Guide books are great. But Glasgow is full of amazing things to do that you wouldn’t find in any guidebook. You’d only find them or hear about them if you spent some time in our fair city. From craft beers to underground clubs, Subcrawls to sampling whisky, fry-ups to fossils, Nashville to knock-offs and ravers to roller discos, Glasgow has so much to offer. This is our list of essential not-quite-run-of-the-mill Glasgow experiences that you probably wouldn’t find in your regular guide book!
Go on a Subcrawl
Glasgow’s subway is the third oldest in the world after London’s and Budapest’s. It isn’t big and it just goes in a circle (this combined with it’s Irn Bru orange trains give it the nickname ‘the Clockwork Orange’). It’s really not that useful unless you live in the West End, a tiny bit of the South Side and you never ever need to take a buggy anywhere. But it is excellent for a Subcrawl. Just buy an all day ticket, get off at every station and have a drink in the nearest pub! Many a Subcrawl was attempted during our university years. None of us can remember completing all fifteen stations. This is your mission, should you choose to accept… Your reward? A really really bad hangover.
Cure your hangover with a full Scottish breakfast
Everyone knows that the only way to cure a hangover is in two stages. 1: Buy a can of Irn Bru on your way home from a night out for a good sugar kick when you first wake up and 2: Eat a proper fry-up in the morning. You’ll find our favourite fry-ups in Glasgow at Old Salty’s in Finnieston, a chippy that’s open for breakfast; Cafezique on Hyndland Street, with phonebook-thick toast slices; St Louis Cafe on Dumbarton Road who also happen to do one of Glasgow’s best eggs benedict (especially if you get the eggs Stornoway); and if you’re feeling especially fragile and are in need of really filling your belly, TriBeCa on Park Road serves up what must be Glasgow’s biggest breakfasts.
Dance the night away in an underground club
Glasgow’s Sub Club is the longest-running underground club in the world and is well known for its eclectic, charismatic, extravagant and infinitely inclusive regular crowd. It’s sound system is second-to-none and the club was voted into the global top 15 by DJ Mag. A night at ‘the Subby’ is absolutely an essential Glaswegian experience.
Walk in a 330 million year old forest
No, you won’t see any dinosaurs. The fossilised plants in Victoria Park’s Fossil Grove formed way before (like 200 million years before) the dinosaurs even started stomping around. Pretty cool.
Have a curry
Alongside Brick Lane and Bradford, Glasgow forms the trio of curry kingdoms in the UK. Glasgow is of course, the curry capital of Scotland. Everyone has their favourite – ours are Banana Leaf on Old Dumbarton Road, tiny but authentic, packing a punch and probably the most intimate you’ll ever get with a curry; Mother India’s Café on Argyle Street for delicious tapas-style dining; and the Dahkin in Candleriggs serving up South Indian delights. If you’re feeling brave, check out Mr Singhs for some haggis pakora – you really can’t get more Glaswegian than that.
See some real Glaswegian personality
The Barras is a swarming market, with more characters than any George R. R. Martin series. Opened in the early 1900’s it has become synonymous with dodgy DVDs and “designer” gear. But although it’s gentrification is a long way off yet, a new generation of traders, including craft collective Made In The Shade and Glasgow indie fashion mogul Camille Lorigo of Che Camille, are injecting fresh life into the iconic market. Start early with a roll and sausage and a pint and you could easily lose a day there. It’s no-frills trade shops, hipster craft stalls and fixed gear bike workshop sitting alongside fruit ‘n’ veg stalls, baked goods and knock-off tracksuits will have you hooked in no time.
Listen to old school jazz
If you are looking for some jazz education, the 78 is the place. Not only do they have an established resident jazz trio playing from 9pm every Sunday night, but this trendy vegan & vegetarian establishment has a roaring coal fire, comfy armchairs, sofas, chunky wooden tables and an old record player. The perfect place for a relaxed drink.
Get some Gaelic culture
Folk music, whisky and a warm welcome are what the Ben Nevis and the Park Bar on Argyle Street do best. The Ben Nevis serves up 180 different variations of the water of life and the latter hosts a monthly Gaelic pub quiz. Both are famed as being amongst the most friendly pubs in a city that’s chock full of friendly pubs, and both have live folk music on several nights a week.
See the next big thing at King Tuts
Labelled “quite possibly the finest small venue in the world” by the NME, a gig at Tut’s has helped launch the careers of Oasis, Pulp, The Verve, the Manic Street Preachers and Radiohead. It’s still the best place to spot both new talent, and some of the aforesaid rock royalty, who may head there for a night out after playing one of the city’s bigger venues.
Go to a roller disco
Yes, that’s right: roller disco is back. So get those flares out the attic, strap some wheels onto your feet and get ready to go round in circles for a few hours to funky music. Because it’s not going anywhere!
Get down with the hipsters
Finnieston is Glasgow’s hipster kingdom; it is packed full of trendy bars, pubs, restaurants and shops. And none are more hipster than the SWG3 warehouse, home to the city’s rising art stars and it’s best parties. SWG3 is an exhibition space, artists’ studios, band rehearsal rooms and gig venue all rolled into one. It always has something worth seeing.
