10 Soccer Stadiums You Need to Visit

One of the best ways to experience a city as a local does is to attend its local sporting events. The crowds are often friendly (as long as no one makes the mistake of wearing the other team’s colors) and they’ll point out the best street food, the cheapest beer, and most likely, they’ll be using local slang to insult the opposition. But not all soccer teams are created equal, nor are their arenas. Read on to find the 10 sporting teams whose arenas should be on your bucket list.

10. Estádio Municipal de Braga – Braga, Portugal

The Estádio da Luz might be “the Cathedral” and Estádio José Alvalade is bright and beautiful, but it’s the Estádio Municipal that should be on soccer fans’ must-visit list. How many stadiums are carved out of a quarry? The Portuguese stadium might be unique in its setting, providing a beautiful place to watch a match. Only two sides of the field are flanked by stands, meaning the stadium is on the small side, holding just over 30,000. But a glance toward the hew rocks on one end, upon which the scoreboard stands, can fool visitors into believing they’re in the middle of nowhere. Look around to the other end, however, and the city of Braga sprawls below. The stadium sits just a 15 minute walk outside the city center, meaning there’s also plenty of opportunity to enjoy the delights of Portugal’s food and drink.

Photo by: Leon
Photo by: Leon

9. Anfield Stadium – Liverpool, England

For neutral fans wanting to catch a game in the country that gave birth to modern soccer, Anfield is by far the best choice. While Manchester United has a slick new complex and both Chelsea and Arsenal are located in London, all three are known for the rather tepid atmosphere pervading their stadiums. So for those seeking both a great stadium experience and a fun city to explore, the choice must be Anfield. Liverpool hasn’t won a major trophy in over a decade, but that doesn’t mean Reds fans are any less dedicated. The stadium is filled to capacity for nearly every league match, and the Kop – where the most vocal supporters sit – is guaranteed to be raucous. Be sure to learn the words to the club’s anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, before showing up at Anfield, as the entire stadium sings along just prior to kickoff.

nui7711 / Shutterstock.com
nui7711 / Shutterstock.com

8. Juventus Stadium – Turin, Italy

Serie A was once the top league in Europe, but Italian football is on the decline. That means less money, and less money means once-glorious stadiums like the San Siro in Milan are now crumbling. Juventus Stadium, however, provides not just a bright spot on the peninsula, but a prime model other clubs are in the process of emulating. Filled to almost its 40,000 capacity for every game, all that money goes to the team, a rarity in Italy. For Juventus, that means the ability to buy better players, which has lead to a run of league titles. For fans, it means getting to watch great soccer in the comfort of a modern stadium. For the visitor, it’s a wonderful atmosphere with seats almost right on top of the field. In short, it’s where to go to see the future of Italian soccer.

Pix4Pix / Shutterstock.com
Pix4Pix / Shutterstock.com

7. Maracanã Stadium – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil’s Maracanã is one of the most famous stadiums in the world. Even those who have no idea of its history (the venue was built to wow visitors coming to Brazil for the 1950 World Cup) would likely recognize it as an icon. All those memorable shots of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, broadcast to millions during the 2014 World Cup final, often showed the stadium in the background. Visitors might be disappointed to learn they can’t see the famous statue from inside any longer, however, as the roof has been extended to protect nearly every seat in the house. But the upgrades make this a great place to watch a game, from the open, single tier of yellow and blue seats to the airy roof above. And lovers of soccer history will be thrilled to know they’re sitting in the same stadium where the legendary striker Pelé scored his 1,000th goal.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

6. Celtic Park – Glasgow, Scotland

Celtic played their first match at Parkhead, as fans refer to the stadium, way back in 1892. The park has come a long way since those days when just one wooden stand loomed over the field. Rebuilt in the 1990s, 60,000 seats now enclose the field, and the noise from the stands creates an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams. Those wanting to catch a game at Celtic Park should try to get tickets to an Old Firm derby, when Celtic play their rivals Rangers. More difficult to find now that Rangers are in the second division, when a tournament draws these two together, these tickets are some of the hottest in Europe. Not only does the Old Firm pit the two most successful teams in Scottish history together, but it brings together passionate fans that absolutely despise the other side, making for a cracking atmosphere.

