Glasgow is one of the United Kingdom’s most up and coming tourist destinations. Scotland’s largest city is reinventing itself, after spending decades suffering from a lack of visitors due to its admittedly not unwarranted image as an industrial metropolis.
Times have changed though, and the city has become the gateway to west coast Scotland, offering visitors the chance to immerse themselves in Scottish history and culture.
It’s undoubtedly the grittier neighbour of the more elegant Edinburgh, but Glasgow has held the title of European capital of culture, they hosted the commonwealth Games and with a slew of great museums, restaurants and bars, it’s evolved into a top city break destination. To inspire your trip to Scotland, here’s our ultimate travel guide to Glasgow.
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How to get to Glasgow
Glasgow is well connected domestically, and increasingly, internationally. Glasgow City is served by Glasgow International Airport, which not only has regular flights to UK cities but which also has connections to Europe, the USA and the Middle East. That means that with one connection, you can travel to almost any major city in the world.
Edinburgh International Airport is also just one hour away from Glasgow, and there are even more international routes available from here too.
Glasgow Central Station is the main terminus for many train lines leading into the city, although there are several more stations in different areas too. Edinburgh is just under one hour away by train, while most major Scottish cities can be reached from Glasgow too. London is well connected too, and despite the distance, fast trains ply the route in as little a four and a half hours. A more nostalgic and romantic way to travel to Edinburgh from London is on the iconic Caledonian Sleeper train.
What to expect in Glasgow
Despite its rough past and formerly negative image, Glasgow is today a safe and fun city to visit. You can expect the locals to be friendly and accommodating, although at first, you might have a hard time understanding the accent.
While English is the first language, it’s not likely to be a type of English you’ve heard before. Glaswegians are known for their thick accents and fast speech. Throw in the many distinctive Scots words that are spoken, and it can seem like an entirely different language, even in comparison to nearby Edinburgh.
The local currency is the Pound Sterling, and you can find ATMs across the city and money changers at the airport and in the city centre. Scottish Pounds look very different to English Pounds, but both are accepted and freely interchangeable in the city. Be careful though if you are moving south, as Scottish Pounds aren’t always accepted in England. Try to get rid of them or exchange them for English notes before you leave.
How to get around Glasgow
Glasgow has a great public transport system, and although it might seem like a large and intimidating city at first glance, it’s actually rather simple to get around.
The city centre where you can find a large number of attractions, restaurants, bars and shops, is easily navigated while on foot. You could even join a walking tour to see all the best sights and learn more about local history.
The city’s underground subway is small, but it gets you where you need to go. The circular route, and one line only, means that it’s virtually impossible to get lost. If you miss your stop, just sit back and wait for it to go around again.
If you’re heading into the suburbs, then you can use the cheap local buses or the suburban trains. The network is extensive, and if you’re staying for a few days, then you can purchase multi-day tickets or even weekly tickets that give you unlimited access to public transport.
The best time to visit Glasgow
There’s no denying that in Scotland, it gets cold, and you certainly don’t travel to Glasgow for the sunshine and the great weather.
In fact, the weather is notoriously grey and drizzly for most of the year, so whenever you visit the city, always have a raincoat to hand for when the clouds inevitably burst, and you’re caught in the open.
The most popular time of the year to visit is in summer when the weather is at its best. Temperatures will rarely rise above the mid-twenties, although all the locals will be in shorts and t-shirts and will be tanning themselves in the parks. Peak season is generally between June and September.
If you’re looking to explore more of Scotland and to see nearby outdoor attractions such as Loch Lomond, then summer is the perfect time for hiking, although you can get away with outdoor activities in spring and autumn too.
Autumn brings with it rain and more rain, but the autumnal colours are glorious. Spring is crisp and refreshing, although again, it’s likely to rain.
Winter is cold and dark, but it can be a good time to enjoy the Christmas festivities or the unique New Year celebrations, but expect to find most of your time huddled in pubs or warming up inside museums or shops.
Things to do in Glasgow
George Square is the most central square in the city, and it’s the perfect place to start any trip to Glasgow.
It’s surrounded by great architecture, but more importantly, this is where you’ll find any events going down throughout the year. There can be concerts, markets, festivals and much more, so check the calendars for more details when you are in Glasgow.
The main shopping street in Glasgow City is the iconic Buchanan Street. Running for half a mile through the city centre, this is the only place to go if you’re in Glasgow for a spot of shopping.
The street is lined with retail outlets, and Buchanan Street is entirely pedestrianised, making it a great place for a stroll.
Glasgow Cathedral is one of the most important buildings in the city because this historic church dates far back to 1136 when it first opened its doors to the local congregation.
It’s a fantastic example of a medieval church, and it forms an iconic sight on the Glasgow skyline.
Another important historical site in Glasgow is the Necropolis. Located just a short walk away from Glasgow Cathedral, this cemetery is one of the most famous places in the city.
