• A Local’s Ultimate Glasgow Guide

A LOCAL’S ULTIMATE GLASGOW GUIDE

*Fully Updated March 2019*

Although neither Del or I are from Glasgow, we might as well be. It’s the place we consider home, both having moved here at 18 and staying well beyond our student years.

It’s the kind of city that might not seem too attractive at first glance, especially when compared (inevitably) to Scotland’s capital, just an hour away. But somehow it really gets under your skin. You have to dig that little bit deeper to uncover its architectural gems or the best bars and restaurants, and walk that little bit further to find one of the city’s fantastic parks. But one thing you don’t have to look too hard for is a friendly face or chatty local. This is one place where the tourism board really hit the nail on the head with their slogan:
People Make Glasgow.

With the best insider tips and advice in this Ultimate Glasgow Guide, we’re sure you’ll leave with a piece of this city stuck in your heart, just as it is ours.

We’ve put together some awesome walking itineraries, pub crawl routes, a guide to Glasgow’s outstanding music scene and share our absolute favourites when it comes to eating out. We’ve even thrown in a few cracking day trips to explore beyond the city limits.

Whether you’re into history, art, culture, partying, shopping, music or just soaking up the local vibe, we’ve got it covered.

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SEE & DO

Art, History & Culture

Glasgow is well known as a city of design and culture. Some of the best museums and galleries in the country are found here and the rich heritage of Glasgow’s past is evident in the architecture throughout the city. Just remember to look up!

West End

Not Your Average Museum

The grandest museum in the city, heck, the whole country,  is The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It should absolutely be on your must see list. The exterior alone is impressive enough to warrant a visit, but step inside and you’ll discover everything from Egyptian mummies to spitfires, with a sprinkling of Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Dali alongside plenty of Scottish greats. You can hear the magnificent organ during daily recitals at 1:00pm (3:00pm on Sundays) and it sounds amazing booming around the vast interior. Like all public museums in Glasgow, it’s free entry, so there’s no excuse not to go!

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Floating Heads Art Installation inside Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, GlasgowFloating Heads dangling from the ceiling inside the grand Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Architecture & Design

At the opposite end of the architectural spectrum is the (relatively) new Riverside Museum. Designed by Zaha Hadid and sitting on the banks of the River Clyde, next to an impressive tall ship, this museum stands out for all the right reasons.

At its heart, it’s essentially a transport museum, as many of its displays were rehoused here when Glasgow’s Transport Museum closed its doors. But, it also gives a fantastic insight into Glasgow life over the past century or so.

The exhibits are fun, innovatively displayed and often interactive. You can sit inside decommissioned trams, wander down an old cobbled street and step into a local pub or ice cream parlour. Check out Ewan McGregor’s bikes from The Long Way Round/Down, then marvel at the huge collection of quirky cars, bikes, trains, prams and all sorts of other weird and wonderful things. The shop is full of cool stuff too, perfect for souvenir shopping. Again, it’s free entry (although there’s an admission fee for entry to The Tall Ship).

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Looking up at the exterior of the modern Riverside Museum, GlasgowThe modern exterior of the Zaha Hadid designed Riverside Museum


Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Kim standing in the entrance way of the recreated subway station inside the Riverside Museum, GlasgowChecking out the old subway station at the Riverside Museum


Ancient University

Both Del and I went to Glasgow University (although six years apart) and got to appreciate this incredible work of art on a daily basis. The main building is well worth a wander if you’re interested in epic Victorian architecture. Head up the stairs to the open air courtyard and check out the cloisters, one of my favourite spots. Walk through to the flagpole at the back for a great view over the surrounding area.

Glasgow University Cloisters

The atmospheric cloisters at the University of Glasgow 

Glasgow’s Famous Son

While you’re in the vicinity, nip over the road to the Mackintosh House. Charles Rennie Mackintosh is Glasgow’s most celebrated architect, artist and designer, and a personal favourite. His mark has been left across the city, from schools to churches.  Here you can find an exact reassemblage of the main rooms of his family home, and it’s just gorgeous. All the furniture is Mackintosh’s own distinctive design and every room is fascinating. Admission to the house itself is £6 – check here for opening times.

City Centre
(West)

Outstanding Architecture

If you’re on a tight budget or don’t have time to visit, you can check out some of Rennie Mackintosh’s work for free at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum or take a walk past the incredible Glasgow School of Art. Built between 1897-1909, this is one of his masterpieces.

Mackintosh would design every aspect of his work in great detail, from the exterior itself to the furniture and fittings. From the outside you can check out the huge windows, elegant sandstone carvings, intricate wrought iron work and the beautiful lanterns at the entrance. Inside is even more special. However at the time of writing, the building is still under restoration after a fire sadly broke out in 2014 . For now, the daily guided tours (£7 see here for info) take place across the road instead.

*Tragically, a second fire broke out at the GSA in June 2018. The building is still undergoing a huge restoration and tours are not currently running 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Mural

A mural depicting Charles Rennie Mackintosh and some of his most famous motifs. Find it on the Glasgow Mural Trail, marked #9

Tenement Life

One thing I always miss when travelling or living abroad is the unique housing that is prevalent across Glasgow (and many other Scottish cities) – the tenement flat. Everywhere you go, from the city centre to the suburbs, you’ll see these 3 – 4 storey sandstone buildings, often with bay windows and occasionally flaunting beautiful stained glass windows. The ground floor stairwell (or close, as it’s known) is usually a work of art in itself. Gorgeous art nouveau tiles often line the walls, something Glaswegians are traditionally proud of.

I (and almost all my friends) lived in tenement flats and grew to love the high ceilings, the battered old wooden floorboards and the quirks in design like that strange recess in the kitchen (where the kids once slept) or the washing line suspended by pulley from the ceiling. There’s something really comforting about walking into any tenement flat and recognising the same features and layout as your own.

If you want to take a peek inside one of these quintessential Glasgow dwellings, check out The Tenement House. Faithfully restored to its original design, it’s a fascinating glimpse into life in the early 20th century. Many of the features are still found in tenement flats to this day, like the awesome coal-fired kitchen range. One of these still remained in our last flat (not that we used it for cooking!).

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Rainbow over tenement flats, GlasgowThe view out the kitchen window from our last tenement flat

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Sunset and Tenement Skyline, GlasgowSunset from our top floor tenement living room window 


City Centre

Historic Streets

Glasgow’s city centre is well known as one of the best places for shopping in the whole of the UK, but it also boasts some pretty cool architecture and is great for exploring. The history of Glasgow can be traced through its buildings. Many grand establishments are now re-purposed as bars, restaurants or fancy clothing stores. Take a walk through Royal Exchange Square, George Square and down through the Merchant City to the Saltmarket and Tolbooth Steeple and soak it all up. Keep an eye out for the huge murals painted on walls and tenement gable ends all around this area.

Glasgow's Stock Exchange Building, now home to Urban Outfitters storeOnce the Glasgow Stock Exchange Building, now home to Urban Outfitters. Just one of many beautiful Glasgow buildings that have been repurposed over the years. 

Modern Art

The impressive building in the centre of Royal Exchange Square is the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). It’s Glasgow’s main contemporary art gallery and is free to enter. Wander in and check out the cool interior and whatever exhibitions are on.

Glaswegian Icon

In front of the GoMA you’ll find Glasgow’s iconic Duke of Wellington statue, famous not for the man himself, but the orange traffic cone that usually adorns his head. Steamin Weegies* have been scaling the plinth and crowning the man (and sometimes his horse) since the 1980s. Eventually the city council and police gave up their constant battle of coneheid removal and embraced it as a symbol of Glasgow’s unique sense of humour and ‘stick it to the man’ attitude.
*Drunk Glaswegians

The infamous Duke of Wellington Cone Head statue in GlasgowThe cone-headed Duke sitting proudly in front of the GoMA

Unique Vista

Just off Buchanan St, down Mitchell Lane, you’ll find Scotland’s centre for design and architecture, The Lighthouse. With a cracking permanent exhibition dedicated to Charles Rennie Mackintosh (this is an original Rennie Mack building), plus rotating design shows, there’s plenty to explore. Just don’t miss the unique view over Glasgow from the top of the old water tower.

