City Sightseeing Glasgow's open-top bus tours are 5-star rated and the perfect way to get around and get to know Glasgow. The tours operate daily and depart from George Square in the heart of the city centre.
These bright red buses offer visitors and locals the opportunity to get out and enjoy the city. The tour has commentary in 7 languages but also has live commentary from knowledgeable local guides.
Katie Tennant became a City Sightseeing tour guide shortly after she graduated from university and has always had a keen interest in the history of the city. Here she answers a few questions about why she loves the job and why visitors and locals should get on-board!
What is the best thing about being a City Sightseeing tour guide?
I love meeting new people and hearing the reasons they are visiting the city. Some are only passing through for a day or two so I love giving them the inside scoop on how to cram as much in as possible in that time. Unlike other tourist hotspots, some people don’t know what to expect when they visit so I particularly love learning about people’s interests and suggesting places in the city they would enjoy based on that.
What is your favourite stop on the tour and why?
This is a difficult one! The great thing about Glasgow is that it’s constantly changing and so there are always new parts of the city I’m discovering and falling in love with. I would probably choose the Byres Road stop. When I was growing up, being taken out into the west end of Glasgow was a treat and I have great memories of the Botanic Gardens and dipping into all the interesting shops and cafes. I would highly recommend a visit to the University Cafe for homemade ice cream and one of the city’s oldest pubs, the Curler’s Rest.
What facts about the city do visitors find most surprising?
I find the architecture always really blows people away. It’s usually the first thing visitors will comment on. “We had no idea Glasgow was this beautiful!” is something I hear a lot. I think people are also surprised when they hear how old the city is. Glasgow Green dates back to the 1400s and is the oldest public park in the whole of Europe. Tourists often remark about how friendly Glaswegians are! Most of the time if you ask a local for directions they’re likely to walk with you to make sure you find where you’re looking for.
What are some highlights of the tour?
The spot where Glasgow Cathedral stands marks the spot the city was founded in the 5th Century so the legend goes. The history of the building is fascinating as it dates all the way back to the 12th Century and the Necropolis behind it offers some of the best views of Glasgow.
The riverside is where you would normally alight for The Riverside Museum, or the transport museum as most Glaswegians know it, which is absolutely fantastic for all the family. The building itself was designed by Zaha Hadid and is a really impressive sight.
The part of the tour that takes you by the University of Glasgow is also a highlight as you can see right up the River Kelvin to the University’s main building. In the autumn especially, with all the leaves changing colour, it looks just like a postcard. I always tell people to get their cameras ready for that view. The University said to be the inspiration behind Hogwarts, also has stunning grounds to wander around and the excellent Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum always has been the city's must-see attraction. I could spend days inside this amazing venue. It’s usually the first place I recommend people visit.
What hidden gems or interesting landmarks should people look out for during the tour?
There are so many. Some you can see from the bus tour but others you’ll have to go exploring to find! Like some of the smaller museums that are easy to miss out on unless you know about them. One is the Glasgow Police Museum on Bell Street near Merchant Square. This is where you can learn about the Glasgow police force which is, in fact, the oldest in the world. It’s free to visit but if you want to leave a donation they’re always happy to accept your coppers!
Glickman’s sweetie shop is my favourite secret spot in the city. It’s belonged to the Glickman family since 1903 and is the best place to buy some old fashioned Scottish sweets. The sweets are so irresistible that our drivers sometimes dive in quickly at that stop for a wee sugar rush!
Street art is definitely something I’d be looking out for. It turns out art doesn’t always need to be in a gallery. The modern take on St Mungo on High Street by Smug is my personal favourite.
Whilst travelling around on the bus always look out for the old tram hooks. Trams used to be one of the city’s main forms of travel until 1962 and the hooks were used to carry the electrical wiring for them. They’re still visible just about everywhere in the city.
The official Glasgow Coat of Arms dates back to medieval times and once you start noticing it, you'll see it on buildings, lampposts and even bus stops all over the city. Each symbol represents an episode in the life of Glasgow’s founder and patron saint, St Mungo.
What do you think makes Glasgow distinct from other cities?
Far and away it’s definitely our unique character that makes Glasgow special. People really do make Glasgow. Glaswegians are friendly, funny, welcoming and imaginative and I think that’s how we’ve built such a truly wonderful city. We’re never shy to try new ideas whilst still having a great love of our heritage and I think that’s what makes people warm to the city so quickly. You can really feel like a local even if you’re only here for a few days (once you get used to the accent that is!)