Mural of St Mungo in Glasgow's oldest quarter near Glasgow Cathedral.

One Day in Glasgow: Seeing the Best of Glasgow in a Day

Despite the fact that Glasgow has enough to offer for a lifetime of exploring, the majority of people who visit Scotland only spend one day in Glasgow, often on their way up to the Highlands and islands. Let’s assume you have 24 hours in Glasgow and want to maximise every minute of that – where would you start? This Glasgow itinerary is for everyone on a tight schedule to help to see the best of Glasgow in a day!

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Glasgow can be split into 5 greater regions – the city centre and one for each cardinal direction. The majority of Glasgow’s points of interest are located in the centre, the West End and the beginnings of the East End, which is what this itinerary will focus on.  If you have more time or simply need some help beginning to plan your city trip to Glasgow, make sure to also check out my 50 tips for visiting Glasgow.

How to get to Glasgow

Shoppers strolling down Glasgow's Style Mile, the shopping street Buchanan Street.

No matter whether you’ve just arrived in Scotland this morning, or you’ve already spent a few days in exploring Edinburgh, I suggest you start your day in Glasgow in the early morning hours. This Glasgow itinerary is based on the assumption that you reach Glasgow city centre around 9 am.

It is very easy to get from Edinburgh to Glasgow on the train – only 45 minutes and the airport bus connects Glasgow airport to Glasgow Central in under half an hour.

All trains and buses arrive in the city centre, just a stone’s throw away from Glasgow highlights such as George Square and the City Chambers, the hustle and bustle of the shopping miles Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall Street and Argyle Street, the Glasgow School of Art or Glasgow Cathedral.

Where to Stay in Glasgow

A beautiful double room at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow.

If you plan to stay in Glasgow overnight (you could also head back to Edinburgh in the evening), make your way to your hotel first. There are many options across all parts of town, but if you only have a day, I recommend finding accommodation in the city centre.

 

Start your day with breakfast

Check-in or drop off your bags and head for a late breakfast in one of the many cafes around the city centre. Two of my favourite breakfast places are Picnic in the Merchant City or Rose & Grant’s, whose their vegan square sausage is a famous staple in town, even among meat-eaters.

Animals in the Pub - a mural along the City Centre Mural Trail filled with street art in Glasgow.

Both open at 8 am during the week, but if you need to kill some time before they open during the weekend, why not check out some of the street art along the Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail, which is one of the quirky tours through the city. With the leaflet and map downloaded to your phone, all you need to do is peek around a few corners and you’ll see some of the city’s most amazing murals.

You might also like: 10 unusual city tours in Glasgow

AM: Exploring the West End

The hanging heads installation at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

With your belly filled, head to St Enoch station and board the subway to Hillhead in the West End of Glasgow. The Glasgow Subway has it’s own very unique atmosphere – there is only one line going in circles, it’s tiny and loud, but also one of the oldest subway lines in Europe. Fares are quite cheap and a single ticket will only cost you £1.70 (£3.20 return, £4.10 all-day).

Find more info on the Glasgow Subway here.

The West End is Glasgow’s most trendy part of town and the area of Finnieston has even been named one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the UK. Start by exploring the wee (=little) lanes surrounding the subway station in Hillhead. My favourite ones are Ruthven Lane, Ashton Lane and Cresswell Lane, and all three are seamed with great restaurants and cute vintage shops.

A good alternative when it’s lashing down (one of the many local words for it’s raining), the glasshouses in the Glasgow Botanical Gardens are a great alternative. The tropical temperature is a real treat and it’s one of the many free things to do in Glasgow.

Gardens open: 7 am – dusk; Glasshouses open: 10 am – 6 pm (4.15 pm in winter)
http://www.glasgowbotanicgardens.com/

If you’re into Harry Potter (who am I kidding, who isn’t?!) don’t miss out on the main building of the University of Glasgow – it is an absolute must-see in Glasgow. One peek at the cloisters and you’ll know what I’m talking about!

The University is accessible to the public for free.

The iconic Cloisters at the University of Glasgow look like a Harry Potter location.

From there you can pop by Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum (also free) to see a colourful mix of all kinds of exhibitions or go for a stroll in Kelvingrove Park. There are many coffee shops along the way, where you can grab a takeaway brew.

Museum open: 10 am – 5 pm (11 am on Fridays and Sundays)
https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/venues/kelvingrove-art-gallery-and-museum

Lunch in the West End

The shop front of the vegan V & V Cafe in Glasgow.

