More people visit museums in Glasgow than in any other UK city outside London and the city is justifiably renowned for its remarkable offering. Brimming with exceptional, world-class museums and galleries and a host of fantastic family friendly attractions – many of which are free to visit - there really is something for everyone in the UK's top cultural and creative city (European Commission in 2019).
The iconic and much loved Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is rated the city’s number 1 art museum in the UK on Tripadvisor and is an absolute must see for anyone visiting Glasgow. With one of Europe's finest civic art collections, you'll find everything from dinosaurs to Dutch Masters. While the award-winning Riverside Museum houses the city’s vast transport collection and street scenes from a bygone era, in a state of the art building. Moored alongside the museum is the Tall Ship – an icon of Glasgow’s shipbuilding heritage. Both are great fun attraction kids will love!
Here we’ve outlined the fantastic range on offer from Glasgow's museums, galleries and attractions.
As a city of style, it is no wonder that Glasgow has many museums and galleries dedicated to the subject of art and design.
Start with The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, which just so happens to be the first public commission completed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Located on a trendy city centre lane, The Lighthouse offers a mix of permanent and touring displays across six floors and no visit is complete without scaling the stunning spiral staircase which leads to a viewing platform, offering grand sights of the dynamic city centre.
If The Lighthouse whets your appetite for all things Mackintosh then your next stop should be The Mackintosh House at The Hunterian Art Gallery, which recreates in beautiful detail the home that Charles Rennie Mackintosh shared with his wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. The Art Gallery itself is also home to the world’s largest permanent display of the work of James McNeill Whistler.
Next, move forward in time to the city’s buoyant contemporary art scene. There’s the Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland’s most popular modern art museum, which is located within a stunning Victorian city centre building.
And then there are the warehouses, former tram depots and reclaimed spaces across the city (Tramway, Whisky Bond, Glue Factory to name a few) which have been turned into some of the UK’s most important places for the creation and display of cutting-edge art.
Glasgow has a rich history and Glaswegians pride themselves on being part of the story - there are various attractions that bring the city’s unique cultural heritage, and its people, to life.
The People’s Palace is set within the city’s oldest park, Glasgow Green. Here you can gain insight into how Glaswegians lived, worked and played in the period from 1750 to the end of the 20th century.
The Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) warmly welcomes visitors from around the corner and around the world into their library and museum, which celebrates the lives and achievements of women. Renowned for a wit and flair across everything they do, the GWL share fascinating stories from the past through heritage walks and archives and shape the future by inspiring all who visit.
Glaswegians are known for their passion for the beautiful game so a tour of one of the city’s iconic football stadiums is a must. Visit Scotland’s National Stadium, Hampden Park where you can explore the Scottish Football Museum to discover some of the oldest football memorabilia in the world.
Scotland Street School Museum, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, is located to the south of the city and tells the story of education in Scotland through the ages.
In the Merchant City lies a true hidden gem. Visit the Glasgow Police Museum (winner of the 'Best Day Out Award' at The Glasgow Awards 2019) and discover the history of the oldest police force in the UK.
Re-opened in 2016 following a multi-million pound refurbishment, the Kelvin Hall is a centre of cultural and sporting excellence and was awarded a coveted five-star rating from VisitScotland. Within the Kelvin Hall is the National Library of Scotland's moving image gallery, where vast digital resources are on display offering footage of Scottish and Glasgow life, past and present.
Glasgow is steeped in history from its medieval roots to the Victorian era.
You will find a concentration of medieval and gothic architecture within the Cathedral Precinct. Glasgow Cathedral itself originates from the 13th century and is the finest surviving Gothic building in Scotland. Cross the bridge to Glasgow Necropolis, a spectacular Victorian cemetery with monuments by world famous architects and a stunning city viewpoint.
Also located in this area include the Provand’s Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow, and St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, which explores the importance of religion in peoples’ lives across the world and across time.
For a grand Edwardian country house, head to the south of the city to visit Pollok House, set in the tranquil surrounds of Pollok Country Park. The house gives a real taste of upstairs/downstairs life, from the lavish family rooms packed full of period furniture and furnishings to the vast servants’ quarters.
Other historic buildings to explore include the magnificient City Chambers, which is found in the heart of the city's civic centre, George Square, and the University of Glasgow, which is rumoured to be the inspiration behind Hogwarts.
Natural history enthusiasts won’t be short of places to visit in the city. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has an impressive national history collection. The recently refurbished life gallery includes dinosaurs and other prehistoric mammals as well as new family focused displays highlighting the need to safeguard our natural habitats for future generations.
The Hunterian Museum, housed within the University of Glasgow, is Scotland’s oldest museum and one of the country’s most important cultural assets. Built on Dr William Hunter’s bequest, the museum boasts extraordinary sights, including scientific instruments used by James Watt and Joseph Lister, Hunter’s own anatomical teaching collection and objects from Captain Cook’s Pacific voyages.
Prepare to be wowed, whether you are a little or large explorer with a visit to the Glasgow Science Centre on the banks of the River Clyde. The futuristic looking building is home to an engaging Science Mall featuring hundreds of interactive exhibits, IMAX cinema, a planetarium where you can gaze at over 9,000 twinkling stars and the Glasgow Tower – the only fully rotating building in the world.
Glasgow Museums have one of the finest collections in Europe, many of which you can view in person; there's even more available to see online, so why not take a browse through some of the objects available.
A great way to travel around the city to view these collections and museums is on the Glasgow City Sightseeing Tour Bus, where you will learn fascinating facts from the expert guides.
Discover more great things to see and do in Glasgow.
Article last update: January 2020