Glasgow is an ex-industrial city reviving itself as an art and tech hub that gives it a “city on the move” feeling to it.
A busy and growing city with a university, I really loved traveling here. It was a lot different than I expected and I had a lot of fun. With plenty of parks, walking trails, historical monuments, outdoor tours, and museums, there is plenty to do here for practically nothing (it’s a cheap city to visit). I loved the vibe here and seeing the rebirth of the city. While Edinburgh may be the capital, Glasgow exemplifies the urban soul of Scotland, and shouldn’t be missed!
This travel guide to Glasgow can help you make the most of your visit here (and do so on a budget)!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Glasgow
1. People watch at George Square
2. Relax in Glasgow Green
3. Visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
4. Spend the day at the Loch
5. Visit Glasgow Cathedral
Other Things to See and Do in Glasgow
1. Take a free walking tour
Whenever I arrive in a new city, I like to take a free walking tour. They’re an insightful way to get the lay of the land and learn about the city, its culture, and its history. Glasgow Gander runs tours a few times a week that cover all the major highlights. The tours last 2-3 hours and are free (just be sure to tip your guide at the end).
2. Shop at The Barras Market
The Barras is a weekend market in Glasgow that dates to the 1920s. Its name stems from the Glaswegian word from “barrow” (as in wheelbarrow) as the original market vendors sold their goods from handcarts. The weekend market is held both indoors and outdoors, offering food, clothing, furniture, antiques, and other goods. It can get a little crowded so it’s best to visit in the morning when the crowds are thinner. The market is open Saturday and Sunday from 9:30am-4:30pm while the nearby shops (as in the actual stores in and around the market) are open daily.
3. Visit the University of Glasgow
The university was founded in 1451 and is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world. It played an important role in the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century, boasting famous alumni like economist Adam Smith and James Wilson (one of the Founding Fathers of the US). While you can wander the grounds for free, campus volunteers offer hour-long tours from Tuesday-Saturday that explain the history and architecture of the university. Tours are 10 GBP and need to be booked in advance.
4. Wander through the Gallery of Modern Art
Opened in 1996, this is Scotland’s most-visited art gallery. Personally, modern art is not my cup of tea but this museum does a solid job of making the works accessible and enjoyable. There are paintings, photos, and sculptures from both local and international artists, including works by Andy Warhol. In addition to the permanent exhibition, there are also rotating temporary exhibits so be sure to check the website to see what’s available. Admission is free (but not to the temporary exhibits).
5. See a football match
Glasgow is famous for its love of football (soccer). The city has four professional clubs: Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle, and Queen’s Park (which is the newest club, founded in 2019). There is a persistent rivalry between Celtic and the Rangers, one that locals take seriously so avoid getting involved in any debates if you can (I mean it. Fights break out of this). That being said, the Rangers are actually one of the best football clubs in the world, having won almost 120 trophies. Celtic Park (the stadium where Celtic plays) is the biggest in all of Scotland and a great place to catch a game, though Ibrox Stadium (home of the Rangers) is just as good. Expect to spend around 30 GBP for a ticket.
6. The Scottish Football Museum
If you’re a football/soccer fan, don’t miss this national museum. The museum is home to over 2,000 antiques and memorabilia, including the world’s oldest cap as well as a ticket from the first official international soccer match in 1872. Additionally, the museum houses the world’s oldest national trophy (the Scottish Cup), which dates back to 1873. The museum is located in Hampden Park, one of the city’s football stadiums. You can also take a tour here but, as they are only available on certain days of the week, check their website for updates.
7. Enjoy the nightlife
Glasgow is by far the best place to party in Scotland. With cheap bars and massive clubs, it’s easy to dance the night away here. Make sure to go to a bar before you head to a club (or just buy your own alcohol at a shop beforehand) as the drinks in the clubs are often quite overpriced. Nice ‘N’ Sleezy and The Garage are two Glaswegian nightlife institutions and you’ll have a great time at either. Another fun (and affordable) club is Sub Club. Keep in mind that most clubs don’t open until 11pm and close at 3am.
