If you fly via WestJet to Scotland like I did, you will be landing in Glasgow. After settling down in your hotel room or airbnb it’s time to start exploring. I’ve put together a brief list of places that I visited which can easily fill up two days of your vacation.
You can easily access all these sites below by getting a one or two-day hop-on-off bus ticket. The 2-day ticket is 17 GBP per person. You can purchase the ticket when you board a hop-on-off bus; no need to purchase a ticket online. I always enjoy catching one of these buses in every new city I visit as it will show me top tourist sites in the city and I will get some background, historical information about the city or a site. With this knowledge, I can take the bus again to the sites I’m interested in. If you only have a one day pass, you may want to exit the bus as soon as you reach a site that is interesting to you, but I typically have a two-day pass so I can do the loop first, followed by visiting specific sites along the route.
Museums and art galleries run by the Scottish government are free to the public, except for any special time-limited exhibit, such as the current Linda McCartney Retrospective at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. If you enjoyed a museum or gallery there is always a place for you to donate. I applaud the Scottish government for giving all people the chance to experience great art and learn about our past through museums. Below are a few of the sites or things that I did in Glasgow that I quite enjoyed and hope you will enjoy as well.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
This museum, named after physicist Lord Kelvin, who is known for determining the correct value of absolute zero as -273.15 degree Celsius or -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. He was also knighted by Queen Victoria for his work on a transatlantic telegraph project. I heard from my hop-on-off bus narration that this Art Gallery and Museum is the most visited in all of Scotland.
It is interesting that the museum is divided in half, with one half being solely museum and the other half an art gallery. As my time was limited I went to the art gallery side as I enjoy viewing great art. One section of the art gallery is dedicated to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who developed the Glasgow art style at about the same time as Art Nouveau was developed. You will see examples of ceramics, metalwork, furniture, textiles, stencilling, posters, books, interior and tearoom design and much more. There is also a Scottish Identity in the art section, which has paintings of famous people, like Mary, Queen of Scots, and events that have happened in Scottish history. Another section shows French art, where you can view paintings by Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro. One outstanding work of art, housed in its own room is Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross. In a darkened room, this painting towers above you, showing Christ on the cross, but no nails in his hands or feet.
Lastly, although not art, there is a huge pipe organ which was built in 1901 that is located in the center hall of the Museum and Art Gallery. It is played daily Monday-Saturday at 1pm and on Sunday at 3pm. I, unfortunately, missed the recital when I was there, but hearing a pipe organ being played live is always a great experience for me.
Glasgow Cathedral, built in the 12th century, is very inspiring to see from the outside and the inside. I enjoy going to Cathedrals in Europe to view the intricate stained glass windows, listen to organ music if it is being played, to view any paintings or sculptures (some done by various famous artists), and view the graves of important people housed within the Cathedral. It is also very inspiring to think about how many years it took to build each Cathedral and then add all the interior artwork and stained glass. When I was there the organist was playing and the music was echoing throughout the Cathedral. Visiting a Cathedral is a great way to slow down and relax a bit from the busyness outside of any city.
A Walk Through the Necropolis
Some people may say walking through a cemetery is creepy, but not me. Visiting cemeteries while on vacation or at home in Vancouver, I get to find out about people from our past. A cemetery, locally known as the Necropolis, is located on a hill behind the Glasgow Cathedral, where you can get great views of the city. The Necropolis covers 37 acres and has a wide variety of memorial stones, sculptures and buildings designed by Glasgow artists, including Charles Rennie Macintosh.
As you walk up you see these sculptures and statues towering above you. There are several winding paths you can take to bring you to the top of the hill. At the top of the hill, in the most prominent position is the memorial for John Knox the leader of the Scottish Protestant movement. As you walk along and read the other memorial plaques you can find out more about who were the founders of Glasgow, the Engineers, Professors, and many more who contributed to their society.
Stand at the top of the Necropolis and take in the view before heading down for lunch or your next stop on the hop-on-off bus.
Enjoy Craft Beer and Pub Food
During your tour you are going to get hungry and thirsty. Luckily Glasgow has many restaurants and pubs for you to stop in for a pint and a bite. On my trip, I stopped in at the Cathedral House cafe-bar, located beside the Glasgow Cathedral, and the Brewdog Brewery and pub located across the street from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
At the Cathedral House cafe-bar, I had traditional bangers and mash with onion gravy and caramelized chutney. Bangers are sausages and these were pan-fried till the skin was nice and crispy. There was lots of flavour from the onion gravy and caramelized onions to complement the bangers. With that, I had a half-pint of St. Mungo’s Pure Heavenly Lager. I prefer ales over lagers, but this lager was more full-bodied and reminded me almost of an ale. I enjoyed having this lager with my bangers.
The Brewdog Brewery and pub is located directly across from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which I think is a great location, as people can have a bite and a sip of beer before or after viewing the artwork and museum pieces. I read that there are many craft beer breweries in Glasgow and I am glad I tried Brewdog. They make a wide range of beers and have a rotating tap. When I was there I ordered a flight of 4 beers; Punk IPA, Dead Pony Club, 5am Saint, and Indie Pale Ale. The Punk IPA and 5am Saint were my favourites. The Punk IPA had citrus and tropical fruit flavours along with a hoppy bite. The 5am Saint is an amber ale and I enjoyed its malt and caramel flavours. I went to the Brewdog on a Monday and as the Linda McCartney Retrospective is on across the street, the brewery embraced Linda’s worldwide meatless Monday request. I had a HAIL SEITAN burger made with a vegan bun, bbq seitan steak, crispy kale, sun-kissed tomato chutney & hummus. A good pairing with my two favourite beers.
If you are staying anywhere near George Square or Buchanan Street you will have no problem finding many places to eat and enjoy a good beer.
Walk and Shop on Buchanan Street
Shopping is probably part of every tourist’s plan. Looking for things that are typical for a city or country, like a tartan kilt or shortbread cookies in Glasgow, are quite easy to find. You may also want to purchase fashion clothes, jewelry, etc. as something nice catches your eye. Buchanan is a long pedestrian street stretching from the Buchanan Galleries and Bus Station down to the St Enoch shopping centre. There are many clothing shops, restaurants, Scottish garb stores, jewelry, tourist gift shops, electronics and more. Take a leisurely walk along the street, check out the side streets where there are more pubs and shops, and also enjoy the buskers and the wine/beer/spirits patios located in the centre of the walkway.
Buchanan is a Scottish clan and you can purchase a tartan, which I am told looks very similar to the Royal Arms of Scotland. You can read about the Buchanan clan here.
Once you are finished visiting Glasgow you can easily hop on a ScotRail train to Edinburgh and be there in less than one hour as I did. Read about my adventures in Edinburgh here. Enjoy!