You only have one day in Glasgow / Scotland and still don’t want to miss the best things to do and highlights? No problem at all with the travel tips and BIG5 checklists from JOURNICATION! Glasgow is by far Scotland’s largest city. While it doesn’t have capital status, a castle or a parliament building, Glasgow has history, character and so much soul. Glasgow is now a modern, bustling, artistic city with a diverse and welcoming culture but still maintains strong links to its industrial past. Many tourists head to Edinburgh for their visit to Scotland. But, as the Glaswegians say, “The best thing to come out of Edinburgh is the train to Glasgow!”
What do you learn in this article?
BIG5 Things to do in Glasgow
You don’t want to miss any sights? Find all the tips and your checklist for the city trip to Glasgow here:
BIG5 Glasgow – Speed Date
Outstanding: The People
Glaswegians will always help out a tourist without expecting anything in return
Sucks: The Weather
It can be rainy any time of the year and very cold and damp in autumn and winter
DO: Look up to appreciate the surprisingly beautiful architecture
From ground level, Glasgow can look tired and dreary. But raise your gaze above shop level to appreciate the stunning designs
DO NOT: Walk through parts of the East End at night
Like all cities, Glasgow has its questionable areas. The city is generally safe but be sensible after dark
Don’t tell your mother: Football gets serious!
Glasgow is a football loving city. Old firm days (Celtic vs. Rangers) can sometimes get a bit rowdy so it might be best to watch from the comfort of your sofa
BIG5 Glasgow – Rapid Fire Q&A
- A short trip to Glasgow, how many days should I plan? – You can discover the BIG5 of the city in one day. But to venture into lesser known corners, you should plan for 2-3 days
- It rains a lot, go there anyway? – If Scotland had good weather, everyone would want to live there! Take some good waterproofs and explore.
- Do you have to pay many admissions? – All Glasgow Life museums and parks are free. Check HERE to see which ones.
- Should I book some activities in advance? – Not really necessary unless you are going on tours. Glasgow is not busy with tourists.
- What is your best savings tip for Glasgow? – The public transport network is very good. Save taxi money and jump on the underground or the trains.
BIG5 Glasgow – Orga
Best travel time for Glasgow
Glasgow is not a big tourist city so crowds are not a problem. To get the best of the weather, May or June is a great time to visit. The days are long and the rain is a little warmer!
Arrival & Departure
Visa: Check here whether you need a visa for Scotland with your passport
- Flight: Fly to Glasgow International Airport (GLA) and take the bus into the city. For budget flights from Europe, Glasgow Prestwick Airport (PIK) is about an hour out of the city but is well served by ScotRail.
- Bus: Arrive into Buchanan Bus Station from anywhere in the UK
- Train: There are two main train stations in the centre of Glasgow – Queen Street (for trains going East and North) and Central (for trains going West and South).
- Car: Glasgow is not very car friendly as there are many one way systems and parking is tricky.
Next you can travel by bus or train to Edinburgh in under an hour. Or go north to explore the beautiful Highlands.
Accommodation / Hotels in Glasgow
Recommended location: In the city centre or within easy distance of a train/underground station.
- Budget: Smiths Hotel (963 Sauchiehall St, Finnieston, Glasgow G3 7TQ) 1 night costs about €20 in the off season. Only a 15 minute walk to the centre
- Medium: Jurys Inn (Jamaica Street, 15 Adams Ct Ln, Glasgow G1 4NL) 1 night will cost roughly €60 off peak. Right next to Central Station
- Noble: Sherbrooke Castle Hotel (11 Sherbrooke Ave, Bellahouston, Glasgow G41 4PG) 1 night costs around €150 – €200. It is out of the centre but it is set in beautiful grounds and is a 5 minute walk Dumbreck Station that will take you into town in under 10 minutes
In Glasgow you pay with Pounds Sterling (£ – GBP)
Withdraw money: ATMs can be found across the city. Make sure to use a bank as others may charge extra
Beer indicator: €4 – €6 for a pint in the city centre
Cost of a taxi: Black cabs are more expensive than Uber but can be flagged down easily. The meter starts at around €3
Restaurants, Bars & Cafés
There are hundreds of great places to eat and drink in Glasgow, here is a tiny sample –
- Two Fat Ladies – (652 Argyle Street, Glasgow G3 8UF)Delicious Scottish and European food with Veggie and Vegan options
- Paesano Pizza – (94 Miller St, Glasgow G1 1DT) Amazing pizza at a good price
- Swing – (183a Hope Street, G2 2UL) Jazz lounge with great cocktails
- Ashton Lane – (Ashton Ln, Hillhead, Glasgow G12 8SJ)Traditional cobbled street with many bars and restaurants. Innis and Gunn sells loads of Scottish beers!