8. Have fun at the Glasgow Science Center
Opened in 2001, this is one of the most popular attractions in the city. There are tons of fun and educational exhibits here for adults and children alike. Their BodyWorks exhibit lets you perform a virtual autopsy and there is a giant hamster wheel that teaches you about energy and how it’s burned. They also have a space exhibit, a planetarium, an adult lecture series, and an IMAX theater. Tickets are 11.50 GBP (IMAX and planetarium not included).
9. Spend the day at Linn Park
Spanning over 200 acres, Linn Park is a beautiful and scenic park that offers visitors a chance to relax and stroll along the Cart River. It’s a perfect place in the summertime to have a picnic, go for a jog, or spend some time reading. There are a few play areas in the park for children as well. Additionally, you’ll also find the ruins of Cathcart Castle (which dates to the 15th century), a golf course, and an orienteering course here.
Glasgow Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Most 8-bed dorm rooms in Edinburgh cost between 20-25 GBP, though prices rise a few pounds in the summer and drop a few in the winter (you can find dorms for as little as 15 GBP in the winter). Free Wi-Fi and lockers are standard and most hostels also have self-catering facilities. Free breakfast is not available from any of the hostels in the city. Private rooms in a hostel cost between 40-60 GBP per night.
Budget hotel prices – For a budget two-star hotel, prices start at around 50 GBP per night. These usually include free Wi-Fi (though there are not many two-star hotels in the city so be sure to book early). Most budget hotels also include breakfast. A three-star hotel with free breakfast costs around 90 GBP per night.
Airbnb is a budget-friendly option in Glasgow with prices for entire homes/apartments starting at 50 GBP per night. For a private room, expect to pay at least 20 GBP per night. Most offerings tend to be a bit out of the downtown area so expect to pay more if you want something in the heart of the city.
Camping is available outside the city, specifically out in the nearby national park. Expect to pay around 17 GBP per night for a basic plot (a flat space for a tent, usually without electricity). Just keep in mind most campgrounds close for the winter so availability is limited come late October/early November. If you’re in a car or campervan, you can use the app ‘park4night’ to find paid overnight parking, free overnight parking, and available campgrounds.
Food – Scottish meals are hearty, heavy, and filling. They are also delicious. Expect to pay around 12 GBP for a basic meal (like a Scottish breakfast or a hearty meal of haggis). For pub food like fish and chips or a filled roll (traditionally filled with meat and vegetables), prices are usually between 5-10 GBP. If you’re looking for fast food (think McDonald’s), expect a basic meal to cost around 5.50 GBP. For a full three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant, prices begin around 25 GBP.
Beer at the bar is 4 GBP (though you can find them for half that price if you buy them at the store).
For a week’s worth of groceries, you should expect to pay between 40-60 GBP depending on your diet. This covers basic staples like pasta, vegetables, and some meat. If your accommodation includes free breakfast you can cut this down significantly.
Backpacking Glasgow Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget, you can visit Glasgow for 48-58 GBP ($60-75 USD) per day. On this budget, you’ll be staying in a dorm room or camping, cooking most of your meals, drinking only during happy hours, and using public transportation. Additionally, you’ll stick to mostly free activities like hiking, free walking tours, and free museums. If you’re on a tighter budget, you can lower this by Couchsurfing and limiting your drinking.
On a mid-range budget of about 95-125 GBP ($120-160 USD), you’ll be able to stay in a budget hotel or private hostel room, eat out at cheap local restaurants, do more paid activities (such as visiting the Science Center or watching a football match), take paid tours, or rent a campervan to explore outside the city. In short, you’ll have the flexibility to do what you want on this budget. You’re not going to live large but you’ll be able to get by without worrying too much about your daily spending.
On a luxury budget of 210 GBP ($270 USD), you can stay in a 4-star hotel, eat out for every meal at mid-range restaurants, drink what you want, take taxis or Uber, and visit as many paid museums and attractions as you’d like. You can also afford to rent a car or van to take a day trip out to the nearby national park. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. You can easily spend more if you really want to splash out!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Glasgow Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Like the rest of the UK, Glasgow is an expensive city. It’s less expensive than Edinburgh but visiting here will still cost a pretty pound! However, if you can cook your own meals, Couchsurf, and cut back on your drinking (or at least buy your drinks at the shop instead of the bar) you’ll be able to save some money. On top of that, here are more tips to help you stay on budget during your trip:
- Visit the free museums – Glasgow offers free entrance for most of its museums. You can easily spend half a day wandering through and admiring the great Scottish artists and never pay a thing. Free attractions in the city include the Gallery of Modern Art, the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow Cathedral, and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
- Visit the West End – This bustling area of Glasgow is filled with bohemian shops and restaurants and great chances to people watch. The places here tend to be cheaper than in other parts of the city.
