Glasgow was always an elusive one to me. I have been all over Scotland in the past couple of years over half a dozen of trips, from the Isle of Skye to the tragic Highlands — and yet, I had never managed to make it west to Glasgow. Was I not destined to go, I wondered? It wasn’t for lack of trying. But for some reason, my plans always fell through.
Until last month.
And even then – I was supposed to visit Glasgow back in the spring, but yet again, destiny had other plans. I almost couldn’t believe I was actually going to visit until I was comfortably seated on the plane on my way to Scotland’s up and coming city. You can imagine my excitement when I finally tightened my scarf – this is Scotland after all, I knew what to expect weather-wise – and put on my walking shoes, ready to explore this thriving city.
What used to be called the “second city of the British Empire”, because of its flourishing chemicals, textiles, and engineering industries, definitely surprised me.
How to spend 72 hours in Glasgow
Architecture walking tour
This is definitely a must. Glasgow boasts an incredibly architectural heritage, with a distinct turn-of-the-century industrial style that holds more than meets the eye. From Victorian influences to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s innovative design, the tour offered by the Glasgow School of Art is led by passionate students who are more than happy to share their knowledge of the city and point out intricately ornate buildings or fun trivia whenever they can.
Shop ’til you drop
With one of the city most sought-after attractions being named the “Style Mile”, it’s no wonder Glasgow is such an ideal shopping destination. Think all of London’s high street fashion, minus the insufferable crowds. Buchanan Street is where it’s at, from one end to another. But those looking for a more affordable and quirky experience should not fret, as Glasgow’s West End is pretty much the thrift shopping capital of the world. There are dozens of charity and second-hand shops in the neighbourhood, for a budget-friendly day out in the city.
Eat your way through the West End
Speaking of the West End, few other districts in the city offer such gourmet yet diversified options. This really was one of my favourite past-times while I was in Glasgow, hopping from one café to another. Often referred to as the bohemian side of Glasgow, the West End deserves at least a full day of exploration. Here are my favourite eateries in the area:
- Ox and Finch, a contemporary and relaxed shared dining (think Scottish tapas)
- Kember and Jones, a lovely cafe with delicious baked goods
- Soba, pan-Asian street food and cocktails
- Peckhams, Glasgow’s best fine grocer
- Epicures of Hynland, locally-sourced restaurant with an awesome terrace
- The Little Café, a no-frills yet stylish place to grab lunch before hitting Kelvingrove
- Mother India Café, a delicious, authentic and affordable curry house
Not unlike so many other cities in the world including my hometown of Montreal, Glasgow has a fun, easy to use bike sharing scheme. With stations in both the West End, the Style Mile and South Side and more, it’s actually an enjoyable mode of transportation on a sunny day. And let’s be honest, it’s it’s sunny in Scotland then you better make the most of it and stay outdoors! I rented a bike to cycle from the Riverside Museum all the way to Glasgow University and it was such a hoot!
Hit the museums
Glasgow definitely doesn’t have to envy London as far as museums go! I personally visited three, the first one being, of course, the Kelvingrove Museum. It is the most famous of all, and with reason; this Glasgow Victorian landmark hosts one of the finest civic collections in Europe. I mean, the museum itself in an attraction in its own right!
I also enjoyed the brand new Riverside Museum, which boasts an excellent collection of vehicles and models to tell the story of transport by land and sea, with a unique Glasgow flavour. I particularly enjoyed the tall ship and the hugely popular historic Glasgow street scene from the early 1900s – complete with a subway carriage!
Lastly, those with a good set of legs should definitely climb up the 162 steps (I counted!!!) up the Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, for an amazing view over the city.
Walk in the park
Glasgow boasts amazing green spaces from one end to another of the city. I personally loved, loved, loved the Botanic Gardens, which were a bucolic sight for sore eyes after a long day of walking around the West End. The Victorian greenhouse and the colourful gardens are just too photogenic not to share! Close by is the popular Kelvingrove Park, which has long been Glaswegians’ favourite place to jog, chill or picnic. Being just next to Glasgow University it is understandably full of hard-working (or not!) students, giving the park a very lively feel.
Go back to school
While I am perfectly aware that Glasgow has nothing to do with Harry Potter, I couldn’t help but feel like I had walked right into Hogwarts when I entered the University’s campus. It is the fourth oldest Uni in the English-speaking world (established 1451), and also one of the country’s most prestigious. Accio wand and striped scarf, please?
72 hours in Glasgow: Practical Info
- Glasgow’s main centre is a very walkable, but it is a bit of a stretch to get to other areas from there, including the West End. I recommend using the subway, which is super tiny, super cute, super cheap and super easy to use.
- If all else fails, black cabs are also extremely affordable – nothing like London’s!
- And because the city is so spread out, I recommend using the Hop On Hop Off service to get to far off attractions like the Kelvingrove Museum, the Riverside Museum and the Botanic Gardens, which are all worth a visit.