The best of the best when you only have one day in Glasgow.
I’ll be straight with you. This is one packed itinerary. However, you’ve got this. Wake up early. Lace up your comfiest sneakers. I’ve got coffee breaks planned out for you, so you won’t be functioning without any fuel. Here’s how you can spend one day in Glasgow making the most of your precious hours in the city.
This Glasgow itinerary is best for those who haven’t visited the city before or perhaps those who haven’t experienced acting like a tourist in town. There are so many fun things to do in Glasgow that it might be difficult to know where to start. These might not be the most typical Glasgow attractions. Instead, I’ll show you the slightly quirky spots, the best scenery in the city, loads of public art, and places that I’m sure many locals frequent on a regular basis.
To be completely honest, we spent about a day and a half in Glasgow as it was the first stop on our two week Scotland road trip. Justin and I flew from Toronto to Glasgow on an overnight flight (with a layover that lasted several hours in Dublin). We were feeling quite exhausted by the time we arrived, so we didn’t get up to much on our first half day in the city. If you’re feeling a little less ambitious, feel free to spread this list of attractions over two days in Glasgow. Whether you’ve got 24 hours or 48 hours in town, you certainly won’t run out of activities.
This list will give you a great idea of what to do in Glasgow. I’ll even give you some additional recommendations if you have a little more time than you anticipated (or if you’d like to sub out one attraction for another). Are you ready? Here’s how you can spend one day in Glasgow for epic and everlasting memories.
One Day in Glasgow: Morning
Wake up bright and early from your hotel or Airbnb accommodation. No matter where you stay (our personal recommendation is at the bottom of this article), make sure that you position yourself centrally in the middle of town so you can walk everywhere. If you do find yourself farther in the east or west end, Glasgow has a great subway system for getting around that’s relatively inexpensive. You can also opt to book tickets on the hop on hop off bus to get around town quickly and easily.
If you find yourself arriving at the Glasgow airport that morning, it’s easy to get right into the city. Take the Glasgow Airport Express bus right outside the terminal into town. The bus fare might seem a little bit expensive (£8), but it’s quick, easy, and likely to be cheaper than a taxi. Get off the bus at the first stop and you’ll be right in the middle of it all. Let’s start our day with some outdoor art.
Glasgow Mural Trail
Start your day by wandering around the city center to check out the Glasgow Mural Trail. I managed to visit most of the murals in Glasgow in a day. It’s also a great way to become acquainted with a new place.
Check out several murals in the center of town, leaving those that are towards the west end until later in the day. Leave the ones on the way to the east end as you can view them on the way to the Glasgow Cathedral after breakfast. You might want to wander around and discover all of the murals or catch a glimpse of a few favorites. It’s up to you!
The Saint Mungo mural is likely the most famous in Glasgow, located on High Street. Created back in 2016 by the artist, Smug, photos of this work were shared 1.5 million times in its first week!
I also adore Glasgow’s Tiger by the River Clyde. Klingatron and Art Pistol have re-imagined and created a new tiger in place of an old one at this site. It’s a beautiful work of street art and looks rather striking against the backdrop of old buildings.
Walk Along the River Clyde
The River Clyde is a destination in itself, so you can go for a stroll here while discovering the murals. On a bright and sunny day (which might be rare in Glasgow), you’re likely to see many people out for a morning stroll or bike ride, whether they’re on their way to work or enjoying the views. There’s a path that extends along the River Clyde, winding beneath the roads at times. You’ll spot several bridges for pedestrians or trains. While the scenery might seem on the gritty side from time to time, it’s real and vibrant in its own way.
Breakfast at Picnic
I’m sure by now you’ve worked up an appetite. Head directly to Picnic, an adorable cafe in the Merchant City district. 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.
While a cup of coffee was absolutely mandatory, I couldn’t resist ordering the waffles. They were topped with strawberries, bananas, caramel syrup, and soya whipped cream. They were next level amazing and I highly recommend ordering them if you’re feeling hungry (they’re quite filling!). You can also order a traditional breakfast (with veg sausages, mushrooms, baked beans, spinach, tomato, aspargus, beetroot, and a potato scone), porridge, a fresh croissant, yogurt and granola, or a cream cheese bagel (all vegan, of course!). If you’re interested in more vegan options, check out my vegan guide to Glasgow.
After breakfast, it’s only a short walk to the Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis. It’s 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.
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. It’s a must visit for any fans of intriguing architecture as you’ll discover styles spanning across the centuries. 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.
Finding yourself with more free time? 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.
Afternoon in Glasgow
Now that you’ve covered some Glasgow attractions in the east end, you’ll continue exploring the city center and beyond to the west end. On this afternoon, we’ll check out some interesting places to visit in Glasgow with excellent city views, as well as some modern art.
On your way back from the Necropolis, wander through George Square if you haven’t managed to already. It’s 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. You’ll also witness the city’s cenotaph to commemorate Glaswegians killed in World War I.
