Despite the fact that Glasgow has enough to offer for a lifetime of exploring, the majority of people who visit Scotland only spend one day in Glasgow, often on their way up to the Highlands and Islands. Let’s assume you have 24 hours in Glasgow and want to maximise every minute of that – where would you start? This Glasgow itinerary is for everyone on a tight schedule to help to see the best of Glasgow in a day!
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Glasgow can be split into 5 greater regions – the city centre and one for each cardinal direction. The majority of Glasgow’s points of interest are located in the centre, the West End and the beginnings of the East End, which is what this itinerary will focus on. If you have more time or simply need some help beginning to plan your city trip to Glasgow, make sure to also check out my 50 tips for visiting Glasgow.
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How to get to Glasgow
No matter whether you’ve just arrived in Scotland this morning, or you’ve already spent a few days in exploring Edinburgh, I suggest you start your day in Glasgow in the early morning hours. This Glasgow itinerary is based on the assumption that you reach Glasgow city centre around 9 am.
It is very easy to get from Edinburgh to Glasgow on the train – only 45 minutes and the airport bus connects Glasgow airport to Glasgow Central in under half an hour. I always book my tickets in advance via Trainline.
All trains and buses arrive in the city centre, just a stone’s throw away from Glasgow highlights such as George Square and the City Chambers, the hustle and bustle of the shopping miles Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall Street and Argyle Street, the Glasgow School of Art or Glasgow Cathedral.
Where to Stay in Glasgow
If you plan to stay in Glasgow overnight (you could also head back to Edinburgh in the evening), make your way to your hotel first.
There are many options across all parts of town, but if you only have a day, I recommend finding accommodation in the city centre.
8 am: Start your day with breakfast + street art
Check-in or drop off your bags and head for a late breakfast in one of the many cafes around the city centre. Three of my favourite breakfast places in central Glasgow are Picnic, Singl-end and Rose & Grant’s, whose vegan square sausage is a famous staple in town, even among meat-eaters. They all open at 8 am during the week.
- Picnic, 103 Ingram St, Glasgow G1 1DX, http://picnic-cafe.co.uk/
- Singl-end, 15 John Street and 263 Renfrew St, https://thesingl-end.co.uk/
- Rose & Grant’s, 27 Trongate, Glasgow G1 5EZ, http://rose-grants-deli-cafe.business.site/
If you need to kill some time before they open during the weekend, why not check out some of the street art along the Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail. With the leaflet and map downloaded to your phone, all you need to do is peek around a few corners and you’ll see some of the city’s most amazing murals.
10 am: Exploring the West End
With your belly filled, head to St Enoch station and board the subway to Hillhead in the West End of Glasgow. The Glasgow Subway has it’s own very unique atmosphere – there is only one line going in circles, it’s tiny and loud, but also one of the oldest subway lines in Europe. Fares are quite cheap and a single ticket will only cost you £1.75 (£3.30 return, £4.20 all-day – 2020 prices).
Find more info on the Glasgow Subway here.
The West End is Glasgow’s most trendy part of town and the area of Finnieston has even been named one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the UK. Start by exploring the wee (=little) lanes surrounding the subway station in Hillhead. My favourite ones are Ruthven Lane, Ashton Lane and Cresswell Lane, and all three are seamed with great restaurants and cute vintage shops.
A good alternative when it’s lashing down (one of the many local words for it’s raining), the glasshouses in the Glasgow Botanical Gardens are a great alternative. The tropical temperature is a real treat and it’s one of the many free things to do in Glasgow.
Gardens open: 7 am – dusk; Glasshouses open: 10 am – 6 pm (4.15 pm in winter), FREE
If you’re into Harry Potter (who am I kidding, who isn’t?!) don’t miss out on the main building of the University of Glasgow – it is an absolute must-see in Glasgow. One peek at the cloisters and you’ll know what I’m talking about!
The University is accessible to the public for FREE.
From there you can pop by Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum (also free) to see a colourful mix of all kinds of exhibitions or go for a stroll in Kelvingrove Park. There are many coffee shops along the way, where you can grab a takeaway brew.
Museum open: 10 am – 5 pm (11 am on Fridays and Sundays), FREE
12.30 pm: Lunch in the West End
I bet, all the exploring has made you hungry again and there are lots of great lunch options along the way that offer vegan as well as omni food.
- The V&V Cafe: a fully vegan cafe near Kelvinbridge subway station with a selected lunch menu of toasties, curry, soup and sandwiches
481 Great Western Rd, Glasgow G12 8HL, http://www.barsoba.co.uk/
- Soba: a pan-Asian restaurant near Hillhead subway station
116-122 Byres Rd, Glasgow G12 8TB, http://www.barsoba.co.uk/
- Hanoi Bike Shop: a Vietnamese restaurant on Ruthven Lane serving pho and tapas-style Vietnamese dishes
8 Ruthven Ln, Glasgow G12 9BG, https://hanoibikeshop.co.uk/
- Hidden Lane Tea Rooms: a vintage tea room in Finnieston with a selection of sandwiches, soup and cake – the afternoon tea here is delicious!
