Glasgow is not only the largest city in Scotland, it also one of the friendliest. However, Glasgow hasn’t always had such a positive reputation. Once a major shipping port and industrial center, Glasgow had issues with overcrowding, sanitation, and violence. Since then, Glasgow has gone through major changes and re-branding. Fabulous shopping and restaurants, historical sites, Glasgow University and the School of Art have become major attractions to the city. In fact, in 2008 Glasgow was named UNESCO City of Music. With so much to see and do in this Scotish city, it is hard to have a bad day, but I am going to show you how to have a perfect day in Glasgow.
Where to Stay in Glasgow
Glasgow is huge, so first, you’ll have to decide which of the five regions of the city you plan on spending the most time. There are literally hotels on every street, on every corner, so finding a place to stay is really easy. Our only issue was finding a hotel that had rooms large enough to accommodate a group our size. We are used to staying in one room on our trips. A standard room with two queens (or even two doubles) fits us normally, but European standards are significantly smaller than in the U.S. Even the “family” size rooms in many of the hotels didn’t have enough sleeping space.
Glasgow City Center:
The city center is considered the downtown area and within the downtown area are the Retail and Theater District, Merchant City and Financial District. This is a hustling and bustling region of Glasgow, perfect if you want to be near the train stations, commerce areas and shopping. There are endless options for accommodations in this area of the city, but I would recommend Carlton George Hotel for the views alone.
Glasgow West End:
This is the nicest area to stay if you are traveling with kids and anxious grandparents. It is more bohemian than the city center and home to many residential areas, the University of Glasgow and unique restaurants and pubs. For a truly authentic experience, I recommend staying at the Kirklee Hotel. This sweet inn is an Edwardian style townhouse was built in 1901 set in a beautiful residential neighborhood. Not to mention, included in you stay is a delicious hot breakfast delivered every morning to your room. Plus, the Kirklee Hotel was one of the few that could fit us in one room.
Glasgow East End:
This was once the major industrial area of the city, but now it is more popularly known for The Barras or the barrowland market, the People’s Palace museum, Glasgow Green and Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis. If this is that area you would like to stay, I recommend the Cathedral House Hotel. It is located right across the street from the cathedral with fantastic views of Necropolis.
The North end of Glasgow is mostly residential. Probably not the best place to stay, but worth a visit. North Glasgow is home to about ten parks and gardens, the Glasgow’s canal, Queen’s Cross Church and a bustling cultural community of artists called The Whisky Bond.
Like the north end, the south end is mostly residential, but there are some unique pub, restaurants and museums. There is the Citizens Theatre, the Scottish Football Museum and Bellahouston Park, just to name a few. Again, to get the most out of your visit, I recommend staying in the City Center or West end.
Where to eat in Glasgow
Where do I start? There are so many awesome restaurants in Glasgow! I mean for the foodie, it is heaven on earth! I seriously did not have one bad meal the entire month. The food scene is great for families too, since many of the restaurants promote kid-friendliness by providing play rooms loaded with goodies to keep little ones entertained. Plus, every kid’s meal comes with dessert. However, if you are dining with kids be sure to check with the staff on the kids’ cut off time. Many establishments require kids to be out by 8:00pm. If you are visiting with kids, you might interested in seeing my city family travel guide.
The interior is lovely with beautiful yet cozy décor. Adding to the fun is the kilted staff. The food is delicious with an attractive presentation. This was where we tried Haggis for the first time, appealingly served with neeps and tatties.
Hanoi Bike Shop:
Hanoi Bike Shop has really yummy and authentic Vietnamese cuisine. The décor is funky with lanterns, tools and bikes hanging from the ceiling.
This fun Italian restaurant became my kids’ favorite. They loved the macaroni and cheese and pizza as well as the play room. It has a very entertaining atmosphere, perfect for families. You may even get the pleasure of enjoying an impromptu magic show, like we did.
Situated in the heart of Ashton Lane, Brel has fantastic outdoor seating for people watching on the lane as well as a whimsical back patio. Both are great options for enjoying their delicious fondue.
Great for casual dining, Ketchup is a fun burger joint on Ashton Lane with a lively atmosphere and delicious comfort food.
Connected to the Grosvenor Theater, it is perfect for dinner and a movie. Bring your ticket stub to the restaurant and receive 50% off your dining tab. Decorated like studio set, the Grosvenor Café atmosphere adds to the experience.
Established in 1918, it is somewhat of an institution and attracts many famous customers. Very casual, it is the place to go for deep-fried Mars bars and deep-fried pizza.
Hillhead Book Club:
Hillhead has really cool eclectic décor, a great cocktail list, cheap beer and a playroom!
Once an actual on Schoolhouse, they have really reasonable food and drink with huge portions! I mean the fish & chips were crazy!!
