Want to experience Glasgow without a guidebook? The city has many different unusual guided and self-guided tours on offer that will make your trip to Glasgow unforgettable. In this guide, I tell you about 10 of the best Glasgow tours to experience the city like no one else!
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Glasgow is a city you don’t simply visit following a guidebook; it’s not a sightseeing destination like Edinburgh, where you can wander from one museum to a castle to the next museum. Yes, there are tons of museums and other traditional sights in Glasgow as well, but if you ask me, that’s not how you get the most out of your visit… Glasgow is a city you have to experience!
Tours are a great way to do exactly that. The city is all about its people, the creative vibe, its cultural life and the atmosphere that can be felt in the small lanes as well as the large open squares.
In this guide I tell you about 10 great Glasgow tours – all consisting of their own very special angle on the city of Glasgow. Some of them are guided city tours, while others are self-guided adventures. One thing I can guarantee is that there is a Glasgow tour for every taste!
Glasgow Travel Essentials:
Where to Stay in Glasgow | Hotels are super affordable – I summed up my favourites for all budgets here. AirBnB is a great option if you prefer your own place. You can use my referral to get £25 off your first booking!
Getting around Glasgow | Glasgow is a very walkable city, but you can get buses or the subway for longer distances between different quarters. Traditional black taxis can be a bit expensive, so I suggest to use private hire companies like Network Private Hire or Uber!
Got only one day? Check out my 24-hour itinerary for Glasgow!
Watch Me See Private City Tour
The best way to see any city is by getting a tour from a local. Luckily you don’t have to look too far for your very own tour guide – just book a private Glasgow walking tour with Watch Me See!
I have been offering private city tours since 2017 and love sharing my passion for Glasgow with my guests. Whether you’re looking for a flavour from each corner of Glasgow or an in-depth tour around one of the neighbourhoods – I’ll take you to the city’s attractions, cool photo spots, great eateries, bars and pubs, street art and vintage shops, and can tell you little more about life in Glasgow!
I tell you about the history and development of Glasgow, but also about what it’s like to live here. My tours are always private (for up to 6 people in your group; larger groups on request) and the route is fully customisable to fit your interests. I can include the main attractions, sites of interest and museums (visiting together or as star/end points) or consider special interests, like photography, street art, vegan food, whisky, shopping, architecture, Harry Potter and so on.
My tours last around 3 hours and cost £60.
Tennent’s Brewery Tour
Forget about whisky – beer is the most popular drink in Scotland! And among the many beers brewed in Scotland, Glasgow’s very own Tennent’s Lager is on top of the game. You know you’re doing something right when over 70% of all Scottish pubs serve your beer – Tennent’s is a Scottish institution!
The Tennent’s Brewery Tour mixes a bit of history and a tour of all stages of beer brewing from hops to keg with a tasting session of different Tennent’s beers. Beer has been brewed in this area since the 12th century (thank the monks of St Mungo), and at the site of Wellpark Brewery since 1556. In 1740 Tennent’s was founded – and the rest is history. Today, Tennent’s may not be family-run any longer, but the brewery is still strongly rooted in its traditions of brewing lager in Glasgow.
For about 75 minutes, our tour guide David told us the ins and outs of brewing Tennent’s and led us to where the magic happens – because producing 9 million pints a week is what I’d call sheer magic! At the end of the tour, we enjoyed a pint of ice-cold Tennent’s beer, and tried some of the beers that are brewed here for export, like the extra strong Scotch Ale or the chocolatey stout.
PS: Did you know that Tennent’s is vegan?
Tours run daily from 11 am; the last tour starts at 6 pm. The duration of the tour is approx. 75 minutes. Tickets are £10 and you can book them here.
Please note that the Tennent’s Brewery Tour requires a minimum age of 12. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.
Glasgow Music City Tours
Did you know Glasgow was the UK’s first ever UNESCO City of Music? Liverpool joined the ranks later on too, but Glasgow’s vibrant music scene really is one of a kind in the UK.
Glasgow Music City Tours offer two kinds of tours to let you dive deep into the music scene of Glasgow. The Glasgow’s Music Mile tour is a whistle-stop tour of the city centre along with some past and present music venues, like the Royal Concert Hall, King Tut’s or the Glasgow School of Art. At King Tut’s you have the chance to take a selfie on the same stage that has been played by bands like Oasis, Blur and the Manic Street Preachers.
