There are so many fun things to do in Glasgow, Scotland. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting on two separate occasions now, and I never run out of amazing places to visit. There are so many world class attractions, fun activities, and insightful walking tours around this historic city.
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I have a really awesome Glasgow one day itinerary if you’re looking to spend a day (or a day and a half) in this Scottish city. However, this Glasgow travel guide showcases all of the most fun things to do in Glasgow, whether you’re staying for a night or several nights. I was able to check out most of the places on this list after spending 3 days in Glasgow (although you could definitely stay in the city longer!).
In this Glasgow travel guide, I’ll be showing all of the best things to do in Glasgow. Furthermore, this is a sustainable way to visit Glasgow. This means that everything on this list takes our social and environmental impact into consideration. This includes:
- A fantastic hotel to choose when in Glasgow
- Public transportation options within Glasgow and getting to the city
- Walking tours in Glasgow with a positive social impact
- The best parks and green spaces
- Top places to visit overall, and what to do in Glasgow’s City Centre and West End
- The best vegan restaurants in Glasgow
- Amazing coffee shops in Glasgow
Traveling Sustainably in Glasgow
There are several considerations that you can make before planning your trip to Glasgow regarding sustainability. First, Glasgow is a great choice because it is less touristy than other areas of Scotland, like Edinburgh. Choose to travel during the shoulder seasons or the off season to avoid over-tourism while supporting the local economy (July and August, as well as Christmas holidays, are good times to avoid).
Use public transportation as much as possible, or you could also bike or walk to various destinations around town. Choose plant-based and vegan meals as they have a better impact on the environment. Bring your own reusable water bottle or coffee tumbler if possible to reduce waste.
It’s also possible to choose tours and activities that have a positive social impact. Many hotels have initiatives that are positive for the environment. I also suggest incorporating aspects of “slow travel” into your trips. This means spending more time in one place to connect with the people and culture of the destination. You’ll likely find that travelling more slowly rather than ticking things off a bucket list makes for a more enjoyable and authentic experience.
Where to Stay in Glasgow
I recommend staying at the Maldron Hotel in downtown Glasgow. It opened in 2021 and it is a 4-star hotel in Glasgow City. The location is perfect as it’s easy to walk all over town, and it’s also a quick walk to the subway and train station. It’s also great for the business traveler as there’s complimentary Wi-Fi, and plenty of space to work from your room or the lobby.
The rooms are spacious, clean, and modern. The hotel staff is friendly and helpful. Plus, Maldron Hotels has a Living Green initiative where they aim to limit their environmental footprint through reducing energy, waste, and water consumption.
Getting to Glasgow By Train
Reaching Glasgow by train isn’t only an eco-friendly choice, but it’s also an enjoyable experience, too. Taking an overnight sleeper train is a memorable experience in itself! When you’re traveling between Scotland and England, a journey aboard the Caledonian Sleeper is something that you need to do at least once in your lifetime.
The Caledonian Sleeper is an overnight rail service that connects London to Scotland. You can take the overnight sleeper train from London to Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Fort William, and Inverness. The journey from London to Glasgow typically only takes about five hours, but they stretch it out to a full eight hours so you’re able to get enough sleep on the way. You can board the train from London’s Euston Station at 10:30pm (the train departs at 11:40pm) and you’ll arrive in Glasgow at around 7:00am.
We spent the night in one of the Classic Rooms. It’s a small room with two bunkbeds and an in-room washbasin to wash your face or brush your teeth before bedtime. The shared toilet/larger restroom is down the hall. You’ll receive some complimentary toiletries, and you can request to have a coffee or tea delivered to your room in the morning just before your arrival.
There are other options on the train where you have an en-suite bathroom with a toilet and shower. The Caledonian Double has a double bed instead of bunkbeds. The Club Room also has an en-suite bathroom, but has bunkbeds similar to the Classic Rooms. It is possible to purchase meals on board for breakfast, although I decided to have breakfast at the hotel in Glasgow on arrival.