- Eat in the pub – The best food in the city is often in the pubs. You’ll pay a fraction of the price than you would in a proper restaurant too. Also, pubs generally give you a true taste of Scottish culture. Scotland is pub-land.
- Picnic in the park – There are many parks in Glasgow, and almost all are free to enter. Take advantage of this free outing – bring your lunch and admire the lakes, rivers, and nearby castles.
- Couchsurf – The best way to save money on accommodation in Glasgow is to stay with a local for free. Not only will you save money but you’ll get local insight into the city. This is the best way to get off the tourist trail and learn more about Glasgow and its hidden gems.
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is sometimes cheaper than taxis and is the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. The Uber Pool option is where can you share a ride to get even better savings (though you can get your own car too). You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
- Cook your own meals – Eating out in Glasgow is expensive — even if you’re just eating at the pubs. To save money, cook your own meals. Basic staples here are affordable and you can save a lot of money cooking your own food.
- Rent a campervan – If you’re planning to get out of the city, rent a camper van. You can get them for as little as 20-30 GBP per day and they come with basic self-catering facilities so you can cook your food and have somewhere cheap to stay. There are lots of free places to park around the country. Just use the app park4night to find them.
- Use BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing app you can use to travel in between cities. It’s faster than the bus and usually just as cheap. You’ll have to find a ride that fits your schedule, which can sometimes be hit or miss, but the profiles are verified and reviewed so it’s quite safe. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with other locals/travelers.
Where To Stay in Glasgow
Edinburgh has a few hostels and they’re all pretty comfortable and sociable. These are my suggested and recommended places to stay in Glasgow:
How to Get Around Glasgow
Bus – Single-journey bus tickets in Glasgow start at 1.60 GBP and go up depending on the distance. You’ll need exact change so download the First Glasgow bus app if you want to buy tickets online to save the hassle of fumbling with exact change. Day passes cost 4.60 GBP and are non-transferable to the metro system. A week pass costs 17 GBP.
Subway – Glasgow is the only city in the country with a metro system, which is comprised of 15 stations. Tickets start at 1.55 GBP and go up depending on how far you travel. Day tickets costs 3 GBP while a 7-day pass costs 14 GBP. The subway operates from 6:30am-10pm Monday-Saturday and then from 10am-10pm on Sundays.
Taxi – Taxis aren’t cheap here so I would avoid them as much as possible. Rates start at 3 GBP and go up by 2 GBP per kilometer. Stick to public transportation if you’re on a budget unless you don’t have another choice/are splitting the ride with someone.
Gett is the most common platform used for taxis (it’s linked to the Google Maps app so you can use that to get price estimates if you’re comparing modes of transportation). That being said, Glasgow has safe and reliable public transportation so I’d avoid taxis unless you have no other option as the costs add up fast.
RidesharingUber is available in Glasgow, but it’s not always cheaper than taxis and there are usually more taxis available than Ubers. If you’re set on using Uber, leave yourself ample time to find a ride.
Bicycle – Bike rentals start at 1 GBP for 30 minutes. Use Nextbike Glasgow, which has 700 bikes for rent in 70 locations around the city. You can rent a bike via Nextbike’s app or by the on-bike computer. The city is easy to navigate on bike — just remember the traffic flows on the left.
When to Go to Glasgow
Summer is the most popular time to visit Glasgow. In July and August, you’ll get warm weather and minimal rain, with temperatures reaching highs of around 20 C (68 F). This is also the busiest time of the year, so expect crowds in the cities and lots of people out enjoying the nearby national park (Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is just an hour from the city and they get really busy too).
September is a rather wet month, though in October you’ll get incredible fall foliage. October is a great time to visit — especially if you plan on renting a car or camper and heading into the Loch Lomond or the Cairngorms (Scotland’s biggest national park, which is only a couple hours from the city). Seasonal businesses and accommodations in the national parks start to close mid-October so be sure to keep that in mind when planning. Expect October temperatures to sit around 12 C (55 F) during the day.
