Last updated on February 14th, 2020
The Out About Scotland complete guide to the Glasgow Science Centre
Category: Exhibition, Science and technology
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families
I rate it: 8 out of 10
About the Glasgow Science Centre
In Glasgow? Got kids? Stuck for things to do? Well, you’ll be pleased to know there’s one popular tourist attraction in the city centre that’s guaranteed to keep youngsters entertained, and it’s a place where mums and dads can join in the fun too.
The Glasgow Science Centre is located in the heart of the city on the banks of the River Clyde – more or less opposite the SECC – and it’s widely regarded as one of the top visitor attractions in Scotland.
This five-star rated attraction aims to inspire families to discover the wonders of science and technology through a series of fun interactive displays and exhibitions, while also helping people of all age groups understand the world around them.
There’s a definite bias towards children at the Glasgow Science Centre but that’s not to say mums and dads won’t enjoy it as well, and the organisers have managed to strike a nice balance between catering to junior members of the family as well as offering enough things to do to keep adults happy at the same time.
There are three main sections to discover as you make your way around the GSC – the Science Mall, the Glasgow Tower and the IMAX cinema, and there’s enough going on that you’ll be kept busy for most of the day which makes the 12-month unlimited entry tickets really good value in my opinion.
In total there are over 250 educational and entertainment exhibits across three floors and it’s a bit of a Doctor Who Tardis in there because it somehow seems much bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside, although that’s probably due to the amazing architectural style of the place – just take a look at the photos on this page to get an idea what I’m talking about.
The GSC is sited next to a canting basin (a harbour where ships used to be turned on their side for hull cleaning) which is why the Science Mall looks like a rolled-over ship, while the futuristic shimmering silver of the domed IMAX 3D screen allows visitors to get a truly immersive cinematic experience.
Access to the site is easy thanks to a handy car park nearby and you’ll be able to buy food, drinks and gifts while you’re inside so you really can spend all day at the attraction. But it’s also central enough that you can walk into the city centre in around half an hour if you want to explore the shops and cafes afterwards.
This is one Glasgow attraction that really does have it all and I think it totally deserves its Visit Scotland five-star award.
Read on to find out more about the Glasgow Science Centre.
Things to do at the Glasgow Science Centre
The GSC is split into three main sections though the majority of the exhibits are located in the main crescent-shaped building in the middle.
The unusual domed building to the side is the IMAX cinema and the tall structure at the rear is the Glasgow Tower.
You can buy separate tickets for the Planetarium/IMAX if you like or you can just get a single entry ticket for the Science Mall but my advice would be to pay extra and get a Science Passport which allows unlimited re-admittance for 12 months. See the GSC tickets page for the latest prices.
The ‘Big Explorer’ is a giant boat situated on the first floor where younger children can get fully involved with science and technology. Budding Elon Musk’s can get their science groove on with an interactive crane, splash around with water wheels, go wild with bubble tubes and get creative in the construction centre.
This part of the Science Centre is very well done and you’ll struggle to find anywhere else that offers such a diverse range of activities. There’s a water exhibit where little ones can discover the properties of water (ponchos included), a special soft play area for babies, a ship’s bridge where they can become a pirate and even drop-in workshops and make-and-take activities. Phew!
The theme running throughout this section is manning a busy cargo ship and children are encouraged to get all hands on deck (though it’s aimed at under-8-year-olds so older children probably won’t find it very interesting), but when I visited I saw a few dads having just as much fun (if not more) than their kids were.
The Science Mall is one of the biggest areas in the Science Centre and is housed in a bright and airy hall that’s absolutely full to the brim with interactive exhibits to prod, poke, spin and jump on.
The mall is split into three sections – forces and energy, logic puzzles and optical illusions – and is primarily designed for over 8’s, though some of the exhibits like those in the puzzle and illusions area are designed for all ages to enjoy.
If you’ve ever been to the Camera Obscura in Edinburgh you’ll have an idea what this part of the GSC is all about so expect to find a series of mind-bending illusions like a room where you can grow and shrink in size and displays where you can see into infinity.
The Glasgow Tower
The Glasgow Tower stands on the banks of the River Clyde behind the Science Mall and is officially the tallest fully rotating freestanding structure in the world.
This marvel of modern engineering is an incredible 127 metres tall and allows visitors panoramic views from a glass-walled lift that takes just over two-and-a-half minutes to reach the top.
It’s certainly worth paying the small additional fee to take the trip to the top because the views across the city are stunning – although don’t even bother if you’re in the least bit worried about heights.
I have to say heights don’t normally bother me, but the ride to the top of the Glasgow Tower left me with that sinking-stomach feeling you get when you climb aboard a rollercoaster.
But at least the tower doesn’t move about like a rollercoaster, although it does rotate.
Take a look at it from the side and you’ll see that it looks just like an aeroplane wing, which is intentional as it can completely rotate in any direction to face into the wind. It’s all very, very impressive and a high point (no pun intended) of a visit to the Glasgow Science centre.
The GSC IMAX features state-of-the-art 3D technology to immerse viewers in fantastic voyages through space and beyond.
The enormous 15-metre dome of the planetarium is the screen against which narrated shows are played, but while they’re very good they don’t last long, although there are occasional IMAX releases to watch in addition to the main planetarium event.
The IMAX shows are educational in content but they’re really enjoyable and differ from the planetarium as they delve into the realms outside of space where you can go on a voyage under the sea or into the remote wilderness of the arctic.
The narration during each show (they rotate shows throughout the day) is genuinely interesting and I’d have no problem returning several times to watch them throughout the year (which is another reason I recommend the 12-month season ticket as it works out at just 50p per week). The only negative I have is that IMAX shows are an additional cost on top of the entrance tickets.
What I liked about this attraction
- It’s great fun, though primarily aimed at children.
- But don’t worry – some activities are suitable for adults too.
- The planetarium is amazing. Pay the extra for tickets – it’s worth it.
My top tips
- Save money at the on-site cafe (which is actually quite reasonable for a visitor attraction) and take packed lunches.
- Mid-week the GSC is full of excitable school tours so bear that in mind if you want a quiet time.
- The tower has been plagued with mechanical problems so check the tower website page for the latest operational updates.
Photos and video
Images © Glasgow Science Centre
Address and map
50 Pacific Quay,
Click the map for directions
Prices and opening times
|Entry tickets||Adult: Ages 16-59||Child: Ages 3-15||Concession: 60+, student, unemployed|
|Science Passport – 12 months unlimited entry to Science Mall||£30.00||£24.00||£24.00|
|Day Entry to Glasgow Science Centre||£11.50 (No donation: £10.45)||£9.50 (No donation: £8.60)||£9.50 (No donation: £8.60)|
|Summer hours: 28th Mar 2020 – 9th Nov 2020||Winter hours: 4th Nov 2019 – 27th Mar 2020|
|Monday||10.00 – 17.00||Closed|
|Tuesday||10.00 – 17.00||Closed|
|Wednesday||10.00 – 17.00||10.00 – 15.00|
|Thursday||10.00 – 17.00||10.00 – 15.00|
|Friday||10.00 – 17.00||10.00 – 15.00|
|Saturday||10.00 – 17.00||10.00 – 17.00|
|Sunday||10.00 – 17.00||10.00 – 17.00|
Telephone: 0141 420 5000
Website: Glasgow Science Centre
Getting there: Bus stop nearby, Car park on-site, Train station nearby.
Getting around: Disabled access, Easy-access paths, Pushchair access, Stairs.
On-site conveniences: Gift shop, Hot drinks, Restaurant/cafe, Snacks, Toilets.