Glasgow Museums Worth Visiting

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I spent all this time my last week or so in Glasgow planning out the rest of my study abroad content to be published on the blog by the end of May… Well, it’s basically the end of the month and I’ve hardly posted at all the last few weeks! I still have lotttts of travel-related blog posts I want to share, so I’m hoping to crank those out the next couple of days (I know, I know… this is now the second or third time I’ve said that). But at least I’m kicking it off today with a round-up of some of Glasgow’s top-notch museums. I really enjoyed exploring the city’s museums—for fun, with friends, and sometimes even for class—so I wanted to share some of my favorites here (as well as one you can skip out on) for anyone planning a visit to Glasgow soon.

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

The Kelvingrove is a must-see right in Glasgow’s West End, near the University of Glasgow. In fact, due to the museum’s beautiful and old architecture, I actually thought this was the university when I went exploring on my first day in Scotland (hence the excited selfie with the building). Not only is the architecture pretty to look at, but the museum has a wide array of exhibits and an incredible collection of art, featuring famous names such as Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh. The museum is also home to Salvador Dali’s “Christ of St John of the Cross”, which is an incredible and unique depiction of the crucifixion. Additionally, the art gallery and museum offers glimpses into Glasgow’s history and features some of the city’s most prominent artists, such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh (you don’t have to be in Glasgow for long to realize this guy is pretty famous in these parts). Oh, and did I mention that this museum always has free entry?! Can’t beat that.

While one half of the building is the art gallery, the other half is a proper museum, with natural history/science sections, including lots of taxidermy animals and a (small) Egyptian/mummy exhibit. My friends always found the stuffed animals off-putting, but if you’re more interested in the art gallery than the museum, the furry friends are easy to avoid. Perhaps one of the coolest parts of the building is the set of organs on the second floor, seen in the first photo of today’s post. The museum hosts short organ concerts nearly daily, so be sure to check their website for the schedule before you go! I went to one organ recital and it was really cool to listen to the powerful and grand sounds reverberate through the main hallway.

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Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum

‌The Hunterian is another free museum (aside from a few exhibits) located right on the University of Glasgow campus. This was the first museum I went to in Glasgow and I just stumbled upon it while exploring campus my first day in the city. If you have any interest in anatomy, this museum is for you. The top floor is filled with interesting facts and body parts preserved in jars (my favorite). The museum is the oldest in Scotland, having opened its doors in 1807, and is named after William Hunter (1718-1783), an obstetrician who gave his private collections and money to the University in 1783 to open the museum. It’s a pretty neat stop if you’re already exploring campus, and it’s just a short walk from the Kelvingrove.

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Riverside Museum of Transport

The Riverside Museum of Transport is an awesome spot to explore if you’re interested in cars, bikes, trains, ships, etc. They have an impressive collection of old and unique automobiles (including a car wall, which is just what it sounds like), and they have a historical display of bicycles hanging from the ceiling in the order in which they were released, starting with one of those old timey bikes with a huge front wheel. There’s also the ‘Tall Ship’ on the River Clyde that you can tour to learn about historic Glasgow’s shipping industry. If nothing else, the building itself is a really cool piece of architecture from the outside! A local told me it’s supposed to look like the profile of a train from the front, but I think it looks like an EKG reading—whether you look from the front or back.

What I like about this museum is that it has a lot of really big, interesting things to look at that easily catch your eye, so it’s a shorter visit with less reading than usual—not nearly as overwhelming as, say, the British Museum in London. I recommend turning left when you first enter the building and touring the museum from that direction—there’s a cool exhibit that feels like walking down a street in Glasgow in the 1800s, but it makes less sense if you come at it from the other direction. Additionally, I would try to avoid the museum on the weekends, if possible, as the place gets packed with little kids/families. This one is also free to enter!

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House for an Art Lover

South of the River Clyde, House for an Art Lover is the first museum I’m sharing that’s not in Glasgow’s West End—aka, it’s not within walking distance from the University. However, it’s still a very unique space worth visiting if you’re interested in a little Glasgow culture, as this museum is dedicated to the work of the city’s most famous architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928). I visited with some other study abroad students one of my first weeks in Glasgow, knowing absolutely nothing about the museum. Throughout my time abroad, I realized more and more how serendipitous my visit to House for an Art Lover really was, as I had learned so much on the tour that seemed to work itself into conversation and my classes several times throughout my stay in Scotland.

The museum was kind of confusing at first, but House for an Art Lover is essentially a design brought to life—Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald, another famous Glaswegian architect, submitted designs for the house to an architectural design competition in 1901. Mackintosh’s design was disqualified on a technicality, and the house went unbuilt until 1989, when a consulting engineer working on restoring other Mackintosh buildings decided that House for an Art Lover should finally be built.

This museum does cost a few pounds to enter but comes with a very informative audio tour. I wouldn’t recommend it if you have limited time in Glasgow (the three previous museums are much more interesting and crowd-pleasing) but touring this house was a unique way to learn about Glasgow culture and see some beautiful designs. (Mackintosh was all about making décor part of the house and integrating it into the architecture, rather than just hanging artworks on the wall or placing them on a mantel—this was evident through the attention to detail and unique furnishings of House for an Art Lover.)

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Pollok House and Country Park

Everyone recommended Pollok Country Park as a place to go to see the famous Highland Coos—the super cute, long-haired cows native to Scotland! But in addition to spotting these shaggy beasts, the huge park has a gorgeous mansion on it surrounded by beautiful gardens and a maze of bushes. The park is free to enter but touring the mansion does cost a few pounds (they offered a student discount, though). I thought it was worth it to see the period décor and learn about the family who once lived there. It was just a short tour, so not a ‘museum’ in the traditional sense. My favorite part about visiting the grounds was imagining living there, in a big fancy mansion with secret gardens all around… so fun to daydream!

Pollok Country Park is also home to the Burrell Collection, an art museum that just reopened in March after undergoing renovations since 2016. Unfortunately, my trip to the park was just a week before the reopening, so I have not been to the museum. But I’ve heard it’s a great collection of art—might as well stop by if you make your way out to the park anyway.

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Where Not to Visit: The Gallery of Modern Art

My friend and I planned a whole afternoon outing to visit the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow’s City Centre, but let’s just say… it was a dud. There wasn’t very much art and what pieces were displayed were mostly from the last five years or so, by artists we didn’t know. When I think of ‘modern art’, I tend to think of artists from the 1900s such as Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, etc. I must be wrong in that assumption… I know art is very subjective, but my friend (who is much more cultured than me) and I both agreed that most of the art in this gallery looked like stuff we could make ourselves. We both walked out of there saying, “Thank goodness it was free!” The above piece was the only one I thought was really cool.

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So there you have it! Some of my favorite museums I visited while I was in Glasgow. The Kelvingrove was at the top of my list for a reason—it really is a must-see in the city, even if you only have half an hour to quickly stroll through the building. I hope you enjoyed this post, and have a great rest of your Monday!

 

Miles of smiles,
Grace

2 comments on “Glasgow Museums Worth Visiting”

  1. Such a fantastic post, Grace 🙂 Whatever your interest, it’s more than likely that Glasgow hosts a museum to satisfy your curiosity. From football and science to art, religion and architecture, there’s so much to see that you won’t be able to do it in one trip. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    1. Thank you Aiva! You’re so right – they have tons of great museums. I was there for four months and didn’t even see them all!

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