Last Updated on September 21, 2021
— GLASGOW SCOTLAND — Glasgow is the largest city by population however is sometimes overlooked by visitors heading to Edinburgh. With a striking street art scene, Victorian age elegant buildings, and proximity to the countryside, there is plenty to discover in Glasgow, whatever your traveling tastes are.
As you walk along the Glasgow streets, you will find a youthful city with plenty of shops and restaurants to visit in the city center. The pace is brisk as people venture from one place to another, but you’ll find the locals friendly and willing to chat. From tours to shopping, here are the best things to do in Glasgow, Scotland.
As you are planning a Scottish adventure, do not pass over Glasgow. It is a charming city no matter what the season. The size of Glasgow is perfect for discovering its urban core but take the time to venture out to the countryside as well.~Erin Jones
1. Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Tour
Glasgow has a Hop-on Hop-off bus service that will take you about town to show you all the sights. I enjoy taking the bus tour the first day I arrive in a city to help me get the lay of the land. The Glasgow Hop-on Hop-off tour is a great way to learn about the town’s history, and it will take you to all the main sites downtown and the edge of the city limits. If the weather is dry, grab a seat on the top. If it’s a bit rainy, you’ll be protected down below if there is a sudden shift in the weather.
2. Glasgow’s Museum of Transport & Travel
The Museum of Transport in Glasgow sits in the River Clyde Harbor and is a tribute to many kinds of transportation. As you walk in, you can walk through a replica of Glasgow from the early 1900s.
Walking along cobbled streets, you can enter storefronts and look at displays showcasing daily life. As you continue through the exhibit, transportation is cleverly displayed.
From mopeds, busses, and the tiniest of cars, it’s fascinating to look at how many vehicles exist and how they have changed over the years. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to sit in a subway car and hear the moving train and imagine what a commute to work may have felt and sounded like during that time.
The museum is decent-sized, and you can easily pass an hour or two as you examine the exhibits. Transportation enthusiast or not, the museum is fascinating.
3. Kelvingrove Art Museum
The Kelvingrove Art Museum is a stunning red brick building with a stately green lawn that promises a lovely art collection inside. The museum has been in Glasgow since 1901 and has exhibits ranging from paintings, taxidermy, and ancient Egyptian artifacts.
Inside you’ll find a large entryway with art hanging from the ceiling majestically. The museum has narrow hallways and archways with black and white checkered marble floors, beckoning you to continue strolling through the museum examining art from classic paintings and sculptures.
The museum is home to an enormous organ, and there are daily thirty-minute performances. Seating is on the main level, but go to one of the upper levels for a bird’s eye view and lean against the railing. The organ sounds will surround you as the trained organist plays various classical music pieces.
4. Visit a Christmas Market
If you find yourself in Glasgow from the middle of November through the end of December, visit one of the two Christmas markets. In both St Enoch and Georges Square, Alpine chalets hold wares from all sorts of vendors.
From Christmas ornaments, sweet treats, and delicious hot chocolate, you’ll find delightful Christmas presents and sweets to put you in a cheery mood. The city lights against the night sky add to the festive atmosphere. Both sites offer food vendors along with crafts from around the world, but you’ll find a tall Christmas tree at the George square location.
Visit both markets, as each offers a slightly different experience. You will find both visitors and locals alike, and it’s an excellent opportunity to observe local life. Markets are open all day, but you’ll find it the busiest in the evenings after people finish work and the children are out of school.
5. Examine the Street Art
Glasgow has one of the most intriguing Street Art scenes, and you will find it all over the city. Keep your eyes up, and you’ll many building faces with life-like scenes. To understand the various artists and the overall Glasgow art scene, I recommend booking a tour with a local who will draw your attention to art you might not notice on your own. In Glasgow, you can book a tour through Get Your Guide, and it is a two-hour tour that meets in the center of town for just under twenty dollars.
Glasgow is full of young people and has a vibrant feel showcased in the street art scene. The stately Scottish buildings and life-like art displayed on the sides create a fascinating juxtaposition of traditional and modern. Bright blue skies are lovely, but the cloud and autumn rain make the art stand out.
6. Take a Stroll in Necropolis
Glasgow has maintained its Victorian elegance in its stately museums and buildings, and that includes the Necropolis. The Necropolis is a Victorian age graveyard that sits on thirty-seven acres of space in the middle of the city.
The cemetery is next to the Glasgow Cathedral and is open daily from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM. In addition, a couple of weekends each month, volunteers provide walking tours to share the history of those buried in the cemetery.
