Updated February 15, 2020.
Often overshadowed by her more grown-up sister (Edinburgh), Glasgow is often overlooked as a key point of interest on many people’s Scotland travels. But as much as I love Edinburgh, Glasgow’s always been the object of my affection.
Sure it rains 99% of the time but she’s beautiful nonetheless. It’s my mission to prove not only that it’s a great tourist destination, but just how many great things there are to see, eat and do.
If you’re planning a trip to Scotland and are wondering how best to spend a weekend in Glasgow I suggest grabbing yourself a cuppa because I’m about to hit you with the ultimate Glasgow travel guide.
How to plan the perfect Glasgow itinerary
Pre disclaimer I’ve never been one for rigid itineraries or days planned by the hour. Throughout my many years of navigating somewhat haphazardly around the globe, I’ve learned that one person’s travel style is another woman’s nightmare. To appease both the planners and the messy action takers I’m going to provide you with an in-depth overview of what to do see, and eat so you can plan a weekend in Glasgow freestyle.
This guide is packed with my years of knowledge from both living in and visiting the city. And yup, you can bet it’s going to feature some insider tips and secrets. However, what you won’t find here is an hour by hour breakdown. So that way whether you have the whole weekend or only one day in Glasow you’ll have the freedom to choose your adventure as you see fit.
So, are you ready to get lost together?
Fun things to do in Glasgow
The city has no shortage of exciting activities to take part in. Whether you’re travelling as a group or looking for things to do in Glasgow alone here are some of my top suggestions:
Rent a bike
Cycling around a city is my favourite way to explore. Now with bike shares popping up on almost every other street corner, it’s never been easier to claim your little stake of the road for an afternoon. Download the nextbike app to find out where your closest bike is and be free my friend, be free.
See a comedy show
Scottish people are hilarious. Fact. Do you know what’s even funnier? A room FULL of Scottish people with one leading the charge. One of the best ways to spend your trip to Glasgow is to do it laughing! Seriously it fixes everything. Had a bad day? Laugh at someone else’s misfortune. Had a great day? Add to the joy by absorbing everybody else’s happy energy. Head to The Stand Up Comedy Club for some fun timez.
Go shopping on Argyle Street
Home to some of the best shopping in the UK an outing along Argyle Street is a solid contender for one of the top spots on the list of how to spend a weekend in Glasgow. Walking from one end to the other you get this amazing view of the city in all it’s architectural glory. But if it’s raining you can easily escape inside to one of the shopping centres (Buchanan Galleries, Princes Square or St Enoch Centre).
Check out the Glasgow Botanic Gardens
If you’re looking for things to do in Glasgow when it’s raining the indoor greenhouses make for a great escape.
I don’t know about you but I just find so much calm and peace among nature. One day when I was experiencing some post-travel sadness I went and stood in one of the particularly warm tropical greenhouse rooms. As I closed my eyes for a good few moments I was transported back to my time in Asia and the sticky heat that clung to your clothes like a damp hug. The sounds of children milling around swiftly brought me back to reality.
Head to the Grosvenor Cinema
The Grosvenor Cinema is a super cute cinema nestled away in Ashton Lane. With large, leather seats and an excellent alcohol selection, it’s the ultimate movie night for couples and singletons alike.
Something that’s always puzzled me is the concept that we have to go to the cinema with other people. At 13 years old I discovered the joy of going to the cinema alone after a breakout of the chickenpox (I was no longer contagious don’t worry). I was so horrified at how I looked and couldn’t bear for any of my friends to see me.
Bear in mind this was before social media so you had to go and hang out with your friends for entertainment (crazy I know). So in a desperate attempt to have fun, I gathered up my pocket money and under the cover of my umbrella went to go see Bratz: The Movie. I loved it so much that to this day going to the cinema alone brings me so much comfort and joy and I much prefer it to going with other people!
Sightseeing Tours in Glasgow
If you only have a day in Glasgow a tour is one of the best ways to cram in the city spots. A knowledgable guide means there’s someone there to answer all your pressing questions in a way that Google just can’t.
