15 Wicked Free Things to do in Glasgow, UK
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All these tips are as authentic as they come because this bonnie list of free things to do in Glasgow, Scotland was written by a local!
Glasgow is a port city, situated in the western lowlands of Scotland, and it’s a beauty of a city – or as Glaswegians would say, “it’s pure stunnin’.”
Famous for its gothic Victorian architecture and old-school ship docks off the River Clyde, Glasgow is a vibrant and artistic city that toes the line beautifully between hopeful youths in underground bars and banter with locals in traditional Scottish pubs. Most importantly, it is bursting with things to do without dipping into your well-earned funds.
In this article I give you the lowdown on the 15 free things to do in Glasgow (plus one extra), combining iconic Glasgow buildings, cultural museums of history and art, and masses of green spaces.
15 Free Activities in Glasgow, Scotland
Marvel at Medieval Glasgow Cathedral
Constructed in the 13th century, Glasgow Cathedral is the oldest building in Glasgow and one of the most spectacular, with its medieval architecture having survived the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century almost entirely intact.
Explore its darker depths and you will find a lower crypt that houses the tomb of St Kentigern, also known as St. Mungo, who appropriately is the city of Glasgow’s patron. No trip to Glasgow would be complete without a wandering trip here.
The cathedral is free to enter 6 days a week and is a lovely wee walk from the city centre.
Explore Tombs at The Necropolis
Next to Glasgow Cathedral and crawling high up on the hill sits Glasgow Necropolis, a magnificent victorian cemetery with over 50,000 people buried there and 3,500 tombs.
It does sound like a rather strange tourist attraction, however, if you’re into history or even a fan of sprawling scenic walks, it offers both with bonnie views over the city. Free guided tours are also available led by the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis volunteers.
The Necropolis is long considered by locals and visitors alike as one of the best free activities in Glasgow, so if you have time to go do not hesitate.
Take a Day Trip to Troon
Troon is a beautiful beach town on the west coast of Scotland, known for good golfing and delicious fish and chips – a personal favourite chipper of mine is the Wee Hurrie, which does the best mackerel around.
Troon is one of the closest beaches to Glasgow, with Troon Beach and Barassie Beach being popular choices for swimming, sunbathing and boating on those rare warm days in western Scotland.
The most charming free family activity to do in Troon is the Fullarton fairytale trail, a forest walk where you can hunt for tiny fairy doors at the bottom of trees.
Glasgow to Troon by car takes roughly 45 minutes, and on an average weekday, there are about 63 trains crossing from Glasgow to Troon in less than an hour, making it a perfect destination for a day trip.
Harry Potter Vibes at The University of Glasgow
Standing tall and sturdy in the swanky West End of Glasgow, the University of Glasgow boasts an impressive heritage as the second oldest university in Scotland and the fourth oldest in the English-speaking world.
The building and the campus have the look and feel of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with many Harry Potter fans around the world making the trip to Glasgow just to see it in the flesh. It is free to roam the university grounds – take a camera with you and make an afternoon of it, it really is magical.
Delve into a Kelvingrove Art Gallery Event
One of Scotland’s most popular museums and distinctive with its grand Edwardian sandstone exterior, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery holds internationally acclaimed art that spans centuries. It holds twenty-two vast collections – we’re talking 8,000 artifacts under its roof – including natural history, armoury, and modern art exhibitions.
Plus, the art gallery frequently hosts live music, talks, and events – which is pretty darn cool. Kelvingrove Art Gallery is free to visit.
Free Glasgow Street Art Tours
Glasgow is an artistically minded city, and you can see it everywhere with splashes of street art spread on rustic walls across the city. You could be popping out of Morrisons in Patrick and spot several incredible murals before you reach your car.
Two of the city’s most regular and loved artists are Smug and Rogue-One, each racking up multiple famous murals across the city centre. Not to mention the city’s very own famous comedian, Billy Connolly, gets pride of place in three different mural styles. Take in the sights on free self-guided tours.
