As Scotland’s largest – and arguably most happening– city, Glasgow is one of Europe’s premier vacation destinations. There are countless things to do and places to explore in around the city. It overlooks the River Clyde on the west coast of Scotland and is known for being a lot like a hipper, trendier version of Edinburgh.
While Visiting Glasgow, you could easily fill most of your time exploring the city’s diverse neighborhoods. If you’re looking for a little ‘retail therapy’, there are numerous fantastic shops, galleries, boutiques, and marketplaces to shop at. Glasgow is also known for it’s wealth of dining and entertainment options.
From music venues to museums and theatres, Glasgow is a place where art, history, and culture are alive and well. Pretty much any day of the week, at all hours from dusk to dawn, there is always something to do. Keep watching to see our picks of the best things to do in Glasgow, Scotland.
Glasgow Botanic Gardens
As one of the prettiest green spaces in Glasgow, this attraction is bursting at the seams with history, botany, and eye-grabbing architecture. Established in 1841 as part of the University of Glasgow, the gardens were put under the control of the city in 1891.
In 1873, one of the garden’s most distinctive buildings, the domed glasshouse Kibble Palace, was built. A few years later, the equally striking Main Range teak glasshouse was erected. Both of these beautiful buildings have been exquisitely preserved and are brimming with exotic plants from all over the world.
One of the best places to begin your Glasgow sightseeing tour is the famous and historic thoroughfare. Buchanan Street traces it’s history back to the 18th century, and it’s home to a wide array of Victorian-era architecture as well as some of the city’s most famous upmarket shops and eateries.
What we appreciate the most about Buchanan street is the face that it really is THE place to begin your exploration of Glasgow. The street stretches from the Buchanan Galleries on the northern end of town and extends down to St. Enoch Square to the south.
You could easily walk the full length of Buchanan street in about 15 or so minutes if you’re in a rush, but we highly recommend taking your sweet time, as there are many unexpected things that await you in the surrounding spaces, side streets, and arcades.
In addition to Buchanan Galleries, you’ll also come upon landmarks like Glasgow Central Station, St. George’s Tron Church, Nelson Mandela Place, and Royal Exchange Square. The latter is the home to a few of Glasgow’s most impressive public buildings as well as the Gallery of Modern art and the statue of the Duke of Wellington.
City Centre Mural Trail
Glasgow is a city that tenderly embraces it’s abundance of street art. If you follow this trail, you can admire numerous pieces of urban artwork that liven up countless walls of the city centre. A few of the most notable creations have been crafted by acclaimed street artists such as Art Pistol, Ejek, and Ali Wyllie. One of the most famous is Spaceman on New Wynd. That piece was created by Wylie and Recoat. Another standout is Rogue One’s Shadow Puppets which can be found on the Cowcaddens Underpass.
Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery
If you’re interested in exploring the wonders of the arts, sciences, and history, look no further than Scotland’s oldest public museum. The Hunterian Museum has a vast collection that includes many hands-on and must-see exhibits, including a permanent gallery dedicated to the famous Antonine Wall. The museum also houses the world’s most extensive collection of works by James McNeil Whistler.
If you’re a fan of the classics, the museum is home to many iconic art pieces, such as Rembrandt’s Entombment. History buffs will marvel at the exhibits dedicated to mankind’s most significant scientific discoveries and advancements, while the exhibits that relate to zoological, paleontological, and geological specimens are equally eye-opening.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
This fantastic attraction happens to be one of the most visited art galleries and museums on the planet. It’s home to a vast array of more than 8,000 exhibits covering everything from Salvador Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross to a real Spitfire aircraft that saw action in World War II.
Throughout the massive museum, you’ll see items like medieval suits of armor, enormous dinosaur skeletons, and stunning works of art by the old Dutch Masters, Scottish Colourists, and French Impressionists.
Ever since it was consecrated in 1197, this church has remained a sturdy and enduring example of Scottish gothic architecture. If you think it’s exterior is impressive, just wait until you take a peek inside. Glasgow Cathedral is notable for having one of the most expansive collections of post-war stained glass windows in Britain. The real stand-out, however, is John K. Clark’s Millennium Window.
After you’ve toured the cathedral, nearby you’ll find the Necropolis. This incredibly atmospheric cemetery was inspired by the designs of Pere Lachaise in Paris, and it dates back to 1833. It’s a lovely, albeit slightly morbid, place to go for a stroll and to look out over the city while imagining what the skyline might have looked like a couple of centuries ago.
