Hands down Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and the third in the UK. The site is located on the River Clyde and has been since prehistoric times as it provided ample opportunity for salmon fishing. It quickly gained a population and by the 15th century was established with a university, archbishop status, annual Glasgow Fair (which still runs today), and a soaring population.
Glasgow is also known for its beauty. Nineteenth century author Daniel Defoe, who penned A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain, said that Glasgow was the “cleanest and beautifullest, and best build city in Britain, London expected.” Even though it was tough on industry, being a leading exporter of textiles, engineered goods, and steel, it still remained very pleasing to the eye and remains that way today.
Through the years, Glasgow was always able to maintain steady wealth by making smart financial decisions. Despite its best attempts however, it declined a bit in the 20th century. Unwilling to let its city fail, the government quickly saw a turn around with the tourism sector and Glasgow was voted in as the 1990 European City of Culture. Today it has a wide variety of activities and most of Scotland’s national organizations are located here.
Glasgow is blessed in the weather department. It is the subject of a mild climate thanks the warm Gulf Steam airflow that makes its way from the Atlantic up the nearby Clyde estuary. It is also protected by the Clyde Valley hills which keeps the humidity at a moderate rate year round.
Temperatures generally ranges from °6 (°43) in January to about °18 (°65) from June through August. Spring months are noted for their cool, mild climates when the many surrounding parks and gardens are bursting with new life. The warmer months are also a great time to visit, though because of the Gulf air, can be a little unpredictable and go from warm to wet very quickly.
By Air: The Glasgow International Airport is approximately 20 minutes by bus or taxi from the city center. The Glasgow Prestwick Airport is about 45 minutes by rail or road.
By Train: The Glasgow Central Station is a hub to the national rail network. There is also a bus service at that operates from Gordon Street to Glasgow Queen Street Station and Buchanan Bus Station. A trip to Edinburgh is under 50 minutes. National Express and Virgin trains also offer direct routes from Glasgow Central to London’s Kings Cross and Euston stations.
By Car: Motorway M74 north/south provides access to Glasgow and the surrounding region. There is also the Clyde Valley Tourist Route (A73, A72, A702) that provides a more scenic alternative in.
By Coach: Scottish CityLink, National Express and Eurolines services provide access from Glasgow to many major cities. There are nearly 1,200 destinations throughout Europe that are accessible to Glasgow via this system.
By Ferry: There are several ferry companies that make their way to Glasgow via the Irish Sea, North Sea, and English Channel. DFDS Seaways goes between Norway, Newcastle, and Amsterdam. Caldonian MacBrayne operates around Scotland’s coast. P&O Irish accesses Northern Ireland, Larne, Dover, Portsmouth, and England, France and Spain. Stena Line links around the UK and Holland. Superfast provides access to Belgium.
Take a Tour: There are many tour companies that provide a quick and easy alternate to see the who’s who of cultural sites in Glasgow. Try City SightSeeing Glasgow Ltd or Clyde Waterbus Services LTD for a unique tour of the city.
Coach or Care hire: A handful of coach and car for hire companies are located in the city centre.
Walk: One of the best ways to enjoy Glasgow is on foot. If you stay in the city, most of what you need will be within walking distance.
Taxi: Glasgow Taxis LTD has total monopoly and are the only cab company in Glasgow. Take their number down and keep it handy.
January: Holiday & Travel Show: Just as you’re getting sick of the cold, in comes more than 800 exhibitors from countries all over the world, looking to whisk you away where the weather is fine and drinks are flowing. It’s not all just travel agents looking for a sale. There is also a cultural aspect as visitors can browse stalls full of music, culture, and culinary delights from each visiting country. The show takes place at the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre from 10:00am – 5:00pm.
February: Celtic Connections: As the name implies, this festival features centuries of Celtic pride by way of music. Though seasoned vets are welcomed, the focus is on up and coming young talent who keep the traditions alive. The Royal Concert Hall is the main venue though there are dozens all over the city. Hours and admission vary.
March: Glasgow International Comedy Festival: Hundreds of happenings take place at this annual event including stand-up comedians, sketch shows, movies, workshops, discussions, and even kid friendly events. World renowned comedians come to rev up the crowd and all of the hilarious spoofs will leave your sides tickling for days. Hours and admission vary.