On the way back, we took an Avanti West Coast train from Glasgow to London. It took about five hours to reach London’s Euston Station by high speed train from Glasgow. We had assigned seating and the journey went by really quickly. I loved gazing out the window at the beautiful scenery throughout Scotland and England. I suggest booking your train tickets here through Rail Europe.
Getting Around Glasgow
Once you’re in Glasgow, it’s really easy to get around using public transportation. First and foremost, Glasgow is an extremely walkable city and it’s possible to reach many places on your own two feet.
I love walking around cities because I have the chance to admire the architecture of the buildings, as well as daily life in the city that’s happening all around me. Glasgow has amazing old buildings and a bustling city life, so it’s the perfect place to go for a stroll.
Glasgow has a subway system that serves the city centre, west end, and southside of the city. It operates in one big loop and the subway is very easy to figure out. For wherever the subway doesn’t go, you can take the bus. First Bus Glasgow has over 80 routes throughout the city. You can take First Bus Glasgow between the city and the airport, too.
Lastly, if you’re looking for transportation and a tour combined, consider booking a ticket aboard the Glasgow Hop On Hop Off Bus. You can enjoy unlimited hop on hop off privileges for a day or two aboard the open top, double decker bus. The full loop lasts 80 minutes and it visits most popular sights and attractions all over the city.
Fun Things to Do in Glasgow: Walking Tours
Walking tours are always a good choice, even if it’s a place you’ve visited before. I recommend choosing a walking tour that’s led by a local guide who can provide unique insights to the city you’re visiting. They often offer a local’s perspective and will help you better understand the history and culture. Not only that, but they can answer any questions that you might have. Here are a couple of awesome walking tours that I experienced in Glasgow.
Street Art Walking Tour
If you love art, local culture, alternative travel or anything remotely offbeat, I highly recommend taking a Street Art Walking Tour with Walking Tours in Scotland. Our incredible tour guide, Caron, took our small group on a stroll beneath bridges, down alleyways, and along the river’s edge to view some of the best street art in Glasgow.
There are so many stories behind these works of art by local and international artists. Plus, there are so many little details that you might otherwise miss if you aren’t touring around with a local. For instance, in the Wind Power mural by Rogue One, someone added googly eyes to one of the windmills (you can only see it when looking up close). Then, around the corner, there’s another stencil work of art added by Tony Trowbridge, also known as “Not Dead Yet”, which is reportedly an image of his ex-girlfriend looking pretty angry.
We also stopped several times to admire works of art that you wouldn’t notice unless you were searching for them. There was a faded unicorn on one sidewalk (the unicorn is Scotland’s national animal because the unicorn beats the lion, which is England’s animal). We saw another tiny work of art on the ground at another point, and then another work of stencil art high up on a building.
While it is entirely possible to check out all of this street art on your own, you won’t gain nearly as many insights to the stories behind the art as you will with your guide. You’ll learn so many stories about local history and culture, and how they are connected to the murals around town.
Caron was so insightful and was happy to answer all of our questions. She pointed out so many intriguing aspects surrounding the art and shared the background behind these pieces that we’d otherwise never know. It’s also fun to see Glasgow through the eyes of a local.
I suggest using this street art walking tour as a jumping off point to explore even more murals in Glasgow. I’ve got a blog post all about the Glasgow Mural Trail and how to find this amazing street art with a self-guided tour.
Alternative Glasgow Walking Tour
Embarking on an alternative walking tour with Invisible Cities is one of the best things to do in Glasgow. Invisible Cities is an award-winning social enterprise. They train people who have experienced homelessness in Glasgow to become tour guides of the city. The guides create their own tours, so you’ll often learn interesting details and facts that aren’t on any other walking tours.
We met our tour guide, Sonny, at Glasgow Green and began walking along Saltmarket and then the Trongate. Sonny told us many stories about the old public hangings and happenings in this historic market. For instance, there were supposed body snatchers in this area who dug up graves to sell the corpses as cadavers for medical studies. But, they were actually killing homeless people and got caught when the bodies seemed too fresh.