Personally, I’ve tried the Merchant City Music tour, which covers some of the city’s most iconic music locations, such as the Barrowland Ballroom, The Clutha pub and Glasgow’s oldest music hall, the Britannia Panopticon. Our guide Fiona told endless stories about famous Glasgow musicians and venues, but also pointed out interesting connections between the music scene and politics, visual art and pop culture! It was really more of a recent history of Glasgow through the lens of music!
Tours take place Saturdays only; 11 am for the Merchant City Music tour, 2 pm for Glasgow’s Music Mile. Both tours last approx. 2 hours. Tickets are £17 and you can book them here.
Please note that Glasgow’s Music Mile has a minimum age of 14 due to licensing laws. Merchant City Music is open to all ages.
Glasgow Central Tour
As a formal trade hub and industrial city, you can imagine that the railway has always played quite a significant role in Glasgow. Glasgow Central Tour is a guided tour to the historical platforms underneath today’s central railway station and is run by Paul Lyons, who is a former ScotRail employee.
What started as a one-off event during an Open Days festival, has quickly turned into one of the most popular guided tours in Glasgow. Paul and his co-workers take small groups around and behind the scenes of the station.
I did this tour with my mum and my partner, so it’s fair to say that it is suitable for first-time visitors as well as local residents – it’s just a completely different way to tell the history of Glasgow. Our tour guide Paul focused a lot on the time period of both World Wars, the soldiers who came in and out of the station, and the hardship of the women who remained back home. It was very interesting to hear these often untold stories of the city and walk in the footsteps of the people Paul told us about.
Tours run daily between 10 am and 4 pm and last approx. 1.5 hours including safety briefing. Tickets are £13.
Please note that the minimum age for this tour is 12 and under 15s must be accompanied by an adult.
FREE: City Centre Mural Trail
While Glasgow’s street art scene does not compare to the likes of Berlin or London, there are a lot of local artists who have been commissioned to brighten up the firewalls and back alleys of the city.
The City Centre Mural Trail is a self-guided walk through the city centre of Glasgow, exploring some of the most colourful murals the city has to offer. The local tourism board has created a free downloadable of the trail which helps to navigate the murals and gives a little bit of background information for each mural. It is regularly updated to include the latest additions to the mural trail.
Some of the most iconic pieces of street art include Rogue-One’s World’s Most Economical Taxi, the murals in honour of Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly, Smug’s Fellow Glasgow Residents and James Klinge’s Tiger by the River Clyde. One of my favourite murals in Glasgow though is Smug’s modern-day take on the city’s patron saint St. Mungo – make sure to visit it!
Download the mural trail map here.
The Clydeside Distillery tour
It’s been a long time since Glasgow had a distillery in the city – but the wait is over. The Clydeside Distillery opened in November 2017 and as such, they will have to wait a few years before they can bottle their very own single malt whisky. However, the distillery is already open and running; with a visitor centre & shop, a tasting studio and of course a tour!
The Clydeside Distillery tour begins with a humorous film to tell you a little more about the uniqueness of the location of the distillery. In the old Pumphouse on the banks of the river Clyde, where the Queen’s Dock shipyard used to be, the distillery sits on a wealth of local history. They’re making whisky in the same spot where once whisky barrels used to be stored and loaded onto the ships to sail into the world. The tour continues through an exhibition about the history of Scottish whisky as well as the distilleries family – turns out it was their ancestors who build the Queen’s Dock here in the 19th century!
Finally, our tour guide Ross walked us through the steps of whisky making and showed us around the facilities of the distillery – the highlight was certainly the purpose-built glass annex housing the two massive copper stills. At the end of the tour, we got to taste three different whiskies from the Highlands, Islay and the Lowlands to learn about the differences in taste, aroma and colour.
The distillery is in a perfect location to explore more of the museums and art spaces around the Riverfront and makes for a unique window onto the history and importance of Glasgow as a port city.
The tour is £15 (incl. tasting and a small whisky glass) and you can book it here!
Women’s Heritage Walk
Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) is my favourite cultural institution in Glasgow. They’re not only a library and event space, they also offer loads of activities to learn more about women’s history in Glasgow and historical female figures who made the city what it is today.
