Ah, Glasgow.. my favourite city in the world. From posh fashion shows to the grungy basement at Nice n Sleazy’s – I have seen it all there and I’ve loved every minute of it. You may have already read over the destinations: Glasgow post, but I’ve added a lot more to see and do here. So, without further ado, here are 25 things to do in Glasgow (most are free, maybe with the exception of buying a drink ;)).
get rowdy at nice ‘n sleazy, king tut’s, or another local music venue
Before they were famous, they performed at one of these local bars. “They” is Oasis, the Fratellis, Franz Ferdinand, Glasvegas, Mogwai… I could go on and on. Glasgow is a top music city in the UK and Europe, and boasts a huge indie following, so it’s no surprise that these bands hit it big. You could find yourself at a show, only to hear the same band on the radio the following week. Check local timeout mags or websites for listings on who is playing where.
chill out at the botanic gardens
Up on the hill at the intersection of Great Western and Byres roads is the Botanic Gardens greenhouse. Trees don’t obscure the hill it sits on, so it’s a pleasant spot for a warm afternoon. The garden stretches out across the hill into a rose garden and down to the river below. Take a picnic on a sunny day or use the gardens as a starting point for a nice …
run along the kelvin river
I used to do this when I lived in glasgow: it’s a really amazing run and the trail goes quite far north into the suburbs. Don’t be alarmed if a squirrel jumps on you; apparently they are rather tame! You can also follow the trail south to Kelvingrove Park and the …
The oddest museum – and I say that with pure love – that I have ever been to. The Kelvingrove Museum is part art, part photography, part history, part science, part taxidermy, part egyptology… I think they’ve literally got everything covered here. There’s a replica of a Spitfire hanging in one atria, lifesize animals, oils of scenic landscapes and a Dali that was bought for only £8500. It’s free, so go as often as you like. I always say hi to Robbie Burns.
visit the dead at the cathedral & necropolis
Across town, on the east side, is St Mungo’s Cathedral. It’s the only cathedral not unroofed during the Reformation and stands as an excellent example of Scottish Gothic architecture. Find a charming guide to give you a tour and you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about the mosaics, crypts, and structure. Then wander down the hill and climb the necropolis for great views of the city and beyond to the south and east. The necropolis contains the remnants of almost every eminent Glaswegian of the Victorian era and many statues were designed by prominent architects (Mackintosh, Alexander “Greek” Thomson.)
hang out at glasgow green
South and east of Argyle Street is the Glasgow Green. It’s the largest public green space in Glasgow and is where women would hang their laundry, cattle would graze and fishing nets would dry. Here, at the Jocelyn Gate actually, is where criminals were hanged up until 1865 (Dr. Edward Pritchard – thousands turned out to see the last public hanging in Glasgow.) The People’s Palace (which gives informative and interactive exhibits on daily life in Glasgow from the 1700s to about 1970) and Winter Garden are adjacent to the green, as is the West Beer Brewery, in the old Templeton building. The Guy Gawkes Night/Bonfire Night fireworks are here each 5 November (expect a crowd) but a ramble through the green and along the Clyde river is a lovely day.
walk along the clyde
Begin at Glasgow Green (above) and make your way back into the city. Cross the pedestrian bridges to the south side and then come back. The quay along the western side of city has been gentrified so you can easily walk into Dumbarton.
relax in the cloisters at the uni
The University of Glasgow holds a special place in my heart: some of my best memories are from there. And the Gilbert Scott building is a classic example of Gothic architecture. The cloisters, under the great hall, are a dark and gloomy place to hide out the rain, but if you’ve ever imagined yourself in a Harry Potter movie, you’ll want to walk through them anyway.
go to the goma
The Gallery of Modern Art, at the front of Royal Exchange Square, is free and full of, well, modern art. Explore. There are several floors to the building and main exhibits take place in the large ground floor galleries.
count statues in george square
I actually don’t know how many there are (I’ve never counted) but George square is a lovely place to go and wander. The parliament building faces the square and statues dot the area. See if you can spot Robert Burns, James Watt, or Queen Victoria. If you are lucky enough to be in Glasgow in the winter then you should definitely hit up the ice rink in the center of the square, then play on some of the festival rides. Really, even though you’re an adult. It’s fun.
climb aboard a tall ship at the riverside museum
Free, free and even more free. If you have ever wondered what it’s like to be on a tall ship, then you absolutely must check out the Riverside Museum. A mash up of the old Transport Museum (formerly on argyle street) and the Tall Ship exhibit (which was originally separate), the Riverside was designed by Zaha Hadid in 2011. It’s got a ton of old cars, buses, trams, and a historic Glasgow street scene exhibit. The Glenlee, the tall ship, is permanently berthed behind the museum.