Get Lost in the Lanes off Byres Road
Just a wee walk away from the university and breaking off into alleyways on Byres Road you’ll stumble upon the pretty hidden lanes of Glasgow. These cobblestoned lanes are full of character and come to life at night when they are lit up with hanging lights and people cramming to get into cosy pubs.
By far the most popular is Ashton Lane, which is packed with bars, dinky eateries, and restaurants. It’s always a good time.
City Skyline Views at the Lighthouse
If you are ever stuck for creative inspiration (which is rare in Glasgow), head to the Lighthouse, just around the corner from Glasgow Central station. The Lighthouse was the first public commission of Glasgow architect and innovator Charles Rennie-Mackintosh – what a man!
The Lighthouse building was the original headquarters for the Glasgow Herald newspaper from 1895 to 1980, and now it is a leading centre for innovative design projects, contemporary art and showcasing the work of Rennie-Mackintosh.
Although It’s not an actual lighthouse, if you hop in a lift and climb some stairs, you will reach the Viewing Tower. There you will see views of the city as good as any lighthouse anywhere.
Mozy along The River Clyde
So much can be said on this world-famous river in the heart of Glasgow. The city of Glasgow was built around the River that runs through it. The influence of the River Clyde is seen all over the city and the county of Lanarkshire, from the Clyde tunnel, which crosses beneath the river, to Glasgow port which accelerated trade and manufacturing.
The River Clyde turned Glasgow into an industrial hub where British ships used to dock from overseas territories. Because of the River Clyde, Glasgow became one of the world’s largest shipbuilding centres, with the famous Clydeside shipyards making naval warships just south of the river in Govan, where ships are still built to this very day.
Plus, the notorious pirate William Kedd was allegedly born on the Clyde in the mid-1600s, and the treasure he buried close to there is still to be found. Take a stroll along the windy riverside and you will find there is no better way to get an essence of the city and its history.
Explore the Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel
An award-winning transport museum with an innovatively designed building, the Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel is consistently considered one of the best free activities in Glasgow.
There are over 3,000 items on display, with over 90 interactive screens that let you walk through the streets of Glasgow. You can even climb aboard a tram or bus from the times of old, which is always a fun blast from the past. Take your friends, take your kids, and why not get really into the spirit and take public transport there? Nae bother.
Visit the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)
Situated bang in the centre of Glasgow, the Gallery of Modern Art has an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art from around the world. The museum is particularly notable for showcasing work of local Scottish artists in exhibitions and events, so it’s well worth a visit to see what they have on and brush up on your local knowledge.
Of course, a trip to the GoMA wouldn’t be complete without taking a selfie next to the fine guy sitting on a horse right outside –the Duke of Wellington, usually spotted with an orange traffic cone on his head. The statue has become a much- loved landmark of Glasgow and a symbol of the city’s unique sense of humour.
Pat a Highland Cow at Pollok Country Park
Where can you go to spot some Highland Cows in Glasgow? Look no further than Pollok Park, situated near the popular area of Shawlands. These furry friends, a favourite symbol of Scotland, have a home in the marshy grounds not too far from the park entrance.
Pollok Park is the perfect place to set a blanket down and picnic in the sun or settle in a cosy corner when the rain comes (which happens a lot in Glasgow).
The elegant Victorian tearooms, located along a corridor in the historic Pollok House, are an idyllic place for sipping hot beverages, plus their scones and soups are consistently amazing. Go for a wander about these pretty parklands on Pollok Estate and you’ll stumble upon a small waterfall and an old horse stable – a great way to spend a few hours.
Go Back in Time at The Burrell Collection
Situated in the vast gardens of Pollok Country Park, the Burrell Collection offers a magnificent collection of art pieces and remarkable artefacts from over the world, including Chinese pottery and paintings by renowned artists Manet and Degas.
