When we travel to new destinations, we aren’t simply changing our physical location but stepping into an entirely new culture rich with traditions, foods, music, and history. It can be difficult to fully experience an area without only visiting the most popular tourist locations given the short amount of time spent in any given place.
To immerse yourself in any travel destination, you must approach the place from multiple lenses: what can you do that connects you to geographically significant spaces? How can you better learn local history? How can you tour the architecture, eat local foods, listen to music, watch performances? All of these things fit into the framework of what makes a location special, what makes it somewhere that will leave a more significant impact on your life. The places we visit can change our traditions, add to our weekly meals and our entertainment.
The first destination we’ll explore is the charming city of Glasgow, located in the southern region of Scotland. This city is rich in history and things to do, a true hidden gem of Europe.
Without looking into the history of a location before you visit, you’ll miss a significant lens with which to view it. A city’s past influences the way locals speak, their food, the architecture, and general cultural practices. There are many ways you can explore a place’s history, perhaps most popularly through local museums. Still, you can additionally visit monuments, go on guided walks through an app or with a tour guide, and complete some essential reading before your trip.
Museums in Glasgow
Museums are usually the first activity when trying to learn more about the place you’re visiting. In Glasgow, it’s no different, with a variety of museums open to the public to help you better acquaint yourself with local history. And the best part: Admission is always free!
Kelvingrove Art Museum and Gallery is one of the more popular selections in the area. It has been open to the public for over 100 years, making it a fixture in the community to locals and tourists alike. Boasting a diverse selection of exhibits, from Renaissance art to tracing local history. A beautiful and architectural marvel in its own right, the Kelvingrove Art Museum is an excellent way to begin your immersion into Glasgow’s history. Admission is free.
St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art is aptly named after Glasgow’s patron saint, St. Mungo. This museum sheds light on the artefacts that hold religious significance to the Scottish people, and more specifically, the people of Glasgow. According to the museum website, St Mungo was responsible for bringing Christianity to the Scottish people during the 6th century. While some of the exhibits explore the role faith has played worldwide, some exhibits centre around Scottish faith life.
Scotland Street School Museum offers an intimate look into a century of Scottish education. The museum website shares that the museum was designed in the early 1900s, additionally providing gorgeous views of architecture. You’ll become familiar with what the school system looked like in Scotland in various periods.
People’s Palace shares with visitors the beautiful and intimate history of Glasgow. Shining light on the unique daily practices of those who live and have lived in Glasgow, you’ll have the privilege to view beautiful art, artefacts, and videos that further assist you in your immersion into the lifestyle and culture of this charming city.
Riverside Museum pulls you into the world of transportation and technology. Detailing and displaying the rich history of Scotland’s development of transportation technology, you’ll be transported back in time. You’ll gain a better understanding of the significant role Scotland has played in innovation.
Glasgow Museums Resource Centre is a unique resource for those looking to truly dive into the vast resources housed in Scotland. Serving as part storage for objects that are not on display in other museums, and part rare opportunity to tour things that are not currently available in exhibits. According to their website, you have many options for how you can view these artefacts. The museum provides events and tours that allow the public to experience these hidden gems.
One of the most notable things about Glasgow that contributes to its place as a hidden gem in Europe is the stunning architecture. While other cities in Europe are also known for impressive building designs and quaint winding roads, Glasgow flies below the radar, allowing it to be impacted by high numbers of tourists. Its age additionally affects the skyline as it showcases architecture from multiple styles, including Victorian and Medieval.
People’s Palace and Winter Gardens, while previously mentioned as a museum to visit, must also be recognized for their architectural beauty. This structure, the oldest public space in the city, demonstrates 18th-century structural design with its imposing main building. Its unique gesture is its expansive greenhouse, which dominates the actual palace with its size.
Glasgow Cathedral sits like a jewel in the crown of the city of Glasgow. This medieval cathedral was built in the 1110s, according to their website. One of the last fully intact cathedrals in Scotland, the Glasgow Cathedral, served as a pilgrims’ destination. Enjoy the imposing features that are specific to the period.
The Lighthouse could not be left from the list of Glasgow’s notable architectural features as it is the national centre for architecture and design. The building was commissioned by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, exceptional 19th-century architecture responsible for much of Glasgow’s character through building design. You may walk by The Lighthouse or enter and visit its many art and design exhibits.
The Tenement House provides a look into the architectural styles of 20th century Glasgow. While it looks like most other tenement houses from the period, this specific site captures visitors what Glasgow would have looked like in the late 1800s. Its red sandstone facade is standard for the city and representative of the larger architectural makeup.
