Glasgow is Scotland's biggest, brashest city. It has a long, proud history of trade and industry centered on the River Clyde, but these days it's just as famous for its art, culture, shops and pubs. Friendly locals give the place real character. Or as the city slogan goes: "People make Glasgow."Glasgow: city layout
Glasgow city centre is laid out in a stately Victorian grid on the north bank of the River Clyde. The main thoroughfares of Argyle Street
, Buchanan Street
and Sauchiehall Street
link into a Z-shaped shopping district, much of which is pedestrianised.
Overground rail links and Glasgow Subway
, a simple, circular underground system known locally as "the clockwork orange", make it easy to explore surrounding historic neighbourhoods. Dennistoun
to the east, Partick
to the west, Strathbungo
on the Southside
– each has its own beloved pubs and parks.
The western edge of town blurs into the Scottish countryside, and it's less than 20 miles to the fabled "bonny banks" of Loch Lomond
.Top attractions in Glasgow
Wealthy 19th-century merchants left an impressive mark on Glasgow through art and architecture. The Burrell Collection
and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
are Victorian treasure houses filled with curiosities – from Cézanne and Degas paintings in one, to mummies and dinosaur eggs in the other.
Visitors also marvel at the later Art Nouveau buildings designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
, including Glasgow School of Art
and Willow Tea Rooms
It's an arty city, but music is the first love of
many Glaswegians. You can join them for pop concerts at the flying-saucer shaped SSE Hydro, and sweaty rock gigs at the much older Barrowland Ballroom.
The concierge recommends…
- Lunch or dinner at The Wee Curry Shop on Buccleuch Street. This tiny Indian restaurant is a favourite of spicy food fans.
- A visit to the Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum. This weird and wonderful place is the oldest museum in Scotland.
- A night out on Ashton Lane, a cobbled West End alley packed with bars and cafés.
- Watching Scotland's national football team play at home in Hampden Park.
Hotels in GlasgowGlasgow accommodation options range from business-friendly hotels near Glasgow International Airport (GLA) to boutique options for weekend breaks in the city centre and suburban retreats in quieter spots like nearby East Kilbride.
A high-rise hotel on the River Clyde is handy for meetings at BBC Scotland and other waterfront media headquarters, concerts at the SSE Hydro, and conventions at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.
Keen shoppers and theatre-goers may prefer to stay closer to Buchanan Street, at the beating heart of Glasgow commerce and culture.
Cruise ship passengers can begin or end their voyage at a hotel near Greenock Ocean Terminal. Rooms in Motherwell or Hamilton give you easy access to the M74 motorway, ideal for road trips across Scotland's Central Belt.
Eating Out in GlasgowThe Glasgow diet is famous for its unhealthy options, from fish and chips to deep-fried Mars Bars. But you'll also find classic Scottish dishes like haggis and cullen skink prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
A post-pub fish supper at King's Café is a time-honoured way to end a night out in the city centre. Old Salty's is a gourmet variation on the trusty Glasgow chip shop at the trendy west end of Argyle Street.
The post-industrial Finnieston area has become a hub of fashionable yet casual dining, where restaurants like The Gannet and Crabshakk serve up quality Scottish meat and seafood in gentrified buildings.
Glaswegians claim to have the best Italian and Indian restaurants in the UK. They're loyal to long-standing institutions like Coia's Café in residential Dennistoun, and Shish Mahal in leafy Kelvinbridge.
The chef recommends...
- Haggis: Scotland's famous savoury pudding of minced sheep offal, oatmeal and spices. It sounds unappetising but tastes amazing, whether fried with chips or served in the traditional fashion with "neeps" (turnips) and "tatties" (potatoes).
- Full Scottish Breakfast: Similar to the full English breakfast – bacon, eggs, beans and so on – but with local additions like square Lorne sausages and flat potato cakes known as "tattie scones".
- Chicken Tikka Masala: Chunks of meat in a creamy, tomatoey, mildly spicy curry sauce. The story goes that this popular Indian dish was invented at Glasgow's Shish Mahal to appeal to British palates.
