It may not take itself too seriously, but Glasgow has a serious amount to offer. Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow is a true culture capital, home to world-class museums, vibrant festivals, and one of the best live music scenes in Britain. The city boasts an array of top-notch restaurants, is famed for its friendly locals, irreverent sense of humour, and it’s also something of a shopper’s paradise. The iconic Wellington statue, adorned with a traffic cone, is a prime example of the locals' sense of humour.
If you’re planning a city break in Glasgow or are even a regular visitor, check out these tips and discover something new next time you’re in town.
1. Ashton Lane
Though well-known to locals, visitors to Glasgow might easily miss the charms of Ashton Lane if they don’t keep their eyes peeled! Hidden away in the city’s West End, this picturesque cobbled street is adorned with fairy lights and is home to a number of great bars and restaurants, including the famous Ubiquitous Chip and the Grosvenor Cinema.
2. The Mitchell Library
Beautiful both inside and out, the Mitchell Library is Scotland’s largest public reference library, housing an enormous wealth of resources covering all topics. Discover one of the world’s greatest collections of Burns manuscripts, or trace your ancestry at the family history centre. The library hosts many events during Glasgow’s book festival, Aye Write!, which has featured famous writers such as Alexander McCall Smith, Irvine Welsh and Denise Mina.
Scots love a good cup of tea, and few places offer more variety than Tchai-Ovna. This charming, slightly ramshackled little cafe is housed in a former 19th century stables, tucked into a cobbled lane in the city’s West End. In addition to dozens of types of tasty leaf tea, they serve delicious vegan and vegetarian food and also host live music three or four times a week.
4. Glasgow University
Glasgow University isn’t exactly a ‘hidden’ gem – it’s one of the best universities in Scotland, after all! – but nor is it an obvious spot for visitors to the city. Its atmospheric cloisters make it a great spot for fans of architecture or photography, while art and history enthusiasts will find the Hunterian Museum is well worth a visit.
5. The Necropolis
Inspired by the famous Père Lachaise in Paris, Glasgow’s Necropolis is a remarkable Victorian cemetery adorned with some 3,500 monuments. Amongst the most notable graves are a monument to Protestant Reformation leader John Knox, and a Celtic cross designed by influential Glaswegian architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Guided walking tours around the cemetery are available a few times a month and are a brilliant way to uncover its fascinating history.
6. Kibble Palace
Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens are ideal for a peaceful walk or relaxing break between shopping and sightseeing. Make sure you don’t miss Kibble Palace, the striking greenhouse designed by inventor and engineer John Kibble, which features fine marble statues surrounded by vivid flowers, tropical palms and the National Collection of Tree Ferns.
7. St Aloysius Church
Glasgow is home to a number of magnificent churches. Amongst the most impressive is St Aloysius’ Roman Catholic Church, which boasts an opulent Renaissance design based on the Church of the Gesù in Rome and houses a copy of the famous Our Lady of Montserrat statue, one of only two outside Catalonia. Another must-visit is the Mackintosh Queen’s Cross, the only church designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
8. Britannia Panopticon Music Hall
Victorian vaudeville gets a new lease of life at the Britannia Panopticon, the world’s oldest surviving music hall. Built in the 1850s, the theatre has seen real legends of entertainment tread its boards: Stan Laurel made his debut here, and Cary Grant once entertained Glasgow crowds with his acrobatic skills. Look out for magic shows, tarot readings, silent film nights and other vintage events throughout the year.
9. WEST Brewery
Part of the distinctive Templeton on the Green, WEST Brewery creates German-inspired beers with a unique Glasgow flavour. Go on a guided tour of the microbrewery, or tuck into currywurst, wiener schnitzel or burgers in the WEST restaurant. Beer fans should be sure to sample a locally-produced pint from Drygate Brewery, Clockwork Beer Co. and the Kelburn Brewing Co., amongst others.
10. Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre
Founded by sculptor-mechanic Eduard Bersudsky and theatre director Tatyana Jakovskaya in St. Petersburg in 1989, Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre has been captivating Scottish audiences since settling in Glasgow almost two decades ago. Its enchanting performances star hundreds of carved figures controlled by steampunk-style machinery, combining with lights and music to tell haunting, beautiful stories.
11. Mr Ben Retro Clothing
In addition to its ‘Style Mile’ and countless designer and high street stores, Glasgow is home to a wealth of vintage and second-hand clothing shops, each overflowing with clothes and accessories from across the decades. Located in King’s Court, Mr. Ben is a treasure trove of retro style, stocking everything from antique wedding dresses to military regalia – a must for fashion fans.