9 Cool Things to See & Do in Glasgow To Kick-Start Your Scotland Trip

Forging some Scotland vacation plans? No trip to “The Land of the Brave” is complete without checking out all the fun things to do in Glasgow. Scotland’s biggest city and cultural hub pulses with art, history, and culture backdropped by beautiful Victorian architecture and contemporary design. From age-old historical sites and lush parks to cool art galleries and trendy restaurants, dig into one of the UK’s coolest cities with this complete Glasgow attractions guide!

What to see & do in Glasgow

Go on a shopping spree on Buchanan Street

Even if you don’t enjoy shopping when you travel, walking along Buchanan Street is a must for any visit, even if you’ve only got one day in Glasgow. Rolling through the heart of the historic city centre, Buchanan Street is among the city’s most popular places to shop. No matter which direction you turn, you’ll wander past boutique shops carrying all your favourite international brands—along with plenty of less-familiar local ones.

Buchanan Street

Aside from the boutiques, be sure to pop into the Princes Square Shopping Centre. Originally an 1840s 4-storey merchant square, the shopping centre was renovated in 1988, enclosing the block with its characteristic glass dome. After browsing the boutiques at Princes Square, slip through the Argyll Arcade. This stunning Parisian-style arcade hosts dozens of jewellery stores and diamond dealers.

Don’t want to drop your hard-earned quid on clothing? Buchanan Street is still the perfect spot to catch the beat of Glasgow. Take a walk down the bustling street as shoppers and casual strollers filter past.

Your stomach and sweet tooth will thank you, as well. Buchanan Street is home to a dizzying array of restaurants and cafes. Douse your Thai craving at the elegant Chaophraya. Sip on cocktails and enjoy upscale British food in the vintage The Ivy Buchanan Street. Indulge your sweet tooth by poring over amazing desserts at one of the many bakeries and cookie shops around the area.

If you happen to visit in December, check out Glasgow’s Christmas markets. They take place on St. Enoch Square at the southern end of Buchanan Street.

Marvel at the architecture around George Square

Most first visits to Glasgow start at its beating heart: George Square. This historic city center square, located just across the street from Queen Street Station, is the city’s most important and recognizable. Named after King George III, George Square is lined with beautiful historic buildings, monuments, and statues that tell tales of Scottish history and culture.

George Square

Kick-start your journey through George Square by wandering among the iconic statues and monuments. Spot historian, poet, and novelist Sir Walter Scott perched high on his column, watching over the square. Meander through the square to meet other famed Scotsmen like poet Robert Burns and scientist James Watt, each telling a tale of Scotland’s rich past.

As it’s located in the heart of the city, it’s no surprise that George Square often hosts concerts, events, and festive markets. If you’re lucky, you might stumble upon live music or a cultural festival to a lively rhythm to your itinerary.

Stare down history at the Scottish Opera Titanic Memorial

By now, you’ve probably heard a billion stories about the Titanic. That doesn’t mean you should skip out on the Scottish Opera Titanic Memorial. This top Glasgow attraction will enlighten you on the tale of the Titanic like no other place on earth.

Scottish Opera Titanic Memorial is a monument to the engineers who worked below deck on the Titanic. As the massive ship sank, these engineers were the selfless heroes who did everything they could to stop the mighty sea from crashing into the ship.

The Opera was once the headquarters for the professional Scottish engineers governing body. They built the memorial to honour their fallen comrades. There’s a mass held here each year. It reflects on the dangerousness and importance of engineering.

Dazzle at Glasgow Cathedral

Searching for traditional old European charms in Glasgow? Look no further than Glasgow Cathedral. Built in 1136, this cathedral has been the cultural symbol of the city for centuries and remains the oldest building in Glasgow.

Glasgow Cathedral & Skyline

Glasgow Cathedral’s glorious Gothic architecture hails from the Middle Ages. It got its “new” design “only” a few hundred years after its original inception. As you roam through the interior, dazzle at the high arches and its beautiful stained glass windows.

While you’re visiting Glasgow Cathedral, don’t miss the chance to descend into the eerie 13th-century crypt. The crypt entombs the patron saint of Glasgow, St. Mungo.

Stroll through The Necropolis

The Necropolis is unlike any other cemetery in the world. You might recognize this top point of interest from eerie movies like Death Watch (1980). Seeing The Necropolis for yourself should be high up on your Glasgow sightseeing hit list.


The Necropolis isn’t built like a typical cemetery. Its Victorian monuments are spectacular works of art that beg to be seen. Many claim that the over-the-top design was to thwart would-be body snatchers during the early 1830s. Known as “resurrectionists,” body snatchers would dig up freshly buried corpses to sell them on the medical research market.

Try to visit The Necropolis in the morning at sunrise to see it at its eeriest and most jaw-dropping.