The spring is a great time to visit, with April and May offering minimal rain and no crowds. There will still be snow and cool temperatures in the highlands, but the city will be lively without being crowded.
Winters in Scotland are cold and dark. December is relatively dry but the temperatures dip to 5 C (41 F). It’s nevertheless a popular time to visit, with many locals and tourists heading to Edinburgh for the huge Hogmanay New Year’s Eve celebration (it’s one of the biggest new year’s festivals in the world) the city doesn’t get too busy.
By February, snow is common so keep that in mind if you plan on renting a vehicle. Unless you’re coming to engage in winter sports, I’d avoid a winter visit unless you don’t mind the grim and grey atmosphere of the country.
How to Stay Safe in Glasgow
Scotland is a perfectly safe country and you won’t need to worry about much while you’re here. In Glasgow, as in all cities, you’ll want to stay vigilant when you’re in crowded tourist areas or on public transportation as that is when pickpockets usually strike. But petty theft is quite rare so you needn’t worry too much.
Keep in mind that traffic flows on the left in Glasgow. If you’re renting a car you’ll want to keep that in mind as most vehicles are manual transmissions and have the gear shift on the left (which is opposite to most other countries). Driving might take some getting used to so drive carefully — especially while going through roundabouts.
If you are hiking nearby (for example, in the nearby Loch Lomond park), make sure you have the appropriate equipment and that you notify your accommodation of your plans just in case.
Glasgow is safe for solo female travelers though women will want to take the standard precautions when traveling alone at night (don’t travel alone intoxicated, keep an eye on your drink, etc.). Taxis at night are safe for solo female travelers, though it’s never a bad idea to share a ride with friends just to be safe.
The water in Glasgow is quite safe to drink here as the country ranks in the top ten when it comes to clean water. You can drink straight from the tap so bring a reusable water bottle with you to save money and lower your environmental impact.
The nightlife here can be a little boisterous so just keep your wits about you if you find yourself out late. Also, football (soccer) rivalries are taken quite seriously here so don’t get into any discussions/arguments with other sports fans if you can help it as they are known to start fights over this topic. As a tourist, you can probably walk back whatever you said by being like “ohh I didn’t know” but if you keep persisting, things can get rough.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Glasgow Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Glasgow. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engine which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Sweden, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It gives you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
Glasgow Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Glasgow Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
A Travellers History of Scotland, by Andrew Fisher
This book paints in broad, sweeping strokes to give you a nuanced overview of Scottish history without getting bogged down in boring details. The country has a turbulent past and Fisher does a great job of bringing it to life, connecting the dots from Scotland’s first people through the Viking incursions all the way to Scotland’s first parliament. If you want to learn about Scotland before you visit, this book will give you a great historical overview.
Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
Known as “the Scottish play,” Macbeth was first performed in the early 1600s and has grown to become one of Shakespeare’s best and most popular plays. It’s also one of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedies and has been adapted many times over throughout the years (the recent film version with Michael Fassbender is worth a watch). The book focuses on the pitfalls of power and the corruption that walks in its shadow. It’s a tricky but powerful read.
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander is one of the most popular book series in the world, having sold over 25 million copies. Written in 1991, the book kicks off a multi-genre story of love and adventure set against the background of 18th-century Scotland. Claire, the main character, is mysteriously transported from post-World War II Europe back in time. Using her skills and wits, she has to find a way to survive while searching for a way back home. The book is also a popular TV series about to release its 5th season.
The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain, by Paul Theroux
This is a classic travelogue written by one of the most competent and talented travel writers in the world. While the book doesn’t focus solely on Scotland, it does help paint a detailed portrait of life in the United Kingdom. You’ll find yourself pulled in by his anecdotes and descriptions and the book will leave you feeling like you’re right there with him as he hops around the country. While dated (the book was written in the 80s), Theroux illuminates the country — warts and all — and brings the island to life with his observations and reflections.
How the Scots Invented the Modern World, by Arthur Herman
Historically, Scotland has been one of the poorest countries in the world yet its impact on modern art, science, writing, and philosophy can’t be understated. This book does a great job of highlighting Scotland’s contributions to modern history. It’s another great historical overview that connects the past with the modern world in an accessible way.
Glasgow Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Scotland and continue planning your trip: