What to know before travelling to Glasgow
With St Andrew’s Day on 30th November, what better time to feature one of the best places in Scotland to visit - Glasgow. Here we will share the top attractions in Scotland's largest city and the best places to stay.
Is Glasgow worth visiting?
People often overlook Glasgow due to the tourist appeal of Edinburgh, the Scottish capital. Whereas Edinburgh is undoubtedly an Instagram-worthy city, Glasgow is often considered rough around the edges. Unfortunately, this is one of the many misconceptions about Glasgow. Yes, it was once a heavily industrialised city with highly publicised crime rates. However, it's evolved considerably over the decades and is now a contemporary hub of Scottish arts and culture.
Need a little more convincing? Here are 10 reasons to visit Glasgow:
- There's breathtaking Gothic architecture around every corner (and you don't need to be an architect to appreciate its beauty!)
- Glasgow has many world-class museums and art galleries to visit & some are 100% free to enter.
- It's a UNESCO City of Music and is home to many iconic venues and all but one of Scotland's national performing arts organisations.
- Glasgow was named one of the UK's top 5 cities for food and drink by Which? in 2021.
- It's a convenient base for Scottish day trips to places like Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Glenfinnan Viaduct.
- The city is steeped in fascinating history and heritage.
- It's the best Scottish city for shopping, with everything from vintage and second-hand stores to modern boutiques and your favourite big-label brands.
- It's the place to go for fun, with a great calendar of festivals, including the Glasgow Burlesque Festival, the Glasgow International Comedy Festival, the Glasgow Film Festival and some of Scotland's biggest whisky festivals.
- The nightlife is vibrant and eclectic, from dance clubs and rock venues to swanky cocktail bars.
- The city's slogan is 'People Make Glasgow,' and it's true, the locals are the heart and soul of this Scottish city and will offer you a warm welcome, no matter who you are or where you're from.
Top attractions in Glasgow
Ready to start planning a Glasgow city break? Here are the top visitor attractions to add to your itinerary…
Named after King George III, George Square is at the heart of Glasgow and makes a great starting point for exploring the city. There you will find several striking statues of prominent historical figures, including Robbie Burns, Walter Scott and Queen Victoria.
It’s also the site of Glasgow City Hall, famed for its magnificent Renaissance architecture. Marvel from the outside or book a free guided tour to explore inside the building.
Winter is the most magical time to visit George Square in Glasgow for its spectacular festive light displays.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
We’ve already told you that Glasgow is home to a long list of world-class museums, but one of the very best has to be Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This Glasgow museum offers free entry and has something to offer everyone, with a rich collection of paintings, sculptures and over 20 themed galleries covering everything from natural history to mediaeval weapons. The Kelvingrove Museum promises a fun and educational day out and is well worth exploring, whether you’re new to Glasgow or a returning visitor.
Other Glasgow museums to visit:
Glasgow Museum of Modern Art - Enjoy works by local and international artists with free entry. Outside you’ll find the Duke of Wellington statue with its funny (and now famous) traffic cone hat!
The Lighthouse - Next door to the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, you’ll find The Lighthouse, a hub of art and architecture, with works from famous Scottish artists, including Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Riverside Museum - Built on a former shipyard, the Riverside Museum is Scotland’s transport museum. Entry is free, and it offers an excellent opportunity to learn more about the history of the transport industry, with the chance to view original vehicles, replicas and interactive displays.
Also known as St. Mungo Cathedral or the High Kirk of Glasgow, Glasgow Cathedral is a magnificent example of 12th-century architecture and easily the most famous monument in the city.
Located on a hill in the East End district, the Cathedral is free for visitors. Inside, you will find some of the most beautiful stained glass windows you'll ever see, and there's also the chance to visit the crypt and tomb of St Mungo - the city's patron saint.
Just a short walk away is The Necropolis, a small Victorian cemetery described as 'the city of the dead.' There you will find around 3,500 monumental tombs and memorial stones dating from the Victorian era and sculptures and buildings designed by famous Glaswegian artists. Walking tours are available to learn more about the cemetery's history, and the views across the city from The Necropolis are hard to beat.
The University of Glasgow
The University of Glasgow is one of the world's most beautiful and prestigious universities. It is a must-visit for tourists, especially if you're into Harry Potter! Yes, the spellbinding Gothic architecture of the university is said to have inspired JK Rowling's vision of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
This architectural masterpiece has many buildings, inner courtyards and museums that are free to visit, including the Hunterian Museum, Hunterian Art Gallery, Mackintosh House and Hunterian Zoology Museum. There is also the opportunity to book a guided tour to learn more about the history of the University of Glasgow and gain VIP access to more of its rooms.
Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Not far from the university, you’ll find the beautiful Glasgow Botanic Gardens. An oasis of natural beauty, the Botanic Gardens feature several stunning outdoor areas, including the World Rose Garden and Children’s Garden, complete with a fun outdoor playground.
Spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre with a peaceful stroll among the flowers, and be sure to visit the main attraction, Kibble Palace. This steel-framed glass house is one of the largest in Britain and features a collection of rare orchids, tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand, and plants from Africa, the Americas and the Far East.
Is Glasgow a good place for families?
Glasgow is a fantastic family-friendly city break destination, with plenty for all ages to see and do. We’ve already mentioned that Kelvingrove Museum is a great place to go if you’re visiting Glasgow with kids, but we also recommend Glasgow Science Centre. Located on the south bank of the River Clyde, the Glasgow Science Centre has many interactive exhibitions and workshops, a planetarium, 3D cinema and a panoramic platform, promising a fun day for all the family.
The name ‘Glasgow’ means ‘Dear Green Place.’ With over 70 parks and open spaces to visit, it’s the perfect spot for the kids to burn off some energy and enjoy the fresh air. One of the best parks to visit in Glasgow is Kelvingrove Park. This wooded area is ideal for a leisurely stroll, with lovely views of the university and fun playgrounds for children to explore.
What is the best part of Glasgow to stay in?
Glasgow is a compact city that is easy to get around, so no matter where you stay, you will have quick access to most of the top tourist attractions and amenities.
If it's your first time visiting Glasgow, we recommend staying in the buzzing, culture-rich city centre. You'll be close to all the action, including amazing shopping, dining and nightlife.
Another great Glasgow location for first-time visitors is Merchant City. This old yet stylish part of the city is within easy reach of all the top tourist sites and the best shopping. It also hosts The Merchant City Festival in the summer.
If you're looking for a more laid-back location, head to the West End of Glasgow. Known as the 'boho' area of the city, the West End has a trendy cafe, pub and clothing store around every corner, along with plenty of artsy museums and galleries.
We recommend the historic East End for those looking for budget-friendly hotels in Glasgow. The East End is dubbed the 'student area' of the city and is also the home of one of the biggest football clubs in Glasgow - Celtic.
Finally, head to the leafy South Side for family-friendly hotels in Glasgow. With green spaces, kids' attractions and easy access to the city centre, it's the obvious choice for those travelling to Glasgow with children.
You'll find that each neighbourhood has its own character and charm, so it all comes down to what you're looking for on your city break to Glasgow.
Book Glasgow hotels with Plans Change
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