Apr 12, 2018
Kilts and bagpipes may be short for Scottish culture, but Glasgow has gone beyond that in carving a reputation for itself as the country’s culture capital.
Renowned for its style and friendliness of its people, Scotland’s largest city reinvented itself from the decline of its shipbuilding industrial past to become today’s European City of Culture. It’s little wonder one finds stunning architecture and design among the vibrant nightlife, many parks and gardens here today.
Here are its top 10 attractions, made simple with location details so you know how to plan your day’s schedule!
It doesn’t take long for one to spot how central the River Clyde is to Glasgow’s history as a great trading city in the days of the British Empire — and also to its shipbuilding heritage. Permanently moored outside the Riverside Museum is the magnificent three-masted Glenlee, now known as The Tall Ship.
Of the many hundreds of ships built in Glasgow’s shipyards, the Glenlee is one of only five Clyde-built ships still afloat in the world today and she is the only one of her kind in the UK. Launched in 1896 as a bulk cargo carrier, the Glenlee sailed around the world four times before being bought by the Spanish Navy and used as a training vessel until 1981, and was later left neglected in Seville Harbour.
Now restored, the Glenlee is an independent museum that plays an important role in connecting visitors with Glasgow’s maritime heritage. Bring your children down to explore its four levels freely!
Right along the river stands another stunning building with a fascinating collection. The Riverside Museum is Glasgow’s award-winning transport museum. It’s striking contemporary design was the work of architect Zaha Hadid and inside houses a wonderful collection of transport-related exhibits. From skateboards to a Stormtrooper, there’s something for everyone.
Stepping inside, you’ll find a series of Scotland-made cars, railway locomotives, the world’s first pedal-powered bicycle from 1847, model Clyde-built ships and more displayed on three popular Glasgow street scenes. The exhibition takes you back in time to Glasgow’s days as a maritime powerhouse as it brings the objects and stories of 1895-1980s to life.
Explore Glasgow’s rich history over 3,000 objects with interactive touchscreens so you can have a closer look at the vehicles on the car wall and the bikes in the suspended ‘velodrome’.
For some all-age fun, the Glasgow Science Centre has over 400 interactive exhibits presenting science and technology in unique and inspiring ways.
Located in the Clyde Waterfront Regeneration area on the south bank of the River Clyde, it includes a Science Mall, Planetarium, IMAX cinema, Science Theatre for live shows and the 127m-tall Glasgow Tower.
Immerse yourself in three floors worth of hands-on fun in the largest of the three main, titanium-clad buildings, the crescent-shaped Science Mall. Fun fact: The Glasgow Tower is the tallest freestanding building in Scotland and it holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest fully rotating freestanding structure in the world!
Founded in 1817, the beautiful Glasgow Botanic Gardens have been delighting visitors for 200 years. Of the several glasshouses within the compound, the most notable has to be Kibble Palace. The curved wrought iron and glass structure was initially an exhibition and concert venue, before being used for growing plants from the 1880s.
What’s amazing about it was entrepreneur John Kibble created this glasshouse at his own home, before dismantling, enlarging and moving it to the Botanic Gardens in 1873. Restored in the early 21st century, this impressive Victorian glasshouse now houses the national collection of tree ferns.
At the Kibble Palace, you can also pick up a brochure about the Heritage Trail which highlights nearly 30 points of interest to help you explore the Gardens.
Foodie tip: Drop by the Botanic Gardens Tearoom for a break and coffee. They also serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.
To understand the influence of the famous designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his artist-wife, Margaret Macdonald on Glasgow’s cultural movement, no trip here would be complete without a visit to The Mackintosh House. It’s in here you’ll find one of the most important collections of his work preserved within The Hunterian Art Gallery, the oldest public museum in Scotland.
The Mackintosh House is essentially a meticulous reassembly of original fixtures from the building the couple lived in from 1906 to 1914. As time lapsed, the original building was demolished in the early 1960s. The interiors today have been furnished with the Mackintoshes’ own furniture, while the carpets, curtains and other soft furnishings were based on photographs of how the interiors looked during the period.
While the Glasgow School of Art is being restored following the 2014 fire, you can still join a daily Mackintosh at the GSA Tour and a walking tour to see more Mackintosh-designed highlights in the city.
Since 1901, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum hosts one of Europe’s greatest art collections. Housed in a grand, Victorian stone building, the incredibly diverse collection includes a gallery devoted to Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style. Best part is, it’s free to visit!
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by over 8,000 objects in the 22 themed galleries here. So our pick of the highlights include stuffed animals, a Spitfire plane, French Impressionists, a 3D working model of the solar system from the 1820s and Salvador Dalí’s Christ of St John of the Cross.
