The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) is a popular vacation destination. The relative ease of travel, centuries of history to explore, and English-speaking locals makes it a gateway for first-time travelers or those looking to score cheap flights to other destinations. A trip to the UK most always includes a trip to London, but Scotland has become a popular destination on its own (“Outlander,” anyone?). But after you’ve visited Edinburgh castle or wandered the Scottish Highlands, where should you head next?
Glasgow is shedding its industrial reputation and is a fantastic, easy-to-navigate city with loads of culture (all museums are free!), great restaurants, green spaces, street art, and yes—whisky bars. The accent is thick and there’s plenty of patter (or slang) to get accustomed to, but Glaswegians are a friendly lot and a weekend visit to this up-and-coming city is well worth the time. Here are a few reasons to visit Glasgow, and the best things to do once you’re there.
Head West, Young (Person)
Glasgow’s West End is the hottest spot in the city, with vibrant nightlife, tons of cool boutiques (consider packing an extra bag for treasures you find), a plethora of dining options, and plenty of cobbled streets and lanes to explore, like the not-so-secret Hidden Lane, a community of artists, designers, musicians and more. You’ll also find plenty of cozy cafes for people watching and pubs that’ll beckon you in for a pint with live music.
Finnieston, which has been called one of the coolest neighborhoods in the UK, is where you’ll find some of the best eats in the city, whether you’re an omnivore or vegan (yes, there are plenty of vegan options!). With its proximity to the coast, Glasgow is known for its seafood but there is a wide variety of options to savor.
Take a stroll on Glasgow’s Mural Trail
One of my favorite ways to immerse myself in a new city is by seeking out its street art. Glasgow is home to an impressive street art scene, bringing color and vibrancy to the city streets. The first piece was created in 2008 and since then, murals have been popping up around the city. To get a taste of the artwork, follow Glasgow’s Mural Trail (the council has created a free, downloadable guide) which highlights the art found within easy walking distance of the city center. The pieces range from heartwarming to quirky, realistic to avant-garde; there’s a little something for everyone.
Explore a (Free) Museum
All of the museums in Glasgow are free to the public which means immersing yourself in a bit of culture is a must-do in the city. Ask a local and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the West End is their first recommendation. With 22 galleries filled with art that spans centuries from ancient Egypt to impressionists (like Monet and Renoir) to modern art and beyond, you could easily spend an entire day perusing this exceptional collection. Into cars and bikes? The Riverside Museum will be just your speed. Animal lovers can peruse the collection at the Hunterian Museum, the oldest museum in Scotland. And these are just a few of the options.
Sample a Dram
Of course, it’s almost impossible to visit Scotland without sampling a wee dram of the water-o-life (also known as whisky). There are a plethora of whisky bars in Glasgow ranging from the Ben Nevis, which features live music most nights, to Òran Mór, which is located in a refurbished church. For those who want a bit of education with their dram, the bartenders are happy to share their knowledge if it’s not crowded—Bon Accord is a great spot for a whisky education. Looking for a tour? The Clydeside Distillery, one of the newest additions to Glasgow’s whisky scene, is worth a visit.
Key Glasgow Travel Tips
Although there are plenty of chippies (chip shops) around the bars and many pubs offer food as well, you might want to pack a few staples in your backpack: water for hydration, snacks for sustenance, and aspirin for the next day are helpful.
Getting to Glasgow is easy on the train, bus, and airplane. Once you’re in town, the Glasgow Metro is a loop, which provides easy-to-navigate transportation, even when you’re wheeling your luggage. Though the winters can be long, cold, wet, and windy, spring is a lovely time to visit before the high season of summer.
There is plenty to keep you entertained in Glasgow whether you’re visiting for a few days or even a week. So the next time your travels take you to the UK, pack your bags and enjoy the many fun things to do in Glasgow.
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Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
8 Unique Places to Stay in the Scottish Highlands
5 European Vacations for the Crowd-Phobic
6 Expert Tips for Traveling Europe by Train