ll be rewarded with beautiful city views. Be sure to check out the view of the staircase from the top, it’s picture-perfect!
Entrance fee: Free!
Hours: Open Monday through Saturday from 10:30am until 5:00pm and Sunday from 12:00pm until 5:00pm.
5. Sample Scottish Whisky (Scotch)
Scotch Whisky is Scotland’s national drink and its biggest export. The word “whisky” actually comes from the Gaelic word “uisge” which means “water of life”. The spirit can’t be called Scotch until it has aged in Scotland for a minimum of 3 years. So obviously, you can’t visit the country without sampling the goods.
There are over 100 active distilleries around Scotland spread across 5 whisky regions, and lucky for you there are two popular Scotch Whisky distillers in Glasgow so you can get started tasting right away. Both Clydeside Distillery and Auchentoshan Distillery will provide a perfect introduction to Scotch Whisky in Scotland!
6. Sample the Breweries
If you’re a craft beer lover, you’ll get to sample the best breweries in the country, all conveniently located downtown! Drygate Brewing Co is housed in a converted box factory and has been brewing since 2014. Shilling Brewing Company was the first to bring the brewpub experience to Glasgow and encourages guests to see, taste and enjoy. They have a scrumptious pizza menu so be sure to have lunch here as well.
And Tennent Wellpark Brewery is a heritage center where you’ll learn about the history of Scotland’s oldest brewery, dating back to the 1500s! They offer brewery tours and beer tasting master classes so you can sample the goods while understanding the brewing process. It’s the UK’s largest beer attraction!
You’ll have a great time sampling the delicious Glasgow brews while chatting with the friendly locals!
7. People Watch in George Square
George Square is a central square in downtown Glasgow that was named after King George III. It is a hub of activity today as people come here to enjoy the sunshine, eat a quick lunch, and simply watch all of the people walking by. It also hosts several city events throughout the year.
There are several bars, restaurants, and shops surrounding George Square, as well as the headquarters of Glasgow City Council. And the square houses a collection of statues and monuments that are significant to the history of the city.
Get your lunch to-go and grab a bench in George Square to enjoy the sunshine.
8. Shop on Buchanan Street
If you want to drop some cash while vacationing in Scotland, then Glasgow is the perfect place to do it! And Buchanan Street is the prime shopping street in the city. It’s pedestrian-only so you don’t have to worry about car traffic, and it’s always full of tourists and locals alike. Even if you aren’t looking to buy, Buchanan Street often has other activities to entertain you from boisterous street performers to impromptu parades!
9. Visit the People’s Palace
The People’s Palace is a museum that showcases the people and the history of Glasgow from 1750 to the present. Surrounding the museum is the Glasgow Green, a massive, beautifully maintained park that is the oldest public space in the city and is still a popular spot for an afternoon stroll.
The collections inside are a bit of a hodgepodge of artifacts, antiques, and stories about early life in Glasgow. The real highlight of the People’s Palace is the building that houses the artifacts, and the intricate terracotta fountain outside. The fountain celebrates the British Empire with the Queen-Empress Victoria at the top, reigning over the major colonies at the bottom. Scenes signify South Africa, Australia, Canada, and India.
Entrance fee: Free! Although donations are appreciated.
Hours: Open Monday through Thursday and Saturday from 10:00am until 5:00pm. Open on Friday and Sunday from 11:00am until 5:00pm.
10. Visit the Cone Head Duke
In front of the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow is a statue of the first Duke of Wellington on a horse. On its own it doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but what makes this worth visiting is the traffic cone that sits on top of the Duke’s head. The humorous prank dates back to the early 1980s when it first mysteriously appeared, and continues to this day even though the Glasgow City Council and local police attempt to discourage it.
In 2013 the City Council even made an attempt to double the height of the statue to make it more difficult, if not impossible, to cone the Duke. After all, the regular removals were costing the city a lot of money as once the cone is removed, it’s only a few days until a new one appears. This was not a popular plan as locals love their Travel Cone Duke so they started a Facebook campaign called Keep the Cone which garnered 72,000 likes in just 24 hours.
Enjoy your time in Glasgow!
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