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How to be a tourist at home in Glasgow

Two people relax on the grass at a high point from Queen's Park with a fantastic view of trees in the foreground with the city, including spires, University of Glasgow and The Campsies in the background.

When was the last time you enjoyed your home city as a tourist? As the city reopens, there has never been a better time to rediscover Glasgow. Packed with amazing architecture, fantastic parks and hidden gems, Glasgow has so much for you to discover right on your doorstep. Now is the perfect time to reconnect with your home city and to support local business, many of which have creatively adapted their offerings and service. So here's our guide on how to be a tourist in your home city, whilst staying safe and following the guidelines.

Amazing architecture and attractions

Two people point towards the Trinity Towers and Park Circus buildings

Glasgow is home to some of the country's top attractions, but often we overlook what is close to home. Start on your Glasgow wish-list now, taking in beautiful buildings in their various settings. The Victorian elegance of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, set within the beautiful Kelvingrove Park and the modernist Riverside Museum set on the banks of the River Clyde are just two examples of buildings you can marvel at from the outside until they are able to open their doors once again. And they are not alone with their 'wow-factor'. Glasgow has culture and heritage that spans the centuries, from medieval to modern, and visitors are encouraged to look-up so as not to miss the amazing architecture on display throughout the city. So whether your version of beauty is the gothic University of Glasgow, the medieval Glasgow Cathedral or the elegant House for an Art Lover, Glasgow has beauty built-in (check individual websites for reopening details).

Many top attractions can be found within the city's delightfully distinct neighbourhoods, as can some of the city's hidden gems, whether down cobbled lanes or tucked away right in the middle of it all. If you feel like you've seen everything in your local area, then take advantage of Glasgow's compact size and explore another of the city's neighbourhoods. Each has their own unique charm but the famously friendly Glaswegian welcome is a constant throughout. Discover the Sixty Steps, a sweeping stone staircase designed by Alexander 'Greek' Thomson in the west, a herd of fluffy Highland Cows in Pollok Country Park in the south, and the panoramic city views, wildlife and Georgian buildings on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal in the north.

Not-to-be-missed is the work of Glaswegian cultural icon, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The world-famous architect and designer left his mark on the city like no other. His buildings are pieces of art in themselves - take in the detail in every motif at Mackintosh Queen's Cross Church, marvel at the masterpiece that is Scotland Street School Museum, and veer off the beaten track in the city centre and discover The Daily Record Building with its glazed reflective bricks maximising the light within the lane.

Take a trail or a tour around your home city

A street art mural of Charles Rennie Mackintosh himself with his famous rose motif swirled across his image

A tour or trail is a great way to learn more about the city - luckily Glasgow has a great choice of tours to choose from, including history, music, street art and much more. 

Walking Tours In Glasgow have restarted their public and private tours. Their public City Centre and Street Art Tours are running twice daily (10.30am and 2pm) at a cost of £10 per person, whilst private tours can be booked for both these tours, plus for their West End Tour. Their popular Street Art tour takes groups around the city centre's beautiful pieces of huge street art adorning the sides of buildings, offering insights into the inspiration behind each of the murals. If you prefer a self-guided tour, you can download a map and listen to the audio descriptions for the City Centre Mural Trail. From the Big Yin to a modern interpretation of Glasgow's Patron Saint St. Mungo to Glasgow's very own panda - the subjects and styles of the murals are varied and vibrant. 

Mural of modern day St Mungo holding a bird on the side of a traditional tenement

City Sightseeing Bus Tours are a favourite for any holidaymaker wanting to make sure they tick off all the main sights and landmarks. But have you ever taken the tour in your home city? The City Sightseeing Glasgow Bus Tour is back on July 17 (book in advance), with the open-top tours offering plenty of fresh air and wind in your hair as you spot top landmarks with commentary from friendly expert guides. If you like the idea of combining stunning sights with scrumptious food, then the Red Bus Bistro is for you. The vintage bus is back on the roads from July 18 for a truly unique dining experience, serving afternoon tea whilst touring the sights of the city.