As we continued on our tour up to Buchanan Street, we learned that much of Glasgow was built on the backs of the slave trade. For example, Buchanan Street is named for Andrew Buchanan, a man who profited from the slave trade and owned plantations in Virginia. The mansions of many slave traders are all over Merchant City.
After visiting George Square and the Duke of Wellington state with its iconic cones, we ended the tour at the Homeless Jesus sculpture at St. George’s Tron, Church of Scotland. The sculpture was created by Timothy Schmalz, an artist from the Toronto area, and there are about 100 of these artworks worldwide. The sculpture illustrates a homeless man sleeping on a bench under a blanket. You wouldn’t realize from afar, but if you examine his feet closely, you’ll see crucifixion wounds.
This tour by Sonny at Invisible Cities provided a general walking tour of Glasgow that’s perfect for first time visitors. It also delves into some alternative places to visit, historical details about the dark side of Glasgow, and other facts that you won’t get on any other tour. You’ll currently find Invisible Cities in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and York.
Best Things to Do in Glasgow: Explore Parks and Green Spaces
When you think about Glasgow, images of a slightly gritty, working class city might spring to mind. While Glasgow is full of amazing historic architecture, Glasgow also has many beautiful parks and green spaces. This is a great opportunity to go for a stroll on tree-lined pathways, see pretty plants and flowers, and even catch glimpses of adorable Highland Cows.
See Highland Cows at Pollok Country Park
Pollok Country Park is a massive greenspace on the south side of Glasgow, perfect for walking and cycling. There are many trails through forests and you’ll feel like you’ve transported yourself far outside of the city. In actuality, it’s only a short bus ride to get to Pollok Park. A trip to Pollok Country Park is one of the most fun things to do in Glasgow.
There are many beautiful gardens with flowers and vegetables, and we even stumbled upon some adorable hobbit houses on our walk. As you continue walking through the park, you’ll eventually reach Pollok House, a grand country estate owned by the Maxwell family for six centuries.
Fun fact: Pollok Country Park was a filming location for Outlander! While there are pretty gardens and a stunning historic home on the Pollok Country Park property, we visited primarily to see the “fold” of Highland Cows (or “Heilan Coos” as the Scots say it). When it comes to Highland Cows, a large group is called a fold rather than a herd.
We walked all over this park in search of the cows and they were quite a distance from our starting point. Our search to find the hairy coos allowed us to discover the magic of Pollok Country Park and it was such a delight to explore. Eventually, we made our way to a point on Google Maps simply marked “cows” and found a few of them grazing by a fence. They’re so adorable!
Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Glasgow Botanic Gardens is a wonderful, free thing to do in Glasgow and home to the finest gardens in the city. Wander around the property to view plants and flowers. When I visited in the fall, the flowers were mostly done for the year, but it was lovely to see the fall colours on the trees.
To see gorgeous greenery all year long, step into the historic Kibble Palace. It’s a brilliant Curvilinular Glasshouse designed by John Kibble. It’s home to a national collection of tree ferns. There are trees and plants from around the world inside the Kibble Palace, and it’s well worth a visit.
Kelvingrove Park is a greenspace along the River Kelvin in Glasgow’s west end. It was designed in 1852, and there are many interesting features to discover as you wander around the park. The largest structure is the Stewart Memorial Fountain, and there are numerous other monuments and statues sprinkled throughout the park.
Kelvingrove Park is also home to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It has 22 galleries with a vast array of exhibits, featuring everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts to Renaissance art. It’s one of the most popular Glasgow attractions and one of the best places to visit in Glasgow for museum lovers.
Glasgow Green is the oldest park in Glasgow (and the oldest public park in Britain!), and it’s located just east of the Saltmarket. Some notable structures in Glasgow Green include the McLennan Arch, Nelson Monument, the Templeton Factory, and the St. Andrew’s Suspension Bridge.
The People’s Palace and the Winter Gardens usually top the list of any Glasgow itinerary, but the People’s Palace building is closed for renovations at this time. There isn’t any set timeline as to when it will reopen.
