Visiting Glasgow for the first time? We’ve come up with some ideas of things you should see and do while you are in the city - be sure to add them to your list!
1. Visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
No visit to Glasgow would be complete without a trip to one of the city-owned museums and galleries, which are plentiful, diverse and in many cases, FREE to visit! This is one of the many reasons that Glasgow was named the UK’s top cultural and creative city by the European Commission in 2019. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has a world-class collection of art and artefacts from Natural History to Arms and Armour. Welcoming over one million visitors a year, housed in an iconic red sandstone building which sits next to the beautiful Kelvingrove Park, it’s arguably the top must-see attraction in the city.
Glasgow has a rich and varied architectural heritage. The city's wealthy past has left a legacy of some of the finest Victorian architecture like the iconic City Chambers which sits majestically overlooking George Square – the civic heart of the city. While Glasgow Cathedral is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture that remains in Scotland and adjacent to the Cathedral is the mesmerising Necropolis – a cemetery full of wonderful sculptures and fascinating stories.
The appearance of Glasgow’s buildings is so striking, they have been used as the backdrop in many Hollywood movies including World War Z, Fast & Furious 6 and Cloud Atlas. Check out some of the top film and TV locations in Glasgow and when you're wandering around the city, don't forget to look up!
In recent years, many of Glasgow's lanes, buildings and streets have undergone colourful makeovers by talented street artists. And if it's your first time here, then exploring the city's vibrant urban art is a must. You can explore the urban works of art and learn more about the inspiration behind them on a Street Art Tour led by knowledgeable locals or by taking a self-guided City Centre Mural Trail. From animals to famous Glaswegians and patron saints to local icons, there are splashes of colour to explore on almost every corner. Art Lovers shouldn't miss out on Scotland's biennial festival of contemporary visual art, Glasgow International, which made it onto Time Out's DO List of the most exciting things to do in the world in 2020!
Glasgow’s music scene is legendary. It was the first city in the UK to be designated a UNESCO City of Music and with so much variety it can be difficult to know where to start. So why not take a guided walking tour of the city’s top venues with the help of the team at Glasgow Music City Tours. These lively and informative tours bring to life the people, places and performances that have helped shape the city’s music scene. From the world’s oldest surviving music hall to the bars where Scarlett Johansson hung out in when she was filming in the city and the venue that launched the career of Oasis; the city’s musical heritage will astound you.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a pioneering Glaswegian architect and designer and no trip to the city is complete without a visit to one of his magnificent works. From Mackintosh House, a collection of items from his original home, to the stunning House for an Art Lover in its tranquil parkland setting. Be sure to visit the newly reopened Mackintosh at the Willow, Miss Cranston’s original Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street which have been painstakingly and beautifully restored to include a new exhibition, visitor centre, tea room and gift shop.
Tennent's is to Glasgow as Guinness is to Dublin so a tour of the historic Wellpark Brewery,where it's created, is a must. Enter through their brand new immersive visitor centre, before setting off on a tour around the brewery, which also focuses on the brand's passion for Scottish football and proud musical heritage, whilst taking in more than 450 years of history. And yes, you’ll be able to enjoy a wee tipple at the end.
7. Explore the city's quirky lanes
Glasgow has many quirky, cobbled lanes to explore across the city. In the West, Ashton Lane is lined with a mix of great bars and restaurants. Try the Ubiquitous Chip for a taste of their house speciality, homemade haggis, whilst taking in the Instagram worthy surroundings. The Hidden Lane in trendy Finnieston offers independent shopping and a quaint tearoom, with pretty multi-coloured frontages. In the city centre near Buchanan Street, keep an eye out for fluorescent lighting and head for Mitchell Lane. Visit The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, and take the stairs to the sixth floor where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views. And if you’re keen for a tipple afterwards, head across the lane to trendy bar Tabac.
8. Have a wee dram and hear Scottish music in a traditional pub
For a truly Scottish experience, be sure to visit one of the city's oldest bars and restaurants, Sloans, for the Friday night ceilidh, where you can dance the night away with the friendly locals who will help you perfect your moves! If you’re after something a little more laidback, there are also plenty of pubs like Ben Nevis, Babbity Bowster and The Clutha, where you can sit back and enjoy a wee dram of whisky and some traditional Scottish folk music. For more inspiration read about Glasgow's traditional pubs.
The city’s neighbourhoods are where to uncover some unique shopping treasures. The cobbled streets and lanes in the West offer vintage stores and independent boutiques and The Hidden Lane in Finnieston is where you can discover a quirky mix of designers and crafters who you can see hard at work while you peruse the delights they have on sale. Buchanan Street is the main pedestrianised shopping area, connecting Sauchiehall Street and Argyle Street, all lined with big names you’d expect from the great British high street. Ingram Street in the Merchant City is known as the designer boulevard while the East is home to some great weekend markets and independent traders.
Meaning ‘dear green place’ in Gaelic, Glasgow really lives up to its name as the city has over 90 parks and gardens to choose from. Head South to discover Pollok Country Park, one of the city’s best-loved green spaces. You can enjoy a cycle, pay a visit to Pollok House or just take a wander to meet the Highland Cows. The West is home to the picturesque Kelvingrove Park, set on the banks of the River Kelvin, and Glasgow Botanic Gardens, known internationally for its impressive glass houses and extensive tropical plant collections. Glasgow Green in the East is the city’s oldest park, where you'll find the spectacular Doulton Fountain, the largest terracotta fountain in the world, and the beautiful McLennan Arch.
The 120-year-old Glasgow Subway is the third oldest underground system in the world after London and Budapest. With only 15 stops and two lines, it’s handy for reaching some of the city’s best attractions, for dipping into local life in one or two of the city’s distinctive neighbourhoods (the lines serve the city centre, west and south), and thankfully it's almost impossible to get lost!
Glaswegians are known for their passion for the beautiful game so a tour of one of the city’s iconic football stadiums, Celtic Park or Ibrox, is a popular choice for visitors. You can also take a guided tour of Scotland’s National Stadium, Hampden Park and include a visit to the Scottish Football Museum. If football isn’t your game, there are plenty more spectator experiences to enjoy whether its rugby, basketball, netball or even speedway. If you prefer to get active then take a spin at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome or try your hand at some watersports at Pinkston Watersports Centre just north of the city centre.