If you prefer the wanderer's way, then there are plenty of self-guided walking tours to take solo or with family or friends. Eat Walk Glasgow will be running private tours for up to 8 people from August 1, taking in tastings at some of the city's top restaurants. Uncover fascinating facts on a Glasgow City Council Heritage Trail. Or download Walking Heads Landmark Glasgow Tour or Glasgow Corner's Tour for free audio tours taking you to architectural wonders and captivating corners of the city. Interested in delving into specific areas of the city that are new to you? Then try a tour of the villas and tenements of Pollokshields or the stepping stones and nature trails of Maryhill.

Glasgow is very much at the forefront of the contemporary art world and the brand new City Centre Contemporary Art Trail allows residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy some of the city’s fantastic contemporary art that can be seen from the streets around the city centre. The route of 14 works takes you around the heart of Glasgow from George Wyllie’s Clyde Clock to Jim Lambie’s Album Pathway. 

Glasgow Women’s Library, who run a fantastic range of heritage walks uncovering the stories of unsung women who shaped Glasgow, have created a Herstory treasure hunt and they are inviting everyone to get involved. Share on social media examples of street art, plaques, street names and landmarks which celebrate, remember or relate to women that you find on your walks and tag @womenslibrary to take part.

Experience Glasgow's exciting and ever-evolving food scene 

A man walks down Ashton Lane at dusk with people sitting outside on colourful chairs and fairy lights on overhead

Many of us will be looking forward to a meal out with family and friends soon. And no wonder, when Glasgow has a food and drink scene that is described by Rough Guides as "one of the best places to head for culinary experimentation".  From successful street markets to award-winning Scottish dining to being one of the UK's most vegan-friendly cities, Glasgow's food scene is varied and constantly reinventing itself, just like the city!

Pubs, cafes and restaurants with outdoor spaces have now reopened.  So here's hoping for the sunny weather and for al-fresco dining all round! Some of those now open include, West on the Green, Brel, Cottiers, Church on the Hill and Phillies of Shawlands (check individual websites for details on bookings and safety measures). Two brand new outdoor food and beer gardens have now opened, providing food options from various popular street food vendors and city restaurants - Cranside Kitchen at The Rotunda and Ronnie's Bar and Bike Shop at SWG3's Galvanizers Yard.

Indoor hospitality reopened on July 15, so check out those restaurants that you've been dreaming of visiting since lockdown began and make a booking now. If you can't venture out just yet, then check out Experience Glasgow's amazing food scene from home. From sourdough pizza to plant-based creations to picnic boxes - many of the city's best-loved restaurants and cafes have recreated their business model to offer takeaways and collections. 

Superb shopping in Glasgow city centre and neighbourhoods

Three people walk down the quirky Hidden Lane, with different small retail units in various colours

Described as a "shopaholic's paradise" by Lonely Planet, Glasgow is home to flagship high street and designer stores, as well as weekend markets and original independent stores that you won't find anywhere else. Whether in need of home furnishings, fashion finds, gifts or simply a treat for not having been to the shops in a very long time, Glasgow's got you covered.  

Many of the city's high street favourites which can be found on the stylish Buchanan Street and Ingram Street are now open and the city centre shopping malls including, the family-friendly St. Enoch Centre, leading Buchanan Galleries, boutique Princes Square and historic Argyll Arcade are all ready to welcome you back.

Many of the city's independents are also open, such as Sunshine No.1, an emporium stocked full of beautiful locally-made products, Timorous Beasties, with its wallpaper and fabrics for those with serious interior goals and Missing Records, selling second-hand music direct to musos. These are just some of the unique Glasgow independents now open for business - check out our guide to Glasgow's shopping scene for a fuller list.

In a city full of crafters and creators, it is no wonder that Glasgow has a number of great weekend markets, with Art on the Exchange and the Barras Market both ready to welcome you back again this weekend (July 18 & 19). There's nothing quite like browsing the lovingly-created products at weekend markets, whilst chatting with creators to come face-to-face with Glasgow's distinctive friendly personality. In fact, many of the city's retailers, restaurants and businesses showed great generosity whilst closed the past few months, from local candle makers who supplied their relaxing candles to healthcare workers to travel companies who donated stress-busting socks to hospital staff.