Must Do Glasgow: The Best Places to Visit
While there are so many fun things to do in Glasgow, there are many attractions and activities that are completely unique to this Scottish city. I highly suggest that you incorporate the following spots into your Glasgow itinerary because it’s likely you won’t find anything quite like them anywhere else in the world.
Please note that the Lighthouse is currently closed, but will hopefully reopen soon. You might not have heard of The Lighthouse, but it’s one of the best places to visit in Glasgow. It’s Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, a visitor centre, and an exhibition centre that’s free to check out.
One of the main reasons to visit the Lighthouse is for the city scenery views. There are two perspectives within the building: one is up on the 6th floor where you can observe impressive city views from behind glass. However, the best cityscape scenery is from the Mackintosh Centre on level three.
Walk up a circular staircase, originally part of a water tower designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. At the top, there’s an outdoor viewing platform for the best scenery of Glasgow. The staircase itself is quite impressive when you’re looking down on it from the top.
For those with accessibility requirements, I highly recommend that you take the elevator up to the sixth floor to see Glasgow from the indoor viewing platform. If you don’t have any trouble hiking up several flights of stairs, definitely take the spiral staircase within the Mackintosh Centre to the narrow platform at the top.
It might seem strange to some to include a cemetery on this itinerary, but it really belongs on any list of Glasgow points of interest. The Glasgow Necropolis is a must visit for any fans of intriguing architecture as you’ll discover styles spanning across the centuries. It’s one of the most unusual things to do in Glasgow, but I highly recommend wandering around the Glasgow Necropolis.
While there are about 3500 monuments, approximately 50,000 people were buried at the Glasgow Necropolis. Only a small percentage of people are named on the stones, and not every grave has its own stone.
The Necropolis is up on a hill overlooking the Glasgow Cathedral and the city, so you can admire some great views from up there. Take some time to wander around and examine some of the interesting carvings and graves. There are some brilliant statues dedicated to some fascinating individuals. If you’d like to delve deeper, I suggest booking a walking tour with a local for more insight and history.
The Glasgow Cathedral is the oldest cathedral on mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow, dating to the 12th century. The Glasgow Cathedral is an incredible example of Scottish Gothic architecture. It’s also one of the few Scottish medieval churches to have survived the Scottish Reformation not unroofed. The tomb of the patron saint of Glasgow, Saint Mungo, is in the lower crypt.
Interestingly enough, the University of Glasgow started with classes held within the cathedral in 1451. While the building is owned by the Crown, it is maintained by Historic Scotland as a popular tourist destination. It also continues to be a place of active worship.
Gallery of Modern Art (and the Duke of Wellington Statue)
The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) is the main contemporary art museum in Glasgow. You’ll find works here by local and international artists, and it’s free to visit. Why not pop into the gallery for an hour or so to discover some intriguing art?
Even if you don’t step inside GoMA (I highly recommend that you do, even for a little while), you should at least see the building itself. It’s an impressive neoclassical building with a famous statue out front. It’s a statue of the Duke of Wellington riding a horse. Why is it so famous?
Locals continue to play a prank on the Duke of Wellington statue by placing a traffic cone on his head. When authorities remove the traffic cone, they only find that it becomes replaced with a new cone almost immediately. The image of the traffic cone on the statue became quite iconic. When I visited, there was a cone on the Duke of Wellington’s head and the horse’s head.
Things to Do in Glasgow City Centre
Glasgow City Centre is the main commercial centre of the city, located north of the River Clyde. While many European cities have meandering streets that are difficult to navigate, Glasgow’s streets were constructed in a grid pattern. This makes it really easy to find your way around town. Here are the best things to do in Glasgow City Centre that you don’t want to miss.
Go Shopping on Buchanan Street
Buchanan Street is one of the main shopping streets, and it is a pedestrian only street closed off to traffic. You’ll notice some magnificent Victorian and Edwardian architecture with department stores and boutique shopping experiences. If you go for a stroll down Buchanan Street, you’re likely to encounter musicians or street performers in this lively environment. If you love shopping, visiting Buchanan Street is one of the most fun things to do in Glasgow.
