10 Best Things to See and Do in Glasgow

By: Tom Honeyman
The Clyde Arc Bridge at night across the River Clyde West of Glasgow city centre in the Finnieston area. The bridge is also known locally as the Squinty Bridge because of the angle at which it crosses the river Getty Images / Kenny Williamson

Despite being Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow often gets overlooked as a destination for those making the trip north of the border.  But with its colorful industrial history, buzzing urban hubs, and population renowned for being a lot warmer than the weather, it’s fair to say there is no shortage of attractions to keep you entertained on Clydeside:


10. Go Shopping

Crowds of people passing shops and businesses on Buchanan Street, one of Glasgow's busiest shopping streets.
Getty Images / George Clerk

Glasgow is one of the best cities in the UK for a spot of retail therapy and is the go-to shopping destination for much of Scotland’s population such is the breadth of choice.  Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall Steet, and the Buchanan Galleries in the city center play host to well-known brands and high street names.  For boutiques and smaller independent outlets head for Byres Road in the heart of the West End.

9. Glasgow Green

The McLennan Arch at Glasgow Green, in morning.
Getty Images / copyright 2009 Daniel Davison

Walking distance from the city center is one of Glasgow’s best-known parks, Glasgow Green.  While walking around the park you can’t miss The Doulton Fountain and the People’s Palace with its beautiful green-housed Winter Garden.  The Green also hosts a number of events year-round, from music festivals to Glasgow’s own Oktoberfest.  Keeping on the beer theme, on the Northeast corner of the park is the recently established West Brewery, where you can stop in for a lager, wheat beer, or bite to eat at their bar and restaurant.

8. Glasgow Science Centre

The Science Tower and titanium-clad domes of the IMAX theatre and exhibit hall at Glasgow's Science Centre.
Getty Images / Martin McCarthy

Opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001, the center is made up of three parts:  the Science Mall, IMAX Cinema, and the Glasgow Tower.  The Mall is designed to look like the upturned ship, a nod to Clyde’s shipbuilding past, and contains 250 exhibits, many of them interactive.  The 370 capacity IMAX Theater was the first opened in Scotland and shows both 3D and 2D releases.  The Tower was recently re-opened in July 2014.  The whole thing is able to rotate 360 degrees and is the tallest tower on Earth with this ability.  Take the elevator ride to its viewing platform 345 feet (105 meters) for a great view of the Glasgow skyline.

7. Botanic Gardens

Wide angle view of the Kibble Palace at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, Scotland.
Getty Images / Chris Hepburn

An easy walking distance from the West End lies Glasgow Botanic Gardens.  There’s possibly no better place in Glasgow to spend a lazy, sunny summer day than here.  The gardens include outdoor lawns and woodland trails, as well as several glasshouses, the most well-known being Kibble Palace, which has stood on the site since 1873.  General guided tours run in the summer months, allowing you to work up a thirst before visiting the newly opened tea room for tea, coffee, or a snack.


6. Explore the West End

An aerial view of part of Glasgow's West End, including the trees of Kelvingrove Park and several Glasgow University buildings.
Getty Images / © George Clerk

Perhaps the most visually beautiful area of the city, you can spend hours wandering through the relaxed yet bustling streets.  Just off the main hub of Byres Road is Ashton Lane, a cobbled street of cafes, restaurants, and bars including The Grosvenor and The Ubiquitous Chip Restaurant, known locally as simply ‘The Chip’.  The area gains a lot of its cultural verve from its close proximity to the University of Glasgow.  Make time for a tour through the Victorian campus, and up the University tower for a fantastic view of the West End and beyond.  Just to the south is the trendy Finnieston area, with its pop-up bars and exhibitions, and iconic Finnieston Crane.

5. Bungee Jump

Poul Brix / Shutterstock

Glasgow isn’t exactly a city synonymous with thrill-seeking, but if that’s what you’re looking for then head down the River Clyde to the Titan Crane at Clydebank.  In June 2012, Highland Fling bungee set up Scotland’s second permanent bungee platform on top of the 150ft disused cantilever crane.  Urban Bungee jumps are available from April through October.  Pre-booking and a strong stomach are required.

4. Go to the Soccer

Thomas Gilfeather / Shutterstock

Home to 2 of the world’s biggest and most well know soccer clubs – Celtic and Rangers – much of Glasgow is colored by its inhabitants’ support for one of the two teams.  For a sporting experience like no other, go along to a Rangers game at Ibrox Stadium in the Govan area of the city, or take in a Celtic match at Celtic Park in the east end.  Those lucky (or brave) enough to be in town when the teams play each other will be treated to an atmosphere found nowhere else on Earth.  On the south side of Glasgow in the Mount Florida area is Hampden Park, home to the Scotland national football team, the Scottish Football Museum, and the athletics venue for the 2014 Commonwealth games.

3. Catch Some Live Music

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Many of Scotland’s most successful musicians and bands, such as Primal Scream, The Fratellis, and Simple Minds, originated in Glasgow.  And whatever your musical leanings, it’s very hard not to find something that piques your interest amongst Glasgow’s multiple live music venues.  Multi-platinum selling acts attract the crowds to the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), and the newly built, 13000 capacity Hydro arena.  Smaller but no less boisterous venues like the ABC, O2 Academy, and the Barrowlands also host various well-known acts.  For fans of dance music, The Arches on Argyle Street is one of Scotland’s top venues and hosts many of the world’s best DJs.2. 2.

2. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

cornfield / Shutterstock

Kelvingrove was re-opened in 2006 after a multi-million-pound refurbishment and is one of the most popular cultural attractions in Scotland, and one of the most visited museums in the UK.  Included in its 8000 exhibits are works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (designer of the iconic Glasgow School of Art), the Scottish Colourists, and, perhaps the most famous piece, Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross.  The Museum and Art Gallery lies at the west end of Kelvingrove Park, which is a popular and picturesque walking route to and from the city center.


1. Night on the Town

Getty Images / ©Michael Follan 2012

Glaswegians’ renowned hospitality and friendly nature mean a night out at the pubs, bars and clubs is an absolute must-do.  The city center should be the preferred destination for anyone looking for a wild time that goes well into the wee hours of the morning.  You can hit The Garage, Scotland’s largest nightclub, or head to a trendier boutique establishment like Kushion, just off Sauchiehall Street.  If clubbing isn’t your thing, wander the bars and restaurants in Merchant City, to the east of the city center.  And you can’t forget the famous Byres Road in the west end to hit up a cheap student bar, or cozy, quiet pub.