Glasgow, according to the tourist board there, “smiles better.” We’re inclined to agree! A Scottish friend of ours recently told us a funny anecdote. “If you ask for directions in Edinburgh, they’ll tell you where to go. If you ask for directions in Glasgow, they will take you there!” We think it perfectly sums up the friendliness of the city, which we would encourage anyone to visit as you will not be disappointed.
And in the spirit of friendliness and helping our fellow men and women, we’ve put together our top picks for sites to see and things to do in Glasgow. All for free!
1. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Perhaps one of the best known and most frequented attractions Glasgow has to offer, the Kelvingrove museum in the west end is a must visit if you’re in the city. It was refurbished a few years ago, and since then has gone from strength to strength attracting record numbers of visitors of all ages. Among many other things, it houses a wonderful natural history collection, as well as a huge display of arms and armour. It’s also home to the spectacular Christ of St John of the Cross by a certain Salvador Dali.
You can also explore the nearby Kelvingrove Park should the infamous Scottish weather hold out! Best of all – it’s all completely free!
2. Glasgow Cathedral, Royal Infirmary and Necropolis precinct
Not to be outdone, the cities east end offers a triple whammy of impressive (and free) sights to see, all within a few minutes’ walk and all steeped in history. The Royal Infirmary is an impressive structure dating back to 1784, and is the site that Joseph Lister first pioneered antiseptic treatment. The city cathedral has been knocked down and rebuilt more times than we care to remember, and is well worth a visit, including the nearby (and once again free) St Mungo’s Museum of Religious life and Art – one of the only museums of its kind in the world. But perhaps the most spectacular location here is the necropolis, stretching up behind the cathedral on the hill.
Around 50,000 people have been buried in this Victorian cemetery, and the thousands of tombs and monuments are dramatically stunning. It gives a lovely view of the city, and deer are rumoured to wander through the gravestones! The oldest house in Glasgow is just over the road too! It’s a history buff’s paradise!
3. Botanical Gardens
Back in the west, Glasgow’s Botanical Gardens are perfect for an afternoon stroll – if the weather holds, remember?! Even if it doesn’t and it comes pelting down, the most spectacular of the several glass houses is the Kibble Palace, which underwent a facelift in 2004, and will keep you warm and dry. It’s affectionately known as “The Starship Enterprise” and we’d encourage a visit for you to find out why! In summer, the park is alive with life, with art exhibitions, concerts and theatre.
If you do feel like spending a bit of money, try to catch the famous “Bard in the Botanics” outdoor Shakespeare festival. The perfect way to spend a summer evening!
4. Go (window) shopping on Buchannan Street
Outside of London, Glasgow is arguably the best shopping city in the UK, and we can see why! Just take a wander down the famous trio of Sauchiehall, Buchannan and Argyll streets, and be amazed at the wonderful collection of shops, stores and boutiques you’ll come across, and the beautiful buildings that house them. You’ll find all the big names here, and if you venture further afield you’ll be able to track down some amazing bargains at Glasgow’s famous charity shops. Glasgow is also known for its vibrant music scene, and there’s a never ending string of talented artists that take to the streets to perform, so you’re never short of “free” gigs to entertain you as you take in the top stores. Just remember that it’s only free if you’re window shopping! Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
5. The Riverside Transport Museum
We like free museums so much – especially when it comes to a place not famed for its great weather! Glasgow’s Riverside Transport Museum is an amazing day out, and is home to over 3000 pieces of automotive history. You’ll find everything from skateboards to trains, as well as mock-ups of Glasgow streets from days gone by.
And don’t forget a visit to the tall ship anchored near the museum, one of the few surviving ships built on the river Clyde that meanders through the city. And speaking of the Clyde, a wander along its banks won’t cost you a penny, and will immerse you in the proud history of boat building in Glasgow. Be sure to check out the enormous, disused Finnieston Crane too – another reminder of the cities industrial past.
6. The Gallery of Modern Art
This is a must visit – if only to see one of Glasgow’s most famous landmarks! In front of the museum is a statue of the Duke of Wellington on a horse. The thing is he’s rarely without a traffic cone on his head!
You can buy postcards of this famous sight, and Glaswegians will tell you it’s offensive when he doesn’t have his regular headpiece! The police will take it down occasionally, and no sooner than they have, than someone climbs up and puts it back on! Just behind the famous statue is the beautiful Gallery of Modern Art, which isn’t a bad free visit either!
7. The Glasgow School of Art
Evidence of the much admired Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh is prominent throughout the city, perhaps no more so than at his masterpiece; the beautifully designed Glasgow School of Art. A fire in 2014 nearly destroyed the building, and it will be years before it’s fully re-furbished, but it’s still simply gorgeous to behold. The school hosts various art exhibitions and events each year, so check with local press to find out what’s going on when you visit. You might catch a future master at work!
8. Strathclyde Country Park
If you fancy getting out of the city for a while, why not take in the beautiful Strathclyde Country Park? It’s only about 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre, but it’s 400 hectares of nature set in the valley of the Clyde. There’s something for everyone here too, so if you’re keen on anything from watersports to walking, music festivals to adventure playgrounds – you’ll find it here. The site of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the park’s facilities are top drawer, and there’s fun to be had for all the family. Just don’t forget that umbrella if the clouds come in!
Glasgow has an abundance of free attractions to suit all ages and interests, and is one of the friendliest cities you could ever go to. The hospitality is amazing! The city is steeped in history and fascinating stories, with incredible architecture and wonderful characters to boot. And one of the best things about it is – you can get around the whole city on foot! So you can see all of these sights for free, and with the odd exception, you can walk to all of them too! More free stuff! Glasgow is also a gateway to the rest of this stunning country, so if you’re going be sure to get outdoors and explore the breathtaking highlands and islands too. But Glasgow is a special place and will steal anyone’s heart for sure. It’s definitely “smiles better!”