Sample Local Beer (at the Pub or Brewery)
If you love beer, you’re in luck. There are lots of local brews made in Glasgow and the surrounding area. I sampled the St Mungo Lager by Glasgow’s West Brewing Company at a local pub, and it was perfectly refreshing.
Consider popping into the Tennent Caledonian Breweries to sample one of Scotland’s favorite beers (and tour around one of Scotland’s oldest businesses!). Want to combine your love for beer with a walking tour? This tour of the city allows you to discover the history of Glasgow along with some of its best brews.
Britannia Panopticon Music Hall
The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall is the world’s oldest surviving music hall, and it’s right here in Glasgow. I had never heard of the Panopticon before my most recent trip to Glasgow. Our tour guide, Caron, showed us this historic place as an extra added stop on our street art walking tour.
It features a recently restored 1920s stage where Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy fame) made his debut. Nowadays, you can visit the Panopticon for classic films, variety nights, comedy nights, drag nights, and so much more. For an alternative side of the city (as well as historic side), visiting the Panopticon is one of the most fun things to do in Glasgow.
Wander through George Square, the main civic square of Glasgow and one of six squares in the city. It’s named after King George III and has important buildings surrounding it, including the City Chambers and the Merchants House.
There are also several iconic statues, including those of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. There’s a statue of Robert Peel who established the London Metropolitan Police Force, and he’s the reason the police in the UK are called “bobbies”. You’ll also witness the city’s cenotaph to commemorate Glaswegians killed in World War I.
Purrple Cat Cafe
Purrple Cat Cafe is Glasgow’s first cat cafe and they are home to 30 rescued kitties. If you’re looking for one of the most fun things to do in Glasgow, make sure to pay a visit to the cats. They have lots of hot and cold beverages, cakes and desserts, and loads of vegan options.
Glasgow Attractions in the West End
Behind downtown Glasgow, the west end is a neighbourhood that you need to check out. It’s a bit trendy, quirky, and there are lots of fun things to do in Glasgow’s west end. You’ll want to explore all three of its separate areas: Finnieston, Kelvinbridge and Partick. On top of the following places to visit, the west end has loads of amazing restaurants and bars, and it’s certainly one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the UK.
University of Glasgow and the Cloisters
I love discovering historic universities on my travels. For instance, I’ve included a trip to the National University of Ireland Galway in my 1 day Galway itinerary. If you’re looking for what to see in Glasgow specifically at the university, head to the famous Cloisters.
The archways and columns of the Cloisters are the most iconic sight at the University of Glasgow. You might recognize this area from Outlander or Cloud Atlas, and walking around the University of Glasgow made me feel as though I was attending Hogwarts.
If you’re looking to take photos around the Cloisters, I suggest visiting later in the day or on the weekend when the students aren’t around as much. While you’re at the university, consider checking out the Hunterian Museum. There are over one million items, ranging from art to meteorites to mummies. Plus, it’s free to visit.
In the west end, you’ll find the cobblestone street called Ashton Lane, lined with pubs and restaurants. It’s near Byers Road where you’ll find even more pubs and restaurants. There’s even a small cinema on Ashton Lane.
A pub that I really enjoyed on Ashton Lane was called Brel. Towards the end of the road, dine at the renowned Glaswegian restaurant, Ubiquitous Chip. No matter where you end up along the street, you’re guaranteed to have a great time mingling and sampling some drinks. It’s even a great spot to go pub hopping!
The Hidden Lane
In Finnieston, The Hidden Lane is one of Glasgow’s best kept secrets. It’s a community of artists, designers, and musicians with over 100 studio spaces and a tearoom. You can pop into some of the galleries and shops or walk around these brightly painted houses.
Don’t miss stopping by Bubblegum Kitschville, an arts and curiosity shop where I was able to find art and jewelry with cats on them that I adore. There’s a pottery shop next door (Spin Pottery), a yoga studio, the Hidden Lane Tearoom, and so much more.