Glasgow Mural Trail - Glasgow Taxi One of the many murals to hunt out on the Glasgow Mural Trail

Subterranean Delights

For an entertaining, informative and sometimes harrowing insight into the city’s past, sign up for the Central Station Tour. It offers a unique glimpse of subterranean Glasgow. Donning high-vis vests and hard hats, you’ll explore the hidden depths of this iconic railway station, while learning about the history of the place and its people.

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A Local's Ultimate Glasgow Guide

City Centre
(East)

To the east of the city centre lies the medieval St Mungo’s Cathedral, and just behind it, the Victorian era Glasgow Necropolis. It’s an atmospheric place, where creeping ivy enshrouds century-old grave stones. The tombs get more elaborate the higher you climb (the best views were saved for the wealthiest of the deceased!). You can join a free walking tour a few times a month – check here for dates and to sign up – or explore by yourself.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Detail of a broken grave stone plaque at Glasgow NecropolisA broken grave stone plaque at Glasgow Necropolis


Ultimate Glasgow Guide: St Mungo's Cathedral, GlasgowSt Mungo’s Cathedral


City Parks & River Walks

Glasgow has some great spots to chill out on a (rare) sunny day, breathe in the fresh air or take a stroll along the river.

The Botanics

The Botanic Gardens in the West End of the city is a popular spot for locals to hang out. It is home to some gorgeous greenhouses, the most impressive being the 19th century Kibble Palace. If it’s a chilly day you’ll soon warm up in the heat and humidity of the glasshouses and if it’s nice out, grab some picnic food from Waitrose across the road and spread out on the grass. Throughout the summer you can catch some unique Shakespeare productions as part of the Bard in the Botanics Festival.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: People sitting on benches outside the glasshouse at the Botanic Gardens on a sunny day, GlasgowLapping up the sunshine at the Botanic Gardens

Riverside Walkway

Flowing past The Botanics and through the West End to the River Clyde is the Kelvin River. It’s a gorgeous spot for a short walk. Head down the steps at the back of The Botanics and follow the river east, emerging in Kelvingrove Park, one of the largest parks in the city, complete with duck pond, impressive statues, fountains and a skate park.

If it’s hot (17° or higher by Scottish standards) then it’s taps aff* all round and expect Bucky Beach* to be jumping with crowds of people, disposable BBQs, sound systems and plenty of (illegal) bottles of Buckfast and tins of Tennent’s.

*’Tops off’
*The large grassy hill in the middle of the park, so called locally because of the copious amounts of Buckfast (or Bucky) that is consumed here on sunny days

Around the City

Other great green spaces in the city are Queen’s Park on the Southside and Glasgow Green in the East End, a short walk from the city centre.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Looking up to an old bridge and church steeple on the Kelvin River Walkway, GlasgowWalking the banks of the Kelvin River

Shopping & Entertainment

Glasgow is the place to shop and up there with Manchester and London as the best in the UK. Buchanan Street is the hub of the city centre. There are loads more shops found in the three-floored Buchanan Galleries at the northern end and the fancy Princes Square to the south (look up to see the awesome metal peacock at the entrance!). Various side streets lead off it, too.

Running perpendicular to Buchanan St is Argyle Street at the southern end, and Sauchiehall St to the north. Both are lined with high street stores, the quality of which seems to lessen the further away from Buchanan St you get. You can find everything from designer stores to high street shops and one-off speciality boutiques.

Diamonds & Pearls

For some epic window shopping, take a walk through the Argyll Arcade. A thoroughfare between Buchanan St and Argyle St dating from 1827, it has over 30 luxury jewellery shops. The entrances are manned by gentlemen in top hats and the chic Parisian design is truly gorgeous. This is the spot to come for diamonds, pearls and ridiculously expensive watches. For many locals (including yours truly), it’s also the place to splash out on that once-in-a-lifetime engagement ring.

Diamond shopping at the Argyll Arcade, GlasgowTake a wander through Argyll Arcade, linking Argyle Street and Buchanan Street

Boutique, Vintage & Independent Stores

For less mainstream shopping and more quirky finds, head to Byres Road in the West End. Here lies vintage clothing stores and charity shops that regularly stock designer or high-end clothing from the likes of COS (my favourite shop ever). There’s antique, bric-a-brac and vinyl stores, plus modern design shops and galleries. There are some amazing places to explore down the cobbled lanes off the main road. Check out Ruthven Lane and the Ruthven Mews Arcade (turn down the lane between Subway and Oxfam). Also, Creswell Lane and De Courcy’s Arcade (enter from Great George St or Creswell St).

Cinemas

If, like us, you happen to enjoy visiting different cinemas around the world then the best one to check out is the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT). This independent cinema is housed in a cool art deco style building dating from 1939. You can catch art house films, cult classics and the best contemporary releases here, preferably in screen 1, the original auditorium. Check here to see what’s on.

The Grosvenor Cinema on Ashton Lane is also a good shout, with big comfy seats and even sofas for hire. Plus, you can take your alcoholic beverages in to the film with you. Nice.

The Grosvenor Cinema on Ashton Lane, just off Byres Road (Hillhead subway station is the closest)

Walking Itineraries

To experience the best of Glasgow on foot, we’ve put together three awesome self-guided walking itineraries for you. Check out the maps below for directions and hover or click on the pins for details.

A Loop of the West

Around the West End

Starting at Hillhead Underground, explore the quirky shops on Byres Rd and down the wee lanes. Wander up to the top of the road and over into the Botanic Gardens, then down to the Kelvin River. Follow the river to Kelvinbridge, stopping off at Inn Deep for a drink if it’s nice weather. Take a side trip up Woodlands Rd or Gibson St to some of the pubs/restaurants mentioned in the Eat section and on the East-Westie Pub Crawl route in the Drink section.

Carry on through Kelvingrove Park to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Explore some of the Eat and Drink stops around here, then head along Kelvin Way, past the restored Kelvingrove Bandstand, and turn left up University Avenue. Check out Glasgow University and the Mackintosh House. Continue along University Avenue and you’ll soon be back on Byres Rd. Cross straight over and down Highburgh Rd, then left down Hyndland St and finish your loop with a pint in the grand surrounds of converted church, Cottiers.


Traversing the City

Through the City Centre

Start at the western edge of the city centre, where the ugly M8 motorway whizzes past some glorious architectural gems at Charing Cross. Head up the street below the overhead walkway, curve left, and follow it round to Buccleuch Street where you’ll find The Tenement House. Continue up Buccleuch Street, turn right onto Garnet St and left onto Renfrew St.


Keep walking and you’ll pass architectural gems old and new at
Glasgow School of Art. A little further up the road, turn right onto Rose St and catch a film at the GFT before turning left at Sauchiehall St and heading into shopping central. Continue down Buchanan St, checking out the shops in Buchanan Galleries and Princes Square if you’re in the retail therapy mood. If it’s the weekend expect it to be mobbed, with a few buskers and street performers entertaining the masses.


Nip down Mitchell Lane and check out the birds eye views over Glasgow from the top of
The Lighthouse. Cross back over Buchanan St to Royal Exchange Square where you can check out the GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art). Walk up a block to grandiose George Square and down through the Merchant City. Wander around this lively area of bars and restaurants then head south down High St to the Tolbooth Steeple. Continue on to the Saltmarket, turn left down St Andrew’s St and check out the impressive St Andrew’s in the Square before heading all the way to Glasgow Green. Reward yourself with a fine pint of locally brewed German style beer at WEST on the Green.


East Meets West

A Walk Along The Clyde

Starting at Glasgow Green, follow the River Clyde past the city centre, along the Broomielaw to Anderston Quay and on to The Riverside Museum and The Tall Ship. Along the way you can check out a few Clydeside icons, murals and even the brand new Clydeside Distillery, housed in the Old Pumphouse.  Look out for the ‘squinty’ bridge, The Hydro, Armadillo, the giant Finnieston Crane and the Science Centre and Glasgow Tower. This short but sweet route takes about an hour to walk and is a great alternative to jumping on the bus or train!

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: The Tall Ship and Riverside Museum, GlasgowFinish up at the stunning Tall Ship and Riverside Museum


Iconic views along The Clyde, GlasgowIconic views on the River Clyde

Day Trips

Glasgow is the perfect base for exploring some of the West Coast’s islands, the expansive Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, or taking a trip to a nearby whisky distillery.

