For a long time, Glasgow was the second city of the Empire. Only London was more important. Today, it is the underdog of Scottish cities, slowly recovering from an economical crisis that not only ruined its industry, but also damaged its worldwide reputation. Time to step into the spotlight!

I moved to Glasgow for my postgraduate degree without knowing anything about the city or the country. Never had my feet touched Scottish soil before. And here I am years later, still here and madly in love. The flourishing art and music scene in combination with affordable living costs, a plethora of things to do and a thriving vegan food scene make Glasgow a perfect city trip destination. It is a shame that most visitors flock to Edinburgh instead and leave Glasgow entirely off their itinerary. You shouldn’t make the same mistake, and to make it easier I give you the Travelettes city guide for Glasgow.

The ultimate Travelettes-approved city guide for Glasgow including unique & free things to do, the best eateries, vintage shops & pubs and much more!


Where to Stay – The best hotels in Glasgow

There are endless options for accommodation in Glasgow from hostels to hotels and quirky rental apartments. Here are three of my favourite hotels in Glasgow.

CitizenM

CitizenM is a brand of affordable luxury hotels around the world – they are modern, quirky and stylish. The CitizenM Glasgow is no exception. It’s located in the heart of the city in easy walking distance to both train stations and the bus station where the airport bus arrives. The bar staff deserve a ‘most friendly’ award – and I’m not just saying this because of the French Martini. The rooms are small box rooms that make you feel like you’re in Tokyo, and everything can be controlled via the in-room iPad. There are cozy lounge spaces and a work station for the digital nomads among you. WiFi is free, and so is the chat from the check-in staff. Before I even had my room key, I already talked photography and had exchanged Instagram handles.

Double room from £68; website

The ultimate Travelettes-approved city guide for Glasgow including unique & free things to do, the best eateries, vintage shops & pubs and much more!

The Alfred Hotel

Switching cool design for cozy quirkiness – the historic Alfred Hotel in the city’s popular West End area looks more like an antiques museum than a hotel. Every detail from the vintage dressing table in my room to the hand-selected artworks on the corridors let me step back in time. The location is awesome to explore the thriving West End neighborhoods with stops at the University of Glasgow, the Botanical Gardens and some of the city’s most famous venues and eateries. The views onto the Georgian townhouses lining Great Western Road are beautiful and the hotel bed so soft, you’ll be happy to hear that you see them without getting up. The hotel is the sister establishment of the Oran Mor, a popular pub/restaurant/club and live music venue located in a church down the road, but also the pub next to the hotel, The Belle, serves a great pint.

Double room from £80; website

Dakota Deluxe

If you want to really treat yourself, book a night at the Dakota Deluxe Glasgow – the group’s first city hotel. While the hotel forgoes the star rating system, you don’t need any rating to tell you that this is a luxury city hotel. It is also located in the city center, but in a much quieter area than the CitizenM, making it a great spot for a romantic getaway or a relaxed stopover after a long flight. Like all Dakota hotels the Dakota Deluxe sports its signature low light, which lets you forget what time of the day it is – just what you need on a relaxing holiday. The bed is almost too soft to ever leave it, but if you find your way outside against all odds, the city is at your doorstep. Make sure to return though for the cocktail bar, and dinner at the grill restaurant – don’t let the name fool you though; the restaurant also has a full vegan menu and you can easily get a Michelin star-worthy meal for two with a bottle of wine for £100. Affordable luxury, if you ask me!

Double room from £108; website

The ultimate Travelettes-approved city guide for Glasgow including unique & free things to do, the best eateries, vintage shops & pubs and much more!

If you’re looking for a private rental or AirBnB, focus on the following neighbourhoods to have easy access to public transport, plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants nearby, and also some things to do: Hillhead, Finnieston, Woodlands, Partick (WEST END); Dennistoun, Bellgrove (EAST END); Shawlands, Strathbungo, Pollokshields (SOUTHSIDE).


Things to see – Sightseeing in Glasgow

Once settled in, the adventure can start. Architecture lovers will be happy to just stroll along the city and spot prime examples of Victorian, Georgian and Mackintosh architecture. Highlights in this sense certainly are the City Chambers (free guided tours available), the medieval Glasgow Cathedral, the University of Glasgow main campus and the Glasgow School of Art. For more architecture and design head to the Lighthouse museum, from where you can also get an amazing view across the city and over the hills in the north (mind, that you have to climb a narrow staircase though).

