Discover the beauty, brutalism and very best of Scotland’s biggest city — all the fun things to see and do — in just one day
When it comes to urban Scotland, Edinburgh, the capital, gets the most tourists. With the Royal Mile, the castle, Arthur’s Seat, and a pervading feeling of grandeur, it’s understandable. Meanwhile, Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city, and it’s also undoubtedly the fun one. The perfect combination of a large student population, a thriving arts scene, and the fact it’s a little bit rough around the edges means there’s always something going on. We get that you want to see Edinburgh — and even maybe the Highlands or the Hebrides — but if you’ve got just 24 hours to spare in Glasgow, we’ve got some day-making tips for you. After this, maybe it’ll be your first choice…
Culture and identity
Everywhere you go in Glasgow, you’ll see people in frock coats being commemorated — from the great (such as the inventor James Watt and the poet Robert Burns) to some of the more obscure benefactors of the city like James Lumsden, a lord provost in the 19th century. Oh, and the Duke of Wellington with the token traffic cone on his head. These statues lend the city itself the feeling of one big museum, but there are some proper museums and larger architectural pieces worth stopping by.
The Lighthouse is an apt place to start your day (after breakfast of course — we’ll get to that) to get a general idea of the artiness within Glasgow’s essence. It’s right in the city center, just around the corner from the Central train station, tucked away down Mitchell Lane. Designed over 100 years ago by the jack-of-all-trades artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh, The Lighthouse is the main design and architecture hub in Scotland, serving primarily as an exhibition space. At seven storeys high, you also get a great view over the city from the observation deck at the top. Its opening hours have been more erratic since the start of the pandemic, so it’s best to check on this a little while in advance.
Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis
About a mile westward on Castle Street, you’ll find the magnificent Glasgow Cathedral. Consecrated in 1197, it’s the oldest building in the city, and a wonderful example of gothic architecture (not seen much in Scotland); with an intricate wooden-beamed interior, it’s a fascinating delight.
Even more so is the Necropolis. Behind the cathedral and over a pedestrian bridge, this sprawling cemetery was built in the style of Père Lachaise in Paris, with winding footpaths, steps and hills. It’s beautifully well-kept and topped off with a 12-foot statue of religious reformer John Knox perched on a giant Doric column. This is the place in Glasgow to be if you need a brief change of pace or a moment of reflection. Either here, or Kelvingrove Park, which is the location of our next pick…
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
If you can only fit one museum into your day in Glasgow, it ought to be Kelvingrove. It’s one of Glasgow’s most prominent landmarks as well as being one of the most popular urban attractions in the whole of Scotland, and for good reason. Inside, you’ll find art from a wide range of periods, impressive showcases of armor and artifacts from natural history, exhibitions of Scottish works, interactive displays, and much more. The best bit? It’s completely free to enter, though donations are welcome.
Food and nightlife
The modern-day Glasgow whirs constantly with activity and enjoyment, to the extent that it’s arguably one of the best (and relatively, most affordable) cities in the UK for going out to eat, drink and socialize. So, when in Rome…
Laid-back, local eats
View this post on Instagram
In the morning, you should be able to wander inside just about anywhere in Glasgow and have yourself a full Scottish breakfast. But for something with a bit more flair, we recommend Scran in Dennistoun, a largely residential area in the East End. They do all the local breakfast treats — eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, black pudding, hash browns, potato scones, smoked salmon — in “rolls”, no less. Some features are less conventional — shrimp and ox cheek, to name a couple. Whatever you choose from Scran’s mouth-watering selection, the place is friendly, Instagrammable, and good value for money.
If you’re a vegan, Mono is a must. A “unique and versatile” space in the heart of the city, Mono is a community event space and heavy promoter of good plant-based food, good beer, and all-round good vibes. The 13th Note on King Street is a similar, albeit cozier spot, with live music pretty much every week and an additional emphasis on being dog-friendly.
Drinking and dancing
View this post on Instagram
There’s a myriad of fantastic pubs and bars in Glasgow; no one would be able to get around all of them in a day, so we’ve picked three of the best to tell you about. Inn Deep is the first, just beneath Kelvinbridge in the fashionable West End. If you’re in the city on an admittedly rare sunny day, sit outside the pub, right by the River Kelvin, with one of their six in-house beers in front of you. Or, try them all and happily lose track of time.
Like The Lighthouse, the sidestreet building that houses Stereo was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh — spend enough time in the city center and you’ll start to recognize his mark a mile off. In keeping with the longstanding creativity about the place, a lot of pubs in Glasgow also serve as gig venues, and Stereo is no exception. Seemingly secluded from the outside but bright and buzzing on the inside, Stereo is so trendy that their list of beers and ciders is a page long, and features one called ‘DAS IST TECHNO SEX’. If that doesn’t intrigue you, we don’t know what will.
View this post on Instagram
Lastly, a night out in Glasgow wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Nice N Sleazy (or “Sleazy’s”, as everyone else seems to call it). Glasweigans are known for their astounding warmth, and with a hip and diverse clientele, in no other bar-cum-club are you more likely to be on the receiving end of it than here. The undertone is the right mix of grotty and cool, with its walls made more characterful by graffiti and backdated gig posters, and yet there’s also an extensive and elaborate cocktail menu. Alternative music is the Sleazy standard, with artists and DJs putting on an eclectic mix of genres like electronic, post-punk, psychedelic, disco, garage and goth. This place isn’t exactly off the beaten track — it’s in the middle of scintillating Sauchiehall Street — but honestly, it might just be the coolest venue in a city of really cool venues.
Did you like this article? For more travel inspiration, visit Kiwi.com Stories.