Sail Doon the Watter

If you’re visiting Glasgow in the spring or summer then something I highly recommend is a day trip (or evening jaunt) on The Waverley Paddle Steamer. It’s the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world and she’s an absolute beaut. Between May and August she’s berthed outside The Glasgow Science Centre and makes regular sailings down the Clyde and onto a number of West Coast islands.

You can cruise all day, enjoying the scenery, or jump off on one of the islands for a few hours before boarding the steamer back to Glasgow. If you don’t want to do a full day trip there are evening cruises too, sometimes with dinner and live music included (the sun sets as late as 1030/11pm in the height of summer so you’ll get to bask in the magic hour glow from the deck!). You get a fantastic view of some of Glasgow’s shipbuilding docks while sailing down the Clyde. On board, exploring the engine room, old bars and wandering the deck is a delight in itself. Check here for info on destinations, sailings and to make bookings.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: The Waverley Paddle Steamer cruising into Rothesay, Isle of Bute, ScotlandWhat a beaut! The Waverley cruising into Rothesay harbour, Isle of Bute


Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Sailing down the Clyde past old ruins, GlasgowSailing down the Clyde 


The Great Outdoors

You can get from the bustling city centre of Glasgow to the peaceful shores of Loch Lomond in just over 30 minutes. Not bad for Scotland’s largest city and the 5th largest in the UK! The expansive Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park lies about 20 miles north-west of Glasgow and offers endless opportunities for lovers of the great outdoors.

Bag one of the 21 munros (a Scottish mountain over 3,000 feet), go camping on a lochshore, cycle one of the many forest or road routes or cruise/kayak/wildlife spot around Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine or one of the 20 other lochs in the park.

Various places in this 720 square mile national park are accessible by bus or train. Other areas require your own wheels. Check out the official website for detailed info on transport options from Glasgow, plus a wealth of information on the different activities you can do, camping laws and places to see.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Loch Katrine from the SS Sir Walter Scott steamship, The TrossachsPerfect reflections in Loch Katrine while cruising around on the SS Sir Walter Scott steamship


Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Standing at the peak of Ben A'an overlooking Loch Katrine, The Trossachs National Park Overlooking Loch Katrine from the peak of Ben A’an, The Trossachs National Park


A Wee Dram

If there’s one thing Scotland is known for the world over, it’s whisky. Although the majority of our distilleries are found in the Highlands, Speyside and dotted across a few Hebridean Islands, the Lowlands have some too and you can easily visit as a day trip from Glasgow.

We reckon the most picturesque and worthy of your time and tastebuds is Glengoyne Distillery. It’s less than an hour outside of Glasgow by local bus (jump on no. B10 from Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station, destination Balfron). Smack bang in the middle of some gorgeous countryside, nestled into the foot of Dumgoyne hill on the outskirts of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, the attractive whitewashed buildings of the distillery are bound to put a smile on your face. If not, then the whisky will. Tours start from £9.50, check here for more details.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: The Whitewashed facade of the Glengoyne Distillery, GlasgowThe Glengoyne Distillery

A Scenic Hike

If you want to make a real day of it, take a packed lunch (or an engagement ring*) and hike up Dumgoyne Hill, just behind the distillery. It’s a fairly short but steep hike up this volcanic plug, your reward being the cracking views over Loch Lomond and the Campsie Hills from the top. Do the hike first and you’ll feel like you’ve really earned that whisky at the bottom.

*This is where Del and I got engaged, but actually there was no ring. There wasn’t even the second sandwich he told me he’d made for my packed lunch. He did take me to Crabshakk for lobster that night though; you can read about this mouthwatering restaurant in the Eat section…

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Hiking around Dumgoyne on a beautiful sunny day, The Trossachs National Park, ScotlandCracking views around Dumgoyne 

EAT

I love to eat. It’s one of my favourite hobbies (can eating be a hobby?!). Wherever I travel in the world, you can be sure that food will be high on my list of things to experience in that city, country or region.

Glasgow is one of, if not the best, places in the country to try some traditional Scottish cuisine, with many restaurants and cafes emphasising locally sourced produce of the highest quality. But you’ll also find an incredible array of top notch international cuisine, reflecting the multicultural society that makes up Scotland’s largest city.

There are literally thousands of eateries to choose from so allow this Ultimate Glasgow Guide to point you in the right direction. Read on and start planning your culinary adventures around the city based on these absolute belters.

West End

Indian

Top of the list and the one restaurant I’m always dying to get home for is Mother India’s Cafe. This place not only serves up incredible Indian cuisine, they dish it out tapas style. You can try multiple things without that guilty feeling of, ‘Shit, did we just order way too much food?!’ Everything on the menu is sublime, and don’t miss the popadoms and spiced onions to start. Oh, and that peshwari naan. Mmmm. The location couldn’t be better either, with views across the road to the gorgeous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This place doesn’t accept bookings so just join the queue and remember, it’s worth the wait (no matter how long the line looks!). Help yourself to a drumstick lolly on the way out, too.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Food served tapas style at Mother India's Cafe, GlasgowThis aint even a quarter of the food we ordered


Ultimate Glasgow Guide: The Grandiose Interior of The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, GlasgowBefore/after stuffing your face at Mother India’s, nip over the road to the spectacular Kelvingrove Art Gallery


Seafood

For some excellent seafood head to the long established Two Fat Ladies* at 88 (get it?) Dumbarton Road, near the bottom of Byres Rd, or Crabshakk in Finnieston. Although Crabshakk is a bit pricey, their shellfish dishes like lobster, scallops, mussels and crab are lip smackingly delicious. It’s best to make a reservation for both places as they are pretty small and always popular. *Two Fat Ladies is currently closed for refurbishment, check the website to make sure it’s open when you visit!

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Lobster at Crabshakk, GlasgowLobster at Crabshakk

Scottish Bistro

Another ever busy local bistro, with a small but excellent menu focusing on Scottish fayre, is Fanny Trollopes. The staff are friendly, the food is always great and they have some good value pre-theatre menu deals.

Brunch, Lunch & Delis

A couple of great brunch/lunch spots are Papercup on Great Western Rd and Piece in Finnieston. It’s amazing what the guys at Papercup manage to rustle up in their tiny open kitchen, and their coffee is top quality too. Think toasted rye bread with avocado and poached eggs, hand drip coffee and salted caramel cupcakes. For an awesome sandwich on your choice of bread, with umpteen options for your filling, Piece is where it’s at (a piece is a sandwich in Scotland, by the way).

Another favourite of mine for lunch, afternoon grazing or dinner is Kember and Jones on Byres Rd. They serve massive salads, open sandwiches, sharing platters, deli style eats and ginormous slabs of cake, along with plenty of good beers and wine. They have daily specials too, so don’t forget to check the board. There’s often a bit of a wait, but trust me it’s worth it.

Speaking of epic deli food and grazing platters, Eusebi’s on Gibson St is a great shout for picking up some take away picnic treats and enjoying them across the road in Kelvingrove Park. Or if the weather’s shite, and being Scotland it probably will be, sit in instead and feast on their Italian delights, washed down with some prosecco.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Cheese Platter at Eusebi's, GlasgowEusebi’s cheese board

Scottish Produce, Global Flavours

Just up the road is a long-time favourite, Stravaigin. Good for drinking, top quality bar food or a fancier meal downstairs in the restaurant proper, this place is a real all-rounder. I love the low-lit, salvage art filled interior and their menu is full of locally sourced produce served up with global flavours. They have regular food and drink events downstairs. Check their website to see if there’s something on when you’re in town (you usually have to reserve in advance for these).

Vietnamese

What was once Stravaigin 2 is now The Hanoi Bike Shop, tucked away down Ruthven Lane, just off Byres Rd. If you’ve actually been to Vietnam you’ll no doubt balk at the prices, but this is some truly scrumptious food and the quirky interior alone makes it worth a visit.

The Hanoi Bike Shop, GlasgowTucked down a cobbled lane off Byres Rd you’ll find the atmospheric Hanoi Bike Shop

Splash Out

Across the road, down an even cuter cobbled lane is a West End institution, The Ubiquitous Chip. Ticking all the right boxes when it comes to service, food and atmosphere, this is where to come for a slap up meal and a taste of the best Scottish cuisine. Dining under a skylight, surrounded by plants and fairy lights, makes it a meal to remember. If the restaurant menu is a bit over budget you can also dine off their brasserie menu. Or just nip in for a few drinks in any of the equally atmospheric bars, on the rooftop if it’s nice out, or cosy up with a dram of whisky in The Wee Pub round the corner.

