Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is the highlight of Kelvingrove Park, the 84-acre green area in the centre of the city. The museum features a vast number of exhibits sourced from around the world. Entry is free.
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Review of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Situated in the centre of Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is the focal point of the beautiful Kelvingrove Park, the 84-acre green area that was created in 1852 as a place of recreation for the city’s residents.
The constantly changing exhibitions of this museum and art gallery are displayed across multiple sections and visitors can enjoy displays that cover themes from modern art, the animal kingdom, ancient Egypt, Scottish heritage and everything in-between.
The art galleries are renowned for being some of the best in Europe (which goes some way to explaining why the attraction has one of the highest visitor numbers in Scotland), with the French and Dutch galleries containing works that have international significance.
But there’s plenty of home-grown masterpieces to look at too thanks to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Glasgow Boys, and Scottish colourist galleries.
The Mackintosh gallery, in particular, is extremely well done and features reconstructed rooms with furniture and fittings from the original early-1900s Mackintosh-designed Ingram Street tearooms.
The attention to detail throughout Kelvingrove is incredible, much like another favourite Glasgow Museum The Hunterian (which you can read about in The Complete Guide to The Hunterian Museum).
But while the Hunterian is quite a small space, Kelvingrove is absolutely enormous and you’ll find a mind-boggling number of things to see during your visit, from the Floating Heads art installation in the East court to the restored RAF Spitfire in the West Court.
In fact, there’s so much to see at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum that I reckon it’s practically impossible to get bored there – even if you’re not really interested in art and history.
A visit to Kelvingrove makes for a great day out whether you’re on your own, exploring as a couple, or just looking for somewhere to keep the kids occupied for a few hours. And best of all – like all the top museums in Glasgow – it’s completely free!
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Things to do at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
This stunning building has been entrancing Glasgow’s visitors for over 115 years since opening in 1901 and from the very first moment that people step foot onto the marble floor of the central hall they’re captivated by the diversity of the exhibits on display.
Inside the museum are over 9,000 artefacts and paintings which depict every aspect of human knowledge, from wildlife to art and literature, and all the way through to Glasgow’s industrial past.
Designed to be informative as well as entertaining, Kelvingrove has gained a reputation for being one of the best places in Glasgow for family days out, with the bonus being there’s absolutely no fee to get in just like the almost-as-popular Riverside Museum and Tall Ship.
As part of a major restoration project the museum was extensively renovated over three years and was re-opened in 2006 with the exhibits organised into two halves; Life and Expression.
The Life galleries represent natural history, human history and prehistory while the Expression galleries include the fine art collections. Both themes are staged across 22 state-of-the-art galleries which are large enough to easily take up the majority of your day.
In addition to the permanent displays you’ll find a constantly changing collection of temporary exhibitions that cover subjects ranging from Leonardo Da Vinci to early life on earth and there are frequent talks by some of Britain’s top experts in the fields of art and science.
Most of the talks are free and many of them are aimed at kids, so if you’re trying to encourage an interest in either of these topics you won’t go far wrong by taking them to Kelvingrove.
As far as the art collection goes, Kelvingrove is second only to the galleries of London for the number of visitors it draws annually, with many coming to view the great art collection which is arguably one of the best in Europe.
Here you’ll find masterpieces from Rembrandt, Renoir, Salvador Dali and others alongside antiquities from ancient Egypt and more modern works from the celebrated Glasgow designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
There’s also a pretty good restaurant and café on-site if you’re feeling a little peckish after absorbing all that history and culture and there’s a decent shop if you’re after a memento of your visit.
And on top of all that the museum and gallery building is located right in the heart of Kelvingrove Park which has a whole host of outdoor activities to enjoy if you’re itching to get outside after wandering around indoors all day.
The park is enormous and has been optimized for fun and relaxation with five bowling greens, four tennis courts, three kids play areas, an orienteering course and two cafés (which I imagine you’ll be needing after getting involved with that lot).
All in all, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – and Kelvingrove Park – is a must-see visitor attraction if you’re planning to spend any time in Glasgow.
Because the museum is so central it’s easy to use it as a reference point to explore the rest of the city so after your visit read my Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Glasgow for further inspiration.
- Like most museums in Scotland, Kelvingrove is completely free to visit.
- There’s an incredible amount of things to see and do which makes a visit there a top family day out.
- Whether you have got an interest in science or natural history you’re bound to be entertained in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
- Take a walk around Kelvingrove Park after you’ve visited the museum. The park is massive and makes a good place to unwind from the busy city.
- Kelvingrove Museum is also close to the Hunterian Museum which is a bit of a hidden gem in the grounds of the city university.
- The on-site café is good but there are loads of cheaper alternatives in Argyle Street outside the museum.
Kelvingrove is centrally located in Glasgow so just follow the tourist information signs that point towards Kelvingrove Park.
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Things to do near Kelvingrove Museum
- The Hunterian Museum. University of Glasgow, 82 Hillhead St, Glasgow G12 8QQ. 12-minute walk. A free-to-enter museum located inside The University of Glasgow. The museum features display cases and artefacts from many areas of study including zoology, medicine and history.
- The Riverside Museum of Transport. 100 Pointhouse Rd, Govan, Glasgow G3 8RS. 17-minute walk. A modern museum that explores the history of transport with interactive displays and one of the largest collections of rare cars, trains and motorbikes in Scotland. Entry is free.
- The Tall Ship. 150 Pointhouse Rd, Stobcross Rd, Govan, Glasgow G3 8RS. 18-minute walk. Located next to the Transport Museum on the bank of the River Clyde. The Tall Ship is a fully restored Victorian sailing ship that allows visitors to explore the historic vessel from bow to stern. There is a café and gift shop inside. Entry is free.
- Glasgow Botanic Gardens. 730 Great Western Rd, Glasgow G12 0UE. 21-minute walk. 27-acre botanic garden in the heart of Glasgow. The gardens are acclaimed for the Victorian cast-iron glasshouse, Kibble Palace. Entry is free.
- Kelvingrove Park. Glasgow G3 6BY. 1-minute walk. Expansive recreational park in the centre of Glasgow that is famed for its monuments and statues. There are footpaths that follow the River Kelvin, a lawn bowls and tennis centre, a children’s play park, a café and the Kelvingrove Museum which is located on the south-west corner of the park.
More places to visit in Glasgow
- 360° Virtual Tours of Attractions in GlasgowThere’s a lot to like about Glasgow. Not only is it Scotland’s largest city but it’s also the country’s cultural hub, with a dizzying number of world-class art galleries, museums, theatres and music venues. Discover the best places to visit in Glasgow in this article which includes an overview of the top attractions alongside high-definition 360° photographs.
- The Glasgow Science Centre: Complete Visitor GuideThe 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.
- Glasgow Green – Glasgow: Complete Visitor GuideGlasgow is well known for the number of inner-city green spaces it has compared to other British cities and in fact it’s second only to Edinburgh for its parks, gardens and other outdoor areas that allow its residents to enjoy the great outdoors.
- The Hunterian Museum – Glasgow: Complete Visitor GuideWhen you hear the words ‘Museum’ and ‘Glasgow’ I bet the first place that pops into your head is the fantastic Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Kelvingrove Park (click the links to read my guides to both attractions).