April: Triptych Festival: Enough local DJ’s to make your head spin, this festival also features many hip hop favorites like the Wu Tang clan, film productions, and workshops for those looking to get into the music biz. Some events are free while others are priced. Hours vary.
May: Physic & Healing Fair: Held thrice annually, the first round of this fair, which is held at the Royal Concert Hall, allows one to put problems aside to reveal a sunnier disposition by way of complimentary therapy sessions, books, crystals, and organic remedies. Hours are 11:00am – 5:30pm. Admission starts at £3.50.
June: West End Festival: Picking up where Mayfest left off, the West End Festival boasts an amazing range of events in the music, film, art and performance genres that are equally remarkable. There is also a huge Opening Parade and Street Party that will really introduce you to the Glasgow locals. Hours and admission vary.
July: Glasgow Fair: Ever heard the term, “the freaks come out at night?” That’s the Glasgow Fair all over again. Held the last fortnight in July, the Fair sees the likes of freak shows, waxworks, and whisky booths all rolled into a string of crazy, chaos filled days. So much so that many local businesses close on “Fair Friday” so their employees can get in on the wild action. Interestingly, the Glasgow Fair has been around since about 1150.
August: World Pipe Band Championships: A proud UK tradition and the world’s biggest bagpipe event come together for a spectacular display of music and dance. The event takes place on the Glasgow Green annually about mid-August from 9:00am – 7:00pm. Admission varies.
September: Pedal (and Run) for Scotland: This month boasts two huge athletic events – the Great Scottish Run and Pedal for Scotland. It’s a great way to see the sites while competing for a worthy cause. Hours and admission vary. See the websites for details.
October: Big Big World Festival: An astounding array of countries come to celebrate… well, the world. Artists big and small from Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Europe join Glasgow’s Sounds Fine for a spectacular show. Hours and admission vary.
November: Glasgow Fireworks Night: Bonfire Night kicks off with a spellbinding mix of lasers, lights, and live music at the Glasgow Green – for free! There is also a huge fun fair with plenty of entertainment from 5:00pm – 10:00pm.
December: Hogmanay: Nearly 100,000 come to take part in Glasgow’s festive New Year’s celebrations; 25,000 of which are lucky ticket holders to the Hogmanay taking place in George Square. It is quite possibly the most rambunctious festival of the year. Tickets to George Square are £10 and hours are 9:00pm – 1:30pm.
There is so much to do in Glasgow. There are the many museums and cultural places of interest including Kelvingrove (it has a Dali along with a lot of Scottish art), The Burrell (Degas, ancient art, Chinese art, and tapestries), the Museum of Transport, Contemporary Art (the Lighthouse, Cultural Quarters, and CC), Charles Rennie MacKintosh (an imminent fixture in the Glasgow art world), and the Tall Ship at Glasgow Harbour among others.
Nearly every neighborhood has some sort of shopping. Check out the City Centre, Merchant City, and West and South sides for the best boutiques, departments, and shops. The Buchanan Galleries and the St Enoch Centre are great for designer labels while Argyle, Sauchiehall, and Buchanan Streets (known as the “Golden Z”) are recommended for more affordable and/or brand duds.
The center of Glasgow is also home to most of Scotland’s cultural organizations like the Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet who both perform at the Theatre Royal. There are dozens more theater and entertainment complexes in the same areas as the shopping districts are in including the Pavilion, the King’s Theatre, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and Glasgow Film Theatre.
The food choices are nearly endless after a long day seeing the sights. There are coffee shops, tearooms, bistros, Scottish food, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Far East, Italian, coffee cafes, Mediterranean, themed restaurants… and the list goes on and on. Check out some local favorites like Grill on the Corner (best steaks), Red Onion (best traditional Scottish cuisine), Two Fat Ladies (best fish), Pancho Villa’s (best Mexican), and the Imperial Rooms (Russian cuisine). The best places to eat affordably are in the University area in the eclectic West End while Merchant City provides a more varying but a little bit more pricy array. Most range in price from a few dollars to over one hundred so be prepared to eat and spend well. The University area is also chock full of lively bars and crazy times while Merchant City has a more relaxed yet fun nightlife too.