Glasgow’s handsome Victorian architecture might lead to you believe it’s a quiet, reserved city. Don’t be fooled. Scotland’s biggest urban centre has character in spades, from its legendary live music scene and colourful galleries to its historical (and much frequented) pubs. The food and the shopping are both high-quality, while the aforementioned architecture is a draw in its own right. Glasgow’s industrial past has given way to a creative, forward-thinking city, which in turn makes it a lively – and cost-friendly – place to spend a few days. A 2017 survey saw Glasgow named as the UK’s friendliest city – why not check for yourself?
The main attractions
Glasgow has some of the best museums and galleries in the country. The even better news? Almost all of them are free. The prime example is the huge, century-old Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, one of Scotland’s top visitor draws thanks to a collection that encompasses everything from Salvador Dali to Ancient Egypt. Similarly impressive – and similarly free – are the world-class Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) and the award-winning Riverside Museum.
The museum’s angular, ground-breaking design finds a natural home in Glasgow, which has always had a thing for architecture. One of the city’s most famous sons is architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and you’ll hear about (and see) his influence on Walking Tours In Glasgow’s well-priced tours. Alternatively, GPSMYCITY offers a handful of free Glasgow walking routes that can be downloaded. And if you’d rather not walk, CitySightseeing Glasgow has buses running seven days a week – opt for their ‘1 Day + Subway’ ticket and you’ll get a day’s unlimited subway travel too.
Away from the centre, House For An Art Lover has a modest entrance fee and gives the perfect opportunity to see one of Mackintosh’s buildings up close. Keep an eye on its calendar of free talks, tours and workshops. It’s located in Bellahouston Park, close to Ibrox Stadium, the home ground of Rangers FC, one of the city’s two fanatically supported football teams (the other being Celtic FC). Tickets for home games are generally easier to come by than they are for the big English clubs – and they’re often less expensive, too.
Visitors looking to delve into the city’s cultural heritage have some interesting options. The free-to-enter Glasgow Botanic Gardens are now 200 years old, and their gardens and large glasshouses are open year-round. Elsewhere, the Glasgow Necropolis is a sprawling cemetery with some fascinating stories to tell – join one of the pay-as-you-feel walking tours to find out more.
Glasgow has become well known for its shopping – the so-called Style Mile offers branded designs by the bag-load – but keep an eye out for bargains at vintage stores like Starry Starry Night and Mr Ben Retro Clothing. And to sample the city’s famous nightlife, buy well-priced gig tickets to iconic music venues such as King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Oran Mor and the Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom.
Getting there and around
The city has two airports – globally connected Glasgow Airport and the Europe-focused Glasgow Prestwick – and is also under an hour from Edinburgh Airport. In the city itself, meanwhile, it’s well worth buying a cheap All-Day ticket, which gives you unlimited travel on the circular Subway network. Families should consider purchasing a well-priced Daytripper ticket, which also includes buses and ferries.
Where to stay
Hotels with good central locations and reasonable rates include the Ibis Styles City Centre, Point A Hotel and five different Premier Inns. Also good to know about are Grasshoppers Glasgow – which markets itself as a “value-for-money luxury hotel” – and the SYHA Glasgow Youth Hostel, which has a number of private rooms. You’ll find countless decent options on Airbnb too.
Where to eat
Many of the city’s top restaurants have appealingly priced lunch menus, including the magnificently named Two Fat Ladies At The Buttery and the ironically titled Ubiquitous Chip. At Six by Nico, meanwhile, you’ll find the same great-value, six-course tasting menu throughout the afternoon and evening – it gets popular, so make sure you book ahead. And if you’re feeling decadent? Don’t miss the Oyster Happy Hour between 4pm and 9pm each Friday at A’Challtain, during which oysters cost just £1 each.
It’s also well worth searching through the various Glasgow restaurant deals listed on 5pm and itison.com (which also has some good accommodation offers). And if you’re looking for a real bargain, the city tourist board has put together a handy rundown of places where you can eat well for under a fiver. For a none-more-Scottish experience, meanwhile, try a pie and drink at The Pot Still, a fairly priced pub best known for having a range of more than 700 whiskies.
For more information on Glasgow and the rest of Britain, head to VisitBritain.com
To purchase tour tickets, rail passes and more, head to VisitBritainshop.com