Perfect Pizza

Last but not least for the West End recommendations is Paesano on Great Western Road. For years this was a sleepy coffee shop but now it’s a buzzing pizza joint, housed in a grand old bank. Always jumping and serving up some of the best pizza in Glasgow (at surprisingly cheap prices), this place is great for chowing down on authentic Italian recipes and knocking back a few Morettis (although the house wine tastes like vinegar).

Authentic Korean

Having lived in Korea for 3 years we can testify that Kimchi Cult‘s bibimbap is top notch. This teeny spot, tucked away near the bottom of Byres Road, is one of the (very) few places to indulge in deliciously spicy Korean eats, including legendary KFC (Korean Fried Chicken). Our choice? Dolsot Bibimbap – be sure to let the rice go nice and crispy on the bottom!

Dolsot bibimbap at Kimchi Cult, GlasgowAuthentic tasting dolsot bibimbap at Kimchi Cult

City Centre

Seafood

Head to the Mussel Inn for a cracking lunchtime or pre-theatre dinner deal. Looking for something fancy? Check out Gandolfi Fish or Gamba, two of the city’s best seafood restaurants.

Scottish

For a taste of Scotland in gorgeous Victorian surrounds, head to Ingram Wynd. They do some good value lunch and pre-theatre deals, or order off their A La Carte menu.

Vegan

Nothing can beat Stereo and Mono when it comes to vegan eats in the city. They both serve up delicious food in cafe/bar/music venues. The atmosphere in Stereo (a Rennie Mackintosh designed building dating from 1904 and once home to The Daily Record newspaper) is always buzzing. Mono can be a bit quieter, depending on whether or not there’s a gig or other event on.

Epic Sandwiches

For an awesome weekday feed, in a laidback environment, seek out Where the Monkey Sleeps. This basement cafe feels so chilled you could be hanging out in your living room. The menu is large (almost too large for a food envy prone customer like me!), the food freshly prepared, the coffee divine and the music rocking. Open 7am – 3pm Mon-Fri. 

Southside

Although there aren’t too many tourist attractions to draw you south of the River Clyde, for the intrepid foodie there are a few reasons to venture down this way.

Vegetarian Indian

First and foremost is the delightful Ranjit’s Kitchen. Stepping off the bus one day, going to meet a friend for a pint and some food, we walked past this cosy looking, bright orange cafe/restaurant/canteen type place. Intrigued, we wandered back after our pint and discovered a family run Panjabi ‘food deli’, barely a week open and serving the most amazingly delicious and authentic thalis, lassis, sweet treats and more. It became an instant favourite, and with only a few months to go before we were moving to South Korea, we made sure to stuff our faces as many times as we could.

By the time we returned to Glasgow for a visit 2 years later, this place had skyrocketed in fame, receiving rave reviews and currently sitting at #26 on TripAdvisor’s best restaurants in Glasgow list. Not bad for a humble veggie toting, alcohol shunning family business in a pretty obscure location! 

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: A traditional Panjabi thali meal, served at Ranjit's Kitchen in GlasgowRanjit’s thali

Brunch & Lunch

Another Southside establishment well worth the effort to get to is Potluck. By jings, do these ladies know how to do brunch. And lunch. And linner (dunch?) – they close at 4.30pm usually. I actually can’t think of a better brunch I’ve ever had. And I’m not being hyperbolic. Check their Instagram if you don’t believe me. Upon my long anticipated return to Glasgow, this will be the first place I go (followed by Mother India’s for dinner).

Smoked Salmon Scramble Brunch at Potluck Cafe, GlasgowEpic brunching at Potluck

Eclectic Eats

With a menu spanning a host of culinary influences, from Latin America to Asia via the Middle East, Gnom is bound to satisfy all tastes. A relatively new kid on the block, the almost permanent queue confirms these guys are definitely doing something right. Everything on their menu is available all day, which is great news if you fancy Nasi Goreng for breakfast or buckwheat porridge for your dinner!

Malaysia’s Finest

Tiny Julie’s Kopitiam is where it’s at if you’re looking for some authentic Malaysian food. There are regular specials and a small but tantalising menu. If it’s busy just pop your name on the waiting list and you’ll get a call when your table is available. That gives you plenty of time to enjoy a drink or coffee nearby – Phillies does some cracking cocktails. *Julie’s may be moving to a bigger premises soon, check the Facebook page for updates!

Gluten Free Eats

If you’re looking for gluten free friendly menus, check out my good pal Katie’s great Glasgow guide over at My Gluten Free Glasgow.

Restaurant Deals

Keep an eye out for deals popping up for a number of these restaurants on 5pm, Itison and Groupon. You might grab a bargain!

DRINK

A good pub is an important thing in life, and something I always miss when I’m away from home. It’s a place to come together with friends to laugh, cry, celebrate or commiserate. You can have a blether with a complete stranger, prop up the bar and shoot the shit with the bar staff, or enjoy a quiet pint and a read of the paper.

If you want to get a feel for the real Glasgow and experience Glaswegian hospitality at its best (and just occasionally its worst, especially around closing time!), look no further than these tried and tested establishments.

It would be rude to visit only one, so in this Ultimate Glasgow Guide we’ve put together some outstanding pub crawls for you to work your way through. It would take a few weeks to get round them all, so pick and choose, and enjoy exploring all over the city while you’re at it.

*The majority of bars and pubs in Glasgow are open 11am – 12am, so you’ve got all day!

West End

We’ve got a lot of favourites in the West End, having been our home for over 15 years. Too many to fit into one pub crawl, even for the most determined boozehound. So, here’s three routes for you to choose from, or check out a few from each. Loosely based on geographical location, let’s call them the South-Westie, the West-Westie and the East-Westie.

The South-Westie:
Partick, Kelvingrove and Finnieston

This route has a great mix of traditional Scottish pubs, modern bars with the best local craft beer and some laid back joints housed in quirky and unique locations. You can join a weekly pub quiz, have a game of Scrabble, and check out a traditional music session, some live jazz, or a late night DJ set.

Traditional Pub

First up is the wooden and stained glass window clad traditional pub, The Lismore on Dumbarton Road, near the bottom of Byres Rd (closest subway station Kelvinhall). This place has a real cosy atmosphere and an extensive whisky selection. Named after a small Inner Hebridean island, the pub has some interesting maritime themed artwork dotted around. It’s also good for traditional live music (check out the Live Music section for more details).

Cask Ales & Craft Beers

Heading east along Dumbarton Road, drop into The Three Judges for a fine pint of cask ale. Then cross over the Kelvin River (with gorgeous views up to Glasgow University) and past the impressive Kelvin Hall, to BrewDog. The brainchild of a couple of regular guys from the north east, this small Scottish brewery has become known the world over (we’ve even found Punk IPA on draft in one of our favourite Busan tap houses in South Korea!).

This is the original Glasgow location (there’s now another one in town) with awesome views of Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Industrial in design and sporting an extensive range of brews, from old favourites like Dead Pony Club to knock your socks off limited editions, this is beervana. If you can’t decide, grab a tasting flight and enjoy over a board game (free to borrow!).

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: The view up to Glasgow University from the Argyle St bridge over the River Kelvin, GlasgowCheck out the Glasgow Uni views between pubs

GTWH History

Continue east and take the left fork up Sauchiehall St and you’ll hit The Snaffle Bit. Not only is this a friendly boozer, but a piece of Going the Whole Hogg history. I worked here part-time as a student and it’s where Del and I first clocked eyes on each other. Fast forward a few years (and many countries later) and Del was back here managing it for almost 3 years. Split between the bar and the (slightly) fancier lounge, this is a real local pub, so much so that even Kit ‘Jon Snow’ Harington chose this bar to prop up when trying to master the Glaswegian accent.

With its jukebox filled with Runrig, tartan carpet and occasional live pipers, this is unmistakably one third of the ‘teuchter triangle’ – a trio of pubs popular with locals originally hailing from Scotland’s Highlands and Islands.

