How to Take the Ultimate Vacation in Glasgow, Scotland

Take A Break is your ultimate guide to the perfect journeys to recharge, rediscover yourself and your relationships, and reengage with the world. We’ll cover shopping stops, great bars, restaurants worth your money, photo ops, memorable rides and experiences, and other important details you need before you book.

Below, we talk to HuffPost Editor Liza Hearon about why you’ll want to put Glasgow, Scotland on your to-do list.

What attracted you to Glasgow as a place to visit or explore?

I have a group of friends who are from Glasgow and have visited the city frequently since moving to the UK 11 years ago. It’s always great! When Americans visit Scotland, they usually only go to Edinburgh. I get why ― it’s a beautiful city with an incredible history and vacations are a valuable resource. But Glasgow is just cooler ― the patter (Scottish term for banter or conversation) is second to none!

What are the best times of year to visit?

Let’s face it ― nobody goes to Scotland for the beach weather. Winters are dark, cold and wet. But there are enough things to do in Glasgow to keep you busy all year round. Summers are euphoric, with very long days (sunrise at 4:30 a.m., sunset after 10 p.m. at the height of summer). And I haven’t seen anywhere else embrace Halloween like Glasgow does. The whole West End is like a costume party with students and many others converging for a monstrously fun night on Ashton Lane.

If you manage to score warmer weather than around 57 degrees Fahrenheit, you may witness “pat aff,” the phenomenon of gentlemen who walk around bare-chested at parties.

What’s your best advice for getting there? How to make the trip as stress-free as possible?

You probably won’t be heading to Scotland for a long weekend from the US. If you are already in the UK, Glasgow is very well served by train. There are many direct trains from London which take around four and a half hours to Glasgow Central. UK trains are unnecessarily overpriced, so try to buy your ticket in advance, don’t travel on Friday and Sunday evenings and be sure to indicate that you want a reserved seat. It’s also only about an hour by train from Edinburgh, and there are tons of trains to choose from.

Glasgow has an airport that serves quite a few European destinations, if you are coming from that direction.

Glasgow is easily accessible by train from London and has an airport which serves a number of European destinations.

Kenny Williamson via Getty Images

Glasgow is easily accessible by train from London and has an airport which serves a number of European destinations.

Where do you recommend staying when you go?

For a birthday present, I once stayed at the Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel, with gorgeous, lavish rooms and a thermal spa on the ground floor. It is surrounded by lush gardens and is conveniently located in the city center.

If you are on a budget, Motel One is good value for money. It’s just the basics but it’s good for a bustling city break! Point A is similar – small rooms but fine if you are going to be on the go.

What are your favorite restaurants or foods during your stay?

Glasgow is a great city for brunches! Who knew? The left Bankin the West End, and Wilson Street Pantry, in the middle are some of my favorite places. It is also worth mentioning The Single End, which has two locations in the city.

Glasgow is also one of the most vegan cities I know. I’m not vegan but I really liked it Swiss ― it’s pan-Asian but run by a Malaysian family, and the laksa is excellent.

If you are looking for a treat for lunch or dinner, Ubiquitous chip is a beautiful space with different areas, such as the Wee Whiskey Bar. (You’ll definitely want to book a reservation!)

What bars or entertainment venues do you make sure to visit? What’s good to drink there or what else should people know?

The Barrowland Ballroom is one of the UK’s most iconic venues for live music. Sometimes they release more tickets for sold-out concerts shortly before the show, so it’s worth taking a chance. I have both bought and sold tickets on Twickets ― This is a UK based platform where sellers are not allowed to charge more than face value for tickets. Barras Art and Design is a cool spot for a pre-Barrowland drink.

But there is no shortage of good places to drink in Glasgow! In the West End there is Òran Morwhich is a bar in a converted church. The old barber and Stereo are two very cool live music bars next to each other on Renfield Lane. And of course, there are plenty of traditional pubs ― Scotia may seem touristy but i really enjoyed it. The still claims he has over 800 whiskeys; it gets crowded on weekends.

Glasgow is Scotland's largest city.

georgeclerk via Getty Images

Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city.

If you are a fan of live music or theateryou really can’t go wrong in Glasgow ― it’s an embarrassment of cultural riches.

A totally unique experience is Sharmanka Kinetic Theater. These strangely beautiful sculptures move with the music. It’s scary and moving.

And if you want to have fun late into the night, you might end up on Sauchiehall Street, which is a loud party street full of places with drink specials for students and the like. Be sure to pick up one of the local specialties on the way back―Chips and Cheese (note that cheese is charged in equal parts) or a candy boxwhich is an unholy combination of drunken food assembled for you in a pizza box.

What are your favorite shops and what do you look for when you are there?

I have to admit that I don’t do much shopping there. But I always take tattoo scones (potato scones) to take back to London with me. You can freeze them or even just put them in the toaster. What a great breakfast or brunch.

Where is your favorite place to take photos and why?

The Glasgow Necropolis is a rad Victorian graveyard that is a lovely walk on a sunny day or super spooky at night. You also get a nice view of the city. There are two ancient buildings nearby, Glasgow Cathedral and the Lordship of Provand, which date from medieval times.

Which tourist attraction should people avoid and what should they do instead?

To me the shopping areas around Buchanan Street are mostly the same shops you can find elsewhere in the UK (but if mall style shopping is your thing, go for it!) But! The modern art gallery (GoMA, of course) is nearby and well worth a visit ― the staff are lovely and the exhibits are top notch. I saw an exhibition of teenage artists who created works depicting their experiences of confinement and it moved me to tears.

There is also the iconic image of the city directly opposite: the Duke of Wellington with a traffic cone on his head.

Where do you feel most relaxed, calm or happy?

The Glasgow Botanic Gardens are adorable! And there’s a nice warm greenhouse for tropical plants, and for people in warmer climates who need to warm up!

The Gallery of Modern Art is located in a neoclassical building in Royal Exchange Square.

gmsphotography via Getty Images

The Gallery of Modern Art is located in a neoclassical building in Royal Exchange Square.

What scenic spots do you recommend visiting?

Kelvingrove Park is a lovely park to stroll around and also contains the excellent Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The University of Glasgow campus is nearby and if you love architecture (or Harry Potter) you’ll love seeing the neo-Gothic buildings.

What is the thing that you make sure to take with you if you go and why?

Your sense of humor! The people of Glasgow are very funny and welcoming people. For tangible items you will need layers, as the weather is so changeable that you could be cold, wet and then hot inside a bar or restaurant on the same day.

What specific planning tips do you need to know before you go so you don’t get stressed out?

I have traveled to Glasgow at different times of the year and honestly there is always something to do. A tip is that if you’re traveling in August, you can stay in Glasgow and take a day trip to Edinburgh to see Fringe shows ― accommodation in Edinburgh in August gets booked up very early and the prices are crazy.

What surprised you in Glasgow the first time you went there?

How international and welcoming the city is ― it’s unusual for a big city, I think. For example, in May 2021, hundreds of people showed up to surround an immigration van and prevent the deportation of their friends and neighbors on Eid al-Fitr. There is a real sense of community spirit.

Anything else visitors should know?

Try taking the metro to get around – I know it’s so patronizing, but it’s adorable and pee and it spins in circles. (Unfortunately, only two stations have step-free access; hopefully this will be improved.)

And if you want to discover Glasgow without leaving your sofa, the very funny comedy “Lovesick” takes place there.

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