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The 18 best things to do in Glasgow

From a graveyard and a kinetic theatre to an unexpected craft beer scene, these are the best things to do in Glasgow

It might not get the kudos that comes with being the Scottish capital, but, as Scotland's largest city, the many things to do in Glasgow are undeniably fun. You might identify it with those two successful football teams, but its galleries and museums are among the most visited in the country. When it comes to food, Glasgow shies away from fussy restaurants and had a hand in spearheading the rise of veganism. It was a crucible of heavy industry, but its name translates to "the green hollow." Glasgow wears its contradictions on its sleeve, right next to its heart. Here’s your guide to fun by the Clyde.

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Best things to do in Glasgow

Glasgow Cathedral
Andrew Forbes

Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis

What is it? Glasgow Cathedral was consecrated in 1197 and remains a sturdy and impressive example of Scottish gothic architecture both inside and out. The other big gothic attraction nearby is the Necropolis, Glasgow's gloriously atmospheric cemetery inspired by Père Lachaise in Paris and dating back to 1833.

Why go? Amble among the monuments, look out over the city and wonder just how green and bucolic the view was more than two centuries ago. Ankle-length black leather coat and Demonia boots optional.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Art galleries, Museums, Glasgow
© McAteer Photograph

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

What is it? Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which opened for business in 1901 and is Glasgow's most popular visitor attraction, is a striking piece of architecture in Spanish baroque style, fashioned out of red sandstone.

Why go? There is some truly wonderful art here, with galleries given over to Scottish colourists and French impressionism, for example. But make sure you look up or you’ll miss Sophie Cave’s spooky floating heads, all sporting human expressions as they hang suspended from the gallery ceiling.

The Burrell Collection, Art Galleries, Museums, Glasgow
© McAteer Photograph

Pollok Country Park

What is it? For an incredibly scenic adventure, hop on a train to Pollokshaws West (just ten minutes from Glasgow Central). Once there, you'll find beautifully sculptured greenlands, grand old Pollok House and huge art gallery the Burrell Collection – although it's worth noting that the BC is closed until 2020 for refurbishment.

Why go? Get the blood pumping with a stroll through serene surrounds, followed by cooing over the Highland cows and Clydesdale horses.

Glasgow School of Art, Galleries, Attractions, Free, Glasgow
© McAteer Photograph

The Mackintosh House

What is it? At the Hunterian Art Gallery you’ll find a faithful recreation of the Mackintosh House, which once stood nearby in Southpark Avenue, with its historically and aesthetically important interior and brutalist exterior.

Why go? If you like to immerse yourself in a city’s architecture, then you shouldn't miss the work of Glasgow's most celebrated architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 

The Vintage @ Drygate, Restaurants, Bars, glasgow
© Gordon Burniston

Drygate Brewery

What is it? A vast brewery launched by Dublin-based drinks conglomerate C&C Group and the Williams Brothers, Scottish craft brewers who have been making decent beer for more than 25 years. There’s a beer hall with massive screens for sports fans and a terrace for those rare Glasgow days when it’s not raining.

Why go? The commitment to serve a wide range of good beers is more than admirable. You can sample 26 rotating beers on tap, (and eye up the 200 or so bottles on offer). If you're looking to go behind the scenes then that's easily sorted - just jump onto one of the brewery tours and you'll discover exactly how this delightfully easy drinking stuff comes to be. All of that boozing making you feel a little peckish? Grab some of the delectables on offer at Drygate's kitchen. With pizza, chips, cheese and meat boards, steak sarnies, burgers and even a cacophony of desserts, they've got your favourite snack and tipple combo covered.


Escape Glasgow

What is it? There are loads of escape games to choose from in the city, but Escape Glasgow was the first, having opened its doors in 2014. They alone have five different rooms to try, with themes of wizardry, detection and infection. Crack the codes, uncover the keys and break yourself out of their immersive, interactive team games.

Why go? Challenge your puzzle solving powers and bond even closer with mates.

Robin Mitchell

Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre

What is it? Sharmanka shows involve sculptures made of reclaimed scrap, synchronised music, coloured lighting and hundreds of carved grotesques living out stories that are sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, all set against the inevitable and relentless cycle of life and death.

