When you’re thinking about city breaks in Scotland, it usually comes down to either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Today, we’re exploring the latter (and bigger) of the two. To kick things off and get familiar with the vibe of the city, we’re picking 5 top places to visit in Glasgow.
There are a couple of low-cost airlines flying to the city so it’s not hard to find some cheap flights pretty much all year round. When booking at least 2 days before the planned trip, you can buy a ticket to Glasgow for just £3.50 on the Megabus website. Therefore, if you’re in Edinburgh, you can always pop in to Glasgow as well to kill two birds with one stone. The difference between the two is significant so you’d be in for some treat. A luggage facility is available inside the Buchanan Bus Station so you can drop your bags there to make your trip easier (around £6/24h for 2 pieces of hand luggage).
Since Glasgow is so close to Edinburgh, it was an obvious choice for a quick city break. On our first one-day trip, we wanted to get to know the must-sees as we had limited time. Here are our 5 top places to visit in Glasgow:
1. GLASGOW CITY CHAMBERS
Located in the heart of city centre, City Chambers is one of the best places to visit in Glasgow. Unfortunately, it is a bit underrated. Why? Well, as beautiful as the facade is, not many people get to see how stunning it is on the inside. And please, believe us when we say – the ground floor just doesn’t cut it.
There are free tours conducted twice a day at 10:30 am and 2:30pm from Monday to Friday. We actually didn’t make it the first time but absolutely had to come back later on. Thanks to a little sneak peek that we got at the wonderful staircase, we knew it would be a perfect spot to get some amazing photos. And it was well worth it! The tour was conducted by a lovely lady, Donna, who had a ton of interesting stories. She was narrating our little stroll through all the beautiful suites with anecdotes about the architect, the style, history and many more.
Normally, some rooms might not be available to see at times, but we were very lucky and saw them all. The tour takes you through all the floors and into the councillors room where the council sits. You can actually take a photo in the Lord Provost’s seat 😉 The guide also explains about the artwork around the chambers. And while we’re not usually fussed about these things, the Carrara marble staircase is, truly, remarkable. There are rooms with decorations made of walnut wood, stunning Venetian windows and mosaic ceilings with corresponding floor decor. Granite, marble, alabaster, freestone, all very Italian in style and definitely worth seeing.
The high point of the tour was undeniably the Banquet Hall with gold leaf ceiling and magnificent chandeliers. They should, in fact, be called ‘electroliers’ as the council decided to have electric lighting in 1885. Very innovative for that time! Unfortunately, the hall was filled with not-so-presentable tables and we couldn’t take the photos as we would’ve liked.
The tours last around 45 minutes and are completely free. You can get a pass at the reception.
TIP: We highly recommend you come around 30 minutes earlier as the tours are on a first-come, first-served basis. The group limit is 25 people.
2. UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
This one is a classic. It is one of the oldest and best universities in the UK. And the vibe is just perfect for education – we immediately started thinking about going back to study. (Lukasz: Natalia did. I’m more than happy to stick to my business now 🙂 )
We’ve wanted to see this place ever since we saw a photo of the iconic columns looking so impressive in the setting sun. Later on, we found out it’s called the cloisters or the undercroft. The vaults and archways are really impressive. It is usually quite busy – it’s not that easy to take a shot without anyone in it.
Once you go past the cloisters, you end up on the East or West Quadrangles, both equally stunning and somewhat peaceful. There are benches everywhere so we enjoyed a bit of a breather after all the sightseeing. The surrounding trees and turrets are like a match made in heaven.
When we saw the Hunterian Museum and the University Chapel, we unknowingly headed over to the Flagpole. It’s so great to get lost. We ended up with a perfect view of the city with the Kelvingrove Museum at its best. It must look stunning at sunset!
With all the above, the whole place is often compared to Hogwarts (and quoted as a possible inspiration). We’re not gonna lie, it does give off some magical Harry Potter vibes.
So guys, the University should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Glasgow.
TIP: Pop into the souvenir shop. Apart from the usual knick-knacks, you can get a university sweatshirt or some unique jewellery (beautiful stag pendants!).
3. KELVINGROVE ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM
Our second top place to visit in Glasgow is this beautiful museum. It is the 3rd most popular attraction in the whole Scotland and it’s completely free. That and it being quite big makes it a perfect spot to escape a windy weather. When we visited Kelvingrove, we were a bit tight on schedule and didn’t see the whole place. However, what we were able to see impressed us nonetheless.
