Grand museums and even grander architecture, amazing high streets and astounding cityscapes – Glasgow has the ‘wow’ factor. But it also has the element of surprise. Down a cobbled lane or tucked away right in the middle of it all, there are hidden treasures to discover across the city.
Check out our list of hidden gems (this is just a selection as there are many more!) and uncover the histories and stories of some of the most quirky places in Glasgow.
Starting in the historic Merchant City, tread the boards where Stan Laurel, one half of the great slapstick duo Laurel & Hardy, made his debut and where Cary Grant learnt his trade. And if you think the acts were famous, then wait till you hear about the audiences! Take in a recreated historic show, escape their mystery room or join a tour at the Panopticon and be sure to ask about the astounding story behind why this was the only music hall from its era to survive.
Synonymous with Glasgow, Tenements are iconic, sandstone buildings which are split horizontally in to residential apartments. The majority of these structures were built between 1880 and 1914 to house Glasgow’s rising population during the industrial revolution. A true hidden gem, the Tenement House in the city centre lets you step back in time and discover Tenement life as it was in early 20th century Glasgow. Now managed by the National Trust for Scotland, the house was lived in by Miss Agnes Toward from 1911 until 1965, who lovingly preserved many of her possessions which can be admired by visitors today.
For off the beaten track – here it is. Quite literally! Criss-crossing through the popular thoroughfares of the West are the cobbled lanes, packed with peculiar and precious places of interest. There’s the not-so-secret Ashton Lane for boutique dining and cinema going. For trinkets, tearooms and independent traders, head to the Hidden Lane in Finnieston. Antique collectors and home lovers will adore Ruthven Lane; whilst gift givers should head to the artsy Cresswell Lane. Both these lanes are home to mini yet perfectly formed arcades, Ruthven Mews and De Courcy’s, offering cute and compact commerce!
The 'unshakeable human spirit' has inspired artists for centuries, now, watch this subject tackled like never before, as sculptured pieces of scrap metal and tiny carved figures come alive with haunting music to tell a story of life, death and all the humour and tradegy in-between. Founded in Russia, but making its home in Glasgow's Merchant City, this unusual visitor experience was awarded a TripAdvisor 2017 Certificate of Excellence. Advanced booking for the captivating live kinetic theatre performances are advised due to small audience numbers being allowed.
Famed for being the oldest confectionery store in Glasgow, Glickman’s, based in the East of the city, sell well-known Scottish sweets and treats, which they describe as “nostalgia nestling in every jar”. And while each Soor Ploom and Violet Cream brings back happy memories for locals, they also give tourists the chance to sample the sweeties that have lasted generations and for very good reason. Try their homemade Macaroon Cake, made in traditional copper pots – even Jamie Oliver is a fan!
Can you get any hipper than off the beaten track of the UK’s hippest strip - Finnieston? Just five minutes walk from the coolest of urban streets is one of the country’s cultural hotspots, SWG3. The eclectic offering at this multi-purpose venue has been hailed as putting Glasgow in line with competitor artistic cities like Berlin and New York. There's everything from spoken word and art shows at the intimate Poetry Club, to club nights and a high-end hypermarket at the largescale Galvanizers space. And that's just two of the nine unique spaces within this industrial cultural hub.
If you’re in the Merchant City, be sure to pay a visit to the Glasgow Police Museum (winner of the 'Best Day Out Award' at The Glasgow Awards 2019) and delve into the fascinating history of the oldest police force in the UK. Discover a treasure trove of over 6,000 artefacts including police uniforms from around the globe, medals, buttons and an array of headgear. The museum is free to visit and is run entirely by volunteers who are all ex-policemen, so expect a super friendly welcome!
The best of both worlds, you really can have it all! Because a five-minute walk North from the buzz and culture of the city centre theatreland area is the peace and tranquillity of Scottish canal life. Take a tranquil stroll, cycle or canal ride at this most scenic of city locations, before enjoying some locally sourced food at a café within one of the beautiful Georgian buildings of Speirs Wharf. As you rest upon the banks of the Forth and Clyde canal and take in the panoramic city views, you can relax, recharge and ready yourself for your next city adventure.
Glasgow is home to the world’s largest concentration of architecture created by iconic Glaswegian designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. So the question isn’t which building should I start with, but which masterpiece should I start with? On this occasion, head to the North of the city to the only church in the world designed by Mackintosh. Queen’s Cross Church is infused with the flourishes of a virtuoso architect within each brick, window pane and floral motif. A vision of gothic beauty, with atmospheric abundance, it is no wonder that it has become a popular venue for concerts and weddings.
At some point during a city break, you need to slow down, take in a panoramic view and breathe it all in. Head to the leafy South to one of the city’s prettiest parks, Queen’s Park; grab an artisan coffee from one of the many independent coffee shops and ascend the hill towards the flagpole to discover one of the city’s finest viewpoints. Look out for miles and see from all compass points where city meets country. You can spy the ever changing cityscape through spires, towers, turrets and high rises, all surrounded by the ever present landscape of the gently rolling hills of the Campsie Fells.
They are a huge hit on Instagram and make for picture perfect postcards, but you need to see Highland Cows face-to-face to appreciate the beauty of these gentle ginger giants. Glasgow has their very own herd of Highland Coos, which can be found relaxing and being generally adorable in the fields within Pollok Country Park. Situated in the south, Pollok Country Park is a huge attraction, with its stunning country house, world famous Burrell Collection*, woodland walks, bike trails and more. But let’s be honest, nothing is more of a draw than the wavy haired Highland Cows with their fluffy teddy bear-like calves in tow.
Based in the East, Glasgow Women’s Library is no ordinary library – in fact, it was a finalist for the biggest museum prize in the world in 2018! Be inspired and emboldened as you delve into the treasure trove of historical and contemporary artefacts and archive materials that celebrate the lives, histories and achievements of women. And while the library tells stories from the past that shouldn’t be forgotten; it also preserves the present and shapes the future, through exhibitions and a year-round events programme that includes everything from film screenings to heritage bike rides.
*The Burrell Collection will be a must-visit attraction once again when it re-opens in spring 2021 following an extensive refurbishment. During this period, many great pieces from the Collection are on a world tour, whilst select medieval art is on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Visit burrellcollection.com for more details.