The ever-popular Glasgow Botanic Gardens are a green oasis of plant life from across the globe located right in the heart of the city on Great Western Road.
There are several attractions in the gardens including a Victorian glasshouse, a large tropical greenhouse, a café, lawns, and a maze of paths through trees and flowerbeds. Discover everything you need to know about the Glasgow Botanic Gardens with this visitor guide.
|Address:||Great Western Road,|
|Opening Hours:||Grounds 7 am - dusk (all year)|
Glasshouses: Summer 10 am - 6 pm, Winter 10 am - 4 pm
|Contact:||0141 276 1614|
|Facilities:||Cafe, shop, toilets, disabled access|
If you’ve ever visited Glasgow you’ll know there are a huge number of tourist attractions to enjoy, most of which are free and most of which are either in or surrounding the centre of Scotland’s biggest city.
While these attractions are generally very good, if you’re looking for a scenic place to relax you’ll know that you’re limited in choices.
Thankfully there’s another attraction near the city centre that offers a chance to enjoy nature, and that attraction is the Glasgow Botanic Gardens.
Like Edinburgh’s RBGE, Glasgow’s gardens showcase a huge variety of plants from across the globe and amongst the immaculately manicured lawns and flower beds you’ll find collections of herbs, tropical ferns, ornamental plants and ponds, all surrounded by hundreds of trees in a setting that begs to be explored.
The highlight of this attraction is the magnificent glasshouse that dominates the entrance, and it’s there in Kibble Palace where you’ll find a variety of ferns, ornate statues and water features.
The wrought-iron framed glasshouse underwent a £7 million restoration in the mid-2000s to prolong the life of the plants inside it – some of which have lived in the 19th-century structure for over 120 years – so it’s no surprise that Glasgow Botanic Gardens has been awarded a coveted Green Flag Award.
The gardens really are a first-class attraction and they’re highly recommended if you want to get away from the usual museums and shopping malls that feature in so many sightseeing itineraries.
1: The gardens are incredibly diverse and they’re big enough that you can spend a good couple of hours exploring them.
2: The glasshouses are impressive, especially Kibble Palace with its grand wrought iron vaulted roof.
3: Both the gardens and glasshouses are free to visit, but then most attractions in Glasgow are free so you can have a very enjoyable day out for next to no cost.
1: If you fancy visiting somewhere a bit different after you’ve explored the botanic gardens walk a half-hour south and take a look at the University of Glasgow.
2: The gardens are quite a walk from the city centre (45 minutes to George Square) so take the bus instead (number 6 simpliCITY towards Anniesland).
3: After food? There’s a café near the main entrance and there are several picnic benches in the grounds.
While Glasgow is best known for its museums, theatres, shopping and nightlife, the botanic gardens offer an experience that’s a world away from anything else in the city centre.
The gardens are laid in an informal style with meandering paths zig-zagging their way through each section and there are plenty of quiet lawn areas that are perfect for sitting down with a picnic on those rare days when it’s sunny (yes, we do get sun in Glasgow…).
When it’s raining you can escape into two large glasshouses, the first of which – the previously mentioned Kibble Palace – is an iron and glass Victorian masterpiece that’s worth exploring whatever the skies are doing.
It’s surprisingly big inside and very airy, and with so many ferns on display it feels like you’re in the middle of a tropical paradise even though there’s a glass roof towering overhead.
Also inside is a giant pool of tropical fish and a mini-maze of plants, so you should be kept well-occupied for at least an hour before heading back outside to investigate the rest of the gardens.
The second, much newer steel-framed glasshouse isn’t anywhere near as pretty to look at but it houses a surprising amount of rare and beautiful flowers as well as a tropical pond and a copse of exotic trees.
The rest of the site covers quite a large area between Great Western Road and the River Kelvin and there are benches dotted about if you want to just sit down and enjoy the plant life.
If you’re after a cuppa and a slice of cake (really, really good cake), you can always head over to the former Curator’s house near Kibble Palace which has been turned into a first-rate tearoom.
Away from those main areas you’ll find a maze of tarmacked paths that allow access for all abilities and it’s just a short walk across a bridge at the rear of the gardens to join the Kelvin Walkway.
From there you can take a stroll to Kelvingrove Park and the amazing Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum or you can cross back over the River Kelvin to explore the stunning University of Glasgow and the Hunterian Museum.
Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens celebrated their 200-year anniversary in 2017 – which is quite an achievement – although they’re quite different today from when they were founded by Thomas Hopkirk all the way back in 1817.
Hopkirk – a distinguished botanist – originally created the gardens on an 8-acre site at the western end of Sauchiehall Street with the aim of providing the city university with plants for medicinal and botanical classes.
