The local tourism board for Glasgow recently launched their new plan of attracting one million more visitors to the city by 2023. I have always thought that my adopted home town doesn’t get the credit it deserves, as shinier destinations like Edinburgh or the Isle of Skye draw in the majority of Scotland tourists. So I thought I’d help to convince a few people to add to that million visitors and put together a list of 25 useful travel tips for Glasgow. They will make you want to pack your bags immediately and ensure your trip to the city is a winner!
Getting here & around
1) Even if you fly into Edinburgh airport, Glasgow is just a 50 minute bus ride away!
2) From Glasgow airport it’s cheaper, albeit slower, to take the bus no. 77 to the city. If you stay in the West End, it might be so much easier with the 77 too, as the faster airport bus doesn’t stop along the way.
3) Try to get your head around public transport, even if it is hard. There are local train services operated by Scotrail, the famous subway – also known as Clockwork Orange; the third-oldest subway in the world – and numerous bus companies getting you around town. All charge different fees for single fares, and tickets can generally not be used on two different services.
4) Always have exact change for busses – not all bus drivers will give you change. Better safe than sorry.
5) I use Google Maps to navigate the public transport in Glasgow! It’s usually pretty accurate with time tables.
6) If you want to bring some movement in, rent a city bike! Glasgow is part of the next bike scheme, so you might already have the necessary app from another trip!
7) Most of Glasgow however is very walkable – especially if you concentrate your trip on the city centre, Merchant City and the West End.
8) Private hires are cheaper than regular black cabs. These taxis cannot be hailed on the streets, but must be called in advance. Sometimes you’ve got to wait a bit longer during peak times, but you can save a lot of money! If there are several of you it can even be cheaper to call a taxi, than to take public transport! Try Network Private Hire (0141 557 1110) or Hampden Cabs (0141 3325050)!
Where to Stay in Glasgow
9) Most hotels and guest houses are located in the city centre and the West End – both are great locations to explore the city from!
10) The only hotel I’ve ever stayed in Glasgow so far is the Grand Central Hotel by Central Station. It is a building with a lot of history and a gorgeous hotel on top of that. Prices are usually quite high, but From Sunday-Thursday you can find really good deals!
11) If you’re looking for an AirBnB, look for places in the West End (Hillhead, Finnieston, Kelvinbridge, Woodlands), the Southside (Pollokshields, Govanhill, Shawlands, Strathbungo), Dennistoun in the East End or the city centre. Make sure you are close to a subway or train station, as they are easier to navigate and more practical than busses!
Cool Tours of Glasgow
12) Not a guided tour, but a great route for a day out is the Mural Trail. It leads from one impressive mural to the next and criss-crosses the city.
13) Hop on the City Sightseeing bus for a comprehensive tour around Glasgow’s main attractions. It’s a hop on-hop off tour bus and is a great option if cow only have limited time in the city. Read my full review here.
14) Glasgow is all about its music – you can even do tours with Glasgow City Music Tours to visit some of its iconic venues and stages. I’m going to try their Merchant City Music Tour in May, and can’t wait!
15) For a tour like no other book the Glasgow Central Tour – it sounds like a weird thing to suggest, but this is a train station with a lot of history! Read my review of the tour here.
16) Glasgow Women’s Library offers tours around town telling histories of the leading women of Glasgow – might not be something for a first-time visitor, but someone who’s into unwritten histories will love them!
17) Tours of the City Chambers are free of charge!
18) The Friends of Glasgow Cathedral offer tours of the beautiful cathedral just east of city centre.
19) While most tourist guide books suggest that Glasgow is only interesting in the city centre and the West End, there is a lot more to see. If you want to get a more authentic image of the city, definitely spend some time in the Southside and the East End.
20) After the cathedral tour, visit the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art and Glasgow’s oldest building, Provand’s Lordship across the road. Both are free to enter – like many other activities & museums in Glasgow!
23) Behind the cathedral lies the Necropolis – a rather morbid sightseeing recommendation. While the Victorian graveyard is an eye-catcher in itself, it is the view from its hilltop that really puts this spot on your to do list.
24) My favourite view of the city, however, is from the top of the tower of The Lighthouse, an architecture and design centre in the city centre. Entrance is free, but you have to climb the stairs up the tower yourself.
25) Another vantage point, albeit a bit out of the way, is the flagpole hill at Queen’s Park in Glasgow’s Southside. From there you can even see the hills north of Glasgow and snow-covered peaks of the Highlands! The park is a prime spot for a sunny afternoon and the glasshouses in the back of the park make every day a warmer one.
26) You might have heard about the famous Duke of Wellington statue, sporting a traffic cone on its head since the 1980s. Behind it is the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, GoMA which is always worth a visit.
27) Head west to visit the beautiful University of Glasgow campus and pretend you’re Hermione Granger or Harry Potter in the cloisters.
28) My favourite place in the West End is the Botanical Garden. On a sunny day, you can wander the garden or lie in the grass, but it’s the glasshouses that make this place the best place for a rainy day.
29) As you might have guessed, Glasgow is a very green city. There are parks everywhere. Kelvingrove Park south of the University campus is one of its finest, and the Art Gallery is as impressive from the inside as on the outside.
