Glasgow is a port city in Scotland in the western lowlands along the River Clyde. It is famous for its shipbuilding history and its importance to Scottish trade. It is also known for its Victorian and art nouveau architecture. It is an amazing city to visit as there is such a diverse range of things to see and do in this location that will suit all tastes and ages. If Glasgow is your chosen destination for a vacation, then here are the 20 best things to do in Glasgow for first-timers to help you plan your vacation.
20. Spend Time at Pollok Country Park
Pollok Country Park is just ten minutes from the city center of Glasgow by train. At the center of the park is the Pollok House, which contains an art gallery with the Burrell Collection. The property is surrounded by stunning landscaped gardens and greenery. As you stroll around the park, you will meet Clydesdale horses and Highland cows.
19. Go to the Scottish Football Museum
Although there are plenty of museums to include in your vacation itinerary when visiting Glasgow, one that is a little different is the Scottish Football Museum. This museum is based inside the National Stadium at Hampden, and it focuses on the rich football heritage of Scotland. There is an extensive collection of football memorabilia to admire, including the Scottish Cup and many other trophies. When you visit the museum, you also have the chance to tour the stadium.
18. Watch a Screening at Glasgow Film Theater
Glasgow was once one of the great film cities in the United Kingdom, and by the end of the 1940s, there were 114 movie theaters in the city. Although this is no longer the case, film remains an important part of Glaswegian history. The Glasgow Film Theater was the first arthouse cinema in Scotland when it opened in 1939. Originally, it was called Cosmo, and name which it kept until 1973. The film theater now has three screens, and it is used as the main hub during the Glasgow Film Festival every February.
17. See the Beauty of The Lighthouse
Many tourists miss The Lighthouse because it is hidden away on Mitchell Lane off Buchanan Street. However, you should make sure you visit this beautiful building which is considered a beacon for the creative industries in Scotland. It is the Center for Design, and it is created from stone, steel, and glass. It houses cutting-edge art and design exhibitions throughout the year. One of the best permanent collections is the Mack Center, which highlights the life and work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The lighthouse also has two different sections that offer impressive city views. One is the modern viewing platform, and the other is the Mackintosh Tower.
16. Visit the Botanic Gardens
Glasgow Botanic Gardens sits by the River Kelvin in the West End of Glasgow. The gardens consist of various plant collections, riverside walks, and woodland copses. The highlight for many visitors is Kibble Palace, which is a magnificent glasshouse designed by John Kibble. It houses a collection of tree ferns and the palm house, which boasts plants from tropical rainforests. There is also a tearoom and a children’s play area. This is a free attraction, so it is a good option for those who are visiting Glasgow on a budget.
15. Explore Strathclyde Country Park
According to Visit Scotland, one of the best free activities to enjoy in Glasgow is to explore Strathclyde Country Park. This park is an iconic outdoor space by the River Clyde in North Lanarkshire, and it was used as the host venue for the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Some of the things to enjoy in the park are outdoor adventure playgrounds, nature trails, bicycle hire, watersport activities, and a fitness gym. There is also a café and a conference center. Throughout the year, various events and festivals are held at this park, so check if there is anything on at the time of your visit.
14. Dine at the Ubiquitous Chip
There are many outstanding dining establishments in Glasgow, but one of the top restaurants that you should try is Ubiquitous Chip. Its name was chosen to poke fun at Glasgow’s poor reputation in culinary circles. The restaurant champions Scottish produce that is served in creative ways with some dishes having a French influence. They are also known for their extensive wine list.
13. Go to St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life & Art
An interesting museum to visit in Glasgow is the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. Although the main focus of the museum is the history of religion in Scotland, it also covers the world’s major religions. There is an extensive collection of religious artifacts, and the museum is home to the first zen garden in the UK.
12. Take a Tour of the Breweries
Although Scotland is famous for its whiskey production, it also produces some fantastic beers. There are several breweries in Glasgow and the surrounding area, and some are open for tours or tastings. Two of the best options are Drygate Brewery and the Tennent’s Brewery. The former is an experimental micro-brewery that is partially located in the 1930s former box factory. They have 26 rotating beers to try, and you can ask for a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities. The Tennent’s Tour involves a visit to their Wellpark Brewery facility, which was founded in 1740. Tours include a look at the brewing process, packing, and distribution, before having a chance to sample the beer.
11. See the Art at the Gallery of Modern Art
The most popular modern art gallery in Glasgow is the Gallery of Modern Art. It features the work of both local and international artists. The building was built for William Cunninghame, a wealthy tobacco merchant, in 1778. When visiting the gallery, take note of the Equestrian Statue of the Duke of Wellington outside. This is one of Glasgow’s most iconic landmarks.
