It’s 6pm on a Sunday and Facebook just showed me a video of a hula hooping junkie on Buchanan Street. I felt a twinge of something akin to homesickness, so I felt inspired to write about some of my favourite things to do in Glasgow.
I have two years worth of student experience living in the city, so there’s going to be a lot of content here. If you know what you came here looking for (and aren’t interested in the rest), use this overview and the search function to narrow down your search:
Cultural: Cathedral, Ashton Lane, University of Glasgow, Gallery of Modern Art
Natural: Necropolis, Botanics, Kelvingrove
Educational: Riverside Museum, Science Museum
Sports: Air Space, ScotKart, Climbing Centre
Entertainment: The Stand, concert venues, Buchanan Street, subcrawl
Clubs: O2 ABC, Light, Bamboo
Food and Drink
Cafés: Tchai-Ovna, Willow Tea Rooms, Once Upon a Tart
Restaurants: Bier Halle, the Dhabba, Nippon Kitchen, Viva Brazil, Bread Meats Bread
Bars: Maggie Mays, Bloc+, Hillhead Bookclub, Home, Brew Dog, Blue Dog
Quick note on transportation: the underground consists of two circles that run in opposite directions and hit up the same stops. It can get you close to wherever you need to go in the inner ish city, which is fairly walkable in the first place. Aside from walking and taking the underground, you can get around using buses, trains, and bikes. You can splurge on a taxi, but I’d rather spend my money elsewhere.
I’m not a religious person, but I think cathedrals are gorgeous. The only photos I have of the cathedral are external shots taken before I started thinking about angles, so I get it if they don’t inspire you to go in for a visit. You’d be missing out, though. The best external view of the cathedral is from the highest point of the Necropolis.
This cosy wee lane is less than a minute’s walk from the Hillhead subway station. It’s full of restaurants, pubs, and bars. There’s even a cinema where you can buy a bottle of wine for your movie, which I think is ace. The fairy lights are turned on at night, which adds even more to the atmosphere. Some of the establishments are cheap (like Vodka Wodka) whereas others are a bit pricier (like Brel). Choose wisely.
University of Glasgow
I’m not a Glasgow student, but I do think the university is beautiful. It’s like Hogwarts, but better, because it exists. You can walk around outside and inside the building, as well as check out the Hunterian Museum, which is near the university gift shop. The trees in the courtyard are pretty and the view from the front is pretty neat.
Gallery of Modern Art
Sometimes I have no idea what a modern art piece is supposed to be about, but even then, I like walking around pretending that I do. If you’re in the same boat and your humour is as dry as mine, I recommend visiting the Gallery of Modern Art with an equally dry friend, pretending to be art critics. Everything can mean something.
This is one of my favourite places in the entire city. I never know how to describe the Necropolis to people without coming across as a bit of a weirdo, because it’s a cemetery, but the City Council kind of treats it like a park. I like to run here because it’s quite hilly. Some people raise their eyebrows at me when I say that because they find it disrespectful, but if I were dead and buried, I wouldn’t have any problem with people running over the designated footpaths near my remains. A funeral procession would make me reroute, but I haven’t come across one yet. Point is, the Necropolis is gorgeous. It’s at its absolute best in the sun and the snow.
I have no photos of the Botanics saved on my laptop, but as you can probably guess, there are lots of plants there. There are two sizeable greenhouses and a lot of (intentional as well as somewhat unintentional) outside plants. It’s a nice place, but it’s quite small compared to some of the other parks (see Kelvingrove), so on sunny days, you can expect it to be packed. Check out the Kelvin Walkway while you’re there.
Kelvingrove is gorgeous in the sunshine. I don’t think I’ve been there on a rainy day yet. That’s not to say it doesn’t rain in Kelvingrove Park, it’s just far enough from where I live that I can’t be bothered to go there if it’s pouring. There are SO MANY DOGS and MOST OF THEM ARE NOT ON LEASHES so I love it. SO. MANY. DOGS. If the sun’s out, you can expect at least three guitars, four shirtless Glaswegians, and two clouds of diffused wacky tobacky. The smelly smell is part of the atmosphere.
Riverside is the home of Glasgow Transport Museum. It was voted European Museum of the Year in 2013 and I can see why. It’s well-curated and the amount of information for each exhibit is pretty decent, not at all overwhelming. Once again, I have no outstanding photos. Let’s blame it on the lighting and my old phone, yeah?
The Science Museum is interactive. It doesn’t focus on one particular branch of science, so even if you have some sort of hatred towards a certain branch, there’s a good chance you won’t hate the Science Museum in its entirety. I brought in three generations of family and all of us had a great time, so chances are you will too.