Gaelic Culture

Just down the road, on the corner of Gray and Argyle Streets, lies The Park Bar, the liveliest of the three in the triangle (the third is The Islay Inn). Gaelic culture is alive and thriving here; don’t expect to hear many weegie accents, with the majority of the pub’s staff and regulars calling the Western Isles home. This place is jumping at the weekends, with their fantastic live music being a huge draw. This is the place to come if you want to hear some toe tapping, foot stomping traditional Scottish tunes.  

Retro Chill

One block down, turn right at Sainsbury’s and you’ll find what looks like an old house, complete with vintage mismatched furniture and an open fire. This is The 78. It’s a great spot for a laidback pint, some vegan grub or having a wee dance to the DJ sets on Friday and Saturday nights. They have live jazz on Sundays and various other special events. Check their website for what’s on.

Vintage Chic

Back to the main road and just across the street is The Kelvingrove Cafe. When Del moved to Glasgow in 1997 this was just an abandoned, boarded up space, and it remained so until 2013. Slowly the face of this very local, slightly rundown, yet charming neighbourhood started to change, and this place was amongst the first few to breathe new life into Finnieston. Retaining the original signage of a cafe long forgotten, with the retro furnishings continued inside, this bar/brasserie is full of ambient character.

Whisky Galore

A few doors down is The Ben Nevis. Named after Scotland’s highest peak, this cosy wee corner bar with exposed stonework, an open fireplace and the odd piece of taxidermy is like a spruced up mountain bothy. The back wall of the bar is stocked to the roof with whisky, one of the best selections in the city. Check the Live Music section for more about this place.

Seafood & Gin

If gin is more your thing, head a few more doors down to The Finnieston. Housed in what was once a drovers’ tavern over 200 years ago, this low rise building stands out amongst the tenement blocks surrounding it. The decor is part maritime, part salvage yard vintage chic, the atmosphere warm and their largely seafood menu very tempting. They have a wee beer garden out the back, too.

Old Man Pub (And Del’s Second Home)

Last, but definitely not least, let’s cross the road and venture into that dodgy looking pub with the vintage signage, The Grove. Vintage cause it’s been there forever, not cause it’s trying to fit into the hip new scene round these parts. This local-as-it-gets old man pub was practically Del’s home for 13 years. He started working here part-time as a student and somehow, a decade later, he was still here when we met.

This is the kind of pub I wouldn’t have looked twice at, with it’s rough brick exterior and permanent fixture of old boys and wifies sookin on fags by the front door. But having been lured inside with the promise of a pub quiz by this handsome man with excellent bone structure, I was instantly won over and thought, “What have I been missing all these years?!”

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Pub Quiz night in The Grove Bar, GlasgowSunday night pub quiz in old man classic, The Grove

It wasn’t long before I too was working here, keeping the job on part-time for 3 years before I finally dragged Del out and onto a life of travel. This is a pub for regulars, but wander in here a stranger and you’ll be making friends in no time. Some old punter will no doubt even buy you a drink; it is the cheapest bar around after all. Although Del’s days as the hammer wielding, akubra wearing quiz master are long over, the Sunday night pub quiz lives on and is a good laugh if you’re game. If you want to experience a real Glasgow pub, then this is it.

The West-Westie:
Around Byres Road

Putting traditional pubs aside for now, here’s a pub crawl that’ll have you quaffing wine in the grandest of surroundings, bar hopping down a cobbled lane and supping on a pint in the relaxed company of a dog or two (if you’re lucky).

Church Turned Bar

Hidden away in the leafy side streets of Dowanhill is one of the most spectacular drinking spots in this whole guide, Cottiers. Another one of my old workplaces, this converted church is now a bar, restaurant, theatre and sometimes wedding venue. Locals flock to the huge beer garden in summer. On dark, cold days its grand yet cosy interior is equally inviting.

Lane Hopping

Heading back to Byres Road, dive down the cobbled lane between Iceland supermarket and TSB Bank and you’ll happen upon perhaps the cutest concentration of bars in the country. Fairy lights twinkle overhead and chairs, tables and barrels spill out onto the street from buildings over a century old. Ashton Lane is no secret mind you. This area is jumping at the weekend. People flock here in droves to hang out in the beer gardens on hot days.

Brel has the best of the bunch, but it’s a good shout in any weather thanks to its big conservatory at the back. Other top picks include Irish bar Jinty McGuinty’s, The Ubiquitous Chip and the Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchen (look out for our mate Dave’s amazing illustrations on the walls!).

Another Church

Back on even ground, make your way up to the top of Byres Road and head into your second church come bar of the day, Oran Mor. Much bigger (and less intimate) than Cottiers, this venue puts on gigs, club nights and theatre performances down below, has a good looking bar up above, as well as a brasserie, restaurant and gorgeous auditorium that hosts weddings, ceilidhs and more. The murals are by renowned Glasgow writer and artist, Alasdair Gray (check out more of his work in Hillhead Subway Station).

The Jewel in the Crown

Head east from Oran Mor along Great Western Road and you’ll soon reach my favourite on this pub crawl, The Belle. I can never quite put my finger on why I love this place so much. Maybe it’s the massive stone fireplace, or the huge windows allowing light to pour into the otherwise dark and moody interior. Or is it the stag heads on the stone wall and vintage maritime mirrors? Naw, let’s face it, it’s probably the dogs. There’s usually at least one in here and they never want for attention from me.

Suffice to say, there’s been countless nights where I’ve popped in here for one and ended up bouncing out the door at closing time, umpteen Kraken and ginger beers later with only a few packets of kettle chips and some pistachios to call dinner.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Crisps and Wine at The Belle, Glasgow‘Dinner’ at The Belle

The East-Westie:
Gibson Street & Woodlands Road

I lived round these parts for three years as a student and it’s still a solid favourite for a short pub crawl, mixing old classics with new(er) places.

Contemporary Classic

I’ve already mentioned it in the Eat section but I’ll just remind you here about Stravaigin, the first stop on this route. Ambient lighting, great decor, an extensive menu, both for food and drink. Don’t miss this place!

Old Charmer

Next up is the ridiculously charming The Doublet. Turn left out of Stravaigin, left again at Eusebi’s on the corner and walk straight ahead until you see that sticks-out-like-a-sore-thumb wood and whitewashed corner pub. A much loved Glasgow institution, this place has been around for over half a century, serving real ale and no frills drinks to everyone from students to old timers and a few well-known Glasgow faces in between. Indeed, I was once on a quiz team with the aforementioned Alasdair Gray (not that I knew who he was at the time, my pal Fergi had to tell me after).

The bar is all wooden beams and old fashioned furnishings, with a cosy atmosphere, while upstairs in the lounge there’s a more youthful crowd and a legendary jukebox. The lounge is also host to a weekly pub quiz every Tuesday and regular small gigs and live music. Check their Facebook page for what’s on.

Whisky Bar

Straight up Woodlands Road the next stop is Dram! for, well, a dram. While I’m still disappointed that this place is no longer my beloved Uisge Beatha, I’m putting it on here as it does still have an impressive whisky selection and for those of you without the bias of fond memories of its predecessor, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Local Legend

Next up is an old favourite that hasn’t changed much in the past 50 odd years, The Arlington. Old men and young students alike rub shoulders in this no fuss traditional corner pub, with a little urban legend attached. So the story goes, Scotland’s national treasure, the Stone of Destiny, was hidden here after four students from nearby Glasgow Uni liberated it from Westminster on Christmas Day 1950.

The stone was eventually returned to England by the police four months later, before being handed back to Scotland permanently in 1996 and put on display at Edinburgh Castle. Legend has it though that the stone returned to London in 1951 was actually a replica, and the one displayed in The Arlington is the real deal. Fact or fiction aside, this place is cheap, cheerful and a solid local boozer.

A Grand Finale

Last up is a basement gastropub oozing low-key charm and charisma, The Drake. Ambient lighting, stone walls, Harris tweed upholstery, an open coal fire and old books lining the mantelpiece. Descending the stone stairs from the street, it’s like stepping into a grand old house. The atmosphere is anything but old fashioned though, with resident DJs at the weekends, a modern beer garden out back and hip clientele. Oh, and that Sunday roast is just magic. Lamb shank all the way!