Cornfield / Shutterstock.com
Cornfield / Shutterstock.com

5. Estadio Azteca – Mexico City, Mexico

Club América is one of the most successful teams in Mexico, and it’s definitely worth a trip to watch them play Chivas Guadalajara, another of the country’s best and América’s most bitter rivals. But the real reason to come to this stadium is for international matches. The Mexico national soccer team, nicknamed El Tri, rarely ever loses a game at its home stadium, largely due to the intimidating atmosphere in the stands, which hold more than 95,000 spectators. Even when El Tri isn’t playing, history gets made. The Azteca, the first stadium to host two World Cup finals, has given the world some of the most famous moments in soccer. In 1970, Italy beat West Germany 4-3 in what’s known as the “Game of the Century,” while 1986 brought not only the “Goal of the Century” from Diego Maradona, but his infamous “Hand of God” incident against England.

Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com
Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com

4. Türk Telekom Arena – Istanbul, Turkey

Once the holders of the Guinness Book of World Records title for the loudest crowd noise at a sporting event, now Galatasaray fans behave as though they’re determined to take back their crown. The Türk Telekom Arena isn’t one of the biggest in the sport, holding just over 50,000, but the cim bom faithful know how to create a fantastic atmosphere. Galatasaray supporters are also partial to fire, so keep an eye out for flares and flames coming from the sections that house the hardcore fans. For those lucky enough to score a ticket to the Intercontinental Derby, when city rivals Fenerbahçe come to visit, huge displays of choreography and massive banners exalting Galatasaray are to be expected. Expect to be entertained by antics on the pitch as well, as tempers flare there’s usually at least one sending off.

Photo by: Omer via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Omer via Wikimedia Commons

3. La Bombonera – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Officially named the Estadio Alberto J. Armando, this stadium is called “La Bombonera” due to the fact that it resembles a chocolate box, having originally been built in a U-shape, although the fourth side is now filled with a low stand and VIP boxes. The addition of more space for spectators along that fourth side hasn’t diminished the stadium’s acoustics. The triple-tiered stands along three sides trap the noise, aiding the 49,000 supporters in creating an atmosphere hostile to visiting teams. The smallish capacity can make tickets hard to come by, especially if Boca Juniors are playing rivals River Plate, but the experience of being among such passionate fans is worth the effort. Take time before the game to walk around La Bombonera, admiring the murals depicting important moments in Boca Juniors’ history – particularly the choosing of the club’s famed blue and yellow colors.

Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com
Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com

2. Camp Nou – Barcelona, Spain

The biggest soccer stadium that can be found outside North Korea, the Camp Nou is on nearly every serious soccer fan’s bucket list. And no wonder: the stadium plays host to one of the most successful teams in Europe and offers a stage to many of the best players on earth.The fans also demonstrate a fierce pride in Catalonia, the autonomous region in which Barcelona is located. The club’s Catalan motto, “Mes que un club”, is spelled out in the seats, the supporters sing in Catalan, and the region’s flag waves throughout the stands. If going to El Clásico, the meeting between Barça and Real Madrid, read up on the political background for some fascinating insights into the rivalry. Even without a visit from the rivals, however, visitors are certain to see some wonderful soccer played out.

Natursports / Shutterstock.com
Natursports / Shutterstock.com

1. Westfalenstadion – Dortmund, Germany

The absolute best place to go for fans who want to experience both entertaining soccer and a fantastic atmosphere. Officially named Signal Iduna Park, the Westfalenstadion is the biggest in Germany and one of the largest in Europe, holding 81,359 when both seating and standing are included. While standing is not allowed when Borussia Dortmund are playing in European tournaments, it is their standing section that is perhaps the most attractive feature of a trip to the stadium. Die Gelbe Wand, or the Yellow Wall, comprises the Westfalenstadion southern terrace. It was named so because Dortmund’s primary color is bright yellow. The wall is an intimidating sight, featuring 25,000 supporters doing their best to strike fear in the heart of the opposition. Also watch for Dortmund’s tifo, or giant banners, unfurled in impressive displays of choreography as the match begins.

Photo by: lackystrike via Flickr
Photo by: lackystrike via Flickr

UNESCO’s Top 9 Musical Cities In The World

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization is well known for its designations of World Heritage Sites. For the music and travel lovers it also has a Cities of Music list that is completely fascinating and full of surprises. Fame and size are not on the list of criteria, hence New York and Berlin, two great musical centers that didn’t make the cut. The list rather focuses on cities with a distinguished musical history endemic to local, national, and world culture which have music in the DNA. The qualifying cities also make music an important sector of the economy in terms of concerts, technology, and tourism. They also share a serious, comprehensive musical educational component and actively promote their specialties to ensure their music thrives going forward and remains an important part of the culture and economy. For the traveler, these are meccas of live music, most of which have stunning venues from medieval to postmodern. It is a thought-provoking list without an obvious name. By the end of it, you might find yourself looking at flights to places you may never have heard of, or even just imagining the scenes and settings is time well wasted.