Take the time to enjoy a wander in Kelvingrove Park too! The over 30 hectares of parkland on the banks of the River Kelvin include children’s play areas and plenty of space for a lazy picnic.
One of Scotland’s most magnificent medieval buildings, Glasgow Cathedral is the only one on the Scottish mainland to survive the Reformation of 1560 intact. First built in the 1100s, the cathedral stands as a fine example of Gothic architecture as most of the current building dates from the 15th century.
Free to visit, the Cathedral has one of the finest post-war collections of stained glass windows found in Britain including Francis Spear’s 1958 work The Creation and John K. Clark’s Millennium Window from 1999.
Head down in the crypt to find the tomb of St Kentigern/St Mungo, and at the northeastern corner is the entrance to the 15th century upper chapter house where Glasgow University was founded.
Also situated on a low hill adjacent to the Cathedral is the 19th century Glasgow Necropolis. The Necropolis design was taken from the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and here you’ll see many elaborate Victorian tombs of the city’s wealthy industrialists.
This Victorian cemetery is the final resting place of more than 50,000 people, and there are over 3,500 monuments to the dead. Highlights include the Monument to John Knox (Scottish minister and leader of the Reformation), which stands on the summit of the hill and actually pre-dates the rest of the cemetery.
Foodie tip: Craft beers, good food and great acoustics — St Luke’s is the place to visit. This fairly new converted live music venue is a great place to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.
As we head down towards Glasgow Green (the oldest public space in Glasgow), you’ll find The People’s Palace located right in the middle of it all. Listen in as it tells the story of the people and city of Glasgow from 1750 to the end of the 20th century. The museum and glasshouse were opened in 1898 to provide a cultural centre for the people of the poor East End.
Near the entrance, the glorious building is complemented by the enormous Doulton Fountain, the world’s largest terracotta fountain. The exhibits give an unrivalled insight into how Glaswegians have lived, worked and played. The social history is explored through historic artefacts, paintings, prints and photographs, film and interactive computer displays.
Behind The People’s Palace are the Winter Gardens. It is a large, enclosed space where exotic palms and plants flourish, making it a lovely spot to visit even on a rainy day. Plus there’s a café so there’s no need to rush away.
In George Square, you’ll find one of Glasgow’s most iconic and imposing buildings, the City Chambers. This grand edifice is a symbol of Glasgow’s historic wealth and has, for more than a century, been the headquarters of successive councils serving the City of Glasgow.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful civic buildings in all of UK, the City Chambers was designed in the Beaux Arts style. Be awed by the vast range of ornate decoration that was used to express the wealth and industrial export-led economic prosperity of the Second City of the British Empire.
Take the chance to walk up the largest marble staircase in Western Europe, made of imported Italian Carrara marble. At the top you’ll enter the magnificent Banqueting Hall where Nelson Mandela received his Freedom of the City award in 1993, and Sir Alex Ferguson in 1999.
Feel free to join one of their public tours on weekdays at 10.30am and 2.30pm. The tours last around 45 minutes, are completely free and you do not need to book in advance.
Barcelona has Gaudí, Guangzhou has I.M. Pei and Glasgow has Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Mackintosh (1868-1928) was one of the 20th century’s most creative and influential architect and artists as well as a leader in the European Art Nouveau movement.
Start your day from the heart of the city and head down Argyle St to Mackintosh’s first public commission The Lighthouse, which is also Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture. Housed in the former offices of the Glasgow Herald newspaper, the building was designed and completed in 1895.
It’s free to visit all four floors, which house a visitor centre, exhibition space and events venue altogether. Aside from the changing exhibitions, The Lighthouse maintains a permanent display called the Mackintosh Interpretation Centre that charts the life and work of the artist.
Don’t miss the beautiful helical staircase at the Mackintosh Tower just north of the building and the superb views of Glasgow from the external viewing gallery. FYI: There is another modern viewing platform at the south of the building, on the sixth floor and is only accessible via a lift.
Foodie tip: Stop by Chaakoo Bombay Cafe for lunch. Go back in time and take in the classic flavours and atmosphere of this Iranian cafe. Just as Dishoom is Edinburgh’s Indian go-to, Chaakoo Bombay Cafe is Glasgow’s (in fact, locals argue this is better).
Whether you’re here for a business trip, gearing up for a big weekend out to the likes of The SECC or Hydro, or just want to see what Scotland’s biggest city has to offer, Fraser Suites Glasgow makes for an ideal location to kick back and relax after all that flurry of activities. Sitting in the heart of vibrant Merchant City, the serviced residence offers unparalleled accommodation in historic surroundings. In fact, you’ll be spending your days in a beautifully renovated 1850s Victorian building. How’s that for staying in somewhere special?