More recent history and art can be traced town at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), the Riverside Museum (designed by Zaha Hadid) or the Finnieston Crane along the River Clyde. All the museums (except for the Science Museum) are free, by the way! On a sunny day, don’t miss out on Glasgow’s many parks. The largest and most popular ones are by far Glasgow Green, east of the city center, Queen’s Park in the Southside and Kelvingrove Park in the West End, but also smaller parks, like Alexandra Park, Victoria Park or the Botanical Gardens are worth a visit.

The ultimate Travelettes-approved city guide for Glasgow including unique & free things to do, the best eateries, vintage shops & pubs and much more!

One of my favorite things to do is to walk along the City Centre Mural Trail with my camera and snap images of the colorful commissioned murals all over the city center. You can download a map and follow the trail, or simply wander around – you can stumble upon murals in alleyways, fire walls and underpasses, so keep your eyes peeled!

The ultimate Travelettes-approved city guide for Glasgow including unique & free things to do, the best eateries, vintage shops & pubs and much more!

One area you definitely have to spend some time in, whether it is to marvel at the architecture, visit museums, hang out in cafes, bars or restaurants, or dig through the stock at vintage shops, is the popular West End, particularly the neighbourhoods of Hillhead, Finnieston and the lanes around Byres Road. Head to Ashton Lane for pre-dinner drinks, Ruthven Lane for the best Vietnamese restaurant (Hanoi Bike Shop) and the Hidden Lane for local arts and crafts or afternoon tea at the Hidden Lane Tearooms.


Things to do – Unique tours of Glasgow

Tours can be the best way to experience Glasgow’s history or quirky side, especially if you’re pressed for time. Many of my favorite tours of Glasgow present the city in an angle that you might not even have thought about. Here are some of them:

Glasgow Central Tour

Glasgow Central Tour is a guided tour of Glasgow’s central train station. Before you start questioning my sanity (or my claim to the title ‘Travelette’) hear me out – a guided tour around a train station can be the best way to see this city. Not only because some tour groups are being taken up the massive glass roof of Glasgow’s Central station, but also because the history of Glasgow is inextricable connected to the people who come and go through this station. Paul, who established and runs most tours, is a history buff and takes you not on a journey underground to the old Victorian platforms, but also tells hilarious local stories, tells you about the station’s role during the first and second world war, and emphasises particularly women’s history in the city. It’s a quirky tour and certainly one of a kind!

Tickets from £13; website

The ultimate Travelettes-approved city guide for Glasgow including unique & free things to do, the best eateries, vintage shops & pubs and much more!

Glasgow Music City Tours

I’m sure you’ve heard about Belle & Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand, Travis or CHVRCHES – they all have one thing in common: they’re from Glasgow. Glasgow is a music city – a UNESCO City of Music to be exact – and Glasgow Music City Tours offers two guided city center itineraries to bring you to some of the most famous venues of the city. Want to stand on the same stage where Laurel Hardy gave his debut performance, or walk the Barrowlands rainbow trail? Throw in some street art here, and a few references from famous Glasgow tunes, and you’ve got yourself a perfect music-themed tour.

Tickets £15; website

The ultimate Travelettes-approved city guide for Glasgow including unique & free things to do, the best eateries, vintage shops & pubs and much more!

Women’s Heritage Walks by GWL

GWL, or Glasgow Women’s Library, is the UK’s only library entirely dedicated to the history and creative output of women. The library is physically located in the East End of the city and operates on an open-door policy – a great place to cuddle up with a book or simply learn about women’s history in Scotland and around the world. GWL also runs ever-popular heritage walks across the city. Tour groups are guided by a team of volunteers who highlight buildings and places around Glasgow with a particular meaning for the local female population. They talk about extraordinary achievements as well as reading out chilling testimonials from women who fought for women’s rights throughout history. These walking tours are informative and educational, but highlight a history that often gets let out in the guide books. Women power!

Tickets £10; website


Where to Eat – The best cafes & restaurants in Glasgow

Whatever food you are into, Glasgow has a restaurant to cater to your taste. The town is filled with cozy cafes, popular brunch spots, traditional greasy spoons, affordable takeaways and restaurants serving up dishes from around the world. It is also the most vegan-friendly city of the UK, and seeing that I’m vegan, I particularly love restaurants that can accommodate my dietary needs. Here are some of my favorites.

WEST END

Artisan Roast: a West End coffee shop on bubbly Gibson Street, close to University and Kelvinbridge subway station; the coffee is roasted every few days at the sister establishment in Edinburgh; small lunch menu and cakes available.

The V & V Cafe: a new cafe on Great Western Road serving vegan and vegetarian fare; I love their signature pakora toast as well as the vegan donuts; the cafe is committed to health and sustainability and all food is locally sourced.