If you like trampolines, I recommend a trip to Air Space. There are something like ten different trampoline areas with different purposes, so if you find yourself bored during your session, I’m not sure we would get along. I’ve only been there once, but I’m genuinely excited to head back when I’m back on the Continent.
There are multiple go-kart and laser tag venues in Glasgow, but this is the only one I’ve been to so far. The laser tag set-up is pretty good, but I did leave there with a bit of a nose injury because I learned the hard way why the “No Running” rule exists. I ran nose-first into a wall and my nose hurt for a month. I haven’t tried go-karting there, but can you really ever go wrong with go-karts?
If climbing or bouldering is your kind of thing, hit up the Climbing Centre. It’s in an old church near the Ibrox stadium, so I advise against rocking up in a Celtic shirt, especially if you happen to visit on an Old Firm game day. Actually, I recommend you steer clear of all Old Firm merch on a game day.
It took me almost two years to get my ass to the Stand and I wish I’d done it sooner. I went out on a limb and brought a date here – we were both in tears five minutes in. I might have been lucky with the night and the line-up, but I like to think it’s just an amazing place. It’s quite a small place, so if you don’t go on a weekday night, get there early if you want a place to sit. If you don’t want to be the target of hilarious improv, do not sit in the front. If you really don’t want to be the target, do not sit front and center.
O2 Academy / King Tut’s / Barrowlands
There are so many concert venues in Glasgow, I’m not even going to try to list all of them. O2 Academy, King Tut’s, and Barrowlands are some of the best known venues (aside from the Hydro, where the biggest musicians tend to perform). You’ll be able to find a gig pretty much any day of the week and I definitely recommend taking advantage of that. The music scene is varied and brilliant, so there’s something to suit all tastes.
Aside from being a gorgeous shopping street, Buchanan Street is a favourite amongst street performers. Most of them are decent (or better) and their resilience in spite of the weather is commendable. I’ve seen buskers in the snow and I often find myself impressed enough to walk back and spare the pound I was gonna use on Buttons.
The word “subcrawl” is a portmanteau of the terms “subway” and “pub crawl”. You do an entire loop on the underground and get off for a drink at (nearly) every stop. If you don’t have time for a full subcrawl, you can go for a half subcrawl instead. The nicer pubs are north of the river. The cheaper pubs are south of the river. I’ve been on four of these bad boys so far and there are probably a few waiting for me in 2017.
Important: You are not allowed more than two points of contact when travelling on the underground. Most people go for two feet on the ground, but I like to hang from the overhead bars and I’ve witnessed people travelling upside-down by sticking their feet through the very same overhead bars. Be creative.
Note: There are lots of clubs in Glasgow that I’ve never been to because up until February this year, I thought I hated clubbing. I have some catching up to do.
There are different nights on during the week, but I’m a big fan of Propaganda (Friday nights). Rock and cheesy childhood bangers. You can usually get free entry by going onto the Propaganda Facebook page around 8pm Friday night. They sometimes put up a post saying request a tune and tag a friend for free entry – there will usually be at least one request for All Star and one request for Stacy’s Mom.
I’ve only been to Light once and it was after a subcrawl, so it’s a bit hazy. I think the music was decent. The drinks were definitely cheap. It was full of international students because we were there on a Wednesday, which is their ERASMUS night. I seem to recall there being a person doing tricks with a fire stick outside, but now that I see it in writing, that looks like a fake memory if ever there was one. Let’s leave it in there.
Have you ever been to a club and found yourself wishing for a genre change mid-night out? Bamboo is the place to go. There are three rooms with three different genres of music. I’m somewhat certain it’s pop, rock, and R&B. I’ve only been there on Wednesdays, which is the main student night in Glasgow. You always bump into someone you know.
Food and Drink
My flatmate (ex-flatmate, I suppose) discovered this wee bohemian place on Yelp. It’s hidden away next to one of those bookshops with books stacked in huge piles with no distinguishable system. Their teas are amazing and their food is great value for the money. Last time I was there, the cat was about, so if you’re allergic to cats (or just hate them), steer clear. If not, I would definitely recommend a visit.
Willow Tea Rooms
This is a bit of a tourist spot because the Tea Rooms are furnished with Mackintosh chairs and all that, but they make a mean hot chocolate. At this point, I can’t comment on the quality of their coffee (or the coffee in Glasgow generally) because I didn’t start drinking that stuff until I came to Louisiana for my semester abroad. Might do a Caffeine Crawl when I get back. Is that a thing? It sounds like it might kill me.