Glasgow Instagram Tour
Part of the ‘gram gang and need some help getting the best shots?
If you want to know how to spend a weekend in Glasgow #instastyle – this is it. This fantastic Glasgow Instagram Tour by Ashley from On The Road Again Travels takes you around some of the most Instagrammable places in Glasgow and you get to see the city through a local’s eyes too. You can book the tour for £26 through Airbnb and if you’re brand new to Airbnb sign up using this link to get £25 off of your first stay and £12 off of your first experience.
Invisible Cities Glasgow walking tour
If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Glasgow, why not try a tour with a difference? Invisible Cities Glasgow are a social enterprise and walking tour company dedicated to employing those who’ve previously experienced homelessness.
Throughout the Crimes and Punishment in the Merchant City tour, you’re given the chance to explore the streets of Glasgow and learn more about the atrocities that went on. In addition to learning more about the history of the city itself, you also gain an insight into the past of your tour guide and his struggle with homelessness. I’ve never experienced a tour quite like it and recommend it to anyone who’ll listen.
Glasgow Hop-on Hop-Off Tour
You’re tacky and I hate you.
When someone initially invited me to do one of these tours I rolled my eyes and said it sounded LAME but begrudgingly trudged along. But you know what? It was actually quite fun. Although the other two are more interesting and unique if you just can’t be bothered walking around a bus tour makes for a great lazy option.
Best Museums in Glasgow
If you want to learn more about the fascinating history of Glasgow you should allocate some time on your trip to visit one (or more!) of the city’s museums. With information ranging from the history of the buildings to how people lived to life during the war – you’ll be sure to walk away with a fresh perspective.
The Lighthouse Museum
One of the best things about Glasgow is the stunning architecture. From the exterior of it’s buildings to light-filled interiors. If you want to learn more about the history of the city’s architecture head to The Lighthouse Museum. Bonus points if you climb to the top of the spiral staircase where you’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree view of the city.
The People’s Palace
My all-time favourite museum in Glasgow is The People’s Palace. I have fond memories of being a kid and staying at my Gran’s house during the summer. I’d bribe my friends to come with me by buying them ice cream. What can I say? I’ve always been a resourceful girl…
You can find the museum in the heart of Glasgow Green and easily spend a morning/afternoon learning all about Glasgow’s social history in the 18th-20th century. From where people lived to how they spent their free time the museum succeeds in painting a picture so vivid and immersive that it takes you a moment to readjust to the 21st century again.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Whether you like to look at sculptures or take in restored art Kelvingrove Museum has something for everyone. There’s also uhh… Taxidermy. Though entry is free it’s encouraged to donate to assist with the upkeep of the building. Bonus tip – make sure to stick around for the organ recital, it’s truly enchanting.
Places to eat in Glasgow
I’m a no expense spared kinda gal when it comes to eating. From freshly made sushi at a chef’s table in Japan to a 30-course Michelin star meal in Barcelona. For me, it’s undoubtedly one of the most unique ways to remember a city and to capture a moment. That being said not every great meal has to cost $$$ so I’m including some of the best cheap eats in Glasgow as well as the best restaurants in Glasgow to check out if you have a few more fun tokens to play with.
Cheap eats in Glasgow
Paesano Pizza – Although on the cheaper end of the scale with pizzas starting at just £5 there is certainly no compromise on taste. Every time I’ve eaten here quick and tasty food has been guaranteed and all you need to know is that you HAVE to go. There’s a reason it’s voted as one of the best pizza joints in the UK. Also although it’s busy pretty much all the time you’ll never have to wait too long for a table!
William’s Cafe – Affordable breakfast options in this cosy tea shop range from traditional Scottish breakfasts to mountains of pancakes oozing with maple syrup. The food here starts at just £2.20 and that combined with the amazing service is more than worth every penny,
Dumpling Monkey – Incredible no-frills west end dumpling shop. The portions here are huge so order less and add more if you need. Don’t be like me and get caught out walking around Glasgow clutching a container of pot-sticker dumplings (which by the way were delicious, even on the second day!)
