By Craig Neil
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As the largest city in Scotland, Glasgow is a wonderful destination for tourists.
The city has well over a thousand years of history and is home to many of the finest historic buildings in the country, but it’s also an ultra-modern city with many of Scotland’s best restaurants, bars and nightlife.
Discover everything you need to know about visiting this incredible metropolis in this complete Glasgow tourist information guide which includes details about where to eat, where to stay, transport, the weather, and the best places to go shopping.
How to get to Glasgow
One of the reasons Glasgow is so popular is that it’s easy to get to thanks to excellent transport links both inside the city and on its outskirts.
These buses are ultra-efficient and depart every 10 minutes so you’ll never wait long to catch one, plus they operate 24/7 (except for Christmas Day).
You’ll find them at the airport stance 1 when you arrive and Buchanan Bus Station stance 46 when you depart. They’re reasonably priced at around £20 for a family ticket.
Be aware that Glasgow Airport is enormous (it is, after all, an international travel hub serving more than 30 airlines) and it gets very busy, so the airport buses are more often than not jam-packed.
With that in mind, you might prefer to hire a taxi from the dedicated taxi ranks at the airport entrance or take a train into the city centre from Paisley Gilmour Street station which is around one mile from the terminal.
The other major airport you could use is Glasgow Prestwick (address: Prestwick KA9 2PL) which is quite a bit further out at 32 miles from the city centre but has its own railway station that connects to Glasgow Central Station in just 45 minutes.
Glasgow Prestwick airport has shuttle services to outlying car parks if you’d rather drive, and it also has bus services that connect to the city centre. Check out the Stagecoach website for further details.
Both stations are easily accessible from the city centre and make travelling to the rest of the country an absolute breeze, especially if you intend to combine a visit to Glasgow with Edinburgh as the train journey between them only takes one hour.
If you want to find out more about Scotland’s airports and how to travel between them take a look at: The Complete Guide to Scotland’s Airports or for train travel check out: How to Tour Scotland by Train.
How to travel around Glasgow
Much like Edinburgh’s 18th-century New Town design, Glasgow is built on a grid system which makes it easy to navigate.
There’s an extensive bus network provided by First Bus, and taxis can be hailed from pretty much anywhere in the city centre.
Due to the fact that many of the best tourist attractions are spread across the city I recommend you take advantage of the SPT Subway system which runs in a circle around the most-visited areas. You can then walk to your destination from the nearest station.
The subway – the only one in Scotland – is insanely convenient and takes just 24 minutes to complete a full circuit of its 15 stations.
The carriages are clean, modern, and the tickets are reasonably priced at around £4 for an all-day adult smart card.
As a top tip I recommend heading to the SPT website and downloading a copy of their station map as it will help you visit the city’s attractions and find the most convenient subway stops.
Alternatively, head over to Google Maps as they also list all the SPT stations. Honestly, where would we be nowadays without Google?
Glasgow’s buses, meanwhile, have to contend with jam-packed streets and I’m afraid they’re not a patch on Edinburgh’s beautifully clean Lothian Buses.
That being said, First Buses cover the entire city and you can get an adult day ticket across all city zones for around £5 which makes it a cheap way to go sightseeing.
As far as taxis are concerned they’re by far the easiest option, but also the most expensive. Glasgow Taxis are the official licenced service and they have an amazing website that makes booking an absolute doddle.
They have a fleet of over 800 taxis and operate 24/7, 365 days a year so you’ll always be able to get to your destination no matter what the other types of public transport are doing.
I’ve listed most of this information on my Glasgow Travel Information page so remember to bookmark it so you’ve always got this information to hand.
Where to stay in Glasgow
When it comes to booking hotels in Glasgow, from my own experience I would say it’s much easier than in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh attracts more tourists than Glasgow and it’s a much smaller city, meaning hotels have to be booked well in advance, especially in summer.
Glasgow, on the other hand, is almost twice the size of the capital and is more geared towards being a business hub which in turn means there are more hotels and they’re generally cheaper.
These reasonable prices make Glasgow an attractive option for tourists with an added bonus that there’s no need to search for accommodation on the city outskirts as you often have to do when visiting the capital.
Having stayed in Glasgow many times over the years, I have a few recommendations which I’ll list below along with a selection of others that have good online reviews.