Top Restaurants in Glasgow
Did you know that Glasgow is the vegan capital of the United Kingdom? It’s been named as one of the most vegan-friendly cities in Europe. After visiting Glasgow twice now, I haven’t come close to dining at all of the vegan restaurants in Glasgow, nevermind all of the vegetarian and vegan-friendly ones. Here are the top establishments for vegan cuisine in Glasgow, including both 100% plant-based restaurants and vegan-friendly ones.
Ubiquitous Chip (known as “The Chip”) is a fine dining restaurant on Ashton Lane featuring Scottish cuisine. The restaurant itself is elegantly decorated, and you can enjoy delicious food and an expansive selection of wine here.
There are always vegetarian items on the menu, and it’s easy to inquire about vegan food. I enjoyed a vegan three course meal: vegan haggis, charred broccoli and tempura leaves, and roast pineapple with coconut panna cotta for dessert.
111 By Modou
111 by Modou is an exciting restaurant led by Head Chef Modou Diagne. The restaurant features its eclectic five course tasting menu, which is continually rotating with the seasons. You choose one of two main ingredients for each meal, and the rest of the dish is a total surprise. You can make special dietary requests with ease.
I enjoyed a five course vegan meal, which included the following dishes: charred lettuce with tomato puree and onion, a melon gazpacho, artisan gnocchi with pickled celeriac and candied walnuts, wild mushroom with parsnips, and a vanilla sorbet with tofu mousse. Dining at 111 by Modou was such a treat.
Soul Food Kitchen
Soul Food Kitchen is a 100% vegan restaurant in Glasgow’s west end, and it’s rated as the best vegan restaurant in Glasgow on the Happy Cow app. They serve healthy, plant-based eats like vegan burgers, bowls, mac and greens, avocado toast, and so much more.
I suggest trying the Green Beast Burger (their signature green patty topped with cashew cheese) and the broccoli with garlic and chili. Both were delicious!
Glaschu (pronounced Glas-a-hoo) is the Scottish Gaelic for Glasgow (meaning “dear green place”). This restaurant showcases modern Scottish fine dining with its innovative menu of exquisite dishes and intriguing cocktails.
I savoured a starter, a main course, and a cocktail for lunch at Glaschu. The staff were very attentive in preparing vegan meals and were able to easily adjust vegetarian options or even create new dishes. My appetizer was a fried artichoke dish that was absolutely divine, and I loved my cauliflower entree. My cocktail featured banana and lemon flavours, and even had a little banana chip attached to the glass with a tiny clothespin!
Gamba is primarily a fish and seafood restaurant in Glasgow, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t good food for vegetarians and vegans! I had a delicious vegan pesto gnocchi for lunch that wasn’t listed anywhere on the main menu, but you shouldn’t have a problem requesting it in advance.
The Glasvegan has the best vegan fast food in Glasgow. They serve breakfast in the morning (try their Scottish breakfast!) and other yummy meals throughout the day. You’ll want to try one of their hot dogs, chick’n burgers, mac ‘n cheese, or nachos. They have a huge variety of menu items splashed across one of the walls, making it difficult to choose just one meal.
Stereo Cafe and Bar has a delicious vegan menu, and it’s a fabulous place to go for dinner. In the evening, there are live musical performances, so you can even listen to a local band if you’d like. There’s a variety of small plates, mains, pizzas and sandwiches, along with a selection of drinks. Everything is free from animal products, including the delectable desserts.
Picnic is an adorable cafe in the Merchant City district and I loved going there for breakfast. It’s a vegan establishment offering fresh and organic meals, using recyclable and biodegradable packaging where possible. It’s the perfect stop for breakfast or lunch during your busy day exploring Glasgow.
More Places to Visit in Glasgow
Looking for even more top things to do in Glasgow? Here are even more popular things to see in Glasgow and beyond:
- Riverside Museum (temporarily closed)
- Glasgow Science Centre
- The Mackintosh House (one of the best free attractions)