9. Seville, Spain

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What better place to start than the city that is the setting of the two greatest operas of all time, Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. These are the stuff of musical legends, but the heart and soul of musical culture and a touchstone of the Spanish identity is flamenco and it bears musical influences from all the cultures that have been part of the region’s history. For example, Spanish folk music, Arabic Byzantine and Christian and Jewish religious music. Seville’s most famous and hugely popular music festival, the Bienal de Flamenco, is world-renowned. The greatest flamenco interpreters stage traditional and original works in the sublime beauty of the city’s architectural masterpieces making a feast for all the senses; Real Alcazar the 9th-century palace. And the ancient Roman ruins, like watching great works of art in great works of art, but the most critically acclaimed takes place in the city’s nightclub district called Tablao El Arenal with award-winning artists performing a wide variety of flamenco’s different palos or styles.

8. Mannheim, Germany

Mannheim is a dynamic multicultural center of creativity. The aging rock group Mannheim Steam roller is American, but their name derives from one of many musical innovations of the Mannheim school of Composers of the 18th century. The Mannheim Roller is a kind of crescendo developed by the large orchestra at the court of Charles III Philip. Mannheim’s influences can be found in the works of Beethoven and Mozart. The musical pedigree here runs deep. UNESCO notes the city has been “a long-standing leader and innovator, with an extraordinary infrastructure for music”. It is a deliberate policy initiative that sees music having economic benefits not just within its own business, but for tourism and technology sectors. However, don’t think it’s all about classical music. Mannheim is still widely regarded as one of Germany’s musical centers. The Mannheim Pop Academy offers a Bachelor’s Degree in pop music while the Time Warp festival has the biggest names in techno music.

7. Hannover, Germany

It is a city of festivals and cabaret. The heavy metal band Scorpion, one of Europe’s most famous is from Hannover. The people of Hannover say there at the center of the Land of Music and it’s not a far-fetched claim. The hugely influential Hanover University of Music, Drama, and Media attracts gifted students from around the world who on their own perform 500 public concerts a year. The faculty includes Departments of Chamber Music, Contemporary Music, Ancient Music, Jazz|Rock|Pop, and Musicology. They teach every orchestral instrument except, for some reason, the harp. MUSIC is an institution of graduate study for research and development in emerging musical technologies. Also, Hannover is where the first music cassette was produced, the first CD was pressed and the first vinyl was invented.

6. Hamamatsu, Japan

Hamamatsu is a city of less than a million people and is located about 100 miles south of Tokyo along the Pacific coast. The makers of some of the world’s finest musical instruments, from grand pianos to synthesizers were founded here. Music is a huge part of the city’s cultural and business community – Roland, Yamaha, and Kawai still have their corporate headquarters in Hamamatsu. In fact, no other place on earth maybe this musical. The multiple stage Concert Hall is opulent and state of the art. There are 10 music festivals that occur here each year, two of the biggest are the internationally sanctioned Hamamatsu International Piano Competition and the Shizuoka International Opera Competition, both attracting major talent worldwide. The Hamamatsu Academy of Music and Shizuoka University of Art and Culture train students in everything from playing instruments to concert hall management. The Museum of Musical Instruments has an amazing collection from different eras and cultures. Part of its mandate is “fostering cross-cultural understanding and cultural diversity through music”.  As a last tribute to its musical pedigree, it is likely the only Asian city with a statue of a Polish composer, but it’s a copy of the famous art Nouveau depiction of Frederic Chopin in Warsaw, the sister city of Hamamatsu.

5. Ghent, Belgium

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Most of Ghent’s North American reputation is based on it being the city in which England and the United States concluded the treaty that ended the War of 1812. It’s a city full of culture and art events offering a unique combination of a celebrated past and a lively present. Now it is an educational and artistic center, especially in the musical realm. There are two graduate schools that teach opera and musicianship. Ghent also has elegant avenues and canals and is called the City of Festivals (although come to think of it, so is Montreal). But Ghent’s goes back at least to 1843 when the Gentse Feesten (the “Festivities of Ghent”) began. The whole city becomes a series of concert stages for all kinds of music and entertainment. Each year you can find some of the world’s biggest jazz names here, as well as upcoming acts that are both Belgian and international. Last year 30,000 people visited as Ghent becomes a music lover’s Mecca. Hundreds of performers provide a varied mixture of classical, jazz, and world music. For the Festival of Flanders “The streets alongside Ghent’s waterways overflow with music, animation, art, and spectacle”. The Jazz Festival attracts the biggest name performers. Even the Film Festival is about music in film. It’s not just the variety it’s also the venues, along the city’s canals some of which date back to medieval days. Plus Belgians really do make the best fries in the world.