The Women’s Heritage Walks by Glasgow Women’s Library are all about outstanding women in the city’s history and lead to various neighbourhoods in Glasgow. The tours were researched and are now run by volunteers, who donate their time to the Library on a regular basis. Apart from talking about the city and its women, they read from diary entries and first-hand reports along the way, giving the tours a very special atmosphere of traveling back in time.
There is usually around one heritage walk per month, rotating neighourhoods throughout the year. I went along for the West End walk before and learned about influential female graduates from the University of Glasgow, the medical (mis-)treatment of women during the 19th century and the local Suffragette movement.
Tickets are £10 and you can book them here!
FREE: Follow the “Art Trail”
Glasgow does not actually have an offical art trail, but with the help of a few addresses you will be able to create your own self-guided tour to visit local artists, craft-people and design shops or studios.
Begin your journey at the Barras Market in the East End of Glasgow – the market itself is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, but at the creative hub BAaD (Barras Art & Design), you’ll find little independent shops and artist studio spaces where you might be able to pop your head in! I recommend the shop Braw Wee Emporium where you can shop for local design, or simply chat to the owner about her work as well as the artists she features in the shop.
Continue to the city centre and explore the streets around Trongate. You’ll find a few gallery spaces here (like the famous Transmission Gallery that Franz Ferdinand sung about) as well as pretty shops where you can buy art or art supplies.
Finally, make your way to the Hidden Lane in the West End of Glasgow. As the name suggests, the lane is tucked away and easy to miss, but it’s really worth checking out! There are a lot of local artists based in the lanes, many of them have open studios & showrooms. You can watch them creating while browsing their artwork and chat with them about their work. The shops don’t always have coherent opening hours, but most artists are in on Saturdays for the Hidden Lane Saturdays! Make sure you pop by the studio of Libby Walker who created beautiful illustrations of Glaswegian neighbourhoods – her designs are perfect souvenirs.
GSA Mackintosh Walking Tour
This tour is currently suspended due to the fire at Glasgow School of Art in June 2018.
The most famous architect hailing from Glasgow is without a doubt, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His influential style of architecture and design has left a legacy all over Glasgow. Even though he was only commissioned to build a few buildings in Glasgow, his distinct style and his contemporaries have shaped how the city looks like today.
The Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Walking Tour explores some of Mackintosh’s buildings around Glasgow but also puts his work into the context of other architects, designers, and artists who were active in Glasgow around the same time – around the turn of the 19th and 20th century.
The tour guides are current and former GSA students who mix stories about the architect with significant key events in the city and the country’s history. I loved how they pointed out various buildings in the city centre, that I had walked past before, but never really noticed. We saw some of the earliest “skyscrapers” of Glasgow, heard which architecture styles competed with Mackintosh’s Art Nouveau and saw some Mackintosh buildings I didn’t even know existed!
Tours run Thursday through Monday at 1 pm and last for approx. 2 hours and 15 minutes. Tickets are £19.50 and you can book them here!
FREE City Chambers tour
If you’re looking for a free activity in Glasgow and would like a peek into one of the city’s most extravagant building, take part on a free guided tour of Glasgow City Chambers, the town hall of Glasgow.
The tours are led by an employee of the City Chambers and participants have to wear a Visitors pass throughout the tour. The City Chambers is a working building, meaning that city employees actually work here, and there are certain limitations as to which parts of the buildings can be visited, and when. There is no fixed route through the building or a set duration of the tour, but the guide always doe their best to show as many different rooms as possible.
When I did this tour, we were able to visit the plenary hall. This is where the city council meets even today to discuss the matters of the city. Without a doubt though, the most impressive feature of the building is the main staircase, which is clad from floor to ceiling in Italian marble. Glasgow was once an incredibly rich city, so the City Chambers were built to show off this wealth.
Tours run twice a day, Monday through Friday, at 10.30 am and 2.30 pm. Tickets are available at first come, first serve basis from 30 minutes before the tour. Unlike most other Glasgow tours, the City Chambers tour is free. More info here.
Glasgow is a city that has a lot more to offer than it might appear at first glance. Any of these guided tours will introduce you to a side of Glasgow that a guidebook simply cannot convey. I hope you agree and I’ll see you soon on a tour around Glasgow!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.