The Glasgow Science Center represents modern Glasgow. With its sleek design and nearby Glasgow Tower, this structure stands out amongst the city’s historical architecture, genuinely painting the picture of a place that has maintained its relevance. You can wander around the outside of the building before exploring the fascinating exhibits inside.
An excellent way to experience these beautiful fixtures of the city is through an architectural walking tour. Tours like the Glasgow Architecture Walking Tours allow you to see the city through the eyes of local experts, who will guide you through Glasgow’s streets, offering background information on the various buildings that make up the skyline.
It’s said that one of the best ways to learn about a city is to walk it, which is no chore in a city as lovely as Glasgow.
Life in Glasgow
Perhaps the first thing that people do when visiting a new place is sample the local cuisine. The cuisine of any place tells the story of the people who live there. It can inform us of the geography and agricultural offerings of the area. Glasgow is no different. As the city progresses, it offers a diverse selection of fine dining and more traditional eateries. Scotland’s food, much like its people, is hearty and rich in tradition.
You can undoubtedly explore any of its restaurants that sample cuisines other than Scottish, but here are a few traditional, well-loved restaurants to visit.
Ubiquitous Chip has provided Glasgow with traditional Scottish food since it was founded in 1971. Their carefully cultivated menu will introduce you to delicacies such as their version of haggis, chargrilled venison haunch, and rye bread and butter. They also offer vegetarian versions of most of their menu items.
Cail Bruich offers fine dining that fuses French cuisine with traditional Scottish fare. According to their website, their menu revolves around seasonal ingredients, with great emphasis on them being locally sourced and sustainable.
Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery takes a fixture of Scottish cuisine, The Buttery, and continues its legacy as a local staple. Their menu offers gluten-free and vegetarian options with a hearty nod to popular Scottish foods. Menu items include Smoked Scottish salmon & halibut, Mini Ayrshire Lamb rump and an aged fillet of Scottish beef.
Ardnamurchan is a slightly more laid-back Scottish restaurant, though it maintains a trendy ambience. The restaurant prioritizes ingredients that are local to ensure an authentic Scottish experience. Their modern take on classic dishes will allow you to enjoy delicious foods in a sleek setting.
Glasgow offers various urban activities but is still surrounded by beautiful natural resources. It’s located on the River Clyde and not far from breathtaking hiking trails and countryside to explore. If you’re looking for a day or two outside of the city, you’ll find the hilly scenery a welcome detour.
Loch Lomond is also under a 45-minute drive from the city’s centre. You’ll be able to explore one of the most famous Scottish natural features in an afternoon before returning to town for a meal or perhaps exploring more of the Scottish countryside.
Getting around Glasgow is made easy, whether via public transport, bike, foot or automobile.
The city boasts the 2nd oldest underground metro system in the world (after London). Built in 1896, during the reign of Queen Victoria, the subway has changed little since its inception, asides from being electrified. The zone circles the perimeter of the city and has only a single line, simplifying travel for tourists. Tickets can be purchased at stations for £1.40 for a single and £3.60 for a return.
Glasgow is expanding its cycle lanes in an effort to decarbonise the city. Hire bikes are available for the public at over 150 locations around Greater Glasgow, for a bargain. Standard bicycles are free for the first 30 minutes of use, and cost £1 per hour thereafter. Electric bikes are also available at a cost of £4 per hour. Glasgow wide roads, simple layout, and abundance of cycle lanes offer a pleasant experience for cyclists of all levels to navigate the city.
Not only are the city’s buses cheap — they are everywhere! In Glasgow, you can be assured to wait no longer than 15 minutes at a bus stop, with most bus routes running several fleets at once to cope with demand. However, the low price and high practicability means that a seat is often hard to guarantee — especially at rush hour. It is not uncommon to see buses packed with commuters to the point where there is no more space. The bus network stretches into every crevice of the city, and offers routes to neighbouring towns and cities such as Paisley, East Kilbride and Edinburgh. Buchanan Bus Station — situated in the North of the city centre — is known as ‘the Hub’, from where buses run to every part of Scotland’s central belt.
Final thoughts about traveling to Glasgow, Scotland
Ultimately, exploring a new city takes careful planning. You’re not just booking a stay and seeing a new place but also entering an entire culture rich with historical significance. You have the opportunity to immerse yourself into a way of living that may differ from yours at home, however slightly.
Glasgow is the perfect city to explore if you’re looking for the charms of a European city with medieval roots and modern additions. It boasts all of the beauty that other cities offer, with fewer tourists, making your overall experience more impactful. As Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow gets most of the attention. Yet, the small country has some great gems to discover in its more remote corners.