I bet, all the exploring has made you hungry again and there are lots of great lunch options along the way that offer vegan as well as omni food.

  • The V&V Cafe: a fully vegan cafe near Kelvinbridge subway station with a selected lunch menu of toasties, curry, soup and sandwiches
    481 Great Western Rd, Glasgow G12 8HL, http://www.barsoba.co.uk/
  • Soba: a pan-Asian restaurant near Hillhead subway station
    116-122 Byres Rd, Glasgow G12 8TB, http://www.barsoba.co.uk/
  • Hanoi Bike Shop: a Vietnamese restaurant on Ruthven Lane serving pho and tapas-style Vietnamese dishes
    8 Ruthven Ln, Glasgow G12 9BG, https://hanoibikeshop.co.uk/
  • Hidden Lane Tea Rooms: a vintage tea room in Finnieston with a selection of sandwiches, soup and cake – the afternoon tea here is delicious!
    1103 Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8ND, https://www.hiddenlanetearoom.com/
  • The 78: a fully vegan gastro-pub in Finnieston with a cosy fireplace
    10-14 Kelvinhaugh St, Glasgow G3 8NU, https://www.the78barandkitchen.com/

 

On a rainy day, take the subway back into town, but if it’s dry or even sunny (and that happens more frequently than you might think) leave the West End by foot and walk along the River Clyde until you get back to the centre. The path along the river leads along Glasgow’s famous modern skyline and some relics from the shipbuilding history of the city. From Finnieston the walk takes about 35-40 minutes. Alternatively, you can rent a city bike and cycle along the river on a safe cycle path.

PM: Discovering the “real” Glasgow

The view onto Glasgow Cathedral from the Necropolis cemetery in Glasgow.

Back in the city centre, stop by The Lighthouse, Glasgow’s centre for architecture and design. It is located in a Mackintosh building and houses a collection of his drawings and designs. You can climb all the way to the tower of the building for great views of the city. The tower access closes at 4.45pm, so make sure you get there before then.

The Lighhouse is open from 10.30 am – 5 pm (from 12 pm on Sundays)
http://www.thelighthouse.co.uk/

In winter it might be dark by now but during the summer you have at least another 5 hours of daylight. Use this time to get a taste of the “real” Glasgow – first discovering the area where Glasgow began and then exploring off the touristy path.

One of the oldest buildings in Glasgow is Glasgow Cathedral, and initially, the town was built around this area. The city centre only moved to its current position during the 18th and 19th century. Behind it, the Necropolis cemetery offers great views back over the city and beautiful Victorian graves to marvel at.

Cathedral has varying opening times – check here.
Necropolis open 7.30 am – 4 pm, tours are available here.

You might also like: Visiting Glasgow Cathedral

 

A bit further on lies Glasgow’s oldest park. Glasgow Green expands along the river Clyde and is a popular hang-out spot for the locals. In it, People’s Palace is a brilliant museum about the history of the people of Glasgow. The building is part museum, park greenhouse, which makes it a great bad weather activity in Glasgow. Like most Glasgow museums, it is free to enter.

Museum open: Mon – Sat 10 am – 5 pm, Sun 11 am – 5 pm
https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/venues/peoples-palace

If you’re visiting on a weekend, make sure to drop by the Barras market to shop for bargains and experience authentic Glasgow vibes.

Market open: Saturday & Sunday 9.30 am – 4.30 pm
http://www.theglasgowbarras.com/

The best Pubs in Glasgow

After so much exploring, you deserve a little rest – and where better to get that, than the pub!

You might have noticed, that while there is a lot to do in Glasgow, it doesn’t have a tourist magnet like the Castle in Edinburgh. Visiting Glasgow is a lot about meeting the locals and experiencing the nightlife the city is famous for. The pubs and bars of the city are a great place for a taster.

Some of my favourite bars for local flavour in the city centre are:

  • The Pot Still: famous for its wide range of whiskies – come here for a dram you’ll never forget
    154 Hope St, Glasgow G2 2TH, http://thepotstill.co.uk/
  • Sloans: one of the oldest pubs in Glasgow, located in a quiet courtyard off Argyle Street
    108 Argyle St, Glasgow G2 8BG, https://www.sloansglasgow.com/
  • MacSorleys: a gastro-pub with great live music, especially on a Saturday afternoon
    42 Jamaica St, Glasgow G1 4QG
  • The Griffin: a busy pub off Sauchiehall Street with a traditional round wooden bar
    266 Bath St, Glasgow G2 4JP, http://thegriffinglasgow.co.uk/
  • Saramago Bar: a trendy bar in the beautiful surroundings of the Centre for Contemporary Art
    350 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3JD, https://www.cca-glasgow.com/saramago-cafe/saramago-caf-bar

Scottish Dinner in the City Centre

Tofu fish & chips at the vegan restaurant Mono in Glasgow.