1103 Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8ND, https://www.hiddenlanetearoom.com/
- The 78: a fully vegan gastro-pub in Finnieston with a cosy fireplace
10-14 Kelvinhaugh St, Glasgow G3 8NU, https://www.the78barandkitchen.com/
On a rainy day, take the subway back into town, but if it’s dry or even sunny (and that happens more frequently than you might think) leave the West End by foot and walk along the River Clyde until you get back to the centre. The path along the river leads along Glasgow’s famous modern skyline and some relics from the shipbuilding history of the city. From Finnieston the walk takes about 35-40 minutes. Alternatively, you can rent a city bike and cycle along the river on a safe cycle path.
2 pm: Discovering Central Glasgow
Back in the city centre, stop by The Lighthouse, Glasgow’s centre for architecture and design. It is located in a Mackintosh building and houses a collection of his drawings and designs. You can climb all the way to the tower of the building for great views of the city. The tower access closes at 4.45 pm, so make sure you get there before then.
The Lighthouse is open from 10.30 am – 5 pm (from 12 pm on Sundays), FREE
Access to the Mackintosh tower from Level 3.
From here, it is just a short walk over to the Merchant City, an area where wealthy merchants of Glasgow built their luxurious townhouses during the city’s richest moment in history. Many of these merchants earned their fortune through the transatlantic slave trade and so financed these opulent buildings. Some were plantation owners or owned the ships that transported African people to the Americas or goods back to Europe, others were directly involved in the trade of products from the colonies (such as tobacco or cotton).
Many street names in the Merchant City (and Glasgow City Centre beyond that) are named after such merchants, but there is no public acknowledgement of their involvement in the slave trade (i.e. in the form of plaques or history boards).
One of the oldest buildings in Glasgow is Glasgow Cathedral, and initially, the town was built around this area. The city centre only moved to its current position during the 18th and 19th century. Behind it, the Necropolis cemetery offers great views back over the city and beautiful Victorian graves to marvel at.
A bit further on lies Glasgow’s oldest park. Glasgow Green expands along the river Clyde and is a popular hang-out spot for the locals. In it, People’s Palace is a brilliant museum about the history of the people of Glasgow. The building is part museum, park greenhouse, which makes it a great bad-weather activity in Glasgow. Like most Glasgow museums, it is free to enter.
Museum open: Mon – Sat 10 am – 5 pm, Sun 11 am – 5 pm
If you’re visiting on a weekend, make sure to drop by the Barras market to shop for bargains and experience authentic Glasgow vibes.
Market open: Saturday & Sunday 9.30 am – 4.30 pm
6 pm: Have a pint in a pub
After so much exploring, you deserve a little rest – and where better to get that, than the pub!
You might have noticed, that while there is a lot to do in Glasgow, it doesn’t have a tourist magnet like the Castle in Edinburgh. Visiting Glasgow is a lot about meeting the locals and experiencing the nightlife the city is famous for. The pubs and bars of the city are a great place for a taster.
Some of my favourite bars for local flavour in the city centre are:
- The Pot Still: famous for its wide range of whiskies – come here for a dram you’ll never forget
154 Hope St, Glasgow G2 2TH, http://thepotstill.co.uk/
- Sloans: one of the oldest pubs in Glasgow, located in a quiet courtyard off Argyle Street
108 Argyle St, Glasgow G2 8BG, https://www.sloansglasgow.com/
- MacSorleys: a gastro-pub with great live music, especially on a Saturday afternoon
42 Jamaica St, Glasgow G1 4QG
- The Griffin: a busy pub off Sauchiehall Street with a traditional round wooden bar
266 Bath St, Glasgow G2 4JP, http://thegriffinglasgow.co.uk/
- Saramago Bar: a trendy bar in the beautiful surroundings of the Centre for Contemporary Art
350 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3JD, https://www.cca-glasgow.com/saramago-cafe/saramago-caf-bar
7.30 pm: Scottish Dinner in the City Centre
Dinner options in Glasgow are endless – and many restaurants in the city are really vegan-friendly. There are certain dishes you simply have to try when you visit Scotland and many of them can be “veganised”. Here are two options for a traditional Scottish dinner – vegan or not:
- Mono is one of Glasgow’s first vegan gastro-pubs. On the menu, you’ll find Scottish classics like Fish & Chips (made with tofu), Mac & Cheese or potato and veggie roasts. For something less traditional, try the pizzas – you won’t regret it!
12 King St, Glasgow G1 5RB, http://www.monocafebar.com/
- The Red Onion is owned by star chef John Quigley who made a name for himself in London’s West End and as the private chef for Bryan Adams. The restaurant serves traditional Scottish cuisine with a modern twist and on the separate vegan menu, you can find classics like Haggis or Korma.
After filling your belly with Scottish delights, there is nothing left to do than heading back out for a dram or two. Many pubs in Glasgow offer free live music on any day of the week. To find something for your taste, check the event calendar at Glasgow Gig Guide.
Glasgow in a day is barely enough to scratch the surface and there is a lot more to do and see all across the city. If you can, I highly recommend spending at least 2-3 days in Glasgow to visit more of Glasgow’s fantastic museums and parks and explore further off the beaten track. If you have the time, or if you’d rather spend your day outside the more touristy points of interest, check out my 10 suggestions for escaping the West End bubble!
What would you do if you only had one day in Glasgow?
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.