Want to experience Glasgow without a guide book? The city is full of unusual tours and cool experiences that will make your trip to Glasgow unforgettable. This is a guide to some of these Glasgow tours – 10 unusual ways to experience the city !
Glasgow is a city you don’t simply visit following a guidebook; it’s not a sightseeing destination like Edinburgh, where you can wander from museum to castle to museum. Yes, there are museums and other traditional sights to be found in the city, but ifyou ask me, that’s not how you get the most out of your visit – to do that you have to experience Glasgow!
The city is all about its people, the creative vibe and its rich cultural life. There is a lot of history to be discovered, but just as much current culture that waits to be explored. This is a guide to some of my favourite ways to experience Glasgow – ten very special Glasgow tours, a few of them are guided, others are self-guided adventures; but there is certainly something for everybody!
1) Glasgow Music City Tours
Did you know Glasgow was the UK’s first ever UNESCO City of Music? Liverpool joined the ranks later on too, but Glasgow’s music scene really is one of a kind in the UK.
Glasgow Music City Tours offers two kind of tours to let you dive deep into the music scene of Glasgow. The Glasgow’s Music Mile tour takes you on a walk through the city centre and to famous venues such as the Royal Concert Hall or King Tut’s. However, I’d probably recommend the Merchant City tour, which covers some of the most iconic music locations of Glasgow’s past and present such as the Barrowland Ballroom, The Clutha Pub and the Britannia Panopticon.
Ticket: £15, Book here!
2) Glasgow Central Tour
As a formal trade hub and industrial city you can imagine that the railway has always played quite a significant role in Glasgow. Glasgow Central Tour is a guided tour to the historical platforms underneath today’s central railway station and is run my Paul Lyons, who is a former Scotrail employee.
What started as a one-off event for an Open Days event, has quickly turned into one of Glasgow’s most popular tours!
Read more: Glasgow Central Tour review
3) City Centre Mural Trail
While Glasgow’s street art scene does not compare to the likes of Berlin or London, there are a lot of local artists who have been commissioned to brighten up the firewalls and back alleys of the city. The City Centre Mural Trail (which comes with a downloadable map) is a self-guided tour through the city centre of Glasgow, exploring some of the most colourful murals the city has to offer.
Download the map here!
A subcrawl is a pub crawl by Subway – and this kind of thing really only works in Glasgow. Where else is there only one subway line to make surviving a drink at each subway station even possible?
Glasgow’s subway is the third-oldest metro system in the world (after London and Budapest), and yet never had more than one line. It’s also called Clockwork Orange, because of it’s orange-coloured trains. There are 15 stops and there is a variety of pubs to chose from at each stop (some of the Southside stops have only one option). This blog gives you a few ideas for inspiration.
Disclaimer: Drink responsibly! Pub staff has the right to refuse to serve you and subway staff has the right to refuse travel services if you are wasted and rude.
5) During a Festival
OK, so this is not a specific tour per se, but nevertheless one of the best ways to experience Glasgow. There are tons of festivals happening in Glasgow throughout the year – film festivals such as Glasgow Film Festival, Glitch, the Scottish Queer International Film Festival or Africa in Motion; music festivals at Glasgow Green, Queen’s Park or smaller venues; food festivals such as the Craft Beer Fair, the Vegan Fest or regular street food markets at the Barras; theatre festivals, literature festivals, art fairs – you get the gist.
What I love most about Glasgow is how artsy and diverse the city’s cultural landscape is, and visiting during a festival is a great way to experience that yourself!
6) GWL Heritage Walk
Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) is my favourite institution in Glasgow, because they’re not only a library and event space, they also offer loads of activities to learn more about Glasgow and historical female figures who made the city what it is today.
GWL offers Women’s Heritage Walks in different parts of the city. They’re run by volunteers who tell you about outstanding women in Glasgow’s history, read from personal diaries and reports along the way, and give you a completely new perspective to look at Glasgow and history in general.
Tickets: £10, Book here!
7) “The Art Trail”
So, Glasgow does not actually have an art trail, but with the help of a few addresses you will be able to create your own self-guided tour of local artists and crafts(wo)men.
Begin your journey at the Barras Market in the East End of Glasgow – the market itself is only open on Saturdays, but at the newly created BAaD (Barras Art & Design) centre you’ll find little independent shops and artist studio spaces where you might be able to pop your head in!
Continue to the city centre and explore the streets just south of Trongate. You’ll find a few gallery spaces here (like the famous Transmission Gallery that Franz Ferdinand sung about) as well as pretty shops where you can buy art or art supplies.
Finally, make your way to the Hidden Lane in the West End of Glasgow. As the name suggests, the lane is tucked away and easy to miss, but it’s really worth checking out! There are a lot of local artists based in the lanes, many of them have open studios & showrooms, so you can watch them creating, while browsing their artworks and chat to them about their work. The shops don’t always have coherent opening hours, but most artists are in on Saturdays for theHidden Lane Saturdays!
Read more: Meet the Locals at the Hidden Lane
8) Mackintosh’s Glasgow Walking Tour
Charles Rennie Mackintosh might just be Glasgow’s most famous artist – an architecture from the turn of the last century who impressed his Art Nouveau style all over Glasgow. The Mackintosh’s Glasgow Walking Tour offered by the Glasgow School of Art explores Mackintosh’s famous city centre buildings (like the Lighthouse tower), some lesser known architectural gems and buildings by his contemporaries.
Tickets: £19.50, Book here!
9) City Chambers tour
If you’re looking for a free activity to see Glasgow from a different site, check out the free guided tours of Glasgow City Chambers – basically our town hall – which happen twice a day Monday-Friday.
Visitors gather in the foyer of the City Chambers and will be handed a special Visitors pass which they have to wear visibly throughout the tour. An employee of the City Chambers will take you on a tour through the impressive stairwells (lined with Italian marble) and to whichever rooms are available to the public on that specific days. The City Chambers is a working building, meaning that city employees actually work there, and there are certain limitations as to which parts of the buildings can be visited. These may vary daily, and so there is no fix programme for the tour or a set duration.
When I visited we were able to visit the plenary hall where the city council meets to discuss the matter of the cities. We even got to sit in the Lord Provost’s chair, which is similar to the position of a mayor.
Read more: 10 fun & free things to do in Glasgow
10) Hire me as a Local Guide
The best way to see any city, is by getting a personal tour from a local guide. Luckily you don’t have to look too far for your own private Glasgow tour guide!
I’ve recently signed up as a local on Showaround, which is a platform connecting travelers with knowledgable locals to – well – show them around. In order to book a tour with me, you just need to sign up for a Showaround free account and put in your travel dates. I’ll get a notification as soon as someone is looking for a local tour guide in Glasgow and can send you an offer. You can also send me an email (email@example.com) if you want to make sure I see your tour request. Check out my profile here!
PS: You can also sign up for a full membership with Showaround, which will allow you to contact me directly through the platform!
Glasgow is a city that has a lot more to offer than it might appear at first glance. I hope that this list of unusual Glasgow tours has inspired you to spend some time here and experience Glasgow in a unique way!
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