There is plenty to see and do in the city centre and a great way to get about is to use the hop-on-hop-off City Sightseeing tours which offer regular departures and stop off at the major attractions and points of interest. If your stay is a little longer, then you can explore further afield – Glasgow is a great base for exploring the rest of Scotland – within easy travelling time you can be in the Highlands, or islands or in historic towns and villages such as Stirling and St Andrews. So how about this for a two-day, quick-fire trip round one of the world’s greatest cities?
Start your visit to the city with a visit to one of the most historical sites – Glasgow Cathedral. One of Scotland’s most magnificent medieval buildings, the Cathedral is the only one on the Scottish mainland to survive the Reformation of 1560 intact. Named after St Mungo, Glasgow’s patron saint, the site marks the birthplace of the city. From here, stroll back to George Square in the heart of the city centre to the magnificent City Chambers, headquarters of Glasgow City Council. This stunning building is over 100 years old and guided tours are available on weekdays at 10.30 and 14.30.
Only two minutes walk from here, you will find the Gallery of Modern Art housing four floors of contemporary painting, sculpture and installations from around the world. Recent acquisitions include work by Christine Borland and Toby Paterson. The gallery also offers a great programme of temporary exhibitions.
Head round the corner to Buchanan Street and stop for lunch at the Willow Tearooms. Based on original designs by Glasgow-born architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Willow Tearooms are a real Glasgow institution and make for elegant surroundings in which to revive those weary feet. Their sumptuous cakes and delicious meringues simply have to be tried!
Follow lunch with a little retail therapy – Glasgow is well known for being a fantastic location for shopping and Buchanan Street is packed full of high street and designer names. Browse around the beautiful Princes Square shopping mall where many high street names can be found. Treat yourself to some lively toiletries at Arran Aromatics, or some cosmetics at SpaceNK, or even a haircut at Vidal Sassoon.
In the evening, the Merchant City area is a great place to spend some time. In days gone by the area was home to the warehouses of the city’s tobacco lords and trading merchants. Nowadays, the buildings have been renovated and developed so that now, it’s a bustling, vibrant area where boutiques, coffee shops, wine bars, restaurants, bistros and nightclubs are all on offer. Merchant Square is a trendy, relaxing courtyard development with lots of choice all under one roof.
If you’ve packed your dancing shoes, head to Arta nightclub and bar complex where you can relax into the early hours.
Follow lunch with a little retail therapy – Glasgow is well known for being a fantastic location for shopping and Buchanan Street is packed full of high street and designer names
Locally referred to as the Clockwork Orange, Glasgow has a small but perfectly-formed underground system. With an inner and outer circle line, it couldn’t be simpler to navigate and it offers a great way to get around. Look out for the subway signs and use the service to head to the city’s Kelvin Hall stop in the West End.
A short walk from here, you will find Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum – an absolute must-see in Glasgow. A stunning red sandstone iconic building, Kelvingrove reopened in July 2006 after a £35 million restoration project. A favourite amongst locals and visitors alike, it boasts a fantastic and varied collection with something for everyone. Highlights include Dali’s famous Christ of St John of the Cross, a wonderful armoury collection, a four-metre ceratosaur and an immaculately-restored Spitfire.
A short stroll from here, you will find the bustling Byres Road, where you can while away a few hours and stop for some lunch. The West End has a real bohemian feel – there are lots of quirky boutiques and craft shops as well as tempting delicatessens and patisseries. Visit De Courcey’s Arcade which offers an interesting variety of retail outlets where you can buy a unique souvenir of your visit. Stop off in Ashton Lane where you will have loads of choice of bistros and bars for lunch – a popular area for students and visitors, it is also a great spot for people watching.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was the city’s most famous architect and designer and a real influence in the Art Nouveau movement. His timeless, elegant style was applied across both building structure and interior furniture designs and has incredible subtle impact. With clever use of light and space, sensuous curves, floral motifs and symbolism, his work can be enjoyed throughout the city.
No visit to Glasgow is complete without a taste of his work, so, in the afternoon, head to the Mackintosh House at the Hunterian Art Gallery in the West End. The interior of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s home where he lived with his wife, artist Margaret MacDonald, is inspirational. In the evening, head back to the city centre and choose from one of the many restaurants located around Bath Street – check out the menus and choose from a selection of different cuisine styles. For a nightcap, there are also lots of bars and pubs in this area – from student hang out, to cool wine bar or traditional pub.
Everything you need to know about Glasgow
Where to eat in Glasgow
Where to shop in Glasgow
The best days out in Glasgow
Your guide to Glasgow nightlife
Your guide to the arts and culture scene in Glasgow