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A weekend in Glasgow: A 48-hour itinerary

A weekend in Glasgow: A 48-hour itinerary

Where famous neighbour Edinburgh is tourist central, Scotland’s second city Glasgow has a grittier, more creative edge. This former industrial powerhouse has transformed itself into a city of culture. UNESCO City of Music, European City of Culture – the awards keep on coming. Glasgow mixes historic sandstone buildings and modern architecture, award-winning museums and live music venues, quirky shops and innovative restaurants. One thing you definitely won’t be is bored. So here’s my 48-hour itinerary for the perfect weekend in Glasgow.

Read more: A tour of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow

How to spend a weekend in Glasgow

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow

The red sandstone Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Friday evening

Check in to the Grasshopper Hotel in the centre of the city. It’s extra convenient if you’re travelling by train as it’s on the top floor of a building next to Glasgow Central Station. It’s surprisingly quiet up that high and the rooms have stylish Scandinavian design, with lots of pale greys, handmade wallpaper and pod bathrooms. There’s also a communal lounge with views over the station’s glass roof and nice touches like free cupcakes. Double rooms from £80 a night.

You don’t have far to go for dinner at Alston Bar and Beef, as the restaurant is set under the arches of a cellar which is buried deep beneath the station. As you can guess from the name, they specialise in beef, with fantastic dry-aged steaks which come from the Borders. They also have a huge selection of gins, and if you’re a fan you can sign up for a gin tasting-come-dinner evening and taste your way through a few of the best.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow

Everything from Spitfires to giraffes inside Kelvingrove

Saturday morning

Start the day with a walk in the park to the grand red sandstone building housing Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (free entry). Part art gallery, part history museum, there are 33 different galleries and a eclectic mix of collections with a giant elephant next to a World War II Spitfire as well as dinosaur eggs, Egyptian artifacts and a Salvador Dali painting. With more than 8000 exhibits you can dip in and out, and stop off in the café if you need a break.

From Kelvingrove, walk across the park to the University of Glasgow. The Gothic-style buildings were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, famous for creating St Pancras in London. With its turrets, vaulted ceilings and bell towers it looks like something straight out of Harry Potter.

The University of Glasgow

Under the arches at the university

Wander the cloisters with the students or visit Scotland’s oldest museum – the Hunterian (free entry). It was set up when 18th-century anatomist William Hunter donated his collection of scientific specimens  coins, minerals, books and Roman artefacts to the university.

Carry on past the university to Byres Road, the heart of Glasgow’s West End and home to some great boutique and vintage shops. Stop for lunch at the Ubiquitous Chip, where they put a modern twist on traditional Scottish dishes, served in a lovely flower-filled courtyard. They do a good-value lunchtime set menu with two courses for £19.95 or three for £24.95.

The University of Glasgow

Gothic style at the University of Glasgow

Saturday afternoon

Head down to the river to the striking, Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum (free entry). Opened in 2011, the ‘Glasgow Guggenheim’ has 3000 transport and travel related exhibits, from steam trains to skateboards. If you’re a car or train fan you’ll be in heaven, but even not there are other things to see like a recreated street taking you back to 1890s Glasgow.

Just outside the museum you can take a tour of the Glenlee, a restored tall ship that’s one of only five sailing ships built on the Clyde still afloat. Glasgow’s River Clyde was the centre of a hugely powerful shipbuilding industry until WWII when the area went into decline. Since then it’s been redeveloped and as you walk along the riverside you’ll see modern buildings like the Clyde Auditorium (aka the Armadillo) and the titanium-clad Glasgow Science Centre.

There’s still a glimpse of the river’s old life at the Finnieston Crane, a 175-foot crane used to load heavy locomotives onto ships. If you time your walk to coincide with sunset, then the crane and curving Clyde Arc (aka the Squinty Bridge) make a great silhouette. Finish the day with dinner at The Finnieston, a seafood restaurant with yet more gin – 60 different varieties this time.

Sunset on the River Clyde Glasgow

Sunset on the River Clyde

Sunday morning

First thing in the morning, head downstairs from the hotel to Glasgow Central Station to join the 10am building tour (£13 per person, minimum age 12 and you need to book in advance online). The tour reveals some of the station building’s hidden secrets, taking you right from the top of its glass roof to a forgotten Victorian village buried underground.

Among the way you’ll see rooms used as a WWI mortuary, an old boiler house that was the site of a 1930s murder and an original Victorian platform. From the station it’s only a couple of minutes’ walk to the Lighthouse. This building was one of Art Nouveau designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s first commissions and was originally the Glasgow Herald newspaper offices.

Now it’s a centre for design and architecture, with a free exhibition on Mackintosh’s work. Don’t forget to head up the spiral stairs of the old water tower for a great view across Glasgow city centre. Next stop for lunch at Tabac, a bar and restaurant opposite the Lighthouse with tapas-style sharing plates like smoked haddock croquettes and seared scallops on the menu.