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. There are many events and exhibitions that are continually changing, and it’s free to visit. Definitely explore the multiple levels of the Lighthouse for its interesting modern and historical art exhibits for a better understanding of Glasgow and Scotland in the past and present.
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.
Coffee Break at Riverhill Coffee Bar
The Riverhill Coffee Bar is a great little spot to unwind with a cup of coffee and a snack. I asked about vegan options and it just so happened that the employee behind the counter also followed a vegan diet. She happily pointed out several baked goods and snacks that were vegan. The Americano and the brownie that I tasted were absolutely delicious, and I enjoyed the quiet ambiance of this small cafe. Pop by if you’re feeling a little under-caffeinated, craving a snack, or feeling like resting your legs for a little while.
Gallery of Modern Art
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.
Lunch at the Glasvegan
The Glasvegan has the best vegan fast food in Glasgow. We actually ended up dining there twice while in Glasgow, so definitely grab a meal or an afternoon snack there. 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.
Late Afternoon to Evening
Now that you’ve wandered around the east end and the city center, it’s time to explore the west end of Glasgow. After all, many Glasgow points of interest exist on the other side of town, too. You’ll find many vegan cafes, adorable coffee shops, and packed bars on the west side of town near the university. Ashton Lane is certainly a hot spot, though there’s no shortage of galleries and museums in the west end, too.
Coffee Break at Papercup Coffee Company
Justin and I walked from the middle of the city over to the west end, which takes about a half hour depending on where you’re ending up. I was desperate for another cup of coffee, so we found ourselves at Papercup Coffee Company. It worked out wonderfully as we took a break from the walking and I sipped a delicious Americano. The coffee was rich and flavorful, and the service was excellent. I noticed that they had some vegan treats, as well as plant-based milks. Pop by Papercup when you’re walking towards the University of Glasgow or Ashton Lane.
University of Glasgow 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.
Tip: We visited the Cloisters around 6:00pm on a Monday evening and it was deserted. If you’re looking to take some photos without any people around, choose to come here really early or later after the students have gone home for the day.
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. Sadly, when we were in Glasgow on a Monday, the gallery was closed (though it’s open every other day of the week).
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. It also happens to be right near a subway stop, which we took back into the city center after our trip.
Justin and I went to Brel for a couple of pints of beer. 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!
Dinner at Stereo
For dinner, we went to Stereo Cafe and Bar for their delicious vegan menu. 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.
Justin ordered the fettucine with porcini mushrooms, and I couldn’t resist getting an order of baba ganoush with the roast potato salad. The service was awesome and the food was super yummy. We’d go back again in a heartbeat, so make sure you head straight to Stereo for at least one meal when you’re in Glasgow.
More Things to Do in Glasgow
Not in love with everything on this list of what to do in Glasgow? Fear not – I have even more items on my list that I’ve slated for next time. If you want to see even more art beyond street art, the Gallery of Modern Art, or the Hunterian Museum, go to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. You can also take a walk around Kelvingrove Park while you’re at it.
Further northwest, check out the Kibble Palace at the Glasgow Botanical Gardens to see beautiful plants inside this stunning greenhouse. Of course, my itinerary is ambitious enough for one day in Glasgow without adding more activities and attractions. Pick and choose your favorites from this list according to your personal interests. Even though I only spent one day in Glasgow (okay, a day and a half!), you can spread these fun things to do in Glasgow across an entire weekend. It’s impossible to see Glasgow in a day, so why not spend even more time there? Hopefully I’ve convinced you to add Glasgow to your Scotland travel plans.
Where to Stay in Glasgow
If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Glasgow, head directly to Grasshoppers Hotel. From the perfect location to the friendly staff, I can’t imagine finding a better place accommodation in the city.
The prime location of Glasshoppers Hotel makes it one of the top hotels in Glasgow, if not the best place to stay in Glasgow. It’s right beside the Glasgow Central Station, and many of its rooms even overlook its beautiful glazed roof.
The rooms have a soothing and warm atmosphere that make you feel immediately feel at home. Hotel guests can enjoy modern amenities, like complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, a Samsung flatscreen TV, and a Sky Box with premium channels and additional sports stations. There’s also a separate desk if you need to work, perfect for the business traveler.
Want to see our photo gallery from Glasgow? You can view all of our pictures and even purchase prints, housewares, and more – created from any one of our photographs! Just click the “Buy” button beside any picture within our travel photo album.
Even if you only have one day in Glasgow, you can truly make the most of your visit. There are so many fun things to do in Glasgow and so many activities to fill a Glasgow itinerary, as you can see. Whether you have a day packed full of action or a more relaxed wander about the town, it’s worth at least a day (or two! or three!) of your time. While we only had a small taste of the city, I have a feeling that we’ll be returning to see more of Glasgow in the future.
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