A few weeks ago, I had a message via Instagram asking for suggestions of things to do in Glasgow, if you are visiting the city for the first time. In fact, it will be her first time in Scotland, and she thinks she’ll have three days in the city, as well as time in Edinburgh.
I got over-excited, as I usually do when talking about Glasgow. This suggested itinerary contains far more than you could probably actually do in 3 days, but I have tried to include the things that really are unmissable. As well as that, I’ve grouped things geographically – if I’ve missed fantastic things it may also be because they were just a little far away to justify in a three day itinerary where time is tight!
I’ll probably look at doing a longer version, as there are so many more things to do than those things covered on this list. However, if you’re coming to this wonderful city for the weekend, then check this out for some inspiration.
Things to Do in Glasgow: A Three Day Itinerary
Day One: Glasgow City Centre
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Take a stroll along Sauchiehall Street, and don’t be put off when you get closer to the motorway and it starts to look a little worse for wear. Keep your eyes sky high – you’ll see building dates and stone angels in the most unlikely places.
Hang a right onto Renfield Street for brunch at SinglEnd. This wee gem is possibly the city centre’s worst kept secret of a brunch spot. It was recently visited by Bill Nighy so you know it’s fabulous. Go all out with a Glasgow-style vegan brunch or refuel with coffee and a cake.
Walk up towards Garnethill and the Art School, designed by renowned architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Check out the exterior, or if you want to know more, you can join a tour. This beautiful, 1890s building was ravaged by a fire in 2014 but you can still see the slowly-restored interiors.
If you want a taste of old Glasgow, then you will find that an old, traditional tenement still welcomes guests. The Tenement House was the home of Miss Agnes Toward, a shorthand typist, between 1911-1965. As an independent woman, she was a bit of a trendsetter for the time and lived her life precisely the way she wanted to. The home is still decorated with original fittings and items from her time.
Walk back up towards Buchanan Street, and Glasgow’s ‘Style Mile’ – the best shopping in the UK outside of London. Halfway down Sauchiehall Street, grab a bite to eat in the beautiful, leafy CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts) café-bar, Saramago. Expect creative and delicious vegan fare, and art exhibitions in the adjoining spaces.
As well as a huge variety of high street and high end stores, you’ll come across a lot of entertainment on Glasgow’s main streets. The average day will see scores of buskers, performers, bubble-blowers, bin-man bands (really) and bagpipes.
In-between the retail therapy, pop up to another Mackintosh-designed building – the Lighthouse. Named for its height, it was built as the headquarters for the newspaper the Glasgow Herald, and boasts some fantastic views – stride on in and take the elevator straight up to the viewing platform. If it’s open, you can climb the spiral stairs to the top of the tower for a selfie with Glasgow’s iconic pink sign (you’ll know it when you see it). Read more about it in a dedicated blog post here.
Head a little way back up Buchanan Street and cross over to George Square, the site of protests, celebrations and the magnificent City Chambers. Free tours are offered weekdays, or if you are lucky enough for a sunny day, just sit and watch the world go by on one of the well-frequented benches in the square. For a sneak preview – you can see my post on the tour here.
Miller Street’s Paesano Pizza only opened a few years back, but it has already earned itself the accolade of best pizza in the UK and has opened up in the West End of the city, too. The praise is well-earned. This place is always packed but they have a fool-proof system of great, sourdough pizza, simple sides and a tanker of beer to wash it all down.
If you want to meet some Glaswegians in their natural habitat, then any one of the Bath Street drinking dens is a great place to start. Most are casual and centred around great live music, which makes it a good spot to explore and just see where the evening takes you.
Try Slouch for a few drinks and live music from 10pm, or Bloc+, home of the ‘Mad Chef’ who will make anything, with anything, and make it taste damn good, too. For a more adventurous spot, the Tiki Bar will serve up rum cocktails, or pop in to Flat 0/1 – a studenty bar decked out like a flat party where you can fulfil your dream of drinking in the bath in public (just me? Okay …).
If you end up in the Butterfly and Pig, with its chintz armchairs and old school style, just promise you’ll head up to the Buff Club upstairs after 11pm. This place is a national treasure with a fabulous tartan carpet wildly inappropriate for a club and some of the best DJs in the business on decks most nights of the week.
Otherwise, take a taxi to Sub Club. The longest-running underground club night in the world, Sub Culture is a Saturday night that you won’t forget in a hurry. A night there is a journey to what clubbing is all about: the music. The tiny dance floor is designed to let the sound rule all, and DJs travel from the world over for the delight of an evening on their hallowed decks.
Day Two: The West End
Jump on Glasgow’s adorable subway, known as the Clockwork Orange (it literally just goes round in a circle) and head West for breakfast. Jump off at Kelvinhall and walk five minutes to Hyndland Street to try your luck getting a table at Kaf, a tiny brunch stop with Scandi-themed vegan breakfast plates and cold-brew coffee that packs a punch. If you’re more than 4 people, try Cafezique further up the road. A West-End institution, this place has a veggie brunch dreams are made of with halloumi, homemade baked beans and sourdough toast.
Once you’ve replenished, walk back down to Dumbarton Road and head east, alongside Kelvingrove Park and the newly reopened Kelvin Hall. Get a selfie outside the magnificent Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and pop in for a look. If you arrive on time, you might even catch the daily organ recital.