All of these hotels are located within walking distance of the city centre and most offer a decent breakfast, free WiFi, free parking, and disabled access.
Located just 200 yards from Queen Street Station, this hotel caters to travellers on a budget while offering a high level of accommodation.
The hotel serves a continental breakfast each morning and a selection of light meals throughout the day.
Facilities: Non-smoking rooms, facilities for disabled guests, free WiFi, 24-hour front desk, lift, bar.
Point A Hotel Glasgow. Address: 80 Bath Street, Glasgow City Centre, Glasgow, G2 2EN.
This budget chain focuses on offering cheap, clean, and modern rooms at a very affordable price.
Prices tend to be around the same as Travelodge but the rooms are nicer, though maybe a wee bit smaller. This particular hotel is located close to the Royal Concert Hall.
Facilities: Non-smoking rooms, parking, facilities for disabled guests, 24-hour front desk, lift.
ibis budget Glasgow. Address: 2A Springfield Quay, South, Glasgow, G5 8NP.
ibis budget hotels are nicer than their name suggests. The rooms are modern and clean and undeniably cheap, but a wee bit small.
Perhaps most importantly, this hotel is just a 10-minute walk from the city centre.
Facilities: Non-smoking rooms, facilities for disabled guests, WiFi available in all areas, free parking, pets allowed, bar, good breakfast.
ibis Styles Glasgow Central. Address: 116 Waterloo Street Douglas House, Glasgow City Centre, Glasgow, G27DN.
This hotel is located less than a mile from George Square and The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
The rooms are modern and elegantly styled, though not much larger than a Travelodge room. However, they include lots of features such as a smart TV and coffee facilities and there’s a relaxed lounge/restaurant in the foyer.
Facilities: Non-smoking rooms, family rooms, facilities for disabled guests, restaurant, room service, 24-hour front desk, bar, very good breakfast.
Motel One Glasgow. Address: 78-82 Oswald Street , Glasgow City Centre, Glasgow, G1 4PL.
Motel One is a chain that successfully manages to bridge the gap between budget prices and mid-tier quality.
This hotel is conveniently located close to George Square and features a great lounge area.
Facilities: Non-smoking rooms, facilities for disabled guests, free WiFi, pets allowed, 24-hour front desk, bar, good breakfast.
Dakota Glasgow. Address: 179 West Regent Street, Glasgow City Centre, Glasgow, G2 4DP.
The Dakota chain leans towards business travellers which in turn means the rooms are of a very high standard.
Dakota are best known for their executive suites which offer top-tier luxury rooms at mid-range prices. This hotel is located one mile from Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
Facilities: Non-smoking rooms, facilities for disabled guests, restaurant, room service, WiFi available in all areas, parking, tea/coffee maker in all rooms, bar, fabulous breakfast.
One Devonshire Gardens a Hotel Du Vin. Address: One Devonshire Gardens, North West, Glasgow, G12 0UX.
This 5-star boutique hotel in Glasgow’s fashionable west end features luxurious rooms, a well-stocked wine cellar, and a restaurant that sources its meat from the king’s own supplier.
Facilities: Non-smoking rooms, fitness centre, family rooms, facilities for disabled guests, restaurant, room service, tea/coffee maker in all rooms, bar, superb breakfast.
Kimpton – Blythswood Square Hotel. Address: 11 Blythswood Square, Glasgow City Centre, Glasgow, G2 4AD.
The 5-star Kimpton Hotel dates from 1823 and is located in the heart of Glasgow city centre.
Each room features a marble bathroom and hotel guests have access to a swimming pool, fitness centre, spa, and a first-class restaurant.
Facilities: Swimming pool, non-smoking rooms, very good fitness centre, facilities for disabled guests, spa and wellness centre, restaurant, room service, bar, very good breakfast.
Sherbrooke Castle Hotel. Address: 11 Sherbrooke Avenue, South, Glasgow, G41 4PG.
Sherbrooke Castle Hotel is situated a little outside of the city centre but it is the best choice for tourists looking for a peaceful location.
The hotel sports enormous luxury bedrooms, a well-stocked bar, and an à la carte restaurant.
Facilities: Non-smoking rooms, facilities for disabled guests, restaurant, room service, free parking, pets allowed, tea/coffee maker in all rooms, bar, superb breakfast.
If you’re ready to book your Glasgow hotel I recommend using the Travel Supermarket website which lists virtually every hotel in the city at competitive prices you’re unlikely to find elsewhere.