4. Glasgow, Scotland

Of course, Glasgow would be home to the World Pipe (as in bagpipe) Band competition and the highly coveted winner’s trophy. But Glasgow is far more than that – it is an Old World city with a rich history filled with creative arts. Music is one of its most notable. For almost a century, St. Andrew’s Hall was one of the most celebrated musical venues in Europe. It was burned to the ground in 1962 by a careless smoker at a boxing match, but its reputation for musical excellence sustains to this day. With UNESCO as a partner, Scottish musical enthusiasts have written a book, Dear Green Sounds that tells the musical history of Glasgow through its historic venues as a walking tour. From the classical offerings at St. Andrew to perhaps less refined though no less memorable concerts from Frank Sinatra to Freddie Mercury. It is one of those places in which music is ingrained. Classical fans still lament the loss of St. Andrew’s, but it has kept up with time and fashion.

3. Brazzaville, Congo

In Africa it seems like music is not just for listening, it’s a cause for celebration. It’s an escape perhaps from the poverty in which too many of them live. The capital of Congo was there at the birth of soukous (from the French verb to shake) or Congolese rumba, a genre of mesmerizing high-speed dance and music that is an African cultural bedrock, ubiquitous across the continent and popular around the world. Music in Brazzaville is an aspect of their culture to conserve, teach and promote. It’s home to the African Music Council and the 2015 Pan-African Music Festival whose theme in 2015 was “dynamics of music in the diversity of cultural expressions”. Other major events include the FEUX DE BRAZZA (Festival of Lights), which is a blast as you would expect any African music event would be, especially amidst the charm of Brazzaville. But it has its serious side as well…its mission statement reads, in part, the safeguarding of African cultural traditions will ensure that through this festival, future generations will be the link that will perpetuate that culture”.

2. Bologna, Italy

On its opera alone, Italy is a world musical superpower, but in terms of musical centers, fans usually think of Milan’s legendary opera house, La Scala, or perhaps the Venice of Antonio Vivaldi. UNESCO has chosen the ancient educational and culinary center of Bologna for its list, citing its “widespread promotion of the music sector” La Dota (The Learned) home to the oldest university in the world, dating from 1088. The University of Bologna was the first in the country to offer degrees in music and performing arts. Not to mention the music festivals! It seems the only festival missing from this city is a Congolese rumba festival. Classical, chamber, devotional, opera, ballet, blues jazz, even Jewish jazz. The target audiences start at the age of one. For music lovers, there is the additional attraction of events set in the glorious ancient city. Bologna has four major orchestras including one run by Claudio Abbado, one of the greatest conductors of his generation. But it’s not just the artistic history and culture, it’s the educational and community outreach that UNESCO favors with Abbado’s Orchestra Mozart works as music therapists in the health and social services field. Also, dress rehearsals are open free of charge to dozens of schools and cultural associations.

1. Bogotá, Colombia

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Columbia is undergoing a remarkable transition socially, economically, and architecturally as it is a creative city renowned for its rich music scene. The traditional and emerging forms of music are playing an intrinsic part in the change. The country holds 60 festivals every year, the biggest of which is “Festivales Al Parque” an eclectic display of everything from jazz, opera, hip hop, and salsa that over half a million people flock to see. In addition to hosting the “Festivales Al Parque”, Bogota has 500 live music venues where festivals occur annually. UNESCO says the city is an important center for the performance and cultivation of the following music forms: salsa, fusion, rock, opera, classic, chamber, electronic, pop, tropical, ranchera, hip hop, experimental, bolero, gospel, and Colombia’s own rich musical traditions can be heard. It has taken on the task as a regional cultural center to promote artists across Latin America and the Caribbean. Bogota is at the edge of the evolving public policy of using music as a cultural touchstone and lucrative engine of economic growth. The Bogota Music Market, created in 2012, has also become a notable platform for local and regional music agents. Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce is developing a Music Cluster in order to strengthen the city’s dynamic music sector.

10 Best Things to See and Do in Glasgow

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

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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

Daniel Davison / Getty Images

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

The 7 Best Day Tours in Scotland

If you don’t already know it’s worth mentioning:  Scotland isn’t a big place.  It could fit into Canada 127 times, and if it were a US state it would rank 11th smallest, sandwiched between West Virginia and South Carolina, but by no means is this a bad thing.  What it lacks in size it makes up for in spectacular scenery, places to adventure, and its lack of square miles makes it very easy to see the sights, even if you’re on a time crunch.  If you’re staying in the ‘Central Belt’ you can go on any number of excursions and be back in time for dinner and a well-earned drink.