Be entertained in Europe's top cultural city  

As the UK’s Top Cultural and Creative City (European Commission, 2019), Glasgow is a city that has transformed itself through culture in the space of a generation. The city is bursting with events and experiences and is known for its audiences that aren't afraid to make some noise. While the city's array of events, festivals and cultural activities are on hold, there is still much to discover.

Coming soon... film fans can once again enjoy the communal experience of cinema, but this time outdoors! Glasgow Film Festival and Electric Frog have teamed up to create Sound & Vision Drive-In at the Riverside Museum, with films, live performances, DJs and food soon-to-be-announced for this summer series of events. @TheDriveIn will be hosting family-friendly films and late-night blockbusters at a yet-to-be-disclosed Glasgow location from August 20-23. Just on the outskirts of the city, The Drive-In Cinema will transform a field opposite Glasgow Airport into a cinema with a programme of classics lined up for July 21-26, including Toy Story, Braveheart and Sunshine on Leith. Also, check out our top Film and TV locations guide and head out around the city centre to take in the streets and spectacular buildings that have provided the backdrop for blockbusters and independents alike. 

Comedy in the car has been popularised by the likes of James Cordon and Jerry Seinfeld in recent years and now it lands in Glasgow, with the Rotunda Comedy Drive-In offering a parking space, pizza and an hour of comedy. For music fans missing the gigging scene, why not find out just why Glasgow was named the UK's first UNESCO City of Music. Head out on a Glasgow Music City Tour (restarting August 1) or a self-guided Walking Heads Glasgow Music Tour and find out fascinating facts and legendary tales on Glasgow's rich music heritage. Take a music pilgrimage to the Album Pathway at Barrowland Park, which lists the name and date of thousands of bands that have played the legendary venue and remember the gigs you were at and look forward to seeing the neon Barrowland sign lit up once again. 

The city is home to more than 100 cultural organisations and four of Scotland’s five internationally renowned national performing arts, with many redesigning their offer to bring culture to people virtually.

Relax and recharge in the Dear Green Place

Two people sit on a bench at the top section of Kelvingrove Park overlooking a green scene with the turrets of Kelvingrove Art Gallery in the background

In Glasgow, we are spoilt for choice as Scotland's stunning scenery seeps into the city in rolling hills, expansive country parks and woodland walks. With over 90 parks and gardens, eight of which have won the UK’s coveted Green Flag award, it is no wonder that Glasgow is known as the Dear Green Place.

Glasgow is home to a public cycle hire scheme, operated and maintained by Nextbike! With nearly 800 bikes for hire in 79 locations, Nextbike has made the first 30mins free-of-charge for rental users in Glasgow until August 24 to encourage people to give-it-a-go. Glasgow's Parks, especially Pollok Country Park and Cathkin Braes Country Park, as well as the green corridors of the Forth and Clyde Canal in the city's north, are excellent for cycling for all levels. For walks along the canal towpaths and places of interest en route check out the Scottish Canal Walking Guide.

A Highland Cow in Pollok Country Park looks at the camera as its two calves stand beside it in front of their feeder tray

Add wildlife spotting in the city to your to-do list this summer. From house sparrows to kingfishers to otters, Glasgow's parks and green spaces are home to a variety of species. And none so picture-postcard perfect than the herd of Highland cows in Pollok Country Park, especially at this time of year with their fluffy calves in tow.

The city's playparks have now reopened, with excellent family fun to be had at many of the parks, including Queen's Park, Glasgow Green, Kelvingrove Park and Cunnigar Loop. Check out Glasgow City Council's Parks and Gardens information on individual parks and any restrictions that may be in place. 

 

 

For those unable to visit the city, check out Experience Glasgow Virtually for ideas from some of the amazing cultural organisations and businesses that have redesigned their offering to bring Glasgow to you. 

Article last updated: July 2020