Where to eat in Glasgow
Glasgow takes the crown as the city with the best restaurants in Scotland and it isn’t far behind London when it comes to quality dining, whether it’s ultra-luxurious French cuisine or fragrant dishes from the Orient.
The majority of the top places to eat are located in the city centre where you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice at all price ranges, although even ‘budget’ isn’t that cheap in Glasgow which has seen year-on-year menu price rises.
Still, if you’re a foodie looking to try something new there’s no better place to eat than Glasgow, and the city recently received its first Michelin star at the superb (and expensive) Cail Bruich.
As nice as the finest restaurants are, their prices mean the majority of Glasgow tourists will have their sights set elsewhere, so I’ve included a selection of quality city centre restaurants that have affordable menus in the following list.
Horn Please. Address: 91B, Berkeley Street, G3 7DX.
A contemporary restaurant that serves Indian dishes with a modern twist. The interior is relaxed and inviting and the menu is mouth-watering with a highly-rated selection of cocktails to compliment each dish.
Bread Meats Bread. Address: Horn Please, 91B, Berkeley Street, G3 7DX.
This is probably the best place in Glasgow for burgers, all of which are as up-market and as far-removed from fast-food joints as it’s possible to get. The portions are huge too.
The Finnieston. Address: 1125, Argyle Street, G3 8ND.
This restaurant on Argyle Street has a wonderful old-school charm mixed with a trendy atmosphere that makes it one of the best in the city for couples and young families. The menu is predominantly seafood but there are vegetarian options as well.
Chaakoo Bombay Café. Address: 79, St Vincent Street, G2 5TF.
An ultra-chic dining experience based on 19th-century Iranian cafés and styled to match. The food is mostly meat dishes that are served on small plates that guests are encouraged to share between them.
Six by Nico. Address: 1132, Argyle Street, G3 8TD.
The unique menus of Six by Nico change completely every six weeks, so re-visiting later in the year means you’ll get to experience new tastes and food styles. The decor is relaxed and informal and the food is highly-rated amongst those in the know.
Sugo Pasta. Address: Mitchell Street, G1 3LN.
Sugo Pasta is an Italian restaurant that features the very best dishes from Tuscany, Sicily and Abbruzzo. Obviously, pasta is the name of the game at this restaurant and their freshly-made pasta is widely regarded as the finest in the city.
The Spanish Butcher. Address: 80, Miller Street, G1 1DT.
Merchant City is a famous area of Glasgow that’s home to designer boutiques and gourmet places to eat, including this restaurant which serves dishes inspired by flavours from Spain and the Mediterranean.
Alchemilla. Address: 1126 Argyle St, Glasgow, G3 8TD.
Another Argyle Street favourite, Alchemilla is a feat for the senses with a menu that’s inspired by the Mediterranean. Dishes are presented on small plates that are designed for Tapas-style sharing.
Kimchi Cult. Address: 14 Chancellor Street, G11 5RQ.
This is one of the few Korean-style fast food restaurants in Scotland but it has received acclaim thanks to its reasonably-priced dishes that feature big, bold flavours.
Ox and Finch. Address: 920 Sauchiehall St, Finnieston, Glasgow, G3 7TF.
This is another trendy restaurant, only this time it features a selection of dishes that are predominantly sourced from Scotland. Of particular note is the extensive wine list that offers something to go with any and every meal.
Bilson Eleven. Address: 10 Annfield Place, Dennistoun, Glasgow, G31 2XQ.
A very small, exclusive, and utterly delectable restaurant that prides itself in serving the finest Scottish produce in the city. Reservations are a must and although the prices are high, the quality of food on offer is even higher. This is the place to eat on very special occasions.
The Hanoi Bike Shop. Address: 8 Ruthven Lane, Glasgow, G12 9BG.
Vietnamese restaurant that welcomes visitors to its informal and intimate setting with tables for two, bright plastic stools, and delicious food featuring spicy chicken and seafood dishes served with melt-in-your-mouth noodles.
The Gannet. Address: 1155 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8TB.
The Gannet opened in 2013 to rave reviews thanks to its fine Scottish dining that’s offered at very reasonable prices. The interior is minimalistic and cheery and the food ranges from light seafood dishes to hearty beef platters.