As the gardens flourished and new varieties were donated the number of plant collections quickly grew from their initial 3,000 to an impressive 12,000 specimens, and in 1839 it was decided to move the entire garden to a new site on the banks of the River Kelvin.
The Royal Botanic Institution of Glasgow opened the gardens to the general public in 1842 (with an entrance fee of one penny) and they’ve been enjoyed by the public ever since.
The last major addition to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens was the installation of Kibble Palace which had originally been used as a private conservatory but was moved to its present location in 1873 where it was used as a concert hall until being converted to house the national collection of tree ferns in 1879.
Discover more places to visit in Glasgow with: The Best Places to Visit in Glasgow – Ultimate Visitor Guide.
Things to do
Explore the Kibble Palace: The Kibble Palace is a magnificent glasshouse filled with a unique collection of tropical plants and ferns. This Victorian-era marvel features an intricate ironwork structure where you can marvel at the beauty of plants from around the world.
Participate in a Guided Tour: Join an informative guided tour that delves into the history and horticulture of the gardens. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours provide a deeper insight into the plant species and their origins.
Visit the Herb Garden: The Herb Garden is a fascinating place to learn about the various uses of plants in medicine, cooking, and beauty. Discover the different aromas, textures, and colours of herbs that have been used in cooking and traditional therapies for hundreds of years.
Attend a Seasonal Event: The Glasgow Botanic Gardens frequently hosts seasonal events like flower shows, Christmas fairs, and Halloween trails. These events often feature local artisans, food vendors, and activities for children, providing a day of fun for the whole family.
Enjoy a Picnic: With a variety of manicured lawns and scenic spots by the River Kelvin, Glasgow Botanic Gardens offer plenty of places for a picnic. Enjoy a relaxing lunch surrounded by the soothing sounds of bird songs and rustling leaves.
Establishment: The Glasgow Botanic Gardens were established in 1817, making them over 200 years old. Initially, they were used for academic pursuits by the University of Glasgow.
Kibble Palace: One of the Garden’s most distinctive features is the Kibble Palace, a large glasshouse named after John Kibble, who donated it. Completed in 1873, it houses the national collection of tree ferns as well as other tropical plants.
Giant Greenhouse. The Kibble Palace covers an impressive 2,137 square metres. The entire structure is constructed from wrought iron and glass.
Library: The garden features one of Britain’s largest research libraries dedicated to plants. In total, it contains over 2,300 books as well as a collection of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine which started its run in 1787.
Rare and Exotic Plant Collections: The Gardens are home to many rare and exotic plant species from around the world. These include orchids, begonias, and carnivorous plants.
Tea Room: The Gardens have a Victorian-style tea room which is set inside the original head gardener’s house.
Things to do nearby
Kelvingrove Park. 6 Professors’ Square, Glasgow G3 6BY. 17-minute walk.
One of the oldest public parks in Scotland. Kelvingrove Park features a collection of memorials, walking paths, sports areas, the River Kelvin and Kelvingrove Museum.
The Kelvin Walkway. A 1-minute walk from the bridge over the River Kelvin behind the gardens.
A footpath that runs for 9 miles from Milngavie to the Glasgow Heliport. The walkway closely follows the River Kelvin and is a popular recreational place for cyclists and joggers.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8AG. 23-minute walk.
One of Scotland’s most-visited museums, Kelvingrove offers a diverse range of exhibits from across the globe. The museum is situated near the west end of the 84-acre Kelvingrove Park. Entry is free.
The Hunterian Museum. University of Glasgow, 82 Hillhead St, Glasgow G12 8QQ. 14-minute walk.
A free-to-enter museum located inside The University of Glasgow. The museum displays artefacts from many areas of study including zoology, medicine and history.
The University of Glasgow. Glasgow G12 8QQ. 13-minute walk.
The university offers guided tours for those wanting to explore the 550-year-old Gothic-style architecture. Visitors can walk around the university at their leisure but are not allowed inside the educational areas other than the Hunterian Museum, the Zoology Museum, the Hunterian Art Gallery and the Mackintosh House. There is a gift shop and a café on site.
Frequently asked questions
How do I get to Glasgow Botanic Gardens?
Address: 730 Great Western Rd, Glasgow, G12 0UE
Directions map: Google Maps
Are Glasgow Botanic Gardens free?
There is no fee to visit Glasgow Botanic Gardens.
When did the Glasgow Botanic Gardens open?
The Glasgow Botanic Gardens opened in their current location in 1842. The Botanic Gardens were originally founded in 1817 and were located at Sandyford at the western end of Sauchiehall Street.
Is there parking at Glasgow Botanic Gardens?
There is no parking within the grounds of Glasgow Botanic gardens. The nearest car parking can be found at Queen Margaret Drive, immediately opposite the entrance.