10. Go to George Square and the Glasgow City Chambers
George Square is the main square in Glasgow, and there are many interesting statues there. It is also surrounded by period buildings with interesting architecture. According to Independent Travel Cats, it is also where you will find the Glasgow City Chambers. Dominating the East side of the square, this is a large Victorian building that has served as the government building since 1889. It is possible to take a free guided tour inside.
9. Step On-board the Tall Ship
A free activity that all the family can enjoy in Glasgow is taking a tour of the Tall Ship. Located just behind the Riverside Museum, you will find the Tall Ship, which is called Glenlee. It is currently the only Clyde-built sailing ship that is still afloat in the UK, and it is one of only a few in the world. Visitors can take a free guided or self-guided tour of the ship, which is also used for maritime-themed events and activities.
8. Take a Tour of Clydeside Distillery
Clydeside Distillery is housed in the old Pumphouse building. This once controlled entry to the Queen’s Dock, and it played an important part in whiskey exports from Scotland. The distillery is one of the newest in Glasgow, as it did not start operating until 2017. There are various tours of the facilities available, including the popular Whisky and Chocolate tour. This includes pairings of five whiskeys with artisan chocolates that are handcrafted by Glasgow-based confectioners Sugar Wings.
7. Party in SWG3
Time Out recommends having some fun in SWG3, which is a district of Glasgow that is famous for being a hub of music, creativity, and entertainment. The SWG3 has an arts complex that offers various forms of entertainment, including the Acid Bar, the Warehouse, and the Poetry Club. In the summer, there is also the Galvanizers Yard to enjoy. This is also the best district in Glasgow for clubbing, live music entertainment, and festivals.
6. See the Sculptures at Sharmanka Kinetic Theater
Sharmanka Kinetic Theater is a theater unlike any other that you will see in the world, so it provides an interesting and unique experience. It is a mechanical theater that was created by Russian sculptor and mechanic Eduard Bersudsky, who now lives in Scotland. Bersudsky created mechanical figures using scrap and a range of wonderous and elaborate carvings. Each of the figures performs either tragic or humorous stories that are set to haunting music. This attraction is suitable for people of all ages.
5. Have a Learning Experience at the Glasgow Science Center
A fantastic attraction for all the family that is both fun and educational is the Glasgow Science Center. Interactive activities are arranged over four floors, and these bring science and technology alive. Some of the highlights of this attraction include the IMAX theater and a 127-meter high observation tower that rotates. There is also a Science Theater with live demonstrations and a planetarium.
4. View the Art at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
Open since 1901, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Glasgow. It is impressive even before entering the premises as it is built in the Spanish baroque style from red sandstone. One of the galleries is devoted to Scottish colorists, while another section focuses on French impressionism. There are stuffed animals around the museum, a spitfire jet is suspended from the ceiling of one section of the museum, and the entrance hall features spooky floating heads created by Sophie Cave.
3. Go to the Hunterian Art Gallery & Museum and Mackintosh House
The Hunterian Art Gallery & Museum and Mackintosh House are connected buildings that are both a part of the University of Glasgow, so you may as well visit both at the same time. The former was built in the 1960s, and it commemorates the lives of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his artist wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. Next door is Mackintosh House, which is a reconstruction of the first house bought by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for his wife. The interior is exactly how it was when the couple lived in the property, and it reflects their artistic talents. If you visit in the morning, you can take a guided tour. In the afternoons, you must take a self-guided tour.
2. See the Exhibits at the Riverside Museum
The top museum in Glasgow is the Riverside Museum, so it is one of the most popular and visited tourist attractions in the city. The striking curved lines of the building means that it is an iconic landmark, and it sits on Glasgow Harbor. It was designed by Zaha Hadid, a British-Iraqi architect. Inside, the main part of the collection is a transport museum. The exhibits include cars produced in Scotland, bikes, trams, railway locos, and models of Clyde-built ships. An interesting feature of the museum is the recreation of a shopping street in Glasgow during the early 20th-century that boasts vintage vehicles. The museum also has a café if you want a bite to eat while you are there.
1. Visit Glasgow Cathedral and Glasgow Necropolis
According to Lonely Planet, the best thing to do in Glasgow for first-timers is to visit Glasgow Cathedral. This cathedral was consecrated in 1197, and it is one of the best examples of Scottish Gothic architecture in Glasgow. Both the exterior and the interior of the cathedral boast many impressive features to admire. Behind the cathedral is the Glasgow Necropolis, which is an atmospheric cemetery with huge tombstones. The cemetery dates back to 1833, and it was inspired by Pere Lachaise in Paris. From the cemetery, there are impressive views of the city and the greenery beyond.