The weather & best time to visit Glasgow
Due to the fact the west coast is close to the Atlantic, you’ll frequently find temperatures are a little bit cooler than the east coast, although because Glasgow is set inland it misses out on many of the downpours that the coastal towns are subjected to.
July and August (according to holidayweather.com) are regarded as the hottest months with average temperatures sitting around 15 °C, while January tends to be the coldest with average temperatures of 3 °C.
Bear in mind these are average temperatures and day-to-day conditions can vary considerably so don’t be surprised to find yourself in blazing high-20s sunshine in summer and below-freezing blizzards in winter.
That being said, you can pretty much guarantee that outside of the summer months you’ll be subjected to quite a few rainy days and unfortunately Glasgow doesn’t fare too well when it comes to getting a good-old-fashioned British downpour.
December and January suffer the worst of the wet weather with an average of 25 rainy days per month and even August gets between 10 and 15 days of rain, so you might want to pack an umbrella if you’re thinking of visiting.
But at least Glasgow gets plenty of summer daylight and you’ll find the sun rising around 5 am and setting at 10 pm, giving you a full 17 hours of light to enjoy.
This is in contrast to winter when the sun rises around 8.30 in the morning and sets around 4 pm, giving you a miserable 7 and a half hours of light which might be worth bearing in mind if you’re thinking of visiting the city in the colder months.
The up-side for visiting Glasgow in winter though, is that there are far fewer tourists which means queues for the top attractions are virtually non-existent and hotel prices are much lower – often half of what you’d expect to pay in summer.
So bearing the weather in mind, which are the best months to visit Glasgow?
Well, to be honest, there is no ‘best’ time to visit Glasgow. Sure, in summer it’s warmer and the days are longer, but most visitors will spend the majority of the day indoors either exploring tourist attractions, dining in restaurants, or relaxing in their hotel.
While the weather might be a consideration if you’re planning to walk everywhere, due to Glasgow’s superb public transport options it’s possible to visit every corner of the city by bus, subway and taxi, meaning you hardly ever have to venture outdoors.
The one caveat that might affect your decision on when to visit is the events and festivals held throughout the year – the TRNSMT music festival and the Glasgow Christmas festival being two examples.
My advice for choosing a time to visit depends on how resilient you are to the cold and whether there are any specific festivals you’d like to see.
For an updated list of upcoming Glasgow events, visit the eventbrite website.
Places to go shopping in Glasgow
Glasgow is well known for its shopping which is – without doubt – the best in Scotland.
While Edinburgh has Princes Street and the newly-opened St. James Quarter, Glasgow shoppers can enjoy the entire city centre which features most of the big-name brands on Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall Street, and Argyle Street.
In addition to the pedestrianized areas there are a number of markets and shopping malls that feature a collection of boutique shops, and the city has become something of a Mecca for bargain hunters thanks to the market stalls that sell everything from designer cosmetics to vintage clothes.
In fact, there are so many places to go shopping in Glasgow it’s difficult to know where to start, so I’ve included an overview of recommended shopping areas below.
intu Braehead. As is the case with most modern out-of-town shopping centres, this one on King’s Inch Road looks like a square glass box from the outside, but inside shoppers can enjoy over 100 large stores in pleasant air-conditioned surroundings.
One thing that differentiates it from the other shopping centres in this list are the number of entertainment venues in addition to its shops, including a trampoline park, a laser tag arena, an indoor ski centre, and a rock-climbing centre amongst others.
Definitely one to keep in mind if you’re travelling with children.
Argyll Arcade. If you’re looking for jewellery there’s only one destination you need to keep in mind while in Glasgow, and that’s Argyll Arcade.
This isn’t the largest shopping centre by a long margin, but there are an incredible 32 jewellers on the site that sell everything from top-end luxury watches to wedding rings and costume jewellery.
Of particular note is the Parisian-style decor of the arcade which dates back to 1827 (making it one of Europe’s oldest shopping arcades).
Buchanan Galleries. This shopping centre is located at the top of Buchanan Street and is recognized as one of the premier shopping destinations in the UK.
Many of Glasgow’s biggest shops are located in Buchanan Galleries including John Lewis, but there are also lots of smaller independent shops trading under its roof. In total, 80 businesses are located at Buchanan Galleries which include a number of fast food outlets and coffee shops.