The collection, gathered by businessman and international art collector Sir William Burrell, is set in tranquil parkland and one the best free things to do in Glasgow. Burrell and his wife donated their collection of 9,000 objects to the city of Glasgow in 1944, and it is this collection that regenerated Glasgow to be a global city of culture and art.
CLOSED: Alas, the Burrell Collection is currently undergoing major refurbishments and is due to re-open in 2021. Worth £66 million, the renovation project will transform the collection to boost Glasgow tourism for the foreseeable future.
Escape to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens
A peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle from the city centre, Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens is free to enter and has lots of quiet corners to relax in and read a book.
The Gardens are extremely well looked after, with lovely flowerbeds, rose gardens and greenhouses full of all sorts of flowers on show. If you’re looking for a tranquil spot to walk the dog, or better yet, to wind down in after a day of sightseeing, the Botanic Gardens should be your first port of call. Go and haste ye back soon, pal.
Glasgow Women’s Library – A Local Treasure
Swiftly becoming one of the most interesting free things to do in Glasgow, the Glasgow Women’s Library always makes for an inspirational and enlightening visit.
The library is the only accredited museum in Scotland dedicated to women’s lives, histories and achievements. It has an extensive library and archive collections and proudly hosts around 200 innovative engagement events across Scotland every year. The library is to free to enter and inclusive to everyone. In its short life so far, it has already become a national treasure to many people.
Spectacular Day Trip to Loch Lomond
‘O ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low-road, and I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye… But me and my true love will never meet again, on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond…’
As the traditional Scottish folklore song suggests, Loch Lomond is engrained in the very heart of Scottish identity and culture. The lake of Loch Lomond is part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, which is a gorgeous area surrounded by oak woodlands, mountains and red deer.
With an abundance of Munros (mountains) to climb, including the popular Ben Lomond (popular with first time Munro climbers), waterfalls to visit and lochs to take a dip in during the summer months, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs is a popular destination from Glasgow for good reason.
You can drive to Loch Lomond from Glasgow in less than an hour, and regular train and bus routes take about an hour and a half. Go when you can and breathe in the fresh air.
Come and Experience Glasgow for Yourself
I hope this guide has given you an idea of how amazing Glasgow is – a city full of life, rich with history, culture and on the top of its foodie game. Best of all, there are so many amazing free things to do in Glasgow.
Come and visit the city soon and experience it for yourself. After all – ‘how kin ye resist?’
Unique Hotels in Glasgow
Where stunning Gothic architecture and impressive nouveau style buildings, there are tons of quirky places to stay in Glasgow.
Rennie Mackintosh Hotel
If you are looking for location, Rennie Macintosh Hotel is where you want to be! 200 meters away from Central Station, this stunning hotel has an interesting heritage.
The Rennie Mackintosh Hotel is one of only two remaining buildings of the old Grahamston Village, dating back from 1680.
For those of you who are interested in architecture, this hotel is named after Charles Rennie Mackintosh himself, the man who invented the Glasgow style. This style is apparent throughout the hotel which sports classic Mackintosh chairs alongside other unique quirks.
Alexander Thomson Hotel
The Alexander Thomson Hotel is situated right in the middle of the city centre within walking distance of the city’s restaurants and bars.
This hotel is another one inspired by a Glaswegian Architect. Alexander “Greek” Thomson is another famous Glaswegian architect famous for several churches and villas scattered around the city with deep architectural routes in Greek, Egyptian and Levantine architecture.
Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens
If you are looking for a location slap bang in the city centre, then this hotel might not be for you. However, we included in our recommendations because Hotel du Vin is situated in Glasgow’s leafy, trendy west end and is a perfect luxury boutique hotel. The ever popular Ashton lane is a short walk away and Hotel du Vin is the perfect base for exploring Glasgow’s West End.
This hotel offers true luxury at very reasonable prices.
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