Dating back to the Victorian era, the Necropolis rises dramatically above the city, as it’s built on a small hilltop overlooking Glasgow. There are many famous gravestones, some humble and others lavishly designed.
You can join a walking tour of the Necropolis to learn more about its history and about the people who have been laid to rest here over the years.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a must-visit when you’re exploring Glasgow. This grand art gallery and museum is totally free to enter, so there’s no excuse not to wander through the excellent galleries and displays that you can find here.
You can learn about natural history, explore the ancient world, and learn about Glasgow’s most famous artist and architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
The work of Rennie Mackintosh can be found all over Glasgow, and many of the buildings that you’ll walk past will have been designed by this famed artist and architect.
One of the best things to do in Glasgow Scotland is to visit the Mackintosh House, where you can learn more about the man himself.
Found within the Hunterian Art Gallery, itself an attraction worth spending some time exploring, the Mackintosh House is a unique gallery that portrays the home of the artist and architect as it was in the Victoria era. In this recreation, you can also find a large body of his and his wife’s work.
One of the most famous museums in Glasgow is the excellent Riverside Museum. As the name would suggest, the museum is next to the river, and it’s entirely dedicated to transport. That means there are boats, trams, cars and bicycles and every other mode of transport in between that has ever graced the roads or waterways of Glasgow.
It’s super modern too, and the museum is housed in a unique, contemporary building that makes a fantastic addition to the Glasgow skyline.
The People’s Palace, or the People’s Museum Glasgow, is found on historic Glasgow Green and is a museum entirely dedicated to the people of Glasgow.
Here you can learn about life in the city from the 18th century onwards when Glasgow turned into an industrial powerhouse. The museum tells the tale of the common people, so you can learn what it would have been like to live through different eras, and what the struggles and hardships of life in Glasgow were like.
What to eat in Glasgow
What surprises most visitors to Glasgow, is the excellent culinary scene. Traditional Scottish food is hearty and warming, perfect for those cold winter days, and you can find the best of it in the local pubs.
A classic Scottish dish to try is Haggis and Neeps, the worst parts of a sheep served up with turnips. It doesn’t sound great, but it is delicious. You’ll also want to delve into the scotch whiskey if you like a drink, because whiskey is everywhere in Glasgow.
On top of this, Glasgow is known for its British-Indian cuisine and you can find some of the best curry houses in the country here. After all, this is the birthplace of famous dishes such as Chicken Tikka Masala and the Vindaloo.
Where to stay in Glasgow
Midrange – There are a great array of hotels for those with a mid-range budget, and two of the best include the Hilton Glasgow and the Dakota Glasgow. You won’t break the bank, but you’ll have a perfect stay.
Luxury – For luxury travellers, there’s no other choice but the Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel, the only 5-star hotel in Glasgow. It’s elegant, sophisticated, and luxurious.
Tours to do in Glasgow
A great way to see the city, and a top tip for our Glasgow guide, is to take a walking tour. Pack an umbrella though, just in case it rains.
There are a range of walking tours in the city, ranging from budget, tips based tours where you only pay how much you feel it was worth, to more niche historical, or even architectural walking tours that delve deeper into the local heritage.
Hop on Hop off Bus Tour
Yes, even Glasgow has its own Hop on Hop off Bus Tour, and it’s a great way to see all the best sights and attractions in the city.
You’ll have all your transport covered and won’t have to worry too much about directions, while at the same time you’ll learn much, much more about the city’s culture and history.
Day trips from Glasgow
Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, is just one hour away from Glasgow by bus or train, and it couldn’t be more different.
Where Glasgow is gritty, yet modern, Edinburgh is refined and traditional. The city is known for its historic castle, the Royal Mile and its fascinating history. Enjoy the local pubs, indulge the touristy side of things, visit the Scottish Parliament, and take a hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano on the outskirts of the city.
In just an hour, you can also be deep in the heart of the Scottish wilderness, because one of the best day trips from Glasgow is a trip to Loch Lomond.
Part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, this is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Mountain peaks rise high above the still waters of the Loch, and there are countless hiking trails across the national park
Loch Ness is perhaps the most famous place in Scotland because this is the mythical home of the infamous Loch Ness Monster.
This is the heart of the Highlands, and while you might not see the legendary beast, you will enjoy some of Scotland’s best natural scenery.
Recommended tours in Glasgow
- Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small-Group Day Tour from Glasgow
- Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Whisky Trail Small Group Day Tour from Glasgow
- Outlander Day Tour from Glasgow or Edinburgh
- Loch Lomond, The Trossachs and Stirling Castle from Glasgow
- Half-Day Private Glasgow Must-Sees Tour
- Glasgow West End Whisky Tour
- Glasgow City Centre Walking Tour
- Speyside Delight – Scottish Whisky Tour – Private Full Day
- Find a hidden Glen in Scotland’s woods
- City Sightseeing Glasgow Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
- Skip the Line: Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Including Meal
- Jacobites and Scottish Highlands Day Tour from Glasgow