- Spitfire Espresso – (127 Candleriggs, Glasgow G1 1NP) Great coffee in a relaxed, retro atmosphere
- Ottoman Coffeehouse – (73 Berkeley St, Glasgow G3 7DX) Stunning interior and strong, Turkish coffee
- The Willow Tea Room – (97 Buchanan St, Glasgow G1 3HF) An Art Nouveau themed tea room based on the designs of Glasgow artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh
BIG5 Glasgow – Activities
- Visit the medieval Cathedral and Necropolis
- Take a walk down the Style Mile and check out the shops
- Explore some of the free museums on a rainy day (Kelvingrove Museum, Gallery of Modern Art, Transport Museum and Scotland Street School are just a few)
- Discover underground Glasgow and take the Central Station Tour
- If you like football, don’t miss Hampden Park and the Scottish Football Museum
With an extra day, take the train up to stunning Loch Lomond and explore the southern highlands surrounding the beautiful loch.
BIG5 Glasgow – Photo spots
- The University of Glasgow – Great views from Kelvingrove Park and walk around the University to take pictures in the cloisters
- Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis
- Gallery of Modern Art – Statue of Wellington on his horse with a traffic cone on his head – a Glasgow classic
- Tradeston Crane – a symbol of Glasgow’s proud ship building heritage
- Visit the Lighthouse for panoramic views of the city
BIG5 Glasgow – Things to do off the beaten track
- Britannia Panopticon – the world’s oldest surviving music hall
- The Mural Trail stops at beautiful murals painted on gable ends
- Leave the city to visit the rugged Bothwell Castle
- Find a bargain at The Barras market
- Try a dram from Auchentoshan Distillery north of the city
BIG5 Glasgow – Culinary Journey
- Whisky – no explanation required
- Haggis, neeps & tatties – Haggis with mashed turnip and potato
- Full Scottish Breakfast – Order the works to include bacon, sausage (both link and square), eggs, beans, haggis, black pudding, fried mushrooms, fried tomato, potato scones, toast and a cup of tea (veggie options are widely available too)
- Irn Bru – Scotland‘s other national drink (non-alcoholic, sweet and great for when you have consumed too much of the other stuff)
- Tablet – A super sweet treat made almost entirely of sugar
BIG5 Glasgow – Communication
In Glasgow you speak English – or something close to it. The Glaswegian accent is a form of Scots (different to Scottish English) and can be hard to understand at first.
- Thank you – Cheers
- Yes – Aye
- No – Naw
- Hello – Hullo
- Goodbye – See ye efter
BIG5 Glasgow – Helpful Websites / Links
BIG5 Glasgow- Overview map for your city trip
Explore the best things to do in Glasgow
With so much to see in Glasgow, it’s hard to fit it into just one day. But if that is all you have, wake up early and prepare for your perfect day exploring this “Dear Green Place”.
A perfect day in Glasgow 🏴 – here is your overview
Best suited for screenshots 📷📝
Your morning in Glasgow
- Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis
- Spitfire Espresso
- Museum of Modern Art
- Style Mile
Your afternoon in Glasgow
- The Lighthouse
- The Barras
- Britannia Panopticon
- Central Station Tour
Your evening in Glasgow
- Ashton Lane
- Sub Club
In addition to the BIG5, I have summarized the things to do in Glasgow and the circular route for you in an overview map:
Click on the icon at the top left to use the full range of map options!
How to get from Glasgow Airport to the city center?
After arrival at Glasgow International Airport, jump on the Glasgow Airport Express service 500 to arrive right in the heart of the city. The bus is expensive at £14 for an open return (when booked on the app and £14.80 when bought on the bus) but it is the fastest route into the city.
Other options are available on public transport HERE but are a bit more complicated. A taxi will cost between £15 and £20 to the city centre so might be worthwhile if you are in a group.
Visitors from elsewhere in the country will most likely arrive by bus or rail which will take you into the city centre. You are now ready to explore this friendly city!