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An in-depth travel guide to Glasgow, Scotland's most vibrant and exciting city. Written by a local who wants you to see, eat, drink & listen to the best that Glasgow has to offer. Includes interactive maps with walking itineraries, pub crawl routes, a guide to Glasgow's legendary music scene & the best places to eat. You won't find a more passionate or detailed Glasgow travel guide out there! | Europe | Glasgow Travel Tips | Scotland Travel #glasgow #scotland #traveltips @goingthewholehogg

City Centre

Having explored the best of the west, it’s time to hunt out some city centre gems. Hidden down lanes, on backstreets or in plain sight amongst a whole load of crappy alternatives, these are our go-to city pubs and bars. Tackle them all, or pick and choose a few that appeal.

Bourbon & Bukowski

Starting not far from where we left off in the west is Chinaski’s on North St, next to the M8 motorway. There’s no sign above the door, so just look for the grey-blue facade and you’re in the right place. Celebrating all things Charles Bukowski, the candle-lit interior is full of bold, eye catching art, and the glass shelves behind the bar stocked to the ceiling with bourbon. The back garden is a gorgeous wee sun trap, and packed on hot days. Big windows, plenty of plants and fresh flowers bring a bit of that outside in. The food is excellent (there’s a separate vegan menu too), the music is great and the ambience dark, moody, warm and inviting. It can be hard to bring yourself to leave.

Retro Vibe

There’s plenty more places to explore though. Across the motorway and down Sauchiehall St is the next stop, Variety Bar. With it’s curved beige and red facade and bold art deco style lettering, this place grabs your attention from the outset. There’s more of that retro styling to come inside, along with good tunes and even a fish tank.

A Stately Bar

Time for a change of scene, one block down and to the right, at The State Bar. This has long been my go-to when looking for a quiet pint round this end of town. Traditional in style, this has an amazing wooden central bar, perfect for pulling up a high stool and having a blether with the bar staff, a read of the paper, or a natter with your pal. This pub has a great cask ale selection, too. The walls are covered in old theatre photos and memorabilia, a nod to the King’s Theatre just up the road. With its high corniced ceiling, dark wood, old fashioned lamps and carpet, this place makes you feel right at home. They host regular comedy nights downstairs too.

Contemporary Conservation

From traditional pub to the beautiful, old-meets-new surrounds of the Saramago Cafe Bar, across the main road and inside the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts). Entering the attractive, but nothing too special, front doors of the CCA you’d have no idea what a beautiful space awaits you. The building opens up into a gorgeous atrium. The original walls of the category A listed Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson design from 1868 are complemented by a bright, modern, industrial design, complete with enormous skylight and mezzanine walkways (jeezo, do I love a mezzanine). Fairy lights and greenery add to the airy, open ambience.

For a more happening bar vibe head upstairs (you can also enter from the steep street on the corner just past the main CCA entrance). Their vegan menu is top notch, too.

A Pie & A Pint

The discerning whisky or real ale drinker will enjoy the next stop. Head straight down Sauchiehall St and walk right down Hope St until you hit The Pot Still. Boasting the city’s most impressive whisky selection, with over 700 varieties, a number of real ales on draft and some legendary homemade pies, this a cracking traditional pub with a loyal fanclub.

The Best Bar Windows in Glasgow?

For a change of scene entirely, continue down Hope St and dive down the cobbled Renfield Lane, into the industrial looking Stereo. Already given a mention in this guide for its excellent vegan food, this place is great for a drink, too. It’s got good tunes, a convivial atmosphere and I just love those big windows overlooking the lane.

High-Heels & Cocktails

You could end your night at Stereo, heading downstairs for a wee dance (check the Live Music section to read more) or if cocktails and bling are more your thing, go bar hopping in The Merchant City. There’s no shortage of options, so go for a wander and see what takes your fancy.

‘Glaswegian Heart, German Head’

If you’re up for a bit of a longer walk, a special city centre shout out goes to West on the Green. This brewery, housed in the gorgeous old Templeton Carpet Factory (modelled after the Doge’s palace in Venice), brews all their beer according to the 1516 Reinheitsgebot, the ancient German Purity Law. The setting is unique and well worth the pleasant walk through Glasgow Green to get here. You can even take a brewery tour – check out their website for info.

Southside

Having rarely been south of the Clyde for the bulk of my years living in Glasgow, there came a time as I grew older when suddenly I found myself down here every other weekend. My friends started buying rather than renting flats, and pushed out of the West End by the ridiculous property prices, they one by one migrated south to Shawlands and around. And thanks to this mass exodus, I discovered a few gems that I didn’t mind spending an hour getting to on public transport from my home way out west in Anniesland.

If you’re heading down this way to stuff your face at Ranjit’s Kitchen or Potluck (read more in the Eat section) be sure to drop in on these few fine establishments…

Traditional Pub, Modern Outlook

Just up the road from Ranjit’s on Pollokshaws Road is my favourite of the bunch, The Allison Arms. Traditional old man pub in style, the clientele is a good mix of old time regulars and younger folk, plus a few dogs. Browse the extensive beer and cider selection in the fridges, help yourself, then pay at the bar. Or choose from one of their many gins, draft beers or ales. There’s a real friendly vibe in here and nice touches like free bottles of water and baskets filled with ‘amenities’ in the bathrooms. Thursday night is quiz night and Saturday is old school karaoke.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Retro Tennent's Lager Bar Fonts, GlasgowScottish Classic, Tennent’s Lager

Rum & Reggae

Nip across the road and step into the Caribbean spirit at The Rum Shack. The bar is stocked to the rafters with rum and they mix some wicked original rum cocktails. They have a solid food menu of Caribbean favourites, a spacious beer garden and various gigs, DJ sets and special events held in their dancehall. Check out their website to see what’s on.

Neighbourhood Hangout

Around the corner on Nithsdale Road is neighbourhood bar and restaurant, The Bungo. It’s a popular spot round these parts, the customers usually made up of local 30-50 something year olds who prefer a few drinks, some good food and a place to take their dog, instead of curling up in front of the telly.

Cool Cafe

Back to Pollokshaws Road, turn right and just keep walking all the way to the end of Queen’s Park til you see that Pacman-esque sign and narrow entrance for The Glad Cafe. Open from morning til night, this place transforms seamlessly from brunch, lunch and coffee vibe cafe to funky evening bar with casual dining. The venue also hosts loads of events, from intimate gigs to film screenings, theatre and everything in between.

Vintage Quirks

While you’re down this way, you might as well pop over the cross to The Butterfly and the Pig, located in the grand old Corona building. Once an old man’s boozer, this is now the Southside location of the original city centre bar, tea-room and restaurant. Serving up drinks, afternoon tea and food off a riddle-like menu in vintage surrounds, this is a quirky spot.

Live Music & Clubs

Glasgow’s iconic music scene is known Europe wide. This Ultimate Glasgow Guide wouldn’t be complete without a run down of the best places to catch everything from intimate local sessions to sell-out artists.

The city also hosts a load of great music festivals every year, and has some of the best club nights in the country. Keep reading to find out where to go, what to see and how to find out what’s on.

Traditional Pub Sessions

There’s nothing quite like a session, and I’m not talking about the booze kind. There are a number of pubs and bars around Glasgow where local musicians gather regularly, to have a few drinks and play traditional music. Informal and following no standard format, these are not concerts.  Just a bunch of people getting together to play the fiddle, guitar, accordion and whatever other instruments might show up. They are a fantastic way to experience a piece of Celtic culture, in the intimate surrounds of a local pub.

West End

My two favourite places to drop in on a session are The Lismore and The Ben Nevis, both covered on the South-Westie Pub Crawl in the Drink section. The Lismore has sessions on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. The Ben has them on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, starting from 9pm.

City Centre

If you’re looking for somewhere in the city centre, or an afternoon session, then Babbity Bowster in The Merchant City is a good shout. They have a session from 4pm on Saturdays and a quieter one on Wednesdays from 3pm.

Live Music Pubs & Bars

Scottish Music

For traditional, foot stomping tunes in a packed to the rafters pub with a great atmosphere, The Park Bar is the place to be. They have live music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, always reflecting the lively Gaelic culture that this pub is known for. Check their Facebook page to see what’s on, or just drop in.

Live Bands

There are a few great bars in the city centre with regular live music.

