This year has been so busy and fast-paced that sometimes the four months I lived in Glasgow, Scotland, feel like just a fever dream. I’ll take any excuse to reminisce, so today I’m rounding up some of my favorite spots and things I did while in the city. From my favorite dessert stops to must-see venues across town, I think this list has a little something for everyone. I tried to write them in the order I would walk to all of these locations from my flat, so activities that are physically located close together are near each other in the list below. Hope you enjoy!
Take a Trip Back in Time at the Riverside Museum of Transport
The Riverside Museum of Transport is an awesome (and free!) spot to explore if you’re interested in cars, bikes, trains, ships, etc. They have an impressive collection of old and unique automobiles, as well as a historical display of bicycles hanging from the ceiling in the order in which they were released. 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!
Sip on a Wee Dram During a Whisky Tour
It’s not a trip to Scotland without some sort of whisky tasting or distillery tour. While I personally hate the stuff (I tried several times to like it during my four months abroad), the Scottish people do love their whisky, and it’s available everywhere. I decided to take the Clydeside Distillery single-malt whisky tour along the River Clyde because the distillery is very close to where I lived. While the tour was interesting, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one—there are all sorts of tours and tastings across town, and I didn’t do any research into which is best. This one was a cool location right on the river, though!
See a Concert at the OVO Hydro
Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music (whatever that means), so I made it a point to see a few concerts while living there. There are two large, recognizable event centers right next to each other along the River Clyde—the OVO Hydro and the SEC Armadillo. I saw the Lumineers perform in the former and OneRepublic play in the latter. While the funky shape of the Armadillo is intriguing from the outside, the Hydro is a much better (albeit very large) venue. Plus, it looks like a space ship, which is pretty cool.
Walk Along the Clyde and See the Finnieston Crane
Glasgow has a rich shipbuilding history, which remains evident as you walk along the River Clyde and notice the massive Finnieston Crane that is iconic in the city’s skyline (although, ironically, not really visible in the photo above). At one point in the early 20th century, a fifth of all ships in the world were made in Glasgow! There are a few other things to see while walking along the river in this part of town, including the OVO Hydro, the SEC Armadillo, the Clydeside Distillery, the Glasgow Science Centre, and the Riverside Museum.
Party at SWG3
SWG3 is another, smaller venue along the Clyde. They host all sorts of concerts and themed events, including the ABBA disco that I attended with my friend! It’s worth checking their website or Eventbrite while in town to see “what’s on” during your visit.
Snack on Some Delicious Tantrum Doughnuts
It didn’t take me long to discover this donut shop near my flat in the West End (all the University of Glasgow students rave about it). It’s more of a takeaway place, as the seating is very limited, but that’s the perfect excuse to enjoy your donuts on a bench in the nearby Kelvingrove Park. Tantrum has so many fun and unique flavors!
Get Lost in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
The Kelvingrove is a must-see right in Glasgow’s West End, near the University of Glasgow. Not only is the old architecture noteworthy, but this free 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 a beautiful and unique depiction of the crucifixion. Additionally, the art gallery and museum offer glimpses into Glasgow’s history and feature some of the city’s most prominent artists, such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Perhaps one of the coolest parts of the building is the set of organs on the second floor. The museum hosts short organ concerts nearly daily, so be sure to check their website for the schedule before you go!
Enjoy a Scone with Clotted Cream at Hidden Lane Tea Room
The Hidden Lane is a cute little street tucked behind some buildings in the West End that is home to a handful of artists and studios. While I never really explored any of the other colorful shops, Hidden Lane Tea Room was without a doubt my favorite spot in Glasgow—I frequented it so often with my friends for either breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea. Their prices are really affordable compared to a lot of other places, and the ambiance is so right! I almost always ordered the Yogi Chai, and their teas come in the cutest, most unique pots (the blue floral one above was my favorite).
Go On a Shopping Spree at Glasgow’s Charity Shops
I’ve talked about it before on the blog, but Glasgow has some amazing thrifting. Instead of thrift shops, they are generally called charity shops in the UK, and most of them are named after the cause they support. There are lots of good charity shops in Glasgow’s West End. I liked to start at the bottom of Byres Road and make my way up, turning right at the Botanic Gardens and wandering down Great Western Road. My favorite stores in this area are Save the Children on Byres Road and Shelter Charity Shop on Great Western. You can see more of how I styled some of my secondhand pieces in this post.