We absolutely loved the Floating Heads installation by Sophy Cave. Imagine this – 50 heads drifting above your own, expressing a range of different emotions. Some will look you in the eye with warming laughter, some will shy away in complete dismay. All of them white, lit only by a single colour at a time. Well, it does feel a bit spooky when you look at them closely but overall, it is quite a unique display.
In addition, there are daily organ recitals held in the main hall between April and December. Apparently, one of the best organists in Scotland are performing there. You can sit in and enjoy the music while sipping on some coffee from the museum cafe. What makes it even more special is that the organ is over 100 years old – still up and running… so to speak.
Natalia: I absolutely love Salvador Dali so I was really hoping to see the Christ of St John of the Cross painting. It is on a permanent display in here. To my (huge!) disappointment, the piece was lent to another museum until summer 2018 so I wasn’t able to see it. I’m not giving up though – I’ll definitely visit one of Dali’s museums one day!
The museum opens at 10am during the week and at 11am on weekends, closing at 5pm. Apart from over 22 galleries with anything from natural history and animals to art and technology, there are also temporary exhibitions. You can also grab a lunch or some coffee here as there is a little cafe in the main room.
TIP: The programme changes quite often so check ahead for any new events or displays on this website.
4. RIVERSIDE MUSEUM OF TRANSPORT AND TRAVEL
Ok guys, this one was a big surprise for us. We were mainly going there for some shots of the modern exterior but this museum was sooo great! It is the 2013 winner of the European Museum of the Year and rightly so. There are more than 3000 objects on display here, everything from bicycles, cars, trains, boats, you name it. And again, it’s completely free! It is probably our favourite out of these 5 top places to visit in Glasgow.
To be perfectly honest, you’re surprised from the moment you walk past the door. There is a replica of an entire street circa 1920 welcoming you to the left. And the horse carriage stationed right at the very end is just the beginning. You can pop into one of the trams or take a peek inside a locomotive of an old-school steam train. Chopper bike stories displayed on one of the screens might take you down memory lane. Upstairs, ship miniatures are slowly moving one after the other as if they’re making yet another voyage. We could probably spend another hour telling you all about the incredible vehicles from different eras, but it just wouldn’t cut it. You have to see it for yourself!
For all the Harry Potter fans out there, a beautiful Ford Anglia is parked in the hall of Riverside. It’s light blue, just like Mr. Weasley’s one. Be ready for a heart melting moment 😉
The Riverside Museum is definitely a must see. It is open every day between 10am and 5pm with the exception of Fridays and Sundays (11am opening). We actually had a lot more fun here than in Kelvingrove.
TIP: Pop in upstairs to have a coffee with a view of the Clyde River!
5. BOTANIC GARDENS
This might not be the obvious choice when picking top places to visit in Glasgow but Botanic Gardens are so lovely. What is the greatest thing about it? It’s the perfect place to relax. Think about it! When we rushed through Glasgow to see all the must-see spots, walking for miles or catching yet another bus, we felt exhausted. But in Botanic Gardens, everything tells you to just let go. Everyone needs a breather from time to time!
The whole park is quite big. There are plenty of benches so if the weather is nice, you can enjoy some fresh air. However, if it’s raining or cold, you’ll find comfort in the glasshouses. I know we certainly did, even though it was a sunny day. Inside, there is a great variety of plants from all over the world. Exotic trees and flowers delight with colours and we were wandering about, taking in the views.
If you’re in a mood for something warm, visit a tearoom where you can have breakfast, lunch or an afternoon tea.
All in all, definitely consider Botanic Gardens. It is a lovely, tranquil place for a relaxing walk among nature.
TIP: Head over behind the Kibble Palace and follow the path down hill – there is a staircase. It will take you to a bridge with a great view on the river Kelvin. There is a walkway here too if you’re up for a stroll.
Ok guys, that sums up our top 5 places to visit in Glasgow. Although the city might seem a bit industrial and gloomy, there are definitely some fun and surprising spots to enjoy.
Now, we’d love to hear from you. Have you been to Glasgow? How much did you enjoy it? What are you top places to visit here? Share it with us in the comments below.
Did you like the post? Pin it for later!