Having spent more time in the Highlands and Edinburgh, I was eager to spend a day in Glasgow on my most recent trip to the UK. Of course, one day in Glasgow isn’t enough to see the whole city, but you are able to fit quite a lot into a day if you wish.
I found Glasgow to be a very “real” city- not too touristy or elegant, but down-to-earth (if a city can be so). Glasgow is a working-class city, and it has its own rich culture, full of music venues and murals. It also has a unique sense of humor, like the now-famous traffic cones sitting on the heads of statues in the city center.
Glasgow makes a good starting point for a trip to Scotland. The most populous city in Scotland, its history stretches back to Roman and Britton times. Located on the River Clyde, Glasgow has been a hub throughout the centuries- first for fishing, then trading, and then shipbuilding.
From museums to pubs, there is plenty to do when visiting Glasgow. This one-day Glasgow itinerary will take you through various parts of the city, so you can get a little taste of both the East and West End.
- By train: From London Euston Station, take the Avanti West Coast, ScotRail, or London North Eastern Railway (LNER) to Glasgow Central. The ride takes about 4.5-5 hours.
- By car: Via M6, the drive from London takes 7 hours.
- By bus: From London Victoria Coach Station, take either Megabus or National Express to Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station. The ride is a long one, at about 9-10 hours.
- By plane: For nonstop flights, take an easyJet flight from London Gatwick Airport, or a British Airways flight from London Heathrow Airport, into Glasgow Airport. The flight takes about an hour and a half.
- By train: From Edinburgh Waverley Station, take ScotRail to Glasgow Central. The train ride can take anywhere from 45 minutes to a little over an hour.
- By car: Via M9, the drive to Glasgow takes a little over an hour.
One Day in Glasgow
The following are my recommendations of what to see and do during one day in Glasgow, but be sure to check out the honorable mentions at the end!
It’s important to start your day off right! Much like an English breakfast, a Scottish breakfast is hearty and will fill you up for the adventurous day ahead.
We had a delightful breakfast at Singl-end Merchant City, right in the heart of Glasgow’s City Center. (Breakfast meat in the UK is no joke; we’re talking thick-cut bacon and black pudding.)
If you’re looking to just grab a quick bite in the city center though, try Spitfire Espresso or Riverhill Coffee Bar.
After fueling up, take a wander around George Square. The principal square in Glasgow, George Square is home to the City Chambers building. There are also statues and monuments of notable Scots spread throughout, including Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.
Gallery of Modern Art
The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Glasgow can be easily found- just look for the statue of the Duke of Wellington out front…it’ll be the one with the traffic cone on top. Erected in the 1800s, the statue has been sporting a traffic cone since at least the 1980s.
In fact, Glasgow statues seem to often be adorned either by traffic cones or birds (or both).
Within the GoMA of Glasgow, there are four galleries with temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, made by both local and international artists. The best thing about GoMA is it is free to visit!
Note: If modern art isn’t your thing, that’s ok! There’s another museum on the itinerary further down, and I recommend choosing one or the other.
If you plan to shop, Buchanan Street is the place to do it! This pedestrian-only street is home to flagship stores and high-end shops.
During my one day in Glasgow, I was very excited to take the Glasgow Subway. As a New Yorker, I’m used to an intricate, complicated subway system, but Glasgow’s subway just goes in a circle. If you get lost, you can just keep riding, and eventually you’ll circle back around to your stop! (I was thrilled [and relieved], I tell you!)
Technically, the subway trains go in two circles, one going clockwise (the Outer Circle) and the other going counter-clockwise (the Inner Circle).
At this point in the itinerary, it’s time to head to the West End. You’ll want to take the Inner Circle from the Buchanan Street station to the Hillhead station.
A single ride on the Glasgow Subway is £1.55 (about $2 USD).
River Kelvin Walkway
From the Hillhead subway station, walk north until you reach the River Kelvin. There you’ll find the Kelvin Walkway, a pleasant trail along the River Kelvin.
For a short, quaint walk, cross the river at the Humpback Bridge, walk west along the river, and cross back along the Ha’Penny Footbridge. (Fun fact: The bridge got its name from the Victorian era when it used to cost half a penny just to cross the bridge!)
Or, for a slightly longer walk, cross back at Kirklee Bridge instead.
Glasgow Botanic Gardens
The Glasgow Botanic Gardens are a little over 200 years old, though they were moved to their present site in Glasgow’s West End in 1842. The Gardens provide a lovely spot for a morning stroll during your one day in Glasgow.
