Photo Courtesy of dun_deagh/Flickr
Glasgow is a place that rewards exploration. At first glance, the city’s imposing Victorian architecture and frequently bleak weather give the impression of an unforgiving and slightly melancholy place. Nothing could be further from the truth! Bolstered by its legendarily friendly inhabitants, the c…ity is one of the most vibrant in Britain. The city center and outlying enclaves like the West End are packed with restaurants, bars, music venues, and clubs. Fabulous architecture, a raft of cultural highlights, and a generous array of green spaces help temper the city’s hedonistic side.
What to know before you go to Glasgow
The best time to visit Glasgow is undoubtedly during the summer months (June to August) when the days are longest and there’s a decent chance of some fine weather. Spring (April to May) and fall (September to October) can also be fine periods for travel. The presence of the Gulf Stream means Scotland never gets unbearably cold, but winter means short days and unpredictable (often bad) weather.
With the expansion of Edinburgh Airport, it's no longer the case that Glasgow is the natural air gateway to Scotland. Nevertheless, the city’s main airport (Glasgow Prestwick Airport is located around 50 km from Glasgow itself) continues to thrive, with direct flights to North American, Middle Eastern, and European destinations, along with regular connections to other key British cities.
Glasgow’s city center is laid out in a grid system very much like cities in the United States, which makes exploring by foot extremely easy. For the West End, use the Subway/Underground transport system to get to Hillhead Station. Frequent public buses and suburban trains service the city’s various areas. Taxis are plentiful (if not all that cheap) while regular trains run from the city’s two stations (Glasgow Central and Queen Street) to other destinations within Scotland and Great Britain.
Yes, Glaswegians tend to be partial to a wee bit of stodge now and again, and a fish supper washed down with a can of Irn Bru remains a quintessential dining experience here. However, the largest city in Scotland has a sophisticated culinary scene that rivals and often surpasses those in other major UK centers. One of Glasgow’s great advantages is the easy access it has to Scotland’s enviable natural larder, which encompasses everything from west coast seafood to fresh meat and produce. Kitchens across the city are making full use of this bounty in imaginative ways, while cosmopolitan venues serving dishes from all over the world continue to crop up regularly.
When Glasgow was named European City of Culture in 1990, it was the first non-capital city to be handed the accolade. That it was honored in such a fashion came as no surprise to those familiar with the city’s amazing array of cultural highlights, which span everything from legendary music venues to iconic showcases for fine art. Another string to Glasgow’s cultural bow is its architectural legacy, in which Charles Rennie Mackintosh—one of the city’s most famous sons—looms large. (If you take a fancy to Mackintosh’s fancy Art Nouveau designs, dive a little deeper by booking an expert-led private walking tour, Mackintosh in Context, with our partner, Context Tours.)
While Edinburgh’s annual festival binge in August attracts more press, Glasgow is just as packed with celebrations of culture, music, and other excuses to make merry. The festival calendar kicks off early in the year with Celtic Connections, an annual festival of contemporary and traditional Celtic music. From then on, such lively shindigs are practically a monthly occurrence. Highlights include Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, one of the UK’s boldest visual arts events, and the West End Festival, which involves comedy shows, colourful processions, literary events, and much more.
- Glasgow’s top cultural attractions are among the best in the UK, and many of them are free to access. Flagship draws that won’t cost visitors a cent include the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, The People’s Palace, Glasgow Cathedral, and the Gallery of Modern Art.
- When locals want to get an inspiring overview of their city they head to Queen’s Park in the city’s Southside. The view from the top of the hill here offers glimpses (on a clear day) of Glasgow University’s gothic spires, the Clyde Arc Bridge, and the roofs of the city’s distinctive tenements.
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