Papercup: another West End establishment on Great Western Road; some of the best omni-brunch I’ve tried in Glasgow; it’s tiny, so avoid peak times

Hanoi Bike Shop: awesome Vietnamese restaurant in an alley off Byres Road; food is served tapas-style as small sharing platters, so you can try a little bit of everything.

The ultimate Travelettes-approved city guide for Glasgow including unique & free things to do, the best eateries, vintage shops & pubs and much more!

CITY CENTER

The Riverhill: a city centre cafe, bar and restaurant with a sit-in cafe on West Nile Street and a takeaway coffee bar around the corner; try the tahini brownie!

Rose & Grants: bright and spacious omni cafe on Trongate serving amazing full (vegan) breakfasts, cakes and now also vegan ice-cream!

Gordon Street Coffee: coffee shop at the main entrance of Glasgow Central Station; they roast their own coffee upstairs; great spot to pick up a coffee to go on your way out of town

Dakota Deluxe Bar & Grill: omni restaurant at the Dakota Deluxa hotel with a separate vegan menu; locally sourced and seasonal food; the curry I had was out of this world; our waiter even went extra mile to google our wine, to make sure it’s vegan (it doesn’t always say on wine bottles…)

Paesano: hands down the best pizza in town (no vegan cheese though); uses only original Italian ingredients like 00 flour and buffalo mozzarella; super budget-friendly; they don’t take reservations, so you might have to queue – but it’s worth it!

Stereo: one of many fully vegan restaurants in Glasgow’s city centre; part bar, part restaurant (expect bar noise level); serving classics like burgers or pizza, but also sharing platters and more creative vegan creations like jackfruit cakes and aubergine fritters.

SOUTHSIDE

Ranjit’s Kitchen: family owned fully-vegetarian Indian restaurant on Pollokshields Road; order the Thali to get a little bit of everything; my personal favorite Indian restaurant – if you visit Glasgow, chances are good you’ll find me here!

Mala Carne: new vegan and vegetarian cafe on Cathcart Road; it’s a bit of a trek from the touristy bits of Glasgow, but serves up a mean breakfast and lunch – try the scrambled tofu or the vegan club sandwich.

Soy Division: my favorite place for a full vegan breakfast in Glasgow’s Southside; it’s only been open since 2016, but is already a local favorite; make sure to taste the home-made vegan square sausage – there’s no other like it!


Where to shop – The best shopping in Glasgow

Glasgow is a popular shopping destination, particularly its city center high streets, Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street. Here you can find anything from Primark to Topshop and Urban Outfitters. If you don’t like shopping at these retailers, like myself, the good news is that Glasgow is a class A vintage shopping destination! I’ve talked about my favorite vintage shops before (add The City Retro Fashion to that list!), but the true treasure chests are actually the charity shops all over town. Some of the best ones can be found on Byres Road (West End), Duke Street (East End) and Queen Street (particularly the Cancer Research UK shop).

For arts, crafts and unique souvenirs head to one of Glasgow’s many markets or the Hidden Lane, which is a cobble-stoned lane in the West End of Glasgow. Many artists and designers have their studios here and you can buy beautiful items directly from their creators.

 

 


Where to drink & dance – The best pubs and bars in Glasgow

Whisky and live music belong to Glasgow – you simply can’t leave without tasting some of it. But where to begin?

The Belle: a cozy pub with a fireplace on Great Western Road (West End); it’s dog- and laptop-friendly with free WiFi; busy with locals, young and old

The Pot Still: a city center pub with traditional wooden interior, which is famous among tourists for its incredible range of whiskies

State Bar: gorgeous pub with a wooden circular bar just around the corner from busy Sauchiehall Street

The Butterfly & the Pig: has two locations, but I prefer the one on Bath Street in the city center; famous for afternoon tea, pre-clubbing drinks and live music (e.g. Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules each Thursday & Friday)

The ultimate Travelettes-approved city guide for Glasgow including unique & free things to do, the best eateries, vintage shops & pubs and much more!

Blackfriars: a traditional pub in the Merchant City (city center) with great live music, e.g. The Shivering’ Shieks on every Tuesday!

Distill: a modern bar on Argyle Street in the West End with regular DJ nights; for the young local crowd

CitizenM: the bar at the hotel actually serves up amazing cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere!

 

Whether you’re planning your next European city getaway or a longer trip to Scotland, make sure to put Glasgow on your bucket list!

For more inspiration & local travel tips check out the Glasgow section on my Scotland-focussed travel blog!

Have you ever been to Glasgow?

The ultimate Travelettes-approved city guide for Glasgow including unique & free things to do, the best eateries, vintage shops & pubs and much more!