Prepping for Culture & Fun in Glasgow • Tour Travel Hotels
Is Glasgow worth a visit? In most cases, yes, although if you’re reading this in early 2021 there’s one big problem: Scotland is nearly impossible to enter.
The good news, as you already know whether it’s 2022 or 2023, is that Covid-19 is temporary and Scotland will be welcome again before we know it. Most of us will be heading to Edinburgh, the Highlands and the Isle of Skye. We could also visit Loch Ness, if we don’t know better, but relatively few of us are probably planning to visit Glasgow.
The purpose of this article is not to help you visit Scotland’s largest city, but to give you the information you need to make the call yourself. I’m curious if you end up going there!
Where to stay in Glasgow
Before I make the argument that Glasgow is worth a visit (yes, that’s the side of this debate I come across), let’s talk about the bullshit. The first thing I need to clarify is that you might not be spending a night in Glasgow. This might surprise you, given the size and cultural significance of Glasgow, but many travelers visit Scotland’s largest city on a day trip from Edinburgh. I don’t recommend this unless you have no other choice.
I would recommend instead that you stay at least one night in a hotel (be it the upscale Premier Suites Plus Glasgow George Square or the more modest Argyll Hotel). This not only allows you to unwrap your clothes like plus size rompers and plan some cute touring outfits, but also allows you to think through each day without having to rush somewhere. Speaking of not rushing, another option is to rent a Glasgow Airbnb for a week or more and “live” here for a while.
What to do in Glasgow
Say your prayers in Glasgow Cathedral
The only thing better than visiting the 9th century Glasgow Cathedral, which is generally considered to be the oldest building in Scotland? Explore all the spooky attractions around (and, in the case of the basement crypt, inside). In particular, I like the sprawling cemetery just outside the main church building.
Shop and dine on Buchanan Street
Another of my favorite things about visiting Glasgow, especially if I’m doing it from old Edinburgh, leans on its modern side. Along Buchanan Street, of course, you’ll see fewer souvenir shops than you do along Princes Street or away from Edinburgh Castle. However, sometimes we all need Zara or H&M in our lives!
Relax along the River Clyde
One of the reasons some people prefer Edinburgh to Glasgow is that the former is on the sea while the latter is inland. While it would be foolish to claim that the Clyde River, lovely as it is, has it all about the sea view in Edinburgh, there is something to be said about relaxing on the banks of the river, especially if you have a really hot summer day.
Go avant-garde at the Gallery of Modern Art
If there is one thing to do when visiting Glasgow that perfectly embodies the city’s eclectic mix of old and new, it’s the Modern art gallery. While from the outside this ancient building looks majestic and perhaps even a little stale, it comes to life as you step inside, with strobe neon signs and formless art making countless claims. .
Get out of town (maybe a long way!)
The great thing about Scotland, wherever you are in the country, is that it isn’t that big. As a result, many day trips from Edinburgh such as the Scottish Highlands (and Loch Ness, assuming you want to go) are basically also convenient to take from Glasgow. Another option? Escape for a weekend (or even a few days) at Isle of Skye.
Glasgow vs. Edinburgh
I have written (and gushed) a lot about Edinburgh on this site; it’s one of my favorite places in Scotland (in all of Europe, really). It’s not just because I got the chance to experience the traditional Hogmanay celebration to ring in the New Year in 2016, although it certainly helped. Edinburgh, like all of the best cities in the world, manages to straddle so many crucial city paradigms – old vs modern, quaint vs bustling, authentic vs artificial.
The extent to which you consider whether Glasgow is worth a visit depends on whether your experience here reveals that Scotland’s largest city is as balanced and nuanced as its famous famous. This is another reason why you might want to consider a shorter trip rather than a long one. To put it metaphorically, while Glasgow doesn’t have as many obvious high notes as Edinburgh, its grace notes reveal an equally sophisticated composition, provided you take the time to hear them.
Other FAQs on visiting Glasgow
How many days do you need in Glasgow?
While some travelers just visit Glasgow on a day trip from Edinburgh, I recommend a minimum of 1-2 full days in Glasgow. This allows you to enjoy a full day to see all of Glasgow’s main tourist attractions and dig into its deepest cuts, which are the most interesting part of this city. Note that the 1-2 day range assumes your total time in Scotland is longer.
Is a visit to Glasgow expensive?
Glasgow’s price is similar to other cities in UK and Europe. While backpackers can get by on as little as £ 50 per day, a more realistic price is around £ 100-200 per day, including hotels, meals and local transport (but not counting flights to and from Scotland). Overall, you can expect to spend around £ 1,000 per week traveling in the UK; Glasgow is part of this expectation.
What should I see in Glasgow?
Glasgow attractions range from popular sites such as Glasgow Cathedral and the shops of Buchanan Street, to other niche activities like the Modern Art Gallery and cozy places to sit along the River Clyde. Rather than planning your trip to Glasgow to tick off items on a to-do list, I suggest that you spend as much time as possible getting into the rhythm of the city.
The bottom line
Is Glasgow worth a visit? I think you know my answer to this question. The point is, this is ultimately your call to go if you spend your time and money visiting Scotland’s largest city. Glasgow, of course, isn’t just great. It is home to an eclectic culture and cityscape, which manages to be both ancient and modern.