At the center of Glasgow’s beautiful and historic Victorian city centre stands the flower-covered George Square which features 12 statues of some of the most famous people with ties to the city, including Walter Scott, Queen Victoria, and Robbie Burns.
At the east end of the square, you’ll find the Town hall with it’s 230-foot tall tower. The tower is a marvel to behold and it was completed in 1890. There’s also the Merchants House, which happens to be the headquarters of Britain’s oldest Chamber of Commerce. It’s hard to believe that it was founded in 1605!
To the south of the square you’ll find a collection of mid-19th-century warehouses which make up part of Glasgow’s trendy Merchant City district. The district features many unique cafes, shops, galleries, and restaurants. During the holiday season, the Merchant District is lit up with a dazzling display of Christmas Lights and decorations making it one of our favorite places in Scotland to explore in the winter months.
Riverside Museum and Tall Ship
This award-winning, modern museum includes many of the same exhibits that were formerly featured at the city’s now-defunct Transport Museum. You’ll find displays featuring items like model ships, vintage cars, horse-drawn carriages, locomotives, and trams – the majority of which were built in Glasgow.
Another highlight is the museum’s period-accurate recreation of a 1938 Glasgow street. There are also exhibits that cover themes such as immigration and famous disasters like the sinking of the Lusitania. Outside is a docked ship called the Glenlee. Guests can explore the Glasgow-constructed three-masted barque vessel which was meticulously restored with the help of the Clyde Maritime Trust. Guided tours are available as well if you’re interested.
Glasgow Science Centre and Glasgow Tower
One of the best family-friendly attractions in the city, Glasgow Science Center is housed inside a striking titanium building that’s shaped like a hull of a ship. Inside, you’ll find exhibits covering everything from health to technology and scientific principles. It’s easy to spend the whole day at this seemingly endless, hands-on facility.
Kids can learn the basics of the scientific method at a variety of lab-like stations where they can conduct fun, practical, and educational experiments. The museum additionally features a planetarium, IMAX theatre, and science theatre where guest speakers regularly give talks and lectures.
Then you have the Glasgow Tower which can be found at the same site. The building is the tallest in Scotland, standing at 417 feet or 127 meters high. From the top at it’s observation platform, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the city, and it’s surrounding landscape. What makes the tower all the more so impressive is the fact that it is capable of rotating a full 360 degrees. It was designed in such a way so that it could withstand strong winds. Impressively, it’s the tallest rotating building of it’s kind in the world.
Pollok House and Pollok Park
Just about four miles southwest of Glasgow’s city centre, sits the Polluck House. The house’s grounds span an area of 355 acres, and it was once the home of the Maxwell family. William Adam and his sons built the Edwardian mansion in 1752. Today, the majority of the building is open for the public to explore.
Sir William Maxwell’s vast collection of Spanish paintings by Velazquez, Goya, El Greco, and Murillo hang on display. There are also several notable works by William Blake and several other famous painters. Both guided or self-guided tours are available. There’s also an interactive exhibit called “Escape The Past” where participants try to solve puzzles in order to make their way back to the modern day.
The estate’s grounds include the lovely Pollok Country Park, where visitors can stroll through the beautifully manicured gardens or hike along several trails that span the woodlands and lead to the riverside.
Glasgow Green and The People’s Palace
Established in 1662, Glasgow Green is the oldest park in the city, it’s also just a short walk away from the city centre. One of the park’s primary attractions is what’s known as the People’s Palace. This museum was built in 1898 and does a great job of telling the detailed story of the history of Glasgow from 1750 through the 21st century.
One of the exhibits features a full-scale reproduction of a typical “Single End” home from the ‘30s. There is also a pretty fabulous display that is dedicated to remembering the old dance hall from the Glasgow Barrowlands Ballroom.
Another must-see attraction is the Winter Garden. This massive conservatory can be found at the rear of the palace, and it contains a wide selection of both tropical and subtropical plant life. Make sure you pop on over and see the Doulton Fountain, which happens to be the largest terracotta fountain in the world. At 46 feet high and 70 feet wide, the fountain was built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and it features depictions of figures from all across the Commonwealth.
Glasgow, Scotland, is a wonderful place to enjoy a family vacation, but it also makes for a lovely, romantic getaway spot. Regardless of why you want to visit the city, you’re sure to have a wonderful time. We tried to cover all of the top attractions in the city, but unfortunately, we don’t have time to go over everything the city has to offer.
Have you visited Glasgow, Scotland, before? If so, what are some of your favorite attractions? If not, what are you most excited to see on your upcoming visit? Let us know in the comments. And as always, happy travels!