Royal Exchange Square. This is a large public square in Glasgow that’s surrounded by restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s best known for its canopy of twinkling lights that are very pretty and make a perfect backdrop to an evening shopping experience.
The Gallery of Modern Art dominates the centre of the square and George Street is just a couple of minutes away, so it’s likely you’ll end up visiting Royal Exchange Square whether you intend to or not.
Glasgow Fort. Glasgow Fort lies outside the city centre but has been included as access to it is supremely easy thanks to plentiful car parking and dedicated bus links from the city centre.
It has been designed to replicate the feel of a modern High Street and is much less crowded than any of the shopping districts in the city centre, making Glasgow Fort the preferred place to shop for locals.
Buchanan Street. This is the busiest and best-known shopping area of Glasgow, primarily because it’s located in the heart of the city centre so is easily stumbled upon by tourists as they make their way between attractions.
Buchanan Street is a pedestrianized street that features most of the big-name brands shoppers have come to expect, and it’s the go-to destination for weekend shoppers thanks to its diverse collection of bars, cafés, and restaurants nestled between the shops.
Merchant Square. Glasgow is chock-a-block full of attractive Edwardian buildings, and Merchant Square is a prime example of them with its sweeping panes of glass and dramatic multi-tiered arches.
You’ll find it just 5 minutes walk from the St. Enoch Centre in Glasgow’s historic Merchant City. A visit is highly recommended as it’s the best place to find independent boutiques and homemade arts and crafts that are a world away from the giant stores you’ll find elsewhere.
One important point to note is that this is the only retail area in Glasgow that has very late-night shopping – with some stores staying open until 3 am!
St. Enoch Centre. This certainly isn’t the prettiest indoor shopping centre in this list but it is one of the largest, featuring more than 100 individual stores retailing everything from fashion and gadgets to food, toys, and books.
The St. Enoch Centre is notable for its enormous glass roof which is the largest glass-enclosed area in Europe and has earned it the nickname ‘the Glasgow greenhouse’.
Princes Square. Chic Princes Square on Buchanan Street was originally built as a 4-storey merchant square in 1841 but was converted into its present use as a stylish shopping mall in 1988 after undergoing a multimillion-pound refurbishment.
This is best known as a fashion and jewellery mall but it also hosts a cinema and a number of quality restaurants and cafés.
The Barras Market. The Barras Market is probably best known by locals, but if you’re a visiting weekend tourist looking to do something a little different outside of the city centre it’s certainly worth making the 10-minute journey to Gallowgate.
Once there, you’ll find a large traditional marketplace full of outdoor stalls that sell everything you can think of, from handmade ornaments to vintage fashion and domestic appliances.
Barras Market has a great atmosphere and it’s worth visiting just for the delicious – but very unhealthy – food stalls that you won’t find elsewhere in the city centre.
Glasgow tourist information articles
360° Virtual Tours of Attractions in Glasgow – This article includes a compilation of the virtual tours included in the Out About Scotland Glasgow tourist attraction guides. See the city like never before with detailed 360° photos you can view from any angle.
30 Interesting Facts About Glasgow – Discover surprising facts about Glasgow that will help you gain a better understanding of the city’s history and culture.
Things To Do in Glasgow in a Weekend – Find out how to make the best of your time on a weekend visit to Glasgow with this guide which features all the top attractions to see over two days.
Glasgow Travel Information – Find a concise overview of Glasgow’s bus, subway, and taxi services in this article.
Scotland’s Airports – The Ultimate Guide – Plan your visit to Glasgow with this article which details where Scotland’s main airports are, their facilities, and their transfer options.
How to Tour Scotland by Train – The Ultimate Guide – Visiting Glasgow by train? Learn everything you need to know about rail travel in Scotland with this ultimate guide that includes information about the main lines, rail cards, and ways to save money on tickets.
Visit Scotland – Visit Scotland is Scotland’s official tourism promoter. Their website includes lots of ideas for things to do in Glasgow and offers suggestions for weekend itineraries and sightseeing tips for first-time visitors.
People Make Glasgow – The official website for Glasgow tourism. The People Make Glasgow site features tips and advice for getting around the city as well as suggestions for places to eat and things to see and do – whether you’re visiting on a day trip or have your bags packed for a longer stay.
Glasgow Life – The Glasgow Life website is an information resource that helps visitors discover the city’s museums, arts and music venues, and upcoming events from sports to theatre.