The location was great, right off of George Square, near the bus stop and Queen Street Train Station. Brown’s has an elegant interior and features exquisite cocktails for 5 GBP. Oh and the dishes are delectable.
Drum & Monkey:
My friend, a Glaswegian, recommended this place as it is his favorite pub when visiting home. I made it a point to check it out and I am sure glad I did! Loved the atmosphere and loved the deals. There is a meal and a pint menu that is really awesome and a great value.
Cathedral Hotel & Restaurant:
Located right by the Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis, this is perfect for light snack or filling meal. The fried Haggis balls were a favorite as well as the steak and ale pie.
Where to Drink in Glasgow
This is Scotland. Finding a place to drink is as easy as stepping outside. There are exciting pubs all over the city to quench your thirst. Luckily, drinking in Scotland is pretty reasonable especially if you pop in during happy hour. You will have a blast tasting new Scotches and local brews. Some of our favorite whiskies included, Ardbeg, Oban, Glengoyne and GlenMorangie. You won’t be disappointed with the local brews either, like Tennents and Innis & Gunn. There is even a beer that has been brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C, called Fraoch. If you are traveling with kids, be aware that some pubs don’t allow kids at all and most have an 8:00pm cut-off time for kids to be in establishments where alcohol is sold. In addition, strict licensing laws require pubs to stop selling alcohol by midnight and stores to stop selling alcohol by 10:00pm.
The oldest pub on Byres Road, it is said to be haunted. This is a great place for a night cap if you are staying on the West End. During the week they have $1 off beers and drams of really nice whisky were inexpensive.
This is one of Glasgow’s most popular pubs. My friend begged me to visit, but kids aren’t allowed on the premise, so I never had the chance to enjoy a pint inside the famous pub. However, I did stand in front and take a picture! Ha.
How cool is it to enjoy a drink in an old church with a really cool bar?
Great cocktails, cheap beer and the GAMAPHONE! Met for sharing, the a cocktail is actually served in a gamaphone.
Scotia bar and Sloan’s:
Two of the oldest and most haunted pubs in Glasgow.
Things to do in Glasgow
There is so much to do and never enough time! There are historical sites, museums, amazing architecture, gardens, shopping and so much more. Everything is a short taxis, subway, train, or bus ride away. If you take the City Sight-Seeing bus you can see it all in a day, however you may not have time to get out and explore each site.
What is great about Glasgow is that most of the Museums are free.
A collection of Hunterian crazy scientific collections including mummies, Roman ruins, medical mysteries, dinosaurs and more.
Displays Glasgow transportation throughout the decades and even has a reproduction of an old Victorian street with shops to explore. There is also the Tall Ship to check out.
Kevlingrove Art Museum & Museum of Modern Art:
Kevlingrove has a wide array of collections from mummified heads to Vincent van Gough and everything in between. The Museum of Modern Art is a collection of contemporary art as well various exhibitions and workshops.
People’s Palace & Glasgow Green:
This museum takes you through daily life through time. Most fascinating for us was seeing the WWII bunkers. The Green is where the Jacobits rested before their final defeat.
This is where prehistoric forest is preserved.
Located on the West End, the grounds were gorgeous and a perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon walk. There is a sweet tea house on the property as well as a playground for the kids.
A hop-on hop-off bus with 28 stops, I recommend using the City Sight-Seeing Bus. It is the best way to get around the whole city, seeing all the sites in one or two days.
The Glasgow Cathedral (St. Mungo’s Cathedral):
Built in 1206, there was so much history it was hard to comprehend it all.
Set on a hill over looking Glasgow Cathedral is the Victorian Cemetery of Necropolis. Established in 1832, it is where many of the prominent merchants and members of society are buried, including many of the infamous Tobacco Lords.
This is one of the oldest houses in Glasgow and where Queen Mary of Scots spent some of her days.
St. Vincent Street and Buchanan Street are just fun, exciting and has great shopping! We loved taking the Subway or as Glaswegians call it, Clockwork Orange, because it is always on time, it is orange and goes around the city in a circle. It was clean, really cheap and fast!
This university inspired the exterior of Hogwarts for those Harry Potter fans. Visitors will enjoy just wondering around the property as well as visiting nearby museums, like Kelvingrove and Hunterian.
That’s A Wrap!
All in all, Glasgow is an amazing and complex city! I can honestly say it is a wonderful place to visit. The people are friendly, the food is to die for and the options for fun and discovery are endless!!!
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Amanda is wife, mother of three, bartender and world traveler. She loves taking her multi-generational family on unconventional adventures, often seeking out haunted locations, exciting nightlife and live music. Inspiring parents to book it like it’s hot, she shares her funny stories and travel advice on her family travel blog with a twist, HotMamaTravel.com and vlog, HotMamaTravel.