With something on every night of the week, MacSorley’s on Jamaica St is always a sure bet. It’s a classic pre Sub Club venue, too. Check their Facebook page for the rundown of what’s on.
*MacSorley’s sadly closed its doors for the time being as of Sep ’18

McChuills on High Street has live bands every Friday and Saturday night. Blackfriars on Bell St in the Merchant City has regular live music and events, including local band The Shiverin Sheiks every Tuesday night. Check their website for listings.

Small Gig Venues

While Glasgow has its fair share of big act venues, there are plenty of smaller, more intimate places, too. All of the following double up as bars and serve food also. You usually have to pay for gigs held at these venues. Depending on how popular the act is, you may or may not be able to buy tickets on the door.

Glasgow Icon

Probably the most famous small venue in the country, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut on St Vincent St has gigs pretty much every night of the year.  You can catch up and coming acts, as well as already established artists, usually in the rock/indie/alternative genre. Loads of now famous bands played Tut’s in the early stages of their careers, from Radiohead and Oasis to The White Stripes and The Strokes.

Still Sleazy After All These Years

Another Glasgow institution, going strong since 1991, is Nice n Sleazy on Sauchiehall St. Regular gigs are held downstairs, with the bar upstairs buzzing every night of the week. 

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: King Creosote and The Pictish Trail performing at The Arches, GlasgowKing Creosote and The Pictish Trail live

Stereo. Again.

Already mentioned a couple of times, another good shout for small gigs (and live DJ sets) is Stereo on Renfield Lane. Hosting an eclectic mix of artists, club nights and special events downstairs, it’s well worth checking to see what’s on when you’re in town.

Laid-Back & Intimate

Mono in Kings Court hosts regular gigs on their small stage in this cool cafe/bar venue with an awesome skylight dome and micro-brewery tanks on display. The low-rise corner stage creates a really intimate and relaxed atmosphere. They also share the space with independent music store, Monorail. 

Cosy Basement

Just round the corner from Mono on King St is The 13th Note. Bar/veggie cafe upstairs and gig venue downstairs, this place has something on most nights of the week.

Eclectic Events

On the Southside, all round small arts venue The Glad Cafe on Pollokshaws Road has various events. There’s plenty of gigs, from local musicians to established acts. 

Local & International Acts

In the West End, gigs are held regularly in the venue downstairs at Oran Mor, on the corner of Byres Rd and Great Western Rd. Both local up and coming bands and international artists take to the stage here. Check online for listings.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at Oran Mor, GlasgowHypnotic Brass Ensemble on stage at Oran Mor

Big Venues

Glasgow is host to some of the biggest international acts around. If a band or artist is touring just a few locations in the UK, chances are they’ll be coming to Glasgow. Tickets will often sell out, so buy them in advance if possible!

The Wee Guns

Medium sized venues hosting all sorts of gigs include the O2 ABC on Sauchiehall St, the O2 Academy near Bridge St subway station and the iconic Barrowlands on Gallowgate.
*The second Glasgow School of Art fire of June ’18 also forced the O2 ABC venue to close for the time being

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall at the top of Buchanan St hosts an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, folk, rock and pop concerts. Plenty of great artists appear here, from Nick Cave to Debbie Harry.

The Big Guns

The biggest venues host the biggest acts, these being the SEC Centre, the SEC Armadillo and the relatively new SSE Hydro. They’re all right next to each other in Finnieston, by Exhibition Centre train station.

Outdoor concerts are also held occasionally at Hampden Park, Scotland’s national football stadium, and Bellahouston Park. Both are found on the Southside.

Unique Venues

If you’re planning to be in Glasgow when there’s a gig happening at any of these venues, they are worth checking out for their uniqueness alone!

Restored Beauty

Firstly, The Old Fruitmarket in The Merchant City. This was, as the name suggests, a fruit market up until the 1970s. The venue retains its old signs, incredible balcony, cast iron columns and vaulted roof. It’s a special place and hosts gigs, club nights and events.

Heritage Bandstand

Second is the beautifully restored Kelvingrove Bandstand and Amphitheatre. For the majority of my years in Glasgow this was just a rundown and abandoned shadow of its former glorious self, having been around since 1924. But in 2014 it re-opened, just in time for the Commonwealth Games. You can catch a gig here as part of their Summer Nights series.

The Wild West

And for something completely different get yourself down to the Grand Ole Opry, just south of the Clyde in Govan. This place has been Glasgow’s champion of all things Country and Western since 1974. They have live country music every Friday and Saturday night, weekly line dancing, jive and rock’n’roll classes and even a bi-monthly gun club where you can practice your draw speed against the clock.

They host occasional gigs too (I’ve seen Devendra Banhart and King Creosote here, neither of whom were playing anything remotely country or western) and special events like their Hogmanay Party. I’ve rung in the New Year Bells a couple of times here and it’s always been a cracking night (not to mention cheap as chips). You’re guaranteed to meet a few local characters (and maybe a couple of cowboys), that’s for sure.

Clubs & Club Nights

Electro / Techno / House

It was a heartfelt blow to many when Glasgow’s most iconic music and arts venue, The Arches, was forced to close in 2015 after 24 years. The good news is that the city’s other clubbing mecca, Sub Club (founded in 1987), is still going strong. Find it on Jamaica St, usually with a huge queue outside.  

Disco / Electro / House / Techno / Punk / Dub Step

Next door to Chinaski’s, with a ‘Pawnbroker’ sign above its door is The Berkeley Suite. Retro stylish in design and not too big/not too small in size, this place serves up all sorts on its music menu, with club nights held downstairs on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. There’s also a bar for late night drinking at street level.

Indie / Pop

More mainstream club nights are held at the O2 ABC on Sauchiehall St. Student friendly and with a mix of indie/pop music this place is popular Thursday – Saturday from 11pm.
*Club nights are currently suspended in the aftermath of the second Glasgow School of Art fire which broke out nearby in June ’18

Rock / Indie / Electro / Pop / Hip-Hop / Anything

Secreted away up the top of Renfield St, The Flying Duck is a hidden gem. It has regular club nights as well as special events from life drawing to folk sessions and gigs. Their food menu is all vegan and this is the only club I’ve ever been in that hands out free toast all night long! If you like your clubs a wee bit shabby and laid back, this is the place for you.

Northern Soul / Funk / Disco / House / Indie Pop

Monthly club nights Divine (northern soul, deep funk psychedelic freakbeats…), Pretty Ugly (indie pop) and Melting Pot (disco, house, funk, soul, techno…) all kick off downstairs at The Admiral on Waterloo St. The traditional bar upstairs is great for a pre-dance drink. 

Eclectic

At the end of Kelvinhaugh St in Finnieston, next to some old railway arches seemingly in the arse end of nowhere, you’ll find the multi-space studio warehouse SWG3. Formerly the Customs & Excise bonded warehouse, this venue puts on everything from fashion shows to poetry readings, outdoor markets to gigs and club nights. It’s also home to over a hundred artists and designers. This ever expanding site is really quite remarkable. Check out what’s on when you’re in town.

The Art School also hosts regular gigs and club nights spanning a wide range of genres.

*Clubs and club nights usually kick off around 11pm and close at 3am

Music Festivals

There are a bunch of music festivals held throughout the year. Some are focused on a couple of days at one venue. Others are spread out over a couple of weeks and across multiple locations. Here’s a rundown of the best.

Celtic Roots

Celtic Connections kicks off in January, running for nearly 3 weeks every year. It hosts thousands of artists over 20 odd venues, celebrating folk, world and roots music. The late night Festival Club is a great place to catch rare performances and collaborations, and keep the party going til the wee hours. 

Electronic

The Riverside Festival usually runs over the bank holiday weekend in May. Brought to you by Electric Frog and Pressure, this two day electronic music festival takes place down by the River Clyde at the Riverside Museum.

Jazz

The Glasgow Jazz Festival is held in June over a few days, again spread over a number of venues. 

Headline Festival

At the end of June/start of July Glasgow’s newest big festival, TRNSMT, comes to Glasgow Green. Born in 2017, after Scotland’s long running festival, T in the Park, had to ‘take a break’ thanks to a couple of nesting ospreys (they’re protected by law, you see), this festival seems to be here to stay. Big name acts headline the stage and best of all, there’s no muddy tent required.