Full of flora and fauna, the Glasgow Botanic Gardens are pretty to visit, no matter the time of year. There is a “children’s garden”, a rose garden, and the National Tree Collection of Scotland.
The Gardens are free to visit and open until dusk.
Among the glass greenhouses in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, the Kibble Palace is the most impressive. With its distinct wrought iron curves and domed ceiling, Kibble Palace can be easily found within the gardens.
Inside Kibble Palace, you can find sculptures, orchids, and other plants from around the world. There’s even a room full of “killer plants”- plants that are actually carnivorous!
Giant round mirrors hanging from the ceiling help bounce the light around the space. Because of the tropical plants, on a cool day it’s a nice, warm spot to step inside for a bit!
University of Glasgow
Start making your way back south toward the University of Glasgow. There isn’t necessarily anything to do at the university other than to admire the architecture, but it’s still worth a visit.
Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the second-oldest university in Scotland. The university consists of four colleges: Science and Engineering; Social Sciences; the Arts; and Medical, Veterinary, and Life Sciences, Today it has over 30,000 students (undergraduate and graduate students combined).
At first, it felt a little odd to be just wandering onto a college campus, but no one seemed to mind!
The main building gives off serious Hogwarts vibes, particularly the Cloisters. Also known as the Undercroft, the Cloisters are beautiful archways with fluted columns. Different parts of the campus (the Cloisters included) were used as filming locations in the television adaptation of Outlander.
By now you’re probably getting hungry! Depending on how hungry, there are plenty of options for lunch in Glasgow’s West End. If you keep walking south along Kelvin Way, you’ll reach Argyle Street, off of which you can find plenty of spots to eat.
If you’re looking for a sit-down lunch, try Ox and Finch or Mother India’s Cafe. Have a bite and a pint of local beer at BrewDog. Or, if you’re looking for something to eat on the go, grab a delicious donut from Tantrum Doughnuts!
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
If you only have one day in Glasgow, I highly recommend visiting the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum…even though it would take more than 24 hours to see the whole place! You won’t be able to miss the majestic, red sandstone building.
Originally built for the Glasgow International Exhibition, the Kelvingrove opened in 1901 and was called the Palace of Fine Arts. The Centre Hall within the museum still holds the pipe organ that was commissioned for the Exhibition, as well.
Once inside the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, you have the choice to either see the art section or the museum section. The Kelvingrove art collections include works by Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dalí, and Claude Monet.
Meanwhile, the other section of the museum is more of a natural history museum, with an emphasis on Scotland. There are fossils, weapons, interactive exhibits, and many taxidermied animals.
One of the most iconic works inside the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is the Floating Heads installation, by artist Sophie Cave.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is free to visit!
If your feet aren’t killing you yet, Kelvingrove Park is a pleasant spot to wander the paved paths. One of Glasgow’s oldest parks, it is full of sculptures and monuments (and again, the birds sitting atop them).
Visit a Pub
You’d be remiss to spend one day in Glasgow and not visit at least one pub. (You are in Scotland, after all!)
Head to The Ben Nevis for some whisky next to a cozy fireplace, or to The Park Bar to catch some rugby or football on the telly.
If your lodging is back near the city center, you can head back that way to grab a meal (and a good night’s rest).
Being constantly on the hunt for the best mac and cheese, we decided to stop at Sloan’s for dinner, as it is one of the dishes they for which are most known. (The mac and cheese was delicious indeed!) We ate at the bar, as the place was quite full, though there was outdoor seating as well.
For dessert, a nightcap, or just to see one of the most beautiful bars I’ve ever seen, I highly recommend Waxy O’Connors. (It’s an Irish bar in Scotland, but what are you going to do?) The place feels like a treehouse in Middle Earth! With several floors and cozy nooks, and live traditional music, it’s a fun place to end your day in Glasgow.
As I said, one day in Glasgow is not enough to see everything! Here are the things I missed and wish I could have seen:
- Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis: If you have it in you, might I suggest hiking up to the Cathedral for sunrise. Dating back to 1197, it is one of Glasgow’s oldest buildings, and it looks beautiful both inside and out. The Necropolis, or cemetery, is also worth a walk around!
- The People’s Palace: Since it was closed when we visited, I wasn’t able to see The People’s Palace, a museum dedicated to Glaswegians located in Glasgow Green, nor the beautiful Doulton Fountain out front.
While it may not be as famed as Edinburgh, Glasgow is still absolutely worth visiting, even if only for a day! Many of the Glaswegian folks we met were friendly (even if their dialect was hard to understand). I’d be happy to spend more time in Glasgow on my next visit to the UK!
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