Battle It Out at Pub Quiz
Instead of trivia, people in Scotland call it pub quiz—and these bar games are everywhere. I attended pub quiz at Innis and Gunn on Ashton Lane almost every Monday night with a group of my friends. Ashton Lane is a super cute street in the West End with a handful of bars and restaurants. Most pubs that have a pub quiz have the info posted somewhere in or on their building, often painted onto the windows. I’ve always loved a good trivia night, and my team won a 50 pound bar tab a couple of times!
Wander the University of Glasgow Campus
The University of Glasgow campus is stunning and worth a stroll while in the West End. Some people say that the main building was the inspiration for Hogwarts! A few noteworthy places to visit include the stunning cloisters (pictured above with the lights) and the lion and unicorn staircase, which was built at the original campus in 1690 and moved to the university’s current location in 1870.
Satisfy Your Curiosity at the Hunterian Museum
The Hunterian is another free museum (aside from a few exhibits) located right on the University of Glasgow campus. If you have any interest in anatomy, then this museum is the one for you—the top floor is filled with interesting facts and body parts preserved in jars! 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.
Get Drinks or See a Show at Oran Mor
Oran Mor is an old church-turned-restaurant, bar, and events venue. While the food is just so-so, it’s such a unique atmosphere to hang with your friends in a refurbished church! I grabbed meals or drinks here a few times, including my traditional Burns Day Supper, featuring the national dish, haggis. I also attended one of the shows from their A Play, A Pie, A Pint series, which was really fun.
Stroll Through Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Glasgow Botanic Gardens is located in the heart of the city’s West End and is free to enter. In the spring, it blooms with daffodils and tulips of all colors, which is such a welcome sight after a grey, rainy winter. Kibble Palace is the major glass dome on the property that houses a few statues and lots of greenery, making it the perfect location for cute photos with your friends.
Get a Sugar High at Loop and Scoop
This was my friend’s and my favorite sweet treat spot near campus. They serve gelato, churros, and if you’re feeling really froggy, a loop and scoop—which is a loop of churro stuck into a few scoops of gelato. This place is so yummy and located right near the end of my thrift shopping route.
Dance the Night Away at Mango
Glasgow has a robust clubbing scene, but the only club I frequented more than once was the Latin American spot, Mango. It has a few floors with different styles of music on each, but my favorite was in the dark basement where couples danced salsa and bachata. It was easy enough for me to follow along because I already had a decent amount of salsa experience. It’s fun as a lady because if a guy asks you to dance, they generally know how to lead and you hardly have to do any work! Partner dancing isn’t everyone’s jam, but it’s definitely something I enjoyed with friends while in town. I recommend arriving a little early though, around 10 pm, because they start to charge a cover later in the night.
Walk the City Centre Mural Trail
If you’re looking for some exercise and an excuse to explore downtown, the City Centre Mural Trail is a great option. There are lots of beautiful and quirky murals throughout the city, so you can make this trail as long or as short as you want. It takes you by several landmarks of downtown Glasgow and serves as a purposeful way to mindlessly explore the city.
Take a Train at Glasgow Central Station
Even if you don’t plan on leaving town via train, Glasgow Central Station is worth a quick look around if you’re in the downtown area. The architecture is stunning and there are a few shops inside—as well as one of those penny press machines for souvenirs (I’ve been collecting pressed pennies for as long as I can remember!).
Indulge in a Fried Mars Bar
I learned early on during my study abroad experience that fried Mars bars are a “delicacy” in Glasgow… Does that mean the locals eat them? I don’t think so, but several of my Glaswegian friends told me it’s just one of those touristy things you have to do while visiting the city. You can order one at pretty much any chippy (a fish and chips fast food restaurant), but I got mine at the Blue Lagoon outside of Glasgow Central Station. It was yummier than I expected!
Explore the Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis
I’m a sucker for old, beautiful cathedrals and their rich histories, and the Glasgow Cathedral was no exception. The building was erected in the 12th century and is the only medieval cathedral in mainland Scotland to have survived the Protestant Reformation nearly undamaged. It is located right next to the Necropolis, a huge Victorian cemetery built on a hill. The Necropolis has around 3,500 tombstones, but around 50,000 people are actually buried there! The cathedral is free to tour, but due to Covid regulations, I had to make an appointment to visit it (not sure if that is still the case now).
Wander the Grounds at Pollok 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 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 the short tour was worth it to see the period décor and learn about the family who once lived there. Pollok Country Park is also home to the Burrell Collection, an art museum that just reopened in March after undergoing renovations since 2016. I just missed the reopening, but I’ve heard great things about the art on display! This park is a scenic spot for a picnic and to spend the afternoon/day.
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Thanks for stopping by the blog! Have you ever been to Glasgow or do you have any desire to visit? If you answered yes to the former, let me know your own recs in the comments below.
Miles of smiles,