See some stand-up for only £2
With fantastic local (and not-so-local) stand up acts 7 days a week, The Stand is one of Glasgow’s best night’s out. Every night of the week has something different, with featured acts on Friday’s and Saturday’s. But on Tuesday nights you can laugh your ass off for just £2 at their longstanding show “Red Raw”.
See the Glasgow raver
If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the now infamous neon-adorned Leo Mushet all out raving in the middle of Buchanan St to complete silence (or sometimes to a lucky busker). He is pretty ‘out there’, but it turns out he donates the money he gets to leaukaemia research in homage to his late sister. We love you, Leo.
Try a lot of whisky
There aren’t many places where you could treat yourself to a different tipple every night for almost a year. But at Bon Accord in Charing Cross you can do just that. This old school pub has an incredible 350 malts to choose from. It’s doubtful anyone needs a better excuse than that, but they also host tasting clubs and have live folk music. See you there?
Visit the bones of St Valentine
Perhaps it’s not as romantic as a candlelit meal for two in Rogano, but the bones of St Valentine sit at Blessed St John Duns Scotus church in the Glasgow Gorbals. And you and your perfect partner can go visit them, not necessarily on the 14th of February. The story goes that in 1868 a small wooden box labeled Corpus Valentini Martyris was dropped off at the Gorbals. As it turned out, the box contained the body of St Valentine, and he’s still there.
Go to Nashville, but in Glasgow
Glaswegians in stetsons with ready access to cheap drinks and line dancing is a sight to be behold. And for the bargain price of £5 every weekend at the Grand Ole Opry in Govan, you can do exactly that. A gunslinging contest and a flag folding ceremony at closing time make a good attempt at sustaining the illusion that you might be in Nashville, but this honestly couldn’t be anywhere but Glasgow.
See the Duke of Wellington
Ok, we know – the Duke is in EVERY guidebook with his bright orange traffic cone majestically displayed on his head. But would you believe, very occasionally he is not adorned in his fraddic cone finery? And that obviously needs to be remedied when such a travesty does occur. Glasgow will thank you. Go in winter, wrap up warm, and have a coffee under the canopy of fairy lights over Royal Exchange Square, the prettiest Christmas decorations in Scotland.
Visit a chocolate factory
With the exception of the Oompa Loompa’s, insane machines, fully edible ecosystems and river of chocolate, the No. 1 Chocolate Factory at Charing Cross is exacty like Willy Wonka’s. Unlike Mr Wonka’s, the No. 1 Chocolate Factory is open to the public seven days a week, with parties for little (and big) kids. You can try your hand at chocolate making, or you can just buy some, hand-made by chocolatiers. You know you’d make a good Charlie Bucket…
Eat a week’s worth of calories in one sitting at one of Glasgow’s amazing burger joints
In the past few years Glasgow has turned into a burger mecca. There are now a whole host of amazing burgers for you to sample. Our favourite burger joints are Buddy’s on Pollokshaws Road, a Southside institution serving up classic beef patties alongside some colossal creations; Meathammer Ltd at Nice N Sleazy on Sauchiehall Street which serves up some insane, Willy Wonka-esque conquests and has won some accolades along the way including Glasgow’s best burger in 2014; Bread Meats Bread on St Vincent Street, probably the most hipster burger joint in Glasgow (good luck getting a seat!); and Lebowski’s on Argyle Street who have been serving up delicious burgers longer than the burger trend has been around in Glasgow!
Experience a classic silent movie
This isn’t just watching a classic silent movie in Glasgow; this is watching a silent movie in the world’s oldest music hall – the Britannia Panopticon. Founded in 1857, the Panopticon is the venue that hosted Stan Laurel’s 1906 debut, and it is still as charming as ever. They regularly screen classics from the greatest clowns of the golden age of the silent screen including Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and more. Just remember to bring a jacket. It’s a bit chilly.
Check out an Old Firm match
The rivalry between Rangers and Celtic is reknowned worldwide, and although it’s image is not always positive, the Old Firm is as intrinsic to Glasgow as Irn Bru and Billy Connolly. The atmosphere at an Old Firm derby is spine-tingling and guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience. Just make sure if you’re nailing your colours to the mast in a pub that you’re in the corresponding part of town.
Try some beer made from Christmas trees
Alloa brewers Williams Brothers have a rather inventive selection of beers and ales on offer (including Nollaig, a 7% tipple made from Christmas spruce) at their craft ale pub in Glasgow’s West End, Inn Deep. With it’s arched wooden ceiling, quirky murals, mouth-watering American-style menu and picturesque terrace seating outside overlooking the River Kelvin, Inn Deep is one to visit regardless of whether you want to try their ales or not.
Do some vintage shopping
Glasgow is very well known as a shopping mecca for the Style Mile of designer stores and high street flagships in the city centre. However the best Glaswegian shopping experience is most definitely of the vintage variety. Check out Mr Ben’s, great for wearable 70s and 80s finds; Vintage Guru, where brands including Chanel and Moschino have been spotted for sale; The Glasgow Vintage Co; an orderly emporium from the family that runs the legendary Armstrong’s; and Saratoga Trunk, a vast warehouse containing tens of thousands of items dating from Victorian times to the 1990s. And you’ve still got any time or cash left, don’t forget to tack on a trip along Dumbarton Road, the Rodeo Drive of charity shopping.