If you would like to book a tour, booking is required, and there are up to four hours a day starting in the afternoon. The Necropolis is full of Victorian monuments with green space in between. With the Scottish scenery around you, it is a beautiful place for a calming stroll.
7. Take a Tour to Loch Ness
Suppose you need a break from urban wandering. In that case, you will be happy to know several tours depart from Glasgow and go to Loch Ness and the very beginnings of the Highlands.
As much as I enjoy the gritty street scenes of staying in town, I enjoyed Scotland’s rolling green hills and beautiful lakes. Tours meet right in the center of Glasgow by George Square and are generally small group tours by small bus or van. It does not take long before you are out of the city limits and into the Scottish countryside.
Once you arrive close to Loch Ness, you’ll have the opportunity to board a boat that will take you across the lake. Keep your eyes open for Nessie, the mythological creature claiming to be in the lake. Even if you don’t find the real monster, the local souvenir shops will happily sell you some merchandise.
8. Visit Glasgow Shops
From local markets to high-end fashion, Glasgow has shopping options for all tastes and budgets. On the weekends, check out the east end of the city at Barras Market for vintage style finds and local market stalls offering snacks and treats after shopping.
For shopping in the urban center, meander down Buchanan Street. The street is lined on both sides by shops and restaurants, and you will quickly find someplace that catches your eye.
Even if you’re just in the mood for window shopping, it is enjoyable as it is excellent for people watching or stopping at a small café to get out of the crowds and enjoy a cup of tea and perhaps a slice of cake. The pace of Glasgow is lively, with people walking rather quickly from train stations to their next stop. If you need directions or assistance, the locals are amiable and willing to help.
9. Take a City Walking Tour
Wandering through a city on foot is my favorite way to visit a city. While in Glasgow, book a walking tour with a local to gain information on the city’s way of life and history.
You will have an option of either a private walking tour or with a small group. Private tours may cost more, while a small group is a great way to meet others if you are traveling alone. Although the sites you see might be the same as the Hop-on Hop-off bus tour, the guides will have different stories or points of interest to point out to you.
Although not a large city, the tour will round out at three miles, so pack comfortable walking tours and layers as the weather changes quickly and winters can be cold.
10. Join a Glasgow Scavenger Hunt
If you’re up for a bit of adventure and trivia, sign up with the Let’s Roam app, and you’ll be able to complete a scavenger hunt around the city of Glasgow. Within the app, you will find several clues, riddles, and trivia about the city. Customers can buy tickets per group or person.
If you find yourself in Glasgow for more extended periods, you can purchase an explorer pass covering multiple activities and tours. Up to four people can play on one device as each person will have unique clues and roles. The app will alert you when to pass the phone or device to the next person for their clue.
If you have trouble with navigation or answering the clues, you’ll find assistance with the app. The scavenger hunt is a fun way to discover the city and history in an entertaining and new way.
11. Explore the Glasgow on a Bike
Bicycling is commonplace in Glasgow, and there are plenty of bike lanes and paths in the center of the city. However, if bus and walking isn’t your tour ideal, reserve a tour with Glasgow Bike tours.
The classic tour will be around nine miles, and you’ll cover the best of Glasgow’s sights, including the Necropolis, and up to the Kelvingrove art museum. Other tours will end at local breweries for beer and or whiskey tastings if that is of interest. With the bicycle tours, you will discover the city while getting some exercise and learning about the city from a local.
12. Afternoon Tea on a Glasgow Bus
I find nothing more relaxing than afternoon tea but for a twist on the experience, join Red Bus Bistro for afternoon tea on a vintage public transportation bus. Roaming around Glasgow for one and half hours, Red Bus Bistro serves the whole afternoon tea experience from your choice of tea, savory sandwiches, sweet treats, and scones. From Tuesday through Saturday, there are twice daily teas offered at noon and three pm. Waiters refill tea when the bus is stationary.
From a safety perspective, hot tea spilling on customers would ruin the experience. There is a minimum booking of two guests per party, and you may be sitting with strangers to fill a table of four.
As you are planning a Scottish adventure, do not pass over Glasgow. It is a charming city no matter what the season. The size of Glasgow is perfect for discovering its urban core but take the time to venture out to the countryside as well.
First, find a local to explain the city’s history and what changes happened across the years. Then, examine the art and enjoy an afternoon tea. I hope you enjoy your Glasgow travels and discovering its vibrant art scene, history, and Victorian architecture.
*Opening photo ©Erin Jones
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