How To Take The Ultimate Vacation In Glasgow, Scotland

The Scottish city is full of great entertainment, art and welcoming locals.
Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: Getty

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

Below, we chat with Liza Hearon, an assignment editor at HuffPost, about why you’ll want to put Glasgow, Scotland, on your bucket list.

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

I have a group of friends who are from Glasgow, and I’ve been visiting the city frequently since I moved to the U.K. 11 years ago. It’s always a blast! When Americans visit Scotland, they usually only make it to Edinburgh. I understand why ― it’s a beautiful city with amazing history and vacation time is a precious resource. But Glasgow is just cooler ― the patter (Scottish term for banter or conversation) is unrivaled!

What are the best times of year to visit?

Let’s face it ― no one goes to Scotland for beach weather. Winters are dark, cold and damp. But there’s enough to do in Glasgow to keep you busy year-round. Summers are euphoric, with really long days (sunrise at 4:30 a.m., sunset after 10 p.m. at the height of the 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 more converging for a monstrously fun night on Ashton Lane.

If you manage to score weather that’s warmer than about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, you may witness “taps aff,” the phenomenon of gentlemen walking around bare-chested in celebration.

What’s your best tip for getting there? How can you make the travel as stress-free as possible?

You’re probably not popping over to Scotland for a long weekend from the U.S. If you’re already in the U.K., Glasgow is really well-connected by train. There are plenty of direct trains from London that take about four and a half hours to Glasgow Central. British trains are needlessly overpriced, so try to buy your ticket in advance, don’t travel on Friday and Sunday evenings, and be sure to indicate 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 does have an airport that serves quite a few European destinations, if you’re coming from that direction.

Glasgow is an easy train ride from London and has an airport that serves a number of European destinations.
Kenny Williamson via Getty Images
Glasgow is an easy train ride from London and has an airport that serves a number of European destinations.

Where do you recommend staying when you go?

For a birthday treat, I once stayed at the Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel, with gorgeous, plush rooms and a thermal spa downstairs. It’s surrounded by lush gardens and is conveniently located in the city center.

If you’re on a budget, Motel One is a good value for the money. It’s just the basics but it’s good for a busy city break! Point A is similar ― small rooms but good if you’re going to be out and about.

What are your go-to restaurants or foods to eat while you’re there?

Glasgow is a great brunch city! Who knew? The Left Bank, in the West End, and Wilson Street Pantry, in the center, are some of my favorite spots. Also worth a mention is The Singl-end, which has two locations in the city.

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

If you’re looking for a treat for lunch or dinner, Ubiquitous Chip is a gorgeous space with different areas, like the Wee Whisky Bar. (You’ll definitely want to book a reservation!)

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

The Barrowland Ballroom is one of the U.K.’s most iconic spots for live music. Sometimes they will release more tickets to sold-out gigs shortly before the show so it’s worth trying your luck. I’ve both bought and sold tickets on Twickets ― it’s a U.K.-based platform where sellers aren’t allowed to charge more than face value for tickets. Barras Art and Design is a cool place for a pre-Barrowland drink.

But there is no shortage of great drinking spots in Glasgow! In the West End, there’s Òran Mór, which is a bar in a converted church. The Old Hairdresser’s and Stereo are two very cool live music bars right next to each other on hidden-away Renfield Lane. And of course there are plenty of traditional pubs ― The Scotia might seem touristy but I really liked it. The Pot Still claims it has over 800 whiskies; it does get crowded on weekends.

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland.
georgeclerk via Getty Images
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland.

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

One totally unique experience is Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre. These oddly beautiful sculptures move along with the music. It’s spooky and moving.

And should you want to enjoy yourself late into the night, you might find yourself on Sauchiehall Street, which is a raucous party street full of places with drink specials for students and the like. Make sure to get yourself one of the local specialities on your way home ― Chips and Cheese (note how the cheese gets equal billing) or a munchie box, which is an unholy combination of drunk food assembled for you in a pizza box.

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

I have to admit, I don’t really do much shopping there. But I always pick up some tattie scones (potato scones) to bring back to London with me. You can freeze them or even just pop them in the toaster. What an excellent breakfast or brunch item.

What’s your single favorite spot to go for photos and why?

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

What tourist attraction should people skip and what should they do instead?

For me, the shopping areas around Buchanan Street are mostly the same high street shops you can find elsewhere in the U.K. (But if mall-style shopping is your thing, go for it!) But! The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA, of course) is nearby and well worth a visit ― the staff are lovely and the exhibitions are top-notch. I saw an exhibition of teen artists who created works describing their experiences in lockdown and it moved me to tears.

There’s also the iconic image of the city right in front: the Duke of Wellington with a traffic cone on his head.

Where do you feel the most relaxed, calm or happy?

The Glasgow Botanic Gardens are lovely! And there’s a greenhouse that’s nice and hot for the tropical plants, and for people from hotter climes 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 checking out?

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

What’s one thing you make sure to pack if you’re going and why?

Your sense of humor! Glaswegians are very funny and welcoming people. For tangible items ― you’ll need layers, as the weather is so changeable, you could be cold, damp and then hot inside a bar or restaurant all on the same day.

What are some specific planning tips to know before you go so you’re not stressed?

I’ve traveled to Glasgow at different times of the year and there’s honestly always something to do. One trick is if you’re traveling in August, you could stay in Glasgow and day-trip to Edinburgh to catch Fringe shows ― the accommodations in Edinburgh in August get booked super early and the prices are wild.

What surprised you about Glasgow when you went the first time?

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

Anything else visitors should know?

Try taking the subway to get around — I know this is so patronizing, but it’s adorable and wee and it goes in a circle. (Unfortunately, only two stations have step-free access; hopefully this will be improved.)

And if you want to check out Glasgow without leaving your sofa, the very funny comedy “Lovesick” is set there.

Do you have info to share with HuffPost reporters? Here’s how.

Go to Homepage

MORE IN Travel