Best restaurants in Glasgow
Ox and Finch – Contemporary sharing plate style food in Glasgow’s west end. The menu here constantly changes, but if you get the chance try the skate wing with samphire.
The Spanish Butcher – Vegetarians and vegans avert your eyes. From Gallican beef steaks to whole roasted suckling pigs (order in advance) although there are veggie/vegan options if there was such a thing as meat lovers paradise this would be it. If you fancy something a little different from the steak I opted for the duck breast and it was d-elicous.
Rioja – Beautiful Spanish tapas-style restaurant in the heart of Glasgow’s west end. And of course, you can’t go there without ordering the Rioja wine to compliment your meal!
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Six by Nico – Exciting concept restaurant that changes menu every six weeks. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had a chance to eat there. However, I’ve eaten at 111 (also by Nico) and that was an experience with smoking plates and surprising textures! Be sure to book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Stravaigin – Traditional Scottish food and also a hint of Asian say what? OF COURSE, I opted for the haggis, neeps (turnip) and tatties (potato) but there was a variety of eclectic things on the menu.
Traditional Scottish food to try in Glasgow
And of course, by traditional, I mean deep-fried everythingggg. Most kid’s grandparents make them cakes or crumbles. But not my Gran. You see in addition to being a bus driver during the second world war my Gran was my hero for another reason. Her famous deep-fried apples. Yup, healthy, but make it Glasgow. God love her.
If you’re also ready to give your arteries work out here are some things you should try:
Irn Bru – traditional luminescent orange fizzy drink. If it was a Pantone colour it would be nuclear power plant orange. Scotland’s top-selling soft drink and third most popular in the UK behind Coke and Pepsi. Love it or hate it you gotta try it. Find at any local corner shop.
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Deep-Fried Mars Bar – sickly sweet and strangely endearing. Consume an entire bar at your own risk. Find at Blue Lagoon, 208 Argyle Street, G2 8HA.
Deep-fried haggis – my personal favourite and probably the least bad for you from the bunch. Find at any local chippie.
How to spend a weekend in Glasgow: where to drink
If you’re in search of a classic cocktail or just a manly pint Glasgow has no shortage of watering holes and boujee ‘gram-worthy bars. And if you want to keep the party going, well you can be sure to find some of that too! Below you’ll find a list of some of the best bars in Glasgow.
Oran Mor – Beers, whiskeys and pub vibes set in what was once a church. Also can catch some live music here!
The Spiritualist – Beautiful marble decor and it even smells good in here! Ask them to whip you up a cocktail that does something *wink* interesting.
Hillhead Bookclub – Unassuming from the outside and a dimly lit retro arcade vibe on the inside, this is the perfect bar for a date night and affordable drinks. Be sure to get there early to grab yourself the table tennis area. But don’t get so drunk you start bouncing balls off the floor. Of course, this is not from my own experience…
The Ivy – Newly opened in 2019 and dripping with decor think all things maximalism. I can’t comment on the food but can confirm the cocktails and tequila shots ensure that a very fun evening will follow.
SWG3 – Truthfully these days I rarely go out out, but if I do there’s only one club I’m going to. Although technically an ‘event venue’ SWG3 is a mega-club with various rooms, high ceilings and dare I say it perfect bathrooms. The music here ranges from rib vibrating techno to live performances depending on the night.
Top tip – If you have less time and just want to know how to spend a day in Glasgow my suggestion is to pick one activity, one bar and one restaurant.
Glasgow day trips
If you want to get out of Glasgow for a day and do something a little different you can easily access some nearby spots either via public transport or by renting a car. Whether you want to feel the sand between your toes or the wind on your scalp these suggestions will satisfy every interest.
Pollock Country Park
Just a short 10-minute train ride from the city sits Pollock Country Park. The huge 360+ acre park is a dreamy oasis and escape from the hustle and bustle of the city in a woodland setting. Here you’ll find lush gardens, highland cows and more dogs than you can throw a stick at. You could easily spend a day getting lost here, so you want my recommendation? Embrace it.
