The Out About Scotland complete guide to George Square in Glasgow
Category: Historic building, Historic site, Landmark, Monument
Suitable for ages: 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 7 out of 10
About George Square
If you ever visit Glasgow by train the end of your line will more than likely be Queen Street station in the centre of the city. From here most people will either catch a bus to one of Glasgow’s many tourist attractions or walk around the city square on their way to the shops, totally bypassing one of the most important historic sites in the city.
George Square offers a lot more than a quick selfie in front of one of its statues, and if you stop to appreciate what’s on display you’ll find this sprawling urban space is home to one of the best collections of listed buildings and monuments in Scotland.
The main focal point of the square is the towering Scott Monument in the centre that’s dedicated to Scotland’s greatest wordsmith, while the gleaming white Cenotaph and equally impressive City Chambers lie to the east.
On the western-side you’ll find statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on horseback with the perimeter of the square playing host to a collection of statues of some of the greatest Scots that have ever lived.
But there’s more to this historic site than monuments and old buildings.
As the beating heart of the city, George Square is the venue for many popular events and depending on what time of year you visit you might be lucky enough to attend two of the biggest festivals in the city’s calendar – Glasgow Loves Christmas and Piping Live!
The Christmas event is fantastic and 100% recommended thanks to the mixture of Christmas markets, street-food stalls and themed rides, while the Piping Live! event held annually in August is the destination for the World Pipe Band Championships.
Perhaps the best thing about George Square is that its location is right in the middle of the city’s renowned shops, bars and restaurants so it’s easy to find something to do after you’ve taken in some of Glasgow’s historical highlights.
The Gallery of Modern Art (which you can read about in my Complete Guide to the GOMA) can be found just around the corner on Queen Street less than a 5-minute walk away, while Glasgow Cathedral is less than 20-minutes away on foot. Both attractions are completely free and are well-worth visiting after you’ve explored George Square.
You can discover all you need to know about the cathedral with my Guide to Glasgow Cathedral, but if you want to know more about George Square continue reading the next section.
Things to do in George Square
At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking it won’t take you long to walk around this square, and in all honesty if you’re not interested in history it won’t, but stop and look at each monument and you’ll be surprised how interesting the place actually is.
The square is surrounded on all sides by some of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in Britain but it’s the enormous City Chambers building that’ll first catch your eye as it totally dominates the space.
This enormous building was designed in the Italian Renaissance style and has to be one of the most extravagant buildings in Glasgow.
Take a look inside and you’ll see it’s full of ornate plaster-work and mahogany fittings that might remind you of Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, but don’t let yourself get intimidated by it all because it’s open to the general public for viewing twice daily.
When I visited I just poked my head inside before strolling back out thinking I’d get in trouble – it’s a working civic building after all – but I eventually noticed that you can join tours around the place at 10.30am and 2.30pm Monday to Friday, totally free of charge.
I found the 45-minute tour genuinely interesting and I was blown away by how beautiful some of the rooms are inside – especially the grand banqueting hall which absolutely drips with atmosphere.
My advice is to get your ticket early as they only allow 25 people per tour but all you have to do is ask for a ticket from the reception desk 30-minutes beforehand (unfortunately they don’t let you pre-book them).
Heading back to the square you’ll find yourself facing The Cenotaph which is Glasgow’s monument to the soldiers who died in the First World War.
The centre of this imposing granite monument is a truncated obelisk around 10 metres tall flanked by two lion sculptures that have been keeping guard since being unveiled by Earl Haig in a 1924 ceremony.
The monument is somehow made even more impressive with the City Chambers providing a backdrop, which is probably why so many tourists were taking photos of it when I visited, although just as many were clicking away at the other focal point in George square – The Scott Monument.
Turn 180 degrees from The Cenotaph and you’ll see the statue dedicated to one of Scotland’s greatest writers, Sir Walter Scott.
Scott’s statue stands on top of an 80-foot column in the centre of George Square that’s nowhere near as big as Edinburgh’s Scott Monument (which you can read about in my Guide to the Scott Monument) but is just as historically significant having been erected a full decade before the one in Prince’s Street was unveiled.
If you look around the perimeter of the square you’ll see several other statues of Scotland’s great and good, including the two biggest on its western edge that represent Queen Victoria and Prince Albert riding on horseback.
The other statues are dedicated to influential Scotts who left their mark in the arts, science, and the military, and if you follow the heritage trail you’ll be able to read the plaques under each statue to find out who they are.
But just in case you’re in a bit of a hurry and don’t want to stop to read each inscription I’ll list them below in order from the north-west of the square moving clockwise:
- Robert Peel – 1788-1850. Political figure who reformed British criminal law.
- William Gladstone – 1809-1898. Political figure who served as Prime Minister four times.
- James Oswald – 1779-1853. Politician who was a leading supporter of the Reform Act of 1832.
- Thomas Graham – 1805-1869. Pioneer in the field of chemistry.
- Thomas Campbell – 1777-1844. Scottish poet, historian and political commentator.
- Field Marshall Lord Clyde – 1792-1863. Military commander famed for his win at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.
- Sir John Moore – 1761-1809. British army officer regarded as the greatest trainer of infantrymen in history.
- Robert Burns – 1759-1796. Scotland’s national poet who penned Auld Lang Syne amongst others.
- James Watt – 1736-1819. Inventor and mechanical engineer who designed the first steam engine.
What I liked about this attraction
- There’s a lot of history here – make sure you check out all the monuments and statues
- It’s also a great events venue. Come back at Christmas for the Glasgow Loves Christmas festival
- It’s in the city centre so is easy to have a quick walk around before heading to other Glasgow attractions
My top tips
- Download the George Square Heritage Trail to your phone so you can read about the monuments as you walk around them
- Combine your visit to George Square with the nearby Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art
Photos and video
Address and map
Prices and opening times
George Square is accessible 24/7, 365 days a year.
There is no fee to visit this attraction.
- Telephone: NA
- email: NA
- Website: NA
Getting there: Bus stop nearby, Train station nearby
Getting around: Disabled access, Easy-access paths, Pushchair access
On-site conveniences: Hot drinks, Restaurant or cafe, Snacks, Toilets
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