tour the glasgow school of art
Actually, take a tour of all the Charles Rennie Mackintosh architecture. The Glasgow School of Art is his most famous, but there’s also the Scotland Street school museum, the Lighthouse (below), and the Willow Tea Rooms (a recreation). The School of Art is on Renfrew Street, just above Sauchiehall, and was half devastated in a fire in 2014. As of now, you can only take a tour of the exterior of the building, as restoration work is still going on (or, befriend a student and have them take you on a tour). The school also built a new studio/exhibition space across the street and the views from up there are nice. If you are in Glasgow in May, you can view the student exhibits (free.)
wander the grounds at pollok park
Take a bus out to Pollok Park and explore the vast grounds. You can tour the Pollok House and the Burrell Collection as well (below) if you so desire. Pollok Park is the only country park within city limits. In addition to the mountain biking trails, there is a wildlife garden, woodland and riverside walks, and a collection of highland cattle.
tour the burrell collection
Within Pollok Park is the Burrell Collection, one of the biggest private art collections in the world. Sculptures, including Rodins, prints, ceramics, furniture, and well-known oils are among some of the items you’ll find in this bucolic setting. Definitely worth a visit.
climb the lighthouse
Situated in a small lane off Buchanan Street, right in the city centre, is the Lighthouse. It was built in 1895 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and was formerly a newspaper print facility; now it’s an events space and exhibition venue known as Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture. You can take the elevator to the top floor and then climb a set of stairs to the upper level viewing deck – with a full 360 degree view of the city centre.
watch the buskers on buchanan street
A day would not be complete without watching the many buskers along Buchanan Street. They range from the guy who becomes the statue of the Duke of Wellington, complete with cone on his head and tiny horse under him, to a Scottish punk drum band in rocker kilts, to lone students with guitars. Some of these people are really good and they can get quite a crowd around them on a nice day.
ride the clockwork orange
The Glasgow subway is known as the clockwork orange for two big reasons: the cars are orange, and the system is one big circle. There are no lines, there’s just the inner circle and the outer circle. Pick one direction to do the subcrawl in (below)
do a subcrawl
18 stops along the subway line means 18 bars, and you’d best start early, because the subway stops at 11pm. Buy a day pass, now £4 (it used to be £2.10!), and hop on. Exit at each stop, find the nearest bar (sometimes tricky) and have a pint. Turn it into a party and invite people to join you as you go along. It’s hilariously entertaining. Make sure you have food. We took 10 hours to do it, and that’s not the slowest. I highly recommend starting at the stop next to where you want to end, otherwise you’ll have a trek back across town.
see a show at the citizens theatre
The principal theatre production company in Glasgow works out of the Citizens Theatre, in the Gorbals. It’s an old, iconic building with most of its Victorian features intact. It also sports the most complete working Victorian theatre machinery in the UK and is the only Scottish theatre with its original machinery under the stage. Fun fact: remnants of an old bowling alley and shooting range are closed up under the building.
watch an old movie at the glasgow film theatre
Not your average theatre. The Glasgow Film Theatre screens old classics, cult films, and independent films. Coming up on the holidays this year, why not head there for a screening of “It‘s A Wonderful Life“? The GFT won cinema of the year back in October 2015, and often plays host to art school events. You can hire the venue out for a personal party/wedding as well.
check out the merchant city festival
Every July/August, the Merchant City – just east of George Square – plays host to the Merchant City Festival. Pop up food stalls, entertainment, music, walking tours, you name it they’ve got it. Merchant City is home to some of the posher bars in the city, so you’ll find the city’s young professionals heading there after a day’s work – unlike the West End, which is mostly students -so even if you’re not in Glasgow during the festival, you should spend an evening in Merchant City.
rummage through the junk in the barras
A weekend market hodge podge of street markets, indoor markets, shops, pubs and junk. You can literally find anything you could possibly want at the Barras market: antiques, food, books, etc. It’s absolutely worth a rummage through any weekend morning.
explore the hidden lanes in the west end
From the undergraduate-crowded Ashton Lane to the vintage shops in Ruthven Lane to the jewelry shops and artists in Cresswell Lane, there are plenty of hidden gems along the West End to satisfy any wanderer’s needs. Explore west of Byres Road for tiny cafes and delicatessens with unique olive oils, coffees and food.
lose yourself in used books
A favourite among students, Voltaire and Rousseau on Otago Lane is no bigger than a small flat but boasts thousands of books. Browse to your hearts content and then walk further down the lane to Tchai Ovna. A tiny tea shop filled with pillows and low tables, it’s the perfect place to read that dreary book you picked up during a rainy afternoon.
have a drink on ashton lane
My favourite place in the entire city. Ashton Lane is a cobblestone alley with a pile of great bars and restaurants. Yes, it gets busy with the freshers; yes a Friday night there is insane; and yes, you will want to hang out there too. On a nice day, the back lawn at Brel is packed with undergrads catching rays of sun (and grad students too, if they can sneak away.) My favourite: grab an early seat on the rooftop at the chip and watch the sun slip under the horizon.