Shopping in GlasgowGlasgow has so many premium-brand clothing stores and designer boutiques that one advert for the city calls it "Scotland with style". The locals love a bargain though, so there's no shortage of second-hand shops and street markets to rummage in.
The main pedestrian shopping precinct incorporates a busy high-street mall at Buchanan Galleries, and the upscale retailers of Princes Square. You can look for even fancier labels nearby at the Italian Centre, and venture further into the Merchant City for high-quality arts and crafts.
A browse among the stalls and chatty traders of Barras Market makes for an essential Glasgow shopping experience. Cobbled West End side streets like Otago Lane and Cresswell Lane are well worth exploring for used books, vintage clothes and boho curios.
Best independent shops in Glasgow
- De Courcey's Arcade: Behind Byres Road, this tiny, trendy mall is lined with artisanal coffeehouses, salons and boutiques.
- Voltaire & Rousseau: Beloved by local writers and readers, this cosy shop buys and sells used books amid a pleasant mess of overspilling stacks.
- Monorail: A one-stop shop for indie music selling concert tickets, vinyl records, band merchandise and the latest releases by local artists, who sometimes play live instore.
- Butterfly Kisses: This small Skirving Street boutique on the Southside sells dresses and accessories you won't find anywhere else.
Culture & Nightlife in GlasgowGlasgow is a UNESCO City of Music, famous for its live rock shows, concert halls and underground club scene. There's a kind of music to the flow of conversation in the city's pubs too, while high art thrives in its historic performance and exhibition spaces.
The area around Buchanan Street forms Glasgow's main cultural quarter. You can watch an opera at Theatre Royal, hear a symphony at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and admire local and international masterpieces for free at the Gallery of Modern Art, all within a few blocks of each other.
The Southside has its own arty hotspots, and a short train, taxi or subway ride will take you to a new play at Citizen's Theatre or an experimental dance show at Tramway.
Basement bars and nightclubs line the lively Bath Street. If loud guitars are your thing, you can hear them played live on stage or through a jukebox at one of the city centre's legendary rock and indie music venues.
Glasgow's best historic pubs
- The Laurieston: The exterior of this Southside institution looks forbidding, but inside you'll find friendly staff and fun-loving customers in an old-school saloon unchanged since the 1960s.
- The Doublet: This long-standing West End favourite draws an older, quieter crowd to its downstairs bar while young folks stake out the upstairs lounge.
- The Horse Shoe Bar: Still sporting original Victorian features, this is one of Glasgow's great old "mixers", attracting clientele from all walks of local life. Karaoke nights are taken very seriously.
- The Scotia: One of several pubs claiming to be Glasgow's oldest, this wood-beamed watering hole has been serving beer through brass pumps and hosting live traditional music sessions since the 18th century.
Visiting Glasgow with familyThanks to Victorian city planners, Glasgow is filled with lush parks and gardens. The River Clyde is lined with high-tech museums along both banks, and historic boats to take you "doon the water", as the local saying goes.
The rain falls hard and often on Glasgow, so as soon as the sun comes out local families head straight to the nearest park. From the city centre it's a pleasant stroll or three-stop subway ride west to Kelvingrove Park, and only a little further to Glasgow Botanic Gardens.
To the east there's the aptly named Glasgow Green. It's another top spot for a picnic, with the People's Palace and glass-covered Winter Gardens to keep you dry and busy if the rain starts again.
Down by the Clyde you can't miss the gleaming, zig-zag roof of the Riverside Museum of Travel and Transport and The Tall Ship beside it – a three-masted barque called the Glenlee, built in 1896 and lovingly restored as a spectacular kid-friendly attraction.
Fun ways to see Glasgow
- Nextbike Glasgow: It's cheap, quick and easy to rent a public bike from one of the automated stands around the city, then head out for a scenic ride along the Clyde Walkway.
- Waverly Excursions: The world's last seagoing paddle steamer runs regular day trips on the Clyde in summer.
- Glasgow Tower: This sci-fi structure turns 360 degrees to show you the whole city from a dizzying height. It's part of Glasgow Science Centre, a popular spot for hands-on educational entertainment, with an IMAX screen that shows blockbuster movies on a massive scale.