Views across Glasgow from the Lighthouse

Views across Glasgow from the Lighthouse

Sunday afternoon

To find out a bit more about Charles Rennie Mackintosh, head to the Glasgow School of Art to join their 45-minute Mackintosh at the GSA tour (£7 for adults, £5.75 for students/over 60s or £3.50 for under 18s – please note these are currently suspended after a second fire in 2018). Mackintosh had strong ties to the school – he started off as a student there back in the 1880s and ended up winning a architecture competition to design a new building for them.

The tours are led by current or former students and take you around the exterior of the Mackintosh building, though you can’t go inside at the moment as the interiors are currently being restored after a major fire in 2014. You do get to see some of Mackintosh’s furniture though as well as getting lots of insight into his life and his relationship with Glasgow.

Finish the weekend at another famous Mackintosh building, the Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street. It’s been restored to its original Art Nouveau glory and you choose from afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones and cake, or something a bit more Scottish like Cullen Skink (smoked haddock and potato soup) or Scottish Rarebit. But no deep-fried Mars bars in sight!

The Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street

The Willow Tea Rooms

Have you visited Glasgow? Do you have any tips to add on what to see, do and eat?

Read more weekend guides

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How to spend a weekend in Glasgow, Scotland, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink on a 48-hour escape to this Scottish city. #Glasgow #Scotland #Britain #weekend #weekendbreakA guide to spending a weekend in Glasgow, Scotland, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink in this a 48-hour itinerary, including museums, architecture, restaurants and more. #Glasgow #Scotland #Britain #weekend #weekendbreak

Many thanks to Glasgow City Marketing Bureau for hosting me in Glasgow. This article contains affiliate links, where I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you – thanks.

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40 Comments

  • Reply
    The Vagabond Baker
    October 26, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    Gorgeous photos Lucy! This post just made me realise that the only stuff I’ve ever done in Glasgow is shop! It was the nearest big city when I lived on the west coast, and it’s great for shopping! But shame on me, I’ve had the Kelvingrove gallery on my to-see list for ever! The railway station underground tour sounds interesting, I’ve not heard about that.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      The station tour was a great tip from our cabbie on the way from the airport! Loved Kelvingrove, it really reminded me of the Natural History Museum in London, and you could easily spend a few days getting lost in there.

  • Reply
    Iain @ Global Walk'n'Roll
    October 26, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Hi Lucy,

    Brilliant article! Happy to see that you made it out to the West End and the University.

    “Despite living in the UK I’ve got a lot of Scotland still to see”

    I wouldn’t worry too much. I live up here – and have got loads more to see 😉

    Iain.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 26, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks Iain, and glad to see I’m not the only one with a big Scotland do-see list! Really enjoyed Glasgow though, it’s a great city and so much to do.

  • Reply
    Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine
    October 26, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    What beautiful pictures! The company my boyfriend used to work for has an office in Glasgow. I kept praying that he’d be sent abroad for a year so I could spend a year in Scotland. It’s such a beautiful place and I’ve yet to see any of it! Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you. 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 27, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Thanks so much, I really enjoyed my trip and it’s spurred me on to go and explore more of Scotland!

  • Reply
    MummyTravels
    October 26, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    I had a long weekend in Glasgow last year – embarrassingly my first real trip there – and loved it. Kelvingrove is just a treasure trove and as we were there in summer, I loved the Botanic gardens. Rogano’ s was great for seafood and proper old-fashioned style too.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 27, 2015 at 10:51 am

      I could easily have got lost in Kelvingrove for the day – and what a stunning building. The Botanic Gardens looked good too, one to explore properly next time!

  • Reply
    roamingpursuits
    October 27, 2015 at 1:02 am

    The architecture of some of the ‘older’ buildings are really lovely.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 27, 2015 at 10:47 am

      There are some beautiful buildings – I loved the colours of the red and gold sandstone in the sunshine.

  • Reply
    Deborah Carey
    October 27, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Break away from the West End and City Centre’s well worn path. Get just a little further out to Glasgow Green and visit the People’s Palace and their Winter Gardens, from there you can view the exterior of the Templeton Building, once a carpet factory now home to various business. The outside is spectacular and based on the Doges Palace in Venice. Then have lunch at West Bar and Brewery, a fusion of Glaswegian and Bavarian food and drink.
    Or visit the medieval Cathedral, Provand’s Lordship House and the Necropolis then wander down the hill to sample the food and drink in Drygate or go further along Duke Street to Coia’s Cafe for some Glaswegian/ Italian hospitality.
    Also one to try is the Mural Trail which will take you all over the city to view the commissioned art by local/ well known Graffiti artisits that now adorn some buildings in the city. Quite spectacular.
    So much to Glasgow aswell as the West End and Museums. You will need to make a return visit!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 27, 2015 at 10:43 am

      Thanks so much for all the great tips – I will definitely be back to explore further afield. Often I enjoy the second trip to a destination even more than the first, as you’ve seen the big-name sights and can concentrate on the more unusual things and just wander and see what you come across!

