Things to do in Glasgow
Although Edinburgh is Scotland’s celebrated cultural capital, Glasgow is larger, more populous, and arguably livelier than its eastern rival. With plenty of parks, museums, theatres and cultural history of its own, Glasgow is well worth a visit if you’re staying at Craig Tara, which is around an hour's drive away.
In fact, there’s so much going on in the city that a day will only offer a taster of all it has to offer. Here is our pick of the best sights and activities available in Scotland’s buzziest city.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
One of Scotland’s most important (and largest) collections of art and antiquities, the Kelvingrove is an essential part of any visit to Glasgow. Situated in extensive gardens by the side of the River Kelvin, the museum houses 22 galleries ranging from natural history to art.
The gallery celebrates local artists as well as international stars, including the Glasgow Boys and architect, artist and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. There are loads of tours, talks and events too. You could easily spend a day here alone without scratching the surface of their collections.
George Square and Buchanan Street
Like any major city, it’s worth spending some time exploring on foot. George Square is Glasgow’s central hub, created at the end of the 18th century in the Georgian era, with the station of the same name adjacent. Walk west along St Vincent Place and turn onto Buchanan Street to see some of the city’s most impressive tenement buildings, as well as its liveliest shops and eateries.
Expect to see street performers in the summer months, business people grabbing lunch, and lots of tourists. On the other side of George Square, to the southeast, wind your way to Merchant City and Café Gandolfi, one of the city’s most historic and celebrated restaurants, where you may spot a local celebrity or two.
You might expect to have to journey to the Highlands and Islands to visit a whisky distillery. Not so: Glengoyne lies just 10 miles northwest of the city in the Trossachs National Park. The drive alone is worthwhile in good weather for the stunning scenery, but the destination will not disappoint lovers of the “water of life.”
As well as producing delicious whisky, Glengoyne was awarded Sustainable Distillery of the Year in 2022. You can taste their offerings and tour the premises, learning all about the complex variables involved in producing an outstanding malt. A range of tours and tastings is available, from beginners’ tours to masterclasses. Needless to say, there’s a shop on site offering rare batches and gift sets.
The Burrell Collection
Glasgow’s other famous art collection is the Burrell, donated by shipping magnate Sir William Burrell and his wife Constance. The collection is huge, with over 9000 items ranging from stained glass windows to medieval weaponry, tapestries and Impressionist art by Cezanne and Degas. The museum contains pieces almost 6000 years old, including extensive collections of Chinese, Islamic and medieval art.
Situated in Pollok Park in Bellahouston, this is another venue you could spend a day touring. The grounds contain numerous delights too, including Pollok House and several miles of trail suitable for walking or bike riding. Dogs are welcome in the grounds on leads.
Glasgow Botanical Gardens
The sometimes-dour tenements of Glasgow’s city centre contrast vividly with this 25-acre site in Kelvinside. Opened in 1817, the Gardens are a green oasis in the heart of the city, with plenty to see. Best of all, it's free, apart from a small charge to enter the dramatic Kibble Glasshouses, where the tropical and temperate species thrive.
Highlights include a tree trail, rose garden, herb garden, woodland walks, and a children’s garden with its magical Red House. Allow at least two hours for a visit to this lovely and well-maintained oasis.
Glasgow Science Centre
The fascinating discoveries and revolutions of science are celebrated in this domed, riverside facility located at Pacific Key on the Clyde. The futuristic exterior was designed to pay homage to the large seagoing vessels which once visited the city’s port in its heyday.
Inside you’ll find a planetarium and the Explore! exhibit, where kids and adults alike can enjoy 50 different interactive experiences. There’s also an IMAX cinema on site and an outdoor discovery area including sound, light and motion exhibits. There’s something to inspire bright minds during daytime, or after dark, as well as an extensive program of events, so do browse their website before you go.
Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel
Glasgow once boasted one of the world’s busiest seaports and dockyards. Its history is commemorated, alongside transport and travel of all varieties, in this justly celebrated museum. Designed by celebrated architect Dame Zaha Hadid, the glass-fronted building contains more than 3000 objects exploring how humans have travelled on water, road and air.
Fittingly located at the junction of the Kelvin and Clyde Rivers, this impressively modern museum is one of the newest additions to Glasgow’s cultural heritage and is full of interactive exhibits and surprises. The tall ship, Glenlee - a restored Victorian cargo vessel - is docked outside the museum and can also be toured.
House for an Art Lover
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was probably Scotland’s most brilliant architect and renaissance man, and many of his finest works can be found in or around Glasgow. This architectural highlight was designed for a competition in 1901 but never realised until 1996, 68 years after Mackintosh’s death.
As its name suggests, the elegant and unique whitewashed home was designed to incorporate brilliance in design in every aspect from light fittings to tapestries to doorknobs. The House is unique and beautiful inside and out and has become a much sought-after wedding venue.
There’s a tearoom and shop on site with the peace and quiet of the grounds, situated in Bellahouston Park, sometimes joined by the cheers from supporters at the nearby Ibrox Stadium, home of Rangers FC.
Pollok Country Park
Relax and unwind with a stroll or bike ride around Glasgow’s prettiest park. Roam over 360 acres of woodland and riverside walks, and visit Pollok House, a Scottish National Trust property built in the 18th century, which was also the location of the Trust’s founding in 1931.
The House boasts a beautifully ornate garden, a dog-friendly tearoom, and a fine collection of Spanish art, collected by its previous owner, Sir William Stirling Maxwell. Elsewhere in the park, you’ll find woodland trails, walled gardens, a wildlife garden, and children’s play park. Look out for the herds of majestic Highland cattle roaming the meadows.
Mackintosh’s Willow Tearooms
Head to the Willow Tearooms at 217 Sauchiehall Street, where you can book a high tea in the unmistakable elegance of a Mackintosh interior. Ring a bell to summon your waiter, as you would have in the tearoom’s heyday in 1903.
Mackintosh’s client, the proprietor Miss Cranston, eventually operated four such tearooms. Another Willow Tearoom with its original Art Nouveau interior can be found at 97 Buchanan Street, which also boasts an extensive gift shop. Advance booking for both venues is essential!