Glasgow might not be the capital city of Scotland, but it is Scotland’s biggest city. It is beautiful and vibrant and it’s galleries and museums are amongst the most visited in the whole of the UK.
Glasgow is reknowned for it’s nightlife, it’s wonderful eateries and drinkeries, it’s shopping and it’s friendly folks (the People Make Glasgow slogan might not be very catchy, but it is true).
Glasgow is one of the most culturally rich cities in the UK, if not the world, so banish your preconceptions and head up or down or across here to Glasgow from wherever you are, and see why everyone loves our city!
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a wonderful museum, and Glasgow’s most popular visitor attraction. Located in the West End of Glasgow, it is housed within a beautiful 19th century Victorian building, a striking piece of architecture fashioned out of red sandstone in Spanish Baroque style.
Give yourself a treat and see some truly wonderful art from all over the world, and cultural artefacts that have been superbly curated. The museum has 22 themed galleries including Scottish Colourists, French Impressionism and The Glasgow Boys Gallery. There are marvellous exhibits including Sir Roger, the stuffed Asian elephant, Salvador Dali’s iconic painting Christ of St John of the Cross, an RAF Mark 21 Supermarine Spitfire, the original Kelvingrove Organ from the opening of the museum in 1902 and the Kelvingrove beehive. A relatively new addition, installed for the post-refurbishment re-opening in 2006, is the floating heads artwork. Made up of a large number of heads, all bright white and all showing different human expressions, this artwork by Sophie Cave is suspended from a gallery ceiling!
The galleries are full of 8000 artistic delights which are sure to impress visitors of all ages.
Entry into the museum is free of charge!
More info here: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Make your visit to Glasgow interesting and dynamic with a trip to the Glasgow Science Centre. Whether you are a science novice or a fully-fledged expert, the exhibitions on display are fascinating and exciting. Sit in a chair that will instantly shrink you, and then become a giant by simply walking through a door. Or you can lie back and chill in the planetarium and watch all the billions of galaxies twinkle in the night sky.
The Glasgow Tower is the tallest freestanding building in Scotland, at 127m high. It holds the Guinness-World-Record as the tallest fully rotating freestanding structure in the world. Not only that, but it’s also got really nice views of Glasgow, the Clyde and the landscapes beyond.
The IMAX is also here at the Science Centre. Not only do they show 45 minute documentaries on during school days (because learning is fun), but they also show feature films on their wonderfully huge screen. You’ll really feel part of the action in the IMAX! See what’s on at the Glasgow IMAX.
So you see: Glasgow Science Centre isn’t just for kids. The whole family will enjoy it!
Entry costs £10.50/£8.50 conc. to the science mall, plus add-ons for the IMAX, planetarium and Glasgow Tower.
More info here: Glasgow Science Centre
3. Take the Mackintosh trail
Barcelona has Gaudí, Chicago has Frank Lloyd Wright and Glasgow has the pioneering Art Nouveau of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Born in Glasgow in 1868, Glasgow’s most celebrated architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, began creating his incomparable portfolio of local buildings in the 1890s.
His architectural masterpiece, Glasgow School of Art, was voted by the Royal Institute of British Architects as the finest building designed by a British architect in the last 175 years. Sadly the venue regarded as Mackintosh’s masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art, was badly damaged in a fire in May 2014 and its beautiful library completely destroyed. The building remains closed indefinitely.
The Willow Tearooms were designed by the Mackintosh in 1904, and splendour and elegance await you inside. Obviously accompanied by afternoon tea. The Willow Tearooms is the ideal way to relax, away from the hustle and bustle of the shoppers on Sauchiehall Street.
There are various tours of his buildings – the official Glasgow Information Centre on Buchanan Street is a good place to find out more.
More info here: Glasgow Information Centre
The Riverside Museum is an award-winning building, which is home to what was formerly known as Glasgow’s Museum of Transport. Their remarkable transport collection includes bikes, ambulances, steam trains, buses, police cars, trams and a whole 1930’s cobbled street.
Their car collection (part of which is mounted on the museum wall) is in itself hugely impressive, with examples from the dawn of motoring, others from Scotland’s own attempts at a car industry, and premier names such as Bentley, Rolls Royce and others. You’ll also find the worlds oldest surviving bicycle inside.
Outside, you will find the Tall Ship; an impressive late-Victorian, three-masted barque called the Glenlee berthed directly outside. After sailing throughout the world for over 80 years from her launch onto the Clyde in 1896, the ship returned home and is now a maritime museum. Visitors can tour the unique ship and sample a piece of Glasgow’s shipbuilding past.
Both museums are free to enter and explore.
More info here: Riverside Museum
Pollok Park is both the largest park, and the only country park within the city of Glasgow. It is located south of the Clyde in the borough of Pollok. Standing in the middle of this multi award-winning country park, you would never believe you were only three miles from the city centre.