Why go? Don't be put off by the prospect of Russian tragedy told through the medium of electro-powered wooden figures. There is something charming, simple, direct and utterly hypnotic about these shows. 


St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Museums, Art galleries, Glasgow

St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art

What is it? Based in a faux-baronial building at the cathedral precinct in the East End, this museum aims to promote understanding and respect between people of all faiths, but also to explain religion in west-central Scotland.

Why go? It has some beautiful religious art and artefacts from all over the world, touching on Hinduism, the Mexican Day of the Dead and more. There's also a small, placid zen garden if you’re feeling inspired to practise your meditation.

The Scottish Football Museum, Museums, Glasgow

The Scottish Football Museum

What is it? Based within the National Stadium at Hampden, the museum focuses on Scotland's unique football heritage. It contains an extensive collection of memorabilia as well as showy items such as the Scottish Cup, the world’s oldest surviving association football trophy (the English FA Cup would be older but the original was nabbed in 1895).

Why go? To tour the 52,000-capacity National Stadium and for a chance to practise your victory dance in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.

Oran Mor, Pubs, Nightlife, Glasgow

Òran Mór

What is it? In sharp contrast to genteel Edinburgh with its fancy international arts festival, Glasgow sees itself as the edgier, grittier cousin. Hang out with the cool kids at Òran Mór, a refurbed Victorian church that functions as a pub-restaurant, theatre, gig spot, nightclub and even a wedding venue.

Why go? Lunchtime slot A Play, A Pie And A Pint has kept bums on seats since 2004. If you ever needed an excuse for a midday pint, this is it. The plays aren’t too shoddy either, attracting acclaimed writers from Scotland and beyond. 

The Ubiquitous Chip, Restaurants, Pubs, Glasgow

Ubiquitous Chip

What is it? Founded in nearby Ruthven Lane in 1971, the Chip moved to its current location in 1976 and now offers a great deal more than its signature venison haggis. Pop in for a couple of beers or nab a table in the lovely plant-strewn, cobbled courtyard restaurant – roofed of course.

Why go? For good Scottish produce, upscale Franco-Scot cooking, a huge wine list plus a clientele that feels like it's come somewhere particularly special. Fancy popping by? It's worth taking a quick gander at the event listings too. Ubiquitous Chip runs a wine club, whiskey club and the occasional jazz lunch, where you can fill up and chill out to the sounds of bass saxophones and swinging rhythms. 

The 78

The 78

What is it? One for the veggies and vegans out there. The 78 is homely and offers some great craft beers alongside a vegan menu.

Why go? You probably wouldn't immediately think to associate Glasgow with vegan eating, but there are actually a wealth of great vegan joints throughout the city. The 78 is one of our faves because of the laidback cafe-bar vibes, but also because of their bargainous prices. You can easily eat heartily here for under a tenner.

Glasgow Science Museum
Photograph: Stephen G.Breslin

Glasgow Science Centre

What is it? Rising from the ground like a shimmering silver hermit crab, the Glasgow Science Centre is a wonder inside and out. The space-age structure houses a planetarium, cinema, galleries with hands-on activities, two cafes and a gift shop. There's also a revolving tower that provides visitors views of the city from 417 feet up.

Why go? If not for the science, then go for the massive IMAX cinema screen.

Riverside Museum, Glasgow

The Riverside Museum

What is it? This Zaha Hadid-designed waterside museum carries an extensive collection of vehicles including ambulances, buses, police cars, horse-drawn taxis and motor cars that look like they drove to Glasgow from the set of a 1930s action movie.

Why go? To see the impressive late-Victorian, three-masted sailing vessel that's berthed outside the museum. Inside, browse the remarkable transport collection including bicycles, steam locomotives and model ships.

The Scotia, Pubs, Glasgow
© Stephen Robinson

The Horseshoe Bar

What is it? The Horseshoe in Drury Street has been selling drink since the mid-nineteenth century. What you get here is a Victorian island bar (reputed to be the longest in Britain), odd ornaments stacked above the gantry and grand decorative touches, plus the obligatory flatscreens and fruit machines. It's busy, it's atmospheric and it's very Glasgow.  