Browse masterful art and ancient artifacts at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

For history buffs and art lovers, no attraction in Glasgow is more worthy of your attention than the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Located in Kelvingrove Park in the heart of Glasgow’s leafy West End, this popular museum & art gallery charms visitors with its majestic Spanish Baroque style architecture and impressive collection spanning 22 galleries.

Kelvingrove Park

Explore art, history, and natural wonders as you journey through the museum’s whopping 8,000 artifacts. Fancy a brush with the masters? Saunter past priceless paintings by famed artists like Monet, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh. The most famous work in the collection is the magnificent Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí.

Got a soft spot for history? Relive Scotland’s past through intricate armor, age-old weapons, and artifacts. The pièce de résistance? A genuine Spitfire plane hanging from the ceiling, a nod to Glasgow’s aviation heritage.

When you’re done browsing the museum, save time to explore the rest of the West End neighbourhood. Soak up the sun on the expansive lawns of Kelvingrove Park. Take a stroll through the beautiful University of Glasgow campus, and admire its stunning Gothic architecture. Unwind with a cup of coffee or a beer at one of the cafes, bars, and restaurants along colourful Ashton Lane.

Relax in the greenery of Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Need a break from Glasgow’s urban hustle? Plan for a stroll among the beautiful greenery of Glasgow Botanic Gardens. With a collection of over 9,000 plants spread across 27 acres, these gardens in Glasgow’s West End are a must-see for nature lovers.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Start exploring Glasgow Botanic Gardens with a stroll along the winding pathways lined with blooming flowers, trees, and shrubs. Step into its glasshouse to discover important national collections of ferns, orchids, and begonias.

Don’t leave the gardens without checking out the star of the show: the iconic Kibble Palace. Completed in 1873, the wrought iron-framed glasshouse houses the national tree fern collection as well as a collection of orchids and carnivorous plants. Wandering around the glasshouse, you’ll also spot a handful of notable sculptures, including King Robert of Sicily by George Henry Paulin and The Sisters of Bethany by John Warrington Wood.

After you’re done exploring, re-fuel with a coffee or tea at the Tearoom At Glasgow Botanic Gardens, the gardens’ on-site cafe.

Catch a flick at the Glasgow Film Theatre

If you’re an avid movie-watcher, you’ll love the Glasgow Film Theatre. Not only does the theatre show the ultimate in world cinematic delights, but contemporary art house films. The theatre is also home to the annual Glasgow Film Festival.

As you relax with a movie, you can also grab a craft beer or a snack from Cafe Cosmo. The café is located inside the theatre itself.

Before you visit, make sure you check online to see what’s playing on the Glasgow Film Theatre’s website. If you’re interested in visiting for the Film Festival, the 2024 Festival will run from February 28th to March 10th.

Watch a show at OVO Hydro

Bands like Belle & Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand, and Travis, and comedic icons like Billy Connelly once called Glasgow home. Performing arts run through this city’s veins. It’s no surprise that one of the most popular things to do in Glasgow is to check out a show at OVO Hydro. Located along the River Clyde, the arena, formerly known as SSE Hydro, is one of the top event venues in the city.

SSE Hydro

A ton of amazing bands & musicians have played at OVO Hydro since its opening in 2013. In recent years, some of the biggest names have included Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Twenty One Pilots, Shawn Mendes, and Keith Urban. Other than famous musicians, several other events take place throughout the year, such as comedy shows and art venues.

There are also a ton of pubs and restaurants close to OVO Hydro. Most lie in Finnieston, an area recently pegged as one of the hippest places to live in Europe. Saunter along Argyle Street and enjoy a pre- or post-show meal at fine-dining restaurants like Six by Nico or The Gannet. End the evening sipping on ale or fine Scotch whiskey in a traditional Scottish pub like The Ben Nevis.

Where to stay for sightseeing

For most travellers, the best area to stay in Glasgow is the city centre. In staying here, you’ll be up close and personal with many of the city’s top points of interest. For destinations further afoot, the main transport hubs of Glasgow—Central Station and Queen Street Station—are also close by. Get your accommodations sorted with these top choices:

  • The Z Hotel Glasgow is a great option if you’re looking for a budget-friendly hotel in the heart of the city. The rooms here are cozy yet comfortable. What really kicks this hotel up a notch, though, are the extra amenities. You’ll love the wine & cheese tasting every evening.
  • Hotel Indigo Glasgow is a sleek & stylish central hotel. It’s the perfect choice for mid-range travellers wanting to add a little flair to their stay. The central train station is also right next door for your day-trippin’ pleasure.
  • Dakota Glasgow is among the top luxury picks in the city centre. This classy 4-star hotel offers chic style and spacious, comfortable rooms. The modern brasserie serves innovative British cuisine & classic cocktails. It’s a fantastic retreat for an evening in.

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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