Here you have everything from woodland walks, mountain bike trails, highland cattle and childrens playparks to the world famous Burrell Collection and Pollok House.
Bequeathed to the city by Shipping magnate Sir William Burrell in 1944, the award-winning Burrell Collection contains internationally famous artworks including paintings by Rembrant, Cézanne, Bellini and Sisley. The Burrell is home to a nice bright cafe if you fancy a spot of lunch.
A grand country house situated within Pollok Park, Pollok house is Scotland’s answer to Downton Abbey. It is an impressive 18th century mansion, filled with beautiful collections of Spanish art, antique furniture and ceramics, and an extensive library. Their Edwardian Kitchen Restaurant serves up lunch or afternoon tea and the beautiful formal gardens are well worth a stroll around.
Entry to the park and to the Burrell Collection is free, but parking in the car parks is metered. Entry to Pollok House costs £6.50/£5 conc.
More info here: Pollok Country Park
Glasgow is renowned as a centre of art, and the impressive GoMA is home to some amazing collections, with regular temporary exhibitions running throughout the year that are always worth a visit.
A great library and cafe can also be found in GoMA, which is located in Royal Exchange Square in the heart of the city. Open seven days a week, it closes at 5pm every day apart from Thursdays, when it stays open until 8pm.
It’s also a great place to let the kids have a wander round and get creative in their kids art corner.
GoMA is free to enter and wander round.
More info here: GoMA
If you’re looking for something a little bit more on the macabre side of things, then The Necropolis could be right up your street. The immense Victorian garden cemetery is overlooked by Glasgow Cathedral and spans a whopping 37 acres.
The large ornate memorials, designed by leading Glaswegian architects, such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, were erected in honour of wealthy merchants. With more than 50,000 people remembered at the Necropolis, there are many amazing stories and gothic sculptures to take in.
It also acts as a beautiful and peaceful park and has great views over the city of Glasgow.
Tours are organised by the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis charity who just ask for donations to help fund the constant restoration work they do, but make sure you book in advance because they’re always over-subscribed. If you can’t get on a tour you can always pay it a visit by yourself.
The Necropolis is free to enter and wander round.
More info here: The Necropolis
The history of Glasgow is inescapably entwined with the River Clyde. From the city’s ancient origins on the riverbank to its merchant pomp and maritime pre-eminence, alongside Glasgow’s shipbuilding heritage, there really would be no Glasgow without the River Clyde.
You can see from the many bridges that cross the Clyde within the city boundaries that Glasgow has sprouted around it; almost out of it. So why not take a 90 minute cruise ‘doon the watter’ and get a unique view of central Glasgow, it’s bridges and waterfront architecture. On a Clyde Cruise you will see the Finnieston Crane, a huge cantilever crane that survives alongside the shiny new Hydro Arena and other developments at Finnieston, and the Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum.
You can also use this service to get around. Hop on and off at stops including the City Centre, Science Centre and Riverside Museum.
Tours cost £15/£8 and £40 for a family ticket. To go further afield and explore the lochs, take a two or four hour cruise to the beautiful Loch Lomond area it costs about £15 or £7.50 but prices vary depending on the departure point.
More info here: Clyde Cruises
If you want to learn more about the history of Glasgow, there is no better place to go than the People’s Palace.
Packed full of artefacts (including Billy Connolly’s banana boots), paintings and photographs that shed light on the city’s social and cultural history, it offers real insight into how Glaswegians have fared since 1750. Next door are the wonderful botanical Winter Gardens, which offer the chance to explore an array of exotic palm trees and plants.
Entry is free to both the museum and the Winter Gardens, and there is a cafe and a gift shop inside.
More info here: People’s Palace
If you need some retail therapy, there is no better place to go for a wander than around Glasgow’s ‘Style Mile’. In the main shopping area around Buchanan Street there are hundreds of stores, which range from designer to pound shops. Many are open to 7pm, most days.
Argyle Street, Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street serve as the main shopping drags, and you’ll always hear some amazing buskers around the area. In Princes Square off Buchanan Street you will find names like Kurt Geiger, Ted Baker and Vivienne Westwood, as well as Jo Malone and Space NK. The elegant Argyll Arcade, also off Buchanan Street, dates to the Regency era and has an extraordinary concentration of jewellers, while the Merchant City is where you’ll find Agent Provocateur underwear, Emporio Armani outerwear, and the only Bose shop in Scotland.
You absolutely can’t leave the city without a trip to see the ‘coned’ Duke of Wellington, situated right outside the Gallery of Modern Art in the heart of the shopping area.
There are also small, quirky shops to be found in the streets immediately south of Trongate, and even more in the nooks and crannies of the West End and Finnieston.
You could finish the day off with an evening in the trendy Merchant City with it’s cocktail and wine bars or head up to Sauchiehall Street to check out the lively late-night bars and restaurants.