30) By the riverbanks of the River Clyde you can find the Riverside Museum, designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid. It’s a hands-on transport museum that focuses on the transport history of the city. The Tall Ship anchoring right outside the museum is also open to visitors.
31) “Glasgow made the Clyde and the Clyde made Glasgow” – no trip to Glasgow would be complete without a stroll (or cycle ride) along the River Clyde to see its majestic bridges.
32) Another part of town, another park. Glasgow Green is the oldest park in the city and spans from the city centre towards the East End. People’s Palace at the centre of the park is a museum dedicated to the history of the people of Glasgow, and house yet another green house cafe. If you visit the area on a Saturday make sure to head a bit further into the East End to the Barras market. It’s a real Glasgow institution! Read more about how to spend a day in the East End here.
Where to Eat in Glasgow
33) If you like fish, go for fish tea! It’s like afternoon tea, but instead of eating tiny sandwiches and cakes with your pot of tea, you get a fish & chips supper!
34) West Brewery is not the most conventional place to recommend, seeing that they brew beer after German purity laws and serve German cuisine – but both food and beer are too delicious to keep a secret! It is also just across the road from the People’s Palace, so if you follow my advice closely, you’re already in the area. For more tips in the East End check out my food guide here.
35) Finnieston has repeatedly been named one of the UK’s coolest neighbourhoods to call home – and I’m sure the food scene of the area is partially responsible for this. There are restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world on and near Argyle Street (careful, there’s another Argyle Street in the city centre – it’s not that one!). Among my favourites have always been Ox & Finch, Mother India, Ashoka, Shilla and Cailin’s Sushi. For 100% vegan fare head to The 78!
36) Another popular area in the West End is Byres Road and its surrounding lanes. Check out Dowanside Lane (Hanoi Bike Shop) and Ashton Lane (Brel, Ubiquitous Ship) in particular!
37) If I’d live in the West End, I’d constantly brunch in one of the cafes along Great Western Road – Papercup, Tapa and Roots & Fruits are my all-time favourites, but I’ve also heard about a new vegan-friendly cafe called V&V. For more substantial vegan food, check out The Hug & The Pint, as I’ve heard its fantastic!
38) The city centre is full of restaurants to choose from, but I’d like to particularly highlight two of my favourite Italian restaurants here. One of them is called Paesano and serves literally the best pizza ever. The other is Sarti on Bath Street (although there are two more Sarti restaurants in the city centre).
39) Finally, since I’ve recently moved to the Southside, I should recommend Pollokshaws Road to find food any time of the day. My favourite breakfast is served at Gusto & Relish – their vegan cooked breakfast is amazing, but so is anything serves at Tapa and the Glad Cafe. The Bungo is great for lunch or dining, as well as No Way Back. If you’re looking for authentic Indian food served in a family-owned, fully vegetarian restaurant, Ranjit’s Kitchen is for you!
Nightlife & Live Music
40) It’s easy to meet locals in Glasgow. Just go to a pub, stand by the bar and someone will start chatting to you.
41) If you want to see a lot of Glasgow while getting drunk, do a Subcrawl, a pub-crawl via the city’s subway! In total there are 15 stations and here are some suggestions for pubs to visit. I’d recommend to end your tour in Hillhead, Kelvinbridge or the city centre (St Enoch, Buchanan Street or Cowcaddens) as there are loads of pubs to chose from here!
42) If you want to catch a gig in a cool venue while you’re in town, keep an eye out for the programme at the Barrowland Ballroom, King Tut’s, Saint Luke’s, Oran Mor or Nize’n’Sleazy!
43) Loads of pubs have free live music on stage during the weekend – like The Butterfly & the Pig, Blackfriars, MacSorleys or Maggie Mays.
44) If you want to meet musicians after their shows, head to State Bar – a lot of bands and musicians head here after playing bigger venues around Sauchiehall Street.
45) Two of my favourite pubs in the Southside are the Allison Arms, and the Rum Shack just across the road. Allison Arms has a great local vibe with a mixed crowd, and the Rum Shack is a rum bar with a great beer garden!
photo via The Rum Shack
46) Finnieston and Argyle Street in the West End are not just good for food, but also for pubs and bars – check out The 78, Distill, Ben Nevis or Lebowskis.
47) One special tip for a cozy pub with a wood fire is The Belle on Great Western Road. It’s laptop-friendly (free WiFi), attracts a mixed crowd and is dog-friendly, so there usually is at least one furry friend to cuddle.
Some extra tips
48) There is a lot of free WiFi available in the city – but not just in cafes and bars. GlasgowCC WiFi provide free connection in the city centre, but you can also connect for free on most busses, some train stations and subway stations.
49) The Glaswegian accent can be hard to understand – even in relation to the rest of Scotland. If you struggle, just ask people to slow down and repeat what they said.
50) Don’t be intimidated to ask locals for advice or directions – Glaswegians are widely regarded the friendliest people in Scotland and are always super helpful.
Heading beyond Glasgow and all over Scotland? Make sure to also check out my 50 Travel Tips for Scotland!
What are your travel tips for Glasgow?
All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.