The huge collections take a while to explore, so pick out the main points of interest if you’re short on time. If you fancy a leisurely lunch break, then there are some lovely options a few streets away on Old Dumbarton Road. The relatively new Drugstore Social offers unique, deli style meals including homemade flatbreads and healthy salads. Elena’s offers some crowd-pleasing tapas, or Brew Dog, the Aberdonian brewery turned international beer mogul has burgers, beers and board-games.
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Now, take a walk towards Byres Road, the heart of the West End. You can find antique gems and clothing in the charity and vintage shops – if this is your jam, then don’t miss Starry Starry Night, and on Great Western Road you can find Glorious Vintage (clothing) and a fantastic rare books store, Caledonia Books.
Otherwise, head towards Glasgow University and marvel at the Hogwarts-esque feel of the cloisters and towers. Take a student-led tour or visit the onsite Hunterian Museum and the Art Gallery. The Hunterian Art Gallery is a little tucked away – you will need to leave the main, old building and walk up the hill towards the mammoth library, but you will be rewarded with a huge collection of art by Whistler, as well as some remarkable enlightenment paintings and a fine collection of work by the Glasgow boys.
As the light fades, head for the twinkling fairy lights of Ashton Lane – the centre of the West end when the sun goes down. For food, the Ubiquitous Chip is unbeatable. Book a table in the lower restaurant and enjoy the leafy courtyard and artwork by Alasdair Gray, local artist and novelist. For something a little different, Brel offers Belgian-inspired cuisine, or Ashoka provide a fantastic curry.
Most good nights in the West End eventually lead to Oran Mor one way or another, so if you find yourself walking towards this towering former church with its electric blue crown, then just go with the flow. Try a whisky or two. If you’re not sure you like whisky, then a Speyside malt may be more palatable than a smoky Islay offering. Dance the night away in the Brasserie on the weekends. Just make sure you don’t get there too late – the dance-floor fills up fast.
Day Three: Merchant City and East End
Away from the main shopping areas, the Merchant City is so-named after the wealthy shipbuilders and traders who lived and worked here in the 19th century. The past here is glamorous yet hides shame – streets are named after the people who made their money on the slave trade. Glasgow was the second city of the British Empire and saw both growth and poverty in the Victorian age. The buildings are beautiful, but both sides of the story should be considered when admiring them.
The further east you go, the older the city becomes – the land the Cathedral is built upon has been a place of religious worship for thousands of years. Glasgow Cathedral was the only cathedral on the Scottish mainland to survive the 16th century reformation – when protestants tore down many catholic religious sites in protest of church corruption. The tradesmen and builders of the city stood around it to guard it – agreeing that the Catholic idols should be removed, but refusing to allow its destruction as it was too great a symbol of work and skill by its builders.
Outlander fans will recognise the lower church, said to conceal the final resting place of Saint Mungo, the patron saint of the city. It featured as the ‘hôpital des anges’ in the second season of the popular TV show.
Next, cross the bridge of sighs into the city of the dead – the Necropolis. This Victorian-era burial ground was based on Pere-Lachaise in Paris, and affords beautiful views of the city. If you can, book a tour from the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis – there are some truly amazing stories in there, from the grave of the Gypsy Queen, studded with coins, to the doomed theatre-owner and the flames dancing on his stone.
Beer lovers can head down to the Drygate brewery for a tour and tasting, or a spot of lunch. For something a little more high-end, walk or grab a cab back into town and infamous seafood restaurant Rogano. Made to resemble the interiors of the luxurious Queen Mary cruise liner, this restaurant has been little-changed since it was built in 1935. It remains infused with irresistible old-world charm and a champagne-infused lunch will often lead to a need for a nap afterwards. If you’re still standing, make sure you get a glimpse of Glasgow’s unofficial mascot – the Duke of Wellington and his traffic cone hat.
The Gallery of Modern Art is worth a quick look if you are particularly interested – the collections are small but the building itself is pleasant enough. Otherwise get dressed up for an evening in the Merchant City. Fish-lovers rejoice at Café Gandolfi, or newcomer on the scene A’Challtainn Fish Restaurant & Bar is a bit further away but worth the taxi ride there and back if the rave reviews are to be believed. For drinks and a show, the Riding Room is a riotous cabaret bar, or try Wild Cabaret on Candleriggs to get the party started.
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Every since leaving the cozy confines of my various weekly residencies in the mid-90's, I'd always wanted to own a club exactly like @subclub25 Intimate, a comfortable booth, low ceilings, impeccable sound and perfect atmosphere! It's no wonder that 30 years on it's just as relevant and important as the day it opened! Happy anniversary and thank you Glasgow; one of the cities who's music scene inspired me the most from when I was just a wee lad ☺️🙏 Thanks @suziebphotos for the pic.
If you fancy a flutter, then the Corinthian is the luxe option, with five floors of bars, casino, restaurant and a later licence than most other places in the city (Glasgow nights will ‘officially’ end at 3am as standard). If you just want to dance, the Boteco do Brasil on Argyle Street is a laugh-a-minute, riotous option for a bar/club where you always meet a few colourful characters.
Die-hard clubbers cannot miss Sub Club. It frequents the list of the world’s top clubs, and with good reason. The longest-running underground club night in the world, Sub Culture is a Saturday night that you won’t forget in a hurry. A night there is a journey to what clubbing is all about: the music. The tiny dance floor is designed to let the sound rule all, and DJs travel from the world over for the delight of an evening on their hallowed decks.
Thanks for checking out this whirlwind Glasgow tour!
Someday I’ll do a more detailed one and include more of the fantastic spots it has to offer. Please comment and let me know what deserves a spot x