Dinner options in Glasgow are endless – and many restaurants in the city are really vegan-friendly. There are certain dishes you simply have to try when you visit Scotland and many of them can be “veganised”. Here are two options for a traditional Scottish dinner – vegan or not:

  • Mono is one of Glasgow’s first vegan gastro-pubs. On the menu, you’ll find Scottish classics like Fish & Chips (made with tofu), Mac & Cheese or potato and veggie roasts. For something less traditional, try the pizzas – you won’t regret it!
    12 King St, Glasgow G1 5RB, http://www.monocafebar.com/
  • The Red Onion is owned by star chef John Quigley who made a name for himself in London’s West End and as the private chef for Bryan Adams. The restaurant serves traditional Scottish cuisine with a modern twist and on the separate vegan menu, you can find classics like Haggis or Korma.
    257 W Campbell St, Glasgow G2 4TT, http://red-onion.co.uk/

After filling your belly with Scottish delights, there is nothing left to do than heading back out for a dram or two. Many pubs in Glasgow offer free live music on any day of the week. To find something for your taste, check the event calendar at Glasgow Gig Guide.

Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules live at The Butterfly & The Pig (Bath Street).

Glasgow in a day is barely enough to scratch the surface and there is a lot more to do and see all across the city. If you can, I highly recommend spending at least 2-3 days in Glasgow to visit more of Glasgow’s fantastic museums and parks and explore further off the beaten track. If you have the time, or if you’d rather spend your day outside the more touristy points of interest, check out my 10 suggestions for escaping the West End bubble!

Don’t want to explore Glasgow on your own?

 

What would you do if you only had one day in Glasgow?

***

Planning a trip to Scotland?

Find accommodation, book your rental car or a guided tour with Rabbie’s.

Book day trips to explore the country or get advance tickets for attractions.

Read up in a travel guide and prepare for hikes with the OS Explorer maps.

Get your rain gear in place and browse my packing list.

Book your Glasgow tour with me or let me plan your itinerary.

 

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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.

10 comments on “One Day in Glasgow: Seeing the Best of Glasgow in a Day

  1. Sloth Suze

    We love Glasgow for vegan food. So spoilt for choice. Our favourite is The Flying Duck. Great selection and decent music too. Not managed to catch a gig there yet though. We also want to try The Hug and Pint next time we’re up! X

    • The Hug and Pint is lovely! And if you’re looking for lunch (and if you haven’t been yet), try In Bloom – the sandwiches are amazing!

  2. This is a fantastic list, and actually makes me want to go back and visit Glasgow (which isn’t that far from me in Edinburgh). So far I’ve really only seen the Necropolis, Kelvin Waterway and the University, and never found that much fascination in the city. I think you’ve convinced me otherwise with this, and I think I’ll actually make some time to come visit in the next couple weeks.

    • You really should! I think a lot of Glasgow’s appeal is hidden away or even buried underneath a lot of stereotypes. It’s worth to spend a bit more time, explore beyond the main sights and get a sense for the character of the city and its people. Glasgow is just as much about the pretty buildings as it is about the locals – I hope you enjoy your next visit!!

  3. The number one thing I want to do next time I’m in Glasgow – OK, number two after seeing my family – is see that mural. I love it!

    • The mural trail is such a cool walking trail through the city – and that St Mungo piece is just stunning!!! I walk past it on my city tours – you should join one 🙂

  4. Aw, nice article!! I just love the delicious veggie food at The 78 😍

    • It’s one of my favourites in the West End – I just love how chill the atmosphere is!

  5. I went to uni in Glasgow so I’m very at home there, but it’s such a vibrant city and keeps changing, so it’s great to see an up to date post about it. The murals are new to me. Will have to pop down to see them.

    • The murals are one of the most attractive things about Glasgow atm – especially for young travelers! And they keep commissioning new ones, which is great! The trail just keeps growing 🙂

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