Bagpipes

In August the World Pipe Band Championships descends on Glasgow Green for the noisiest musical event of the year. The Piping Live! festival takes place in the week run up to ‘The Worlds’, with pipe bands performing in George Square and Buchanan St, and various other events.

Listings & Tickets

With so many venues, club nights and different events happening across the city it can be tricky separating the wheat from the chaff and figuring out what’s on and where. A couple of good online magazines to check out are The List and The Skinny. You can filter by city and get a rundown of what’s what.

To browse through upcoming gigs, concerts and festivals, and buy tickets, check out Gigs in Scotland, Tickets Scotland and Ticketmaster. You can filter by venue, city and dates.

SLEEP

Glasgow has accommodation to suit all budgets. Options are spread out across the city, so it’s a good idea to decide on an area where you want to base yourself, and choose from there. The City Centre or West End are the two main locations.

Hostels

At the budget end of the scale are the city’s hostels. While there’s quite a few, they do seem a little underwhelming compared to some I’ve stayed at in other cities around the world.

West End

The best bet for cleanliness, location and value is the Glasgow Youth Hostel. Situated in fancy Park Circus and overlooking Kelvingrove Park, it’s within easy walking distance of Finnieston, the Woodlands Rd area and Charing Cross – a great location. It’s set in a charming old building with plenty of character, but it’s a quiet hostel, not necessarily somewhere you’re going to meet lots of other travellers.

If you’re looking for a more social place, the Clyde Hostel is a better option. It’s on Berkeley St, again very close to Finnieston and the Charing Cross end of town. This place has an 18-35 age policy and much more of a party atmosphere. It’s cheap and cheerful, but could do with some extra bathrooms and a bit of a spruce up.

City Centre

If you’re looking for a city centre location, the massive Euro Hostel is your best bet. It’s close to Central Station and St Enoch Subway Station. It’s a bit hit or miss on the social mingling front though.

Hotels & Guesthouses

 West End

There’s a stretch of hotels and guesthouses on Sauchiehall St by Kelvingrove Park, a great location for nightlife and food, as well as a bunch of sightseeing places. Finnieston is on your doorstep and it’s not too far up to Byres Road or through the park to the Gibson St/Woodlands Rd area. You can walk down to the Riverside Museum or into town in 30 minutes or so.

Options to check are The Lorne Hotel, The Devoncove Hotel, The Sandyford Hotel, The Kelvingrove Hotel, The Argyll Hotel and The Argyll Guest House. Our favourite though is The Alamo Guest House on Gray St. This beautifully decorated boutique guesthouse is run by the affable Steve (a regular in Del’s old pub) and his wife, Emma. There are often deals at around £50-60 for a double, but if there’s a big concert on at the nearby Hydro or SEC the prices can be a bit steep or the hotels booked out.

City Centre

One of the most stylish hotels in the city, but not too expensive, is CitizenM. Close to the north end of Buchanan St, you’ve got bars, clubs, restaurants and shopping galore on your doorstep. Or just chill in the awesome hotel bar. Prices start at around £80 for a double.

There’s also a few chain hotels like Premier Inn and Ibis in the city. Nothing too exciting, but reliable options and they’ve got decent locations.

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Booking.com

Airbnb

There are tons of listings for Glasgow on Airbnb and staying in a traditional tenement flat is a unique experience, so look out for one! Search by location and look for something in the areas I’ve mentioned in this guide.

New to Airbnb?
Get £25 off your first stay!

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GET THERE & AROUND

As the largest city in Scotland, and fifth largest in the UK, Glasgow has no shortage of transport links. It’s an easy enough city to navigate on two feet (especially following our Local’s Guide to Glasgow walking itineraries or pub crawls!). For those further afield attractions there’s a solid subway, bus and local train network.

Get There

By Airplane

Scheduled Airlines

Glasgow International Airport is the Scottish gateway for Emirates, who in turn have a massive network linking destinations all over the world out of their hub in Dubai. If you’re flying into Scotland with them, don’t just rush out of Glasgow, stick around for a couple of days!

Glasgow also links Europe/worldwide destinations through KLM, Air FranceLufthansa and of course, British Airways. The Americas are well connected with United Airlines, American Airlines, Air Canada and Delta.

Budget & Charter Airlines

There are also a load of budget airlines operating out of Glasgow, linking destinations all over Europe, as well as Canada. Check out Jet2, Ryanair, Easyjet, and Flybe, plus Westjet and Air Transat for Canada.

Budget airline Ryanair also operates a number of European routes out of Glasgow Prestwick Airport.

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By Train

Glasgow has two main train stations – the gorgeous Central Station and Queen Street Station. They are both in the city centre, not too far from each other. Central Station links major cities all over the UK, including London. Queen Street Station is the main station linking Edinburgh (less than an hour away) and loads of other Scottish destinations. Check the trainline for routes, fares and tickets.

By Bus

Buchanan Bus Station links Glasgow with destinations all over Scotland, as well as a few longer distance journeys to London and some other major cities in England. The main bus company is Citylink, with National Express operating routes too.

For all your travel related needs, check out the super handy Traveline Scotland

Get Around

Subway

Glasgow is home to the only subway system in Scotland, the humble but handy ‘Clockwork Orange’ (so called cause it’s orange and only runs on one circular line). There’s the inner and the outer lines; if you get on the wrong side by accident you’ll get to where you’re going eventually. You can buy day tickets or single fares. The stations you’ll likely use the most are Buchanan St and St Enoch in the city centre and Hillhead on Byres Rd.

Bus

First Bus runs most of the local bus routes and you might make use of these if you’re heading somewhere the limited subway network doesn’t cover (Finnieston/Kelvingrove area or Pollokshaws Road area on the Southside, for example). You can buy tickets on the bus, but you’ll need exact change or you can use contactless payment if you have an eligible bank card. The fare depends on how long the journey is. Just tell the driver where you’re going and they’ll tell you the fare.

Train

There are a few handy local train stations serving areas that the subway doesn’t cover. Some local trains run through the lower level of Queen Street and Central Station. Stations you might use are Exhibition Centre (Central Station line – close to Finnieston area and SEC Armadillo/Hydro), Pollokshields East or West and Queen’s Park (Central line – for food/drink places mentioned on the Southside).

Taxi

Taxis are plentiful. There are black cab taxi ranks at the main train and bus stations, and dotted about the city. You can call for a cheaper private hire taxi from the likes of Network on 0141 557 1110 or Hampden Cars on 0141 332 5050.

Ultimate Glasgow Guide: A small boat and cranes in the background on the River Clyde, GlasgowThe River Clyde

Glasgow Awaits You!

Phew, you’ve made it to the end of this epic Local’s Ultimate Glasgow Guide! Armed with our top tips and insider info it’s time to get yourself to this vibrant, welcoming and exciting European city.

What are you waiting for?

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links – if you purchase a product or service via these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps offset the cost of running this blog and keeps us travelling so that we can continue to produce great content for you. We greatly appreciate your support!*

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A Local's Ultimate Glasgow Guide

An in-depth travel guide to Glasgow, Scotland's most vibrant & exciting city. Written by a passionate local who wants you to see, eat, drink & listen to the best that Glasgow has to offer. Includes interactive maps with walking itineraries, pub crawl routes, a guide to Glasgow's legendary music scene & the best places to eat. You won't find a more detailed Glasgow travel guide out there! | Europe | Glasgow Travel Tips | Scotland Travel | #glasgow #scotland #traveltips via @goingthewholehogg

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Where’s home for you?
Did we include your favourite Glasgow haunts?!
Let us know in the comments below!

2 replies
    • Going the Whole Hogg
      Going the Whole Hogg says:

      Thanks Zachary! What can we say, Glasgow’s got a lot to see, do, eat, drink… we just couldn’t stop writing!

      Reply

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An in-depth travel guide to Glasgow, Scotland\'s most vibrant & exciting city. Written by a passionate local who wants you to see, eat, drink & listen to the best that Glasgow has to offer. Includes interactive maps with walking itineraries, pub crawl routes, a guide to Glasgow\'s legendary music scene & the best places to eat. You won\'t find a more detailed Glasgow travel guide out there! | Europe | Glasgow Travel Tips | Scotland Travel | #glasgow #scotland #traveltips
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