      • Reply
        Deborah
        October 29, 2015 at 4:17 pm

        Definitely. Well all of above well worth it!

  • Reply
    Susanne Arbuckle
    October 27, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I’m always delighted when my city gets a mention as people tend to see it as second choice to Edinburgh yet it is a completely unique place with so much to offer.
    I hope you get to visit again as there are some great places to spend time away from the usual museums and the live music scene is one of the best in the world.

    Susanne 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 27, 2015 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks Suzanne, I really enjoyed my weekend, I’d love to come back and see some more next time. I heard great things about the live music so that’s one to check out for sure.

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    October 27, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    I adore the Kelvingrove! I headed up to Glasgow this past February for the Film Festival but I left Sunday film free so I could enjoy the Kelvingrove and the Glasgow Art Gallery,

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 27, 2015 at 7:07 pm

      There’s so much to see there, you’d need a few trips to see it all!

  • Reply
    bevchen
    October 29, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Looks like a great weekend! I’ve never been to Glasgow (other than flying from Prestwick airport once), but I have a friend who’s from there so if I ever go I’m sure she’ll give me many tips 😀

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 31, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      Glaswegians all seem to be (rightly) very proud of their home city, I think I have enough tips to last a couple of weeks there now!

  • Reply
    Vlad
    October 31, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Great guide! I’ve been eyeing Scotland for a while now, I feel like a trip there is bound to happen sooner rather than later 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 31, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      I was so tempted to head up off into the Highlands as we were so close. Maybe next year – if you make it there I might come and join you!

  • Reply
    Melissa
    November 3, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Great photos and tips! heading to Glasgow as part of a girlfriend’s trip in February/March and have bookmarked this post for when we start itinerary planning!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 4, 2015 at 11:43 am

      Have a great time – it’s such a great city, though you’d better wrap up warm in February!

  • Reply
    atravelingb
    November 12, 2015 at 2:52 am

    I have always been so interested in Glasgow. Admitedly, I have heard more about Edinburgh, but love exploring a country’s “second cities.” We are hoping to head to Scotland next year for our big trip so I will have to add Glasgow to the itinerary.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 12, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      It definitely gets a bit overshadowed by Edinburgh but I think I preferred it as there was so much to do and it didn’t have a touristy feel. Hope you enjoy it when you make it to Scotland!

  • Reply
    Tanja
    November 15, 2015 at 9:11 am

    I’ve visited it in 2012! What about the oldest house in the town Provand’s lordship next to the cathedral and cemetery?

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 18, 2015 at 6:02 pm

      We did see that and looked interesting – one for my next visit!

  • Reply
    Christine
    March 28, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Great post! I’m going to Glasgow in May. Can’t wait to see it for myself and visit some of your recommended spots!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 29, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Have a great time, it’s a fab city!

  • Reply
    Amanda Keeley-Thurman
    April 17, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    We loved Glasgow when we visited. My husband worked at the University and we spent time eating and exploring all the free museums.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      April 17, 2017 at 11:09 pm

      It’s a great city – and sounds like you had a very good plan!

  • Reply
    Janet McLean
    July 7, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Great article Lucy! I lived in Glasgow for many years and am returning for a long weekend. Excited to see all the great places to eat and visit, many thanks for all the info!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 7, 2017 at 6:46 pm

      Thanks – it’s such a great city, hope you have a fantastic time!

  • Reply
    Alexandra Truglio
    October 16, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Appreciate these tips and the article, Lucy. I’ll be traveling to Glasgow soon but unfortunately will be tied up with work during the days, but will be free to explore in the evenings. Any suggestions on still getting to experience the city w/o the museums and historic marks only open during “business hours?” Thanks!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 25, 2017 at 10:07 pm

      Hi, unfortunately a lot of the museums and sights are closed in the evening but I’d recommend a walk along the riverside if you get a good sunset and there are loads of great places to eat and drink. Have a great trip!

  • Reply
    Brogan
    May 17, 2018 at 10:36 am

    I really enjoyed reading your post Lucy! I moved to Melbourne a few years ago but your post made me smile as I can picture exactly where you went to in most of the places you visited. I bet it was freezing?! I used to work in Glasgow and loved getting off the train at Central Station and waking through Buchanan Street, especially early on crisp morning. Boy do I love Australia but home is always home and you’ve inspired me to visit some new places and absorb more culture on my next visit back to the bonnie homeland! Ps love your blog 🙂 would love for you to check mine out! Brogan x

    • Reply
      Lucy
      May 18, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      So glad to bring back some good memories Brogan! So enjoyed that trip to Glasgow – it was a bit chilly but such a beautiful sunny day. I’ve been back a couple of times since as my sister lives up in Edinburgh now so it’s been a great excuse to see more of Scotland. I spent a few months in Melbourne years ago so will definitely check out your blog!

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