Pack some lunch, a good playlist or an even better book and allow yourself to decompress from all the travelling. If you’ve recently been flying walking barefoot along the grass is one of the best ways to ground yourself, reset your energy and reintroduce yourself to the world down below.
This sleepy seaside town is a short (1 hour) train ride away from Glasgow Central Station and worth a visit if you want to escape the city for a day. While here check out Hill House furnished and designed by world-renowned Glasgow architect Charle’s Rennie McIntosh.
If you’re feeling brave and the weather’s in your favour the scenic cycle up to Loch Lomond will be one to remember. As the round trip will take around 5-6 hours it’s best to leave early in the morning to make the most of the day.
Alternatively, you can grab the train from Central Station which takes about 1.5 hours or rent a car to get there in under an hour (traffic dependent). Once there enjoy taking in the breathtaking views at the largest Loch in Scotland and walk/cycle to your heart’s content. Check out this great blog post for 10 things to do in Loch Lomond.
Around 50 minutes on the train or a similar time driving Ayr is a great little trip if you’re craving some beachy vibes. Grab yourself some fish and chips and wander down to the beach, just be sure to keep your eyes out for seagulls… you’ve been warned!
If you’re desperate to explore Edinburgh it’s worth noting that it’s super easy to get to from Glasgow with direct station and bus links. You can grab a return bus ticket for only £ (umm bargain!) and honestly? Often I prefer it to taking the train. There are so many things to see and do in Edinburgh, that one day wouldn’t do it justice. But sometimes we don’t all have the luxury of time.
If you’re short on time I recommend checking out the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle. These are absolute musts for first-timers. If however, you do have more time to spend you’re gonna wanna check out my guide to 10 usual things to do in Edinburgh and how to spend two days in Edinburgh posts.
Getting around Glasgow
The main airport is Glasgow International Airport although you can fly to Edinburgh and get a 1hr 45min bus directly from the airport. Or from Glasgow Airport you can take a short bus ride into the city.
Getting around Glasgow with public transport is pretty straightforward. Bus travel is very affordable and easy to navigate using Google Maps as a guide. Many buses take card payments but just make sure carry some change.
The city has two central train stations – Glasgow Queen Street and Glasgow Central. From both, you can easily catch trains to the rest of the UK and other areas in Glasgow. There’s also an underground system for the city and suburbs, which you can catch from the lower level of the main stations too.
I always book my train tickets through the Trainpal app. There are no booking fees and it has this handy feature where you can ‘split tickets’ to make your overall journey even cheaper. When you use this link you’ll snag yourself £5 off your first ticket.
Ubers can get expensive especially during peak hours so I often opt to get a Network Cab. Avoid black cabs like the plague – they are not cheap!
Where to stay in Glasgow
If you’ll be spending 1-3 days in Glasgow I recommend basing yourself in the west end for the duration of your trip. This area of Glasgow is alive with culture and is centrally located with good public transport links.
Glasgow has no shortage of accommodation and you’ll be sure to find something to suit you no matter the budget. I recommend booking your stay through Airbnb using this link to get £25 off of your first stay and £12 off of your first experience! Airbnb is perfect if you want to replicate that homely feel. And as a bonus, the hosts have so much knowledge of their city.
Alternatively, my favourite site for booking hotels is HotelTonight. Despite the name, it’s not just for last-minute deals. It’s my go-to for booking short term stays in 4 or 5* hotel for a fraction of the cost. You can download the HotelTonight app for free and use the code ESULTER to get £25 off your first stay and a daily deal. There are plenty of cheap Glasgow hotels on the app, but if you pay a little bit extra you can stay somewhere more high-end!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide on how to plan the perfect Glasgow weekend trip. I’ve tried to include things for all budgets and to suit whether you’re travelling as part of a group or looking for things to in Glasgow alone. I hope that you love the city just as much as I did.
Got any questions about planning your Glasgow itinerary?
Let me know in the comments!
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