Why go? Don't expect airs and graces but do expect history to come alive through the bottom of your glass.

The Arches, Clubs, Music venues, Bars, Glasgow
© Bartosz Madejski

Sub Club

What is it? Definitely one of – if not the – most renowned club in Glasgow. Run by Harri and Domenic since its foudning in 1985 and 1992, respectively, you're always guaranteed a good night here.

Why go? Given Harri and Domenic's credentials, they're not shy of famous DJ mates to come and entertain the nightly masses. The likes of Gilles Peterson, Erol Alkan, Mylo and Optimo have all graced the decks – and continue to do so. Check the website before you go in case a big name has sold out the night.

The Finnieston Crane and The Clyde, Things to do, Free, Glasgow

Clyde Cruises

What is it? These 90-minute river cruises offer lovely views of central Glasgow, its bridges, its waterfront architecture and the huge cantilever crane that survives among the shiny developments at Finnieston. Our tip: board in the city centre to travel to the impressive Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum and back again.

Why go? Criss-crossing your way along the bridges by foot is nice and all but nothing compares to soaking up Glasgow’s maritime history on the water with a glass of fizz in hand.

Glasgow VIntage & Flea Market
Photograph: Glasgow VIntage & Flea Market

Glasgow Vintage & Flea Market

What is it? You’ll stumble across the Glasgow Vintage & Flea Market in the heart of Barras Market (also known as Glasgow Barrowlands Market). Here you’ll find a mix of antiques, vintage fashion, mid-century items, pre-loved furniture, quirky prints, original art, retro items, old books, collectables, vinyl records and, of course, plenty of tat too

Why go? To get your mitts on vintage clobber and people-watch the snappily dressed eccentrics. 

More of the best of Glasgow


The best kids' things to do in Glasgow

Glasgow offers all kinds of options for entertaining children whether you want to chill out with a coffee while the little dears scamper, supervised, up a climbing wall, do something educational in one of the city's best museums, or just go and get some fresh air while marvelling over the sheer power of a thoroughbred Clydesdale horse. RECOMMENDED: Time Out's guide to half-term in Glasgow for kids

Shopping, Off licences

Glasgow day trips: five local(ish) whisky distilleries

From distilleries that are hardly out of town to those nestling in the countryside, and another on an island in the Firth of Clyde, Glasgow has all kinds of options when it comes to day trips involving Scotland’s national drink. For details of opening times and prices, plus how to get there, check the individual distillery websites before setting out. Of course, if that all sounds like too much hard work, you're also welcome to stick around Glasgow and sample the water of life at some of the city's best pubs and bars.

Cup Glasgow
Cup Glasgow
Restaurants, Tea rooms

The best places for afternoon tea in Glasgow

Afternoon tea is no longer the prerogative of grand dames, complaining about dry scones and brushing crumbs off their fox fur. Although there an element of doing-something-nice-with-grandma about the activity, it has an altogether younger profile in Glasgow these days – the sandwiches and cakes are more interesting, and cocktails and G&Ts are more likely to crop up on the menu.

voltaire and rousseau book shop
Stephen Robinson
Shopping, Bookshops

Glasgow's best book shops

Glasgow still mourns the loss of the enormous Borders bookstore on Buchanan Street, a remarkable outlet that fell victim to changing times – and the credit crunch – in 2009. Whether or not Scotland’s biggest Waterstones, plus a collection of second-hand and specialist stores, makes up for the demise of the Borders behemoth, we leave to the book-buying public to judge…


The 9 best hotels in Glasgow

On the hunt for a place to crash in Glasgow? There are hotels aplenty here, of all varieties. Whether it’s a converted Victorian mansion, stylish self-catered apartments in a renovated bank, or the latest hi-tech chains, you’ll find a wealth of great hotels here, many of them within walking distance of Glasgow’s best bars, restaurants, theatres and galleries. Some deserve a visit even if you’re not staying, just for the wow factor – like the champagne bar at Grand Central, and, for decent Scottish cuisine, Barry Duff’s bistro at one Devonshire Gardens Hotel du Vin. Here’s our selection of the best hotels in Glasgow.

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