The Ultimate Travel Guide to Glasgow, Scotland
Table of Contents
GLASGOW TRAVEL GUIDE — Although not the capital, Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city and most important seaport. Located on both sides of the River Clyde, the city is famous for its abundance of grand neoclassical architecture combined with cutting edge modern structures like the famous Clyde Arc, also known as Squinty Bridge.
Named European City of Culture in 1990, Glasgow has thriving music, theatre and festival scene. The city is divided into several districts, each with its own character and ambiance. You can explore the City Center, the Merchant Centre, the affluent suburbs of South Side, bohemian West End, parks on the North Side or venture into the still rather rough East End.
Chic shopping and a great variety of food, from fine dining to trying haggis in old fashioned pubs, plenty of activities will keep you entertained when not strolling through the grid-patterned streets of the city center. Time allowing, plan on excursions to Loch Ness and try to spy Nessie or follow the whisky trail.
In this Glasgow Travel Guide Blog, we listed some tips on how you can do your own DIY Day trip to Glasgow, Scotland. We also included Glasgow Itinerary, Things to do and see, how to get there and more.
Best time to visit
Glasgow’s climate is similar to that of Moscow. It rains a lot, year-round. Winters are cool and grey, although snowfall is rare. During the summer, the weather can change from one day to the next. Plan on overcast skies, and humidity in the summer but also sunny spells, most likely in July. Never leave home without an umbrella!
How to get there
Glasgow has three international airports within a 45min travel distance from the city center. They are Glasgow Airport, Glasgow Prestwick Airport, and Edinburgh Airport. There is also a seaplane terminal on the River Clyde.
All airports are easily connected to the center by bus or rail lines.
For getting around you are spoiled for choice in Glasgow. The city has the largest urban rail system with the main stations Scottish Government Central and Queen Street Station as the stops for local trains as well as those from the rest of the UK.
The bus system is equally ample, all operated by SPT. In addition, Glasgow has a totally completed Metro system with many stops throughout. The metro is actually the easiest way to get around because it operates on a loop system so you can’t get lost.
You can also hire bikes, but be aware, they drive ‘on the wrong side ‘ of the road. Pedestrians also need to get used to it when crossing the streets.
Places to stay
From budget to 5star, Glasgow offers a great choice of accommodation for all budgets.
Alexander Thomson Hotel
My favorite is the Alexander Thomson hotel at 320 Argyle Street.
This 3-star hotel is located in a Victorian building with all the charming details of the era, high ceilings, bay windows etc. The rooms, however, are modern with private baths and more amenities than you might expect from a 3-star hotel. Situated close to a metro stop and in one of the main shopping streets of Glasgow, the hotel is an ideal starting point for sightseeing. Included in the price is an excellent and ample breakfast buffet.
Grand Central Hotel
For the higher budget, there is the 4str Grand Central Hotel on Gordon Street. The luxury hotel is located in a lavish building dating from 1883 and hosted guests such as Frank Sinatra and Charlie Chaplin. The rooms are elegant and so is the famous restaurant Tempus. Ideally situated near the central train station it’s great for exploring all the sights of Glasgow whilst sleeping in great style.
For the lower budget and lovers of more modern hotels, there is McLays Guesthouse in 260-276 Renfrew Street. Located at a 20 min walk from Queen Street station and close to museums and art galleries, the rooms of this friendly guesthouse are simple but very clean, with private bath, tea, and coffee making facilities and continental breakfast included in the price.
Best places to eat
When in Scotland, you certainly want to sample Scottish cuisine and one of the best places in Glasgow to do so is the Ubiquitous Chip in 12 Ashton Lane. Distributed over several floors, the downstairs restaurant is decorated to resemble a rain forest.
Scottish dishes, created using only Scottish products are the specialty of this popular restaurant.
The location alone makes the Cottiers in Hyndland Street in Glasgow’s West End worth a visit. I mean, where else can you dine in a former church?
The menu is Scottish with the occasional modern twist but otherwise heavy on pork, bacon, blood pudding and fish. Only local products are being used.
Lovers of the best and freshest fish and seafood should not miss a visit to Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery in 88 Dumbarton Road in Glasgow’s West End.
The menu changes daily to be able to use the latest catches of fish and the desserts are delicious too.
If you don’t want a sit-down meal or spend much money, the ever-popular fish and chips to be eaten out of a rolled-up newspaper and flavored with vinegar and salt is available from any corner ‘chippie’.
Glasgow Travel Guide: Things to do and see
Glasgow was founded in the 6th century by Saint Mungo, but not much of that time or the Middle Ages remains. One such building, however, is the Glasgow Cathedral with a huge collection of stained glass windows.
It may be best to explore Glasgow by district. Start with the bohemian West End, home to many boutiques, cafes, tea rooms, and restaurants. Visit the impressive Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum with 22 themed galleries and over 8000 exhibits. Enjoy some fresh air and green in the nearby Kelgrove Park.
The city center is located on the north bank of the River Clyde. Its central square is George Square and in this part of Glasgow, you find many statues and cultural buildings like the Lighthouse Museum of Architecture, the 18 screen Cineworld or the King’s Theatre.
Proceed to the Merchant district (Merchant City) once the seat of the tobacco lords and their wealth. Streets still bear their names. Admire the prosperous past at the Tolbooth Steeple, Saltmarket or Tolgate. Today many of the old warehouses have been converted into expensive apartments and offices which in turn brought an influx of elegant shops and restaurants.
Not to be missed is a visit to one of Glasgow’s landmarks: the Clyde Arc. It’s a round bridge spanning the river Clyde connecting Finneston with Pacific Quay and the Glasgow Centre of Science. Illuminated at night the bridge looks spectacular.
Another place to learn about the history of the city in the past two centuries is a visit to the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens where you can have fun with the exhibits.
Talking about fun. If you enjoy a spot of gambling or just watching other people trying their hand, you can spend a night on the Grosvenor River Boat Casino, moored on the River Clyde. They have a great Louisiana style restaurant as well as blackjack, roulette, etc tables. And you can watch the sunset.
As we said at the beginning, Glasgow is also an ideal starting point for a small group trip to Loch Ness and other nearby sights, if you have enough time.
Best places to shop
Shopping is a big thing in Glasgow. Head for Buchanan Street and Argyle Street, in the main shopping district in Glasgow with shops and galleries stretching in all direction. You’ll find international brands as well as typically Scottish one, whisky, and tweets among them.
In Buchanan Street, you’ll also find an excellent shopping mall, the Princes Square Shopping Center.
Food, entertainment, and clothes under one roof, especially when one of the famous Glasgow rain showers starts to pour down.
Currency, language etc.
The currency is the pound sterling, but Scotland has different coins and banknotes than the UK. Get a bit of cash, otherwise, credit cards are accepted everywhere.
Luckily the official language is English, but…the citizens of Glasgow are referred to as Glaswegians or Weegies and their dialect is a variation of Scottish, known as Glasgow patter. Don’t even try to understand it, stick to English and listen carefully because Glaswegians speak English with a very strong accent.
WiFi is excellent around the city.
If you are headed for Scotland for the first time, you can hardly find a better starting point than Glasgow and her hearty people.
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