A day in the vibrant and eclectic city of Glasgow

25 January 2022

If you find yourself on a weekend break in Scotland, a day in Glasgow is a must. 

Glasgow is best known for its nightlife, quirky bars and restaurants, and its unique music scene. But Scotland’s biggest city has much more to offer.

Take a wander among Glasgow’s Victorian architecture and its free art exhibitions, pop in for a cuppa in a cosy café, and mingle with friendly locals in one of the city’s famous pubs.

Let’s get the day started

The day starts in the heart of the city, with a visit to Glasgow’s iconic resident, the Duke of Wellington.

Far from being an exceptional piece of art, the equestrian statue is notorious for flaunting an orange traffic cone on its head. Now a permanent feature, the Duke has become a symbol of the city’s patter.  

After a selfie, why not pop into the nearby Gallery of Modern Art?

Commonly known as GoMA, the museum offers several permanent and temporary exhibitions from Scottish and international artists, as well as a café and gift shop.

While you’re in the city centre, the celebrated mural trail is well worth a tour.

All the murals are easily reached on foot, following the official online map – you’ll also get a chance to see some of the less-visited corners of Glasgow.

Our personal favourites are along with the University of Strathclyde campus, in particular, “St Enoch and the Child” by local artist Smug, depicting the city's founding story, with St Enoch cradling her son and patron saint of Glasgow, St Mungo. 

It’s located at the corner between George Street and High Street, on the side of a sandstone tenement, the iconic Glasgow flats. 

A medieval touch

From here, you’ll have easy access to the Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis, at the border with the city’s East End.

Built on the site of St Mungo’s Church, the Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Glasgow, and the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland, dating back to the 1130s.

Admire its medieval magnificence and Gothic touches, as well as newer features, like the post-war stained-glass collection by Francis Spear.

A short stroll from the Cathedral, on top of a hill across the so-called “Bridge of Sighs”, lies the Glasgow Necropolis. 

The first burials go back to the 1830s and include notable people like local merchants, academics, artists, and writers.

Wander around the Victorian-era mausoleums, statues, and memorials and take in the glorious view over the Cathedral and central Glasgow.

Explore Glasgow’s culture

Returning to the buzz of the city centre, and in particular, Glasgow’s main pedestrian shopping area, Buchanan Street, The Lighthouse is not to be missed. 

Hidden away on Mitchell Lane, The Lighthouse is on several floors and hosts Scotland's Centre for Design and Architecture, including the Mackintosh Centre. 

The building itself was designed by Glasgow’s famed architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of Europe’s main exponents of the Art Nouveau movement. 

Here, you can visit a permanent exhibition dedicated to the architect’s life and work.

But perhaps one of the most famous features is the Mackintosh Tower, which offers an uninterrupted view over Glasgow’s cityscape. 

As you approach lunchtime, the city centre offers several restaurants and cafés for quick bites or chilled times with friends and family.

If you’re a fan of brunch, Single End is highly recommended. At its two locations in Merchant City and Garnethill, it serves all the brunch staples and a wide range of cakes and pastries.

But if international street food is what you’re after, then Platform is the place for you.

Housed in the converted site of the famous The Arches nightclub, it offers a selection of street food vendors all day, including a pub with in-house microbrewery for a cheeky pint or two. 

More exciting culture

After lunch, take a leisurely stroll in Garnethill, the only residential neighbourhood in central Glasgow and one of the city’s multicultural communities.

The area is steeped in history, with the famous Mackintosh School of Art building, now under restoration after two fires.

You’ll also find the Glasgow Film Theatre, which opened in 1939, and hosts an annual international film festival.

The Garnethill Synagogue, founded in 1879, is a spectacular sight here and is Scotland’s first place of worship for the Jewish community.

Walking up Hill Street, one of Garnethill’s main thoroughfares, you’ll find a viewpoint offering a beautiful landscape of the city’s West End, with its many steeples.

From here, the West End can be accessed on foot, through Charing Cross, or on the Glasgow Subway, through the nearby stations of Cowcaddens or St George’s Cross.

Whether you’re walking or taking a short underground ride, Kelvinbridge is a great area to access the main West End landmarks.

A step into nature

Leave the city behind at Eldon Street and immerse yourself in Kelvingrove Park. Enjoy the views of the River Kelvin as you cross the park to reach the Kelvingrove Museum. 

The museum and gallery are home to important arms and natural history collections and outstanding European artworks, including Vincent van Gogh and Salvador Dalí. 

At this point, we think you might want to stop for a few moments and enjoy a comforting hot beverage. The neighbouring areas of Finnieston, Woodlands, and Hillhead are brimming with quaint and charming cafés. 

We recommend Tchai Ovna, a quirky tearoom in Otago Lane with a full menu of teas from around the world. Another place to try is Mayze, on Argyle Street, a completely vegan café and bakery.

Things to see before you leave

You must get an up close-up look at Glasgow University’s tower when you’re in the city. Sitting behind the Kelvingrove Museum, the University of Glasgow’s main building is another example of the city’s breathtaking architecture.

Take some snaps in the building’s East and West Quadrangles, the picturesque part of the campus for its views of the tower, often compared to a real-life Hogwarts. 

To end your day in Glasgow, we recommend an evening at Òran Mór, in the heart of the West End and a short walk from the university. 

A popular entertainment hub in the city, Òran Mór includes a brasserie serving a selection of Scottish dishes and local produce in an Art Nouveau-inspired setting. 

When you’ve finished, the venue has something for everyone, with live music, comedy shows, and a bar boasting over 280 types of whisky, Scotland’s national drink.

After Irn Bru, of course. 

Snaps from Sara