7. Catch a City Bus Tour

If you don’t want to spend the whole day walking, or if the changeable weather takes a turn, then get a ticket for a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.  Buses run in Glasgow, Inverness, Oban and Edinburgh – where there are numerous choices.  There is running commentary in a range of languages as you stop at all the major attractions in your chosen city, from historic Inverness Castle in the north, to Glasgow’s trendy West End.  Prices start at around $20 for an adult.

Brendan Howard / Shutterstock.com
Brendan Howard / Shutterstock.com

6. Rosslyn Chapel and Literary Tours

Scotland, its landscape, cities and history have been a source of inspiration for authors for centuries and you can find out more about the people and places which inspired some of the world’s most famous prose on a number of tours.  Just south of Edinburgh is Rosslyn Chapel, which has been in the spotlight of mainstream culture since appearing in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code in 2003, and the movie of the same name in 2006.  Tours of the south of Scotland that stop at the chapel run daily from Edinburgh.  In the evening you can embark on a literary adventure around the watering holes that spawned some of Scotland’s best fiction, on the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour.  With professional actors as your tour guides, the tour takes you round the bars which inspired Scotland’s greats, from Robbie Burns to Irvine Welsh.

Antony McAulay / Shutterstock.com
Antony McAulay / Shutterstock.com

5. Loch Ness and Glen Coe

There aren’t many countries in which you can travel almost end to end while experiencing some of the best sights and stories along the way, all in a day.  Scotland is one of them, and both Highland Experience and Rabbie’s offer 8am to 8pm full day tours.  Along the way you’ll experience Loch Ness, with its deep, dark waters containing tales of the famous monster, Nessie.  There’s plenty of space for her to hide as the loch contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.  The route also travels through Glen Coe, both visually spectacular and historically important, as you’ll learn about the infamous 17th century massacre of the MacDonald clan at the hands of the Campbells.

Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness in Scotland

4. Visit St Andrews

Located on the East Neuk of Fife, proudly facing the North Sea is St Andrews.  About an hour drive from Edinburgh, the seaside town is just the right size to spend a day, and draws in crowds both local and international.  There’s no shortage of historic attractions, from the cobbled streets of the town center to the ruins of the cathedral (once the biggest in Scotland), and the famous Old Course, the true Home of Golf.  Day tours operated by Rabbie’s from Edinburgh depart daily at 9:30am, year round.

Ruin of St Andrews Cathedral in St Andrews, Scotland

3. Isle of Arran

Arran lies off the west coast of Scotland, about 2 hours from Glasgow – 1 hour over land and 1 hour by boat.  The island is often described as Scotland in miniature, due to its unpredictable weather, rugged hilly northern half, and flat southern portion, and is the ideal place to spend a day.  Arran is perfect for energetic souls looking for a hike or cycle as its highest peak Goat Fell stands at 2,866 f.  It’s also great for sightseers out for a relaxing day trip, who can explore Broddick Castle, wander one of the south sides beautiful beaches or sign up for the daily tour of Arran Brewery.  Check out Arran Adventure Company or Mogabout Tours to plan ahead for the day.

Scenery of the Isles of Arran in Scotland

2. See Edinburgh Day and Night

There are few better cities in the world to take a jaunt through than Edinburgh.  During the day you can spend hours wandering through parks and admiring the Georgian architecture of the New Town.  Come night time, strolling through the Old Towns cramped, medieval passageways takes on a darker tone, as memories of its grisly past haunt the cobbled streets.  You can enjoy either or both of these pastimes with the help of a handy guide on a Sandeman’s walking tour.  Day tours depart 3 times daily from the High Street on the Royal Mile in the center of Edinburgh at 10am, 11am and 2pm, and best of all they’re free.  Night tours are also offered where come evening, you can delve into the city’s darker past or one of its many hostelries, depending on your mood.  Entrance fees apply for these.

Edinburgh Cityscape from Calton Hill at dusk Scotland UK

1. Isle of Skye

Skye is the only one of the Inner Hebridies – a collection of islands off Scotland’s northwest coast – to be connected to the mainland by means of a bridge, and is thus one of the most easily accessible.  Dominated at its center by the Cuillin, or Black Cuillin mountains, it also happens to be one of the most beautiful corners of the country.  Skye Scenic Tours operate fantastic day tours of the island, allowing you to take in all it has to offer.  The highlights include breathtaking views of the Cuillins, a visit to the Talisker whisky distillery, and a stop at the crystal clear, and aptly named Fairy Glen waterfalls and pools.  Day tours cost around $50 per adult and operate from daily from March through December.

View on Portree before sunset, Isle of Skye, Scotland