Getaway to Glasgow!
Updated: Mar 16, 2021
Another trip, another conference! This time work had me heading to Glasgow to present some of my current research and I was thrilled to be traveling to the U.K. for a bit. For this particular trip I flew LAX to LHR (London) and then on to Glasgow for about a week. Note: there aren't many direct flights from the States into Glasgow directly, so you'll probably fly through London, Heathrow. Following my time there I went on to London for a few days and had the absolute best time (check out my other post on that trip here).
When I told people I would be traveling to Scotland and was asking for recommendations, the one thing people kept telling me was to talk to the locals. I'm not lying I must have heard this over and over again and I can honestly tell you they were right. 'Glaswegians', as they're lovingly called, are some of the friendliest and most talkative people you'll ever meet. They have a love for their city and are always willing to strike up a friendly conversation, tell you how to get around or give recommendations, so definitely seek out a local in a shop, restaurant or museum and strike up a friendly conversation!
Apart from the people, I was fascinated with the history of not only Scotland but Glasgow in general. As the largest city in Scotland, Glasgow traditionally got a bad rap for being grittier and more industrial than it's neighboring city of Edinburgh and wasn't always a destination hotspot, but that has certainly changed nowadays where you'll find museums, art, history and great foodie spots. As usual, I like to put together a mini-itinerary for each place I visit to note the do's and don'ts and must-see sites for any city I travel to. Here's my attempt to catalogue all that was great and wonderful during my time in Scotland and Glasgow in particular.
Places to See: Glasgow is generally divided between the east and west ends of town and locals have their own opinions of which is better. Generally, the east end is more industrial, while the west end is considered to be a bit more affluent and generally has many of the top sites of interest. For this particular trip I stayed in the west end and visited sites around there and Glasgow's city center districts. Here are some of my top picks for places to see, visit and explore in no particular order :)
Things to Do and See:
1) Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum: You can't take a trip to Glasgow without visiting the beautiful Kelvingrove Art Gallery and parks. I was staying a short distance away and on my first day I decided to get up and walk through Kelvingrove Park to the Gallery. This is one of Glasgow's top tourist destinations because of the fantastic galleries and collections of art from around the world. Be sure to take time to see exhibits featuring famous local architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, pieces of art dedicated to the infamous Scottish Queen Mary and learn about the doomed Jacobite rebellion. After walking around for a bit have a rest in their cafe and main hall while listening to the magnificent organ concert that takes place everyday M-Sat at 1pm and Sundays at 3pm.
2) Shopping on Buchanan Street: Buchanan Street is one of the main shopping areas in Glasgow. It runs from Sauchiehall Street down to St. Enoch Square and is mainly a pedestrian lined boulevard. At the southern end of the street lies the wonderful House of Fraser store, which is a massive beauty hall that also has in-store boutiques including Hermes and Gucci to name a few. I'm not a huge shopper of stores like these, given that you can find many of these brands in the states, but I would recommend this particular one as the buildings themselves are architectural beauties and you may find local Scottish goods as well.
3) The University of Glasgow: In my spare time I teach at a University and will always have a life-long love of learning, so when I get the chance to visit one, especially universities that are quite old, I jump at the chance. This is why I would highly recommend a walk through the University of Glasgow, which is a public research university in the West End of the city. It was founded by a papal bull in 1451 and is the 4th oldest university in the English-speaking world! It's also been likened to a real-life Hogwarts and is just stunning to walk through. I actually toured around on my way to Kelvingrove park and museum because they're fairly close to one another.
4) Hunterian Art Gallery: While walking through the University of Glasgow, make a stop at the 'Hunterian', which is the oldest museum in Scotland. The 'Hunterian' houses the Hunterian Museum, the Hunterian Art Gallery, the Mackintosh House, the Zoology Museum and the Anatomy Museum, which are all located in several buildings within the main campus.
5) Boat trip on the River Clyde: In any city I visit I love to take a boat or river cruise as a way to see the sites. This is usually possible in many European cities as many were originally founded near rivers to increase transportation. Therefore a visit to Glasgow wouldn't be complete with a trip 'doon the river' (aka down the water). There are several cruises to choose from but most generally take off near the Riverside Museum on the river Clyde. Mose cruises sail past the active shipyards and Dumbarton Castle where William Wallace was imprisoned. Many are straightforward but if you're looking for something a little fancier there are also 'Prosecco Afternoon Tea' cruises as well.
6) Riverside Museum: While you're down by the river Clyde taking a cruise, you'll probably notice that they take off near the Riverside museum so why not check it out before or afterward? RM is a modern museum that houses interactive displays and collections from historic vehicles including skateboards, locomotives, prams, cars and even a Stormtrooper!
7) People's Palace: The People's Palace is a museum and glasshouse that was originally opened in 1898 by the Earl of Rosebery. It houses one of the most spectacular collections of objects, film and photographs that depict how Glaswegians lived and worked up to the present day. On the side of the PP are the Winter Gardens which is part of Glasgow Green and houses exotic palms and other plants, with a nice cafe and fountain to admire.
8) Glasgow Botanic Gardens: Speaking of plants, Glasgow has one of the most magnificent botanical gardens I've ever seen. It's located on the west end of Glasgow and features glasshouses (most notably Kibble Palace) full of exotic plants, succulents, roses and tree ferns as far as the eye can see. My absolute favorite part however was the carnivorous plants gallery that had the largest collection of venus fly traps, sundews and pitcher plants I've ever seen!
9) Rosslyn Chapel: This isn't exactly in Glasgow (it's actually close to neighboring Edinburgh) but I had to see the famous 15th century Rosslyn Chapel. If you're a Da Vinci Code fan than you'll remember it was the chapel featured at the end of the movie and is just stunning to visit and walk around. It's active and still has Catholic services if you're so inclined :)
10) Day trips to the Highlands and Whiskey Tours: Looking to get out of Glasgow for the day? Then I would definitely recommend a day-trip to the Highlands and possibly a tour of the famous Whiskey Trail. When planning my trip, I absolutely knew I had to spend some time in the Highlands and take a cruise on the famous Loch Ness. We decided to book a small group tour with Rabbie's, which set off from the nearby city center. It was wonderful, a small group and was led by an extremely knowledgable guide. Read more about my time in the highlands here.
Places to Eat in Glasgow:
1) Oran Mor Bar and Restaurant: For my conference we had the good luck to have our banquet in the beautiful Oran Mor restaurant in the west end. It was originally a church that has been converted to an entertainment and restaurant hot spot. Most notably is the beautiful auditorium and main room with a massive mural for a ceiling!
2) The Hidden Lane Tea Room: When in the U.K. you have to have afternoon tea. This was one of the cutest little tea houses in the west end that had floral wallpaper and mismatched china.
3) The Butterfly and the Pig: After our tour of the Highlands ended, our driver dropped us off in the city center so we grabbed dinner at the nearby Butterfly and the Pig. This was delicious and is best described as a shabby-chic restaurant serving amazing local delicacies with live music and entertainment as well.
4) The Willow Tea Rooms: If you want high tea with a touch of history then you have to go to the Willow Tea Rooms. The building was originally designed by famous Glaswegian Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1903 and the food is delicious to boot!
This is just a short must-see list for all things Glasgow but I'd love to hear any other recommendations for places to see, eat and do while there.
I'd also like to include Glasgow's main travel page with tons of information and FAQ's about this beautiful city: https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/