Things to do in Glasgow in the morning
Explore the historic places of Glasgow …
Start you day with some history and take a walk up to Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis. Also known as the High Kirk of Glasgow, it dates back to the 12th century and houses the tomb of the Patron Saint of Glasgow – Saint Mungo. The Cathedral is spectacular from the outside but make sure you take a look inside too. It is a great example of Scottish Gothic architecture and one of the oldest cathedrals in the country.
Next door is the Victorian Necropolis. With over 50,000 buried here and approximately 3,500 monuments, this is a peaceful area of the city to explore. It is set on the side of a small hill that provides great views over the city, and the Cathedral, from the east. It might seem a bit macabre but this is a really great spot to take some photos.
… and don’t miss out on modern treasures
Walk down the hill along High Street back towards the city centre. En route you will pass one of the best murals on Glasgow’s mural trail. The painting on the gable end depicts a modern version of Saint Mungo with a robin. The story goes that, in the 5th century, a young Mungo managed to revive a dead robin by praying so hard for it to live. There has perhaps been some room for embellishment in this story but it certainly makes a nice mural.
Continuing your walk towards the city centre you will pass by some more murals before reaching Spitfire Espresso. Stop in for a quick refuel and enjoy their very own Gunner bean roast coffee and maybe a wee homemade cake to go with it. Inside this small café is a quirky, retro theme and the staff are super friendly.
Next up is the Gallery of Modern Art, easily distinguishable by the statue outside wearing a traffic cone. It is not clear why the Duke of Wellington wears a cone on his head and it is nothing to do with the gallery, but it has become something of a symbol of the city. Inside the museum there are works by international and local artists and entry is free.
Walk for literally one minute more and you will reach the Style Mile. Known more commonly as Buchanan Street, here you will find designer and high street shops and plenty of places to eat and drink.
Things to do in Glasgow in the afternoon
After a break for lunch you will be ready to climb the steps of The Lighthouse for some panoramic photos of the city. Located just off Buchanan Street, and miles from the coast, this is not an actual lighthouse but it is a great place for a photoshoot.
For those who like a bargain, make a move to the city’s East End. The Barras is Glasgow’s largest market and has been running since the 1920s. You can buy almost anything here but it’s probably best not to know where it came from… If you happen upon the fresh donut van, make sure you sample a few. The market is open at weekends from 9:30 – 16:30. There is also the Barrowland and Ballroom which is famous for hosting intimate gigs and for having a sprung floor.
From the East End, head back along Argyle Street to the Britannia Panopticon. This is the oldest surviving music hall in the world! Opening in 1857 it provided Glasgow with entertainment of ALL varieties until its closure in 1938. Until relatively recently it had been lying abandoned and decaying. Now, the hall has been restored to its former 1920’s glory and can be visited for £3 between 12:00 – 17:00, Tuesday to Sunday.
Back in the city centre, take the historic Central Station Tour and see what lies beneath Glasgow. This tour travels along subterranean vaults and abandoned, Victorian platforms while providing entertaining stories and facts about Glasgow and how it became the ‘Empire’s Second City’. The tour last about 1 hour and 15 minutes, costs £13 and you can book online HERE.
If you have more time…
… walk past the McLennan Arch along the river to the Kingston Quay. Here you’ll find the famous ‘Squiggly Bridge‘ and the Tradeston Crane, which reminds in the shipbuilding history of the city.
A beautiful alternative for the afternoon is to visit the great Glasgow University a bit off the city center.
Things to do in Glasgow in the evening
There are plenty of places in Glasgow to spend a chilled evening. There are even more places to go out “dancin’ ”!Start off with a civilised dinner and drinks on Ashton Lane in the city’s West End. The cobbled lane is lined with restaurants and bars so there is plenty of choice, just watch your footing after a few!
For those staying out longer, Sub Club is the longest running underground dance club in the world and can be found in the city centre.
Conclusion: Is a city trip to Glasgow worthwhile? – YES! There are so many things to do in Glasgow and there is so much to discover in this vibrant city. And if you have extra time, there are plenty of day trips to consider too.
This article was written by reader Katy Kuhlwilm from The Balkans and Beyond. On her blog, Katy shares exciting stories and practical travel tips for people thinking of travelling to and around the Balkans and other places off the beaten path. Follow Katy on Instagram (@thebalkansandbeyond) and her blog!