Once Upon a Tart
Your arteries will be clogged before you even decide on a cake, but it’s worth it. I love baked goods and I adore hot chocolate (with whipped cream and marshmallows, because I’m ten years old on the inside), but I don’t recommend buying both at Once Upon a Tart. You’ll be so full at the end that you won’t want to eat for another week. There’s too much good food in Glasgow to do that to yourself.
Huge selection of beers from around the world, organised by country? Check. Amazing two-for-one pizzas every day of the week? Check. The hoi sin duck pizza is a personal favourite of mine, but I’ve yet to have a pizza I didn’t like from the Bier Halle. If you’re moving to Glasgow, get yourself a loyalty card. 10% off everything.
Glasgow was voted the Curry Capital of the United Kingdom (or as I like to call it, the Divided Kingdom) a couple of years ago. Not sure if it still holds the title, but I’ve had some of the best curries of my life here. That being said, I’ve never been to India, where I have an inkling the curry might be absolutely fantastic. The Dhabba serves up delicious North Indian cuisine and they always have some great deals on, so I recommend checking their website to see how you can get as much food as possible.
Their sister restaurant, the Dakhin, is amazing as well. It’s practically next door. It takes about two minutes two walk between the two restaurants, so if you’d rather have South Indian cuisine, check them out. They have some great deals too, so check out their website. Unless you’re rich. Then it doesn’t really matter, does it?
Sushi is delicious and it tastes even better when I’m not suffering psychologically at the thought of paying a fortune for it. Nippon Kitchen offers good food at decent prices. If you like Japanese food but aren’t keen on sushi, have no fear – Nippon Kitchen has quite a diverse menu. Lots of cocktails as well, although I haven’t tried any.
I’m average at a lot of things, but I excel at finding the cheapest ways to do things. If you turn up at 4.55 pm (Monday to Friday), you can enjoy the full rodizio for £14.95. The noobs who get there at 5.05 pm (still Monday to Friday) have to pay £24.95 to eat the exact same food. You also get a free bottle of wine if you join their e-club.
The concept is simple. You can take as much salad as you want from the salad bar, but the important thing is the meat. The passadors come to your table with a new kind of meat until you decide you’re full (or need a break). All you need to do to indicate that you need a break is to turn the wee circle on your table around. So much food. Oh and their cocktails are amazing. One of them is essentially a liquid Snickers.
Bread Meats Bread
Bread Meats Bread is the greatest thing to happen to Glasgow’s Burger Mile since it came into being. I’ve heard great things about Gourmet Burger Kitchen too, but I’m a BMB girl through and through. The burgers are delicious. The poutine is delicious. The milkshakes are delicious. They recently opened up a second location and hearing about that ranks near the top of the list of my favourite moments of the year.
You can get a rum and coke for £2.50 and that makes my heart happy. Morgan’s Spiced at that, not just Tesco Everyday Value. Lots of bars in Glasgow close at midnight, but Maggie Mays is open until 3am, so if you want to go out but don’t fancy going to a club, I would recommend hitting up this bar on Trongate. Yessir.
I once got a shot of Balkan 176° at Bloc+ and it went to my head so fast, I thought the apple juice chaser was a cocktail. The juice was free because Anne’s an excellent negotiator. Bloc+ is pretty cool. If, for whatever reason, you end up wanting a change of scenery, you can head across the street to the Howlin’ Wolf.
One of my favourite cocktail places in the city. The drinks menu is a bookmark (I may or may not have one in my possession) and you can play table tennis, so I think it’s a great place. I’ve heard a rumour that you can buy food there as well, but I’ve only ever gone to the Bookclub for cocktails, so don’t take my word for it.
Bar Home is the home of cheap drinks, Strathclyde sports societies, and pub quizzes. From Monday to Thursday, selected cocktails are available for £3.25 and if you like cocktails, it’s almost rude not to buy at least one. Their selection of beer is pretty decent as well. It’s a cosy place, but it can get unbelievably busy, so beware.
Brew Dog is a brewery based in Scotland and their beer is pretty decent. If you can’t decide what beer you want, go for their taster. I might be wrong, but I think what you get is four half pints. Their Merchant City bar offers a selection of board games, which is fantastic if you’re keen on developing sudden hatred for all your friends.
Not to be confused with Brew Dog. Blue Dog is a cocktail place that tends to have a live musician or other performer. Once in a while, there’s a magician, which is amazing when you’re drunk and easier to impress. The cocktails are wicked expensive, so I’m not a regular, but it’s a fantastic place to go if you want to treat yourself.
*None of these bars are recommended subcrawl stops.
So there you have it, a list of some things worth doing in Glasgow. There are a lot of other things and places to mention, but I had to stop myself somewhere. It’s an amazing city and there’s always something happening. If you can’t find a gig or a dinner deal, you aren’t looking hard enough. And yes, fried mars bars are real.