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One Day in Glasgow: The Best of Scotland’s Largest City

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3 weeks ago

Whilst Edinburgh may be the first Scottish city to come on to your radar as a tourist, its sister and rival Glasgow is rapidly becoming a hotspot. In fact, Glasgow is an excellent place to visit for one day whilst staying in Edinburgh.

There’s no hiding the fact that, in years gone by, Glasgow hasn’t quite had the greatest reputation. But things have changed. Glasgow has evolved from its former glory as Scotland’s industrial powerhouse to a cultural centre, blending old and new.

Today, Scotland’s largest city is foodie heaven, an art-lover’s paradise and history buff’s dream. If time is on your side, Glasgow is great for a weekend break and, given its central location, an ideal place to base yourself for an extended stay and take day trips to the stunning lochs, glens and islands which lie beyond.

But, as much as we’d all like to be able to spend as long as possible exploring every city, there simply isn’t enough time in the world for that. Luckily, you can see a fair chunk of what Glasgow has to offer in just one day.

Is one day in Glasgow a good idea?

Glasgow is extremely well connected to all of Scotland’s major towns and cities, as well as those in England. This makes seeing Glasgow in one day easy and stress free.

How to get to Glasgow

From Edinburgh

Scotland’s largest and most important cities are only fifty miles apart and there are excellent transport links between them. It’s even possible to take a guided one day tour to Glasgow from Edinburgh.

Trains run between Edinburgh Waverley & Edinburgh Haymarket, and Glasgow Central & Glasgow Queen Street every few minutes late into the night, and return tickets cost around £15. The quickest trip takes just 45 minutes. To make sure you choose a fast train, check times and book online before you travel.

Travel tip: Some trains call at a number of stations along the way between Edinburgh and Glasgow, sometimes doubling the journey time.

Intercity coaches also operate between Edinburgh and Glasgow. These leave from Edinburgh Bus Station and Haymarket Station and drop you off at Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station which is right in the city center. Services operate 24-hours a day with departures every 15 minutes during the day time. The journey takes around 85 minutes. For the best fares and to guarantee seats, book in advance.

From Northern England

Just over 75 miles from the English border, a trip to Glasgow for one day from England is very much possible. I always think there’s something special about taking a day trip to a different country, even if they are both part of the United Kingdom.

Glasgow is especially easy to reach from the northwest of England. Direct trains run between Manchester Piccadilly and Glasgow Central every two hours, with a journey time of three-and-a-quarter hours. If you’re coming from Lancashire or the Lake District, they’re even more frequent and can take as little as 90 minutes from Carlisle.

The great thing about this route is that you can purchase discounted ‘advance’ tickets, making the journey extremely affordable. These can be purchased from 12-weeks before travel – and the earlier you book, the more chance you have of getting the cheapest fares.

From London

Although visiting Glasgow for one day from London might sound extreme – and I admit it is one for the more adventurous traveler – it’s far from impossible. In fact, I’ve done it more times than I can remember.

On the surface, the quickest way from London to Glasgow is to fly. British Airways flies to Glasgow from London Heathrow (five times daily), London Gatwick (once daily) and London City (three times per day).

If you decide to go from Heathrow, check out our handy guide to London’s busiest airport before you travel. Low-cost airline easyJet flys from London Gatwick (up to five times daily), London Stansted (up to three times a day) and London Luton (three times daily). The best way to select a flight is to compare options to get the best mix of value and time.

The alternative to flying is to take a train. Direct trains run every hour from London Euston to Glasgow Central with a journey time of around four-and-a-half hours. This is another route where you can make great savings by booking in advance.

A budget option is to take an overnight coach from London to Glasgow. This gives you the option to arrive in Glasgow first thing in the morning and have a full day to explore the city before hopping back on the coach that night to head back south. Plus, you’ll save on two nights’ accommodation costs!

How to get around Glasgow

Glasgow city center is fairly walkable, which is great when you’ve only got one day here. If you need to use public transport, there’s plenty of options. Coming from the airport, you can either book a transfer or take the bus, which runs every 15 minutes.

Taxis are easy to find in Glasgow, and just like in London are available for hire when the orange ‘taxi’ light is illuminated. Uber is also available. A more novel way to get around the city is to take the subway. Glasgow Subway’s orange and grey trains are iconic – and a fun way to get about.

One day in Glasgow

9 am: A hearty Scottish breakfast

Whether you’ve arrived by train, plane, or bus, you’ll arrive in the city center and you’ll no doubt have worked up an appetite along the way. Head to Singl-end in Merchant City for breakfast. If you love eggs, you’re in luck: they serve them every way imaginable.

10 am: Stroll around George Square

From Merchant City, it’s just a five-minute walk to George Square. Named after King George III, George Square has been the focal point of Glasgow since 1781.

The eastern side is taken up by the imposing City Hall, whilst the center of the square is given over to statues commemorating the lives of famous Glaswegians including Robert Burns, James Watt and Sir Walter Scott (who gets an impressive column to himself) (though I wonder if the Scott Monument is Edinburgh is maybe a little nicer).

If you’re visiting Glasgow for one day around Christmas, George Square hosts the city’s Christmas markets where you can pick up some unique gifts whilst warming up with mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.

Just around the corner from George Square, on Queen Street, you’ll find a statue you’ve probably seen before: The Duke of Wellington riding a horse with a cone on his head (and sometimes the horse’s head, too). The first reports of a cone appearing on the Duke’s head were back in the 1980s, and since then the city council have removed it hundreds of times. They even installed high-tech CCTV cameras to watch for late night revellers and jokers putting a new cone on the statue.

Despite their valient efforts, the chances are there’ll be a cone somewhere on the statue when you visit.

11 am: Gallery of Modern Art

It should come as no surprise that this famous statue stands outside the Gallery of Modern Art. It’s free to visit, so whilst you’re here, you might as well go in! The gallery focuses on displaying the work of local artists and has ever changing exhibitions.

Once you’ve finished browsing, head south to the River Clyde and walk east along its banks until you reach Glasgow Green (it’s only a fifteen minute walk). Enter the Green via McLennan Arch which was once the entrance to a long-demolished Assembly Rooms.

Beyond the arch, Glasgow Green stretches as far as the eye can see: 136 acres of lush greenery and historic buildings sit right in the heart of Glasgow.

You’ll immediately notice Nelson’s Monument which stands at 143 feet tall. Erected in 1806, it came three decades before Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square in London. Another must-see is St Andrew’s Suspension Bridge which crosses the Clyde. Take a walk across and pause for a photo in the middle of the bridge.

The highlight of Glasgow Green is the People’s Palace. Built in 1898, it was designed as a cultural hub for the impoverished residents of the East End. It’s now a museum telling the tale of Glasgow’s varied history and life in the city through the ages.

1:30 pm: Lunch time

By now, it must be time for lunch! Scotland may not be known for its food scene (haggis and deep-fried Mars bars are an acquired taste, I’ll admit) but Glasgow is different. This is the Italian and Indian food capital of the UK. And when you’ve only got one day in Glasgow, it’d be rude not to sample some of each. Check out our list of must-try traditional Scottish food while you’re in Glasgow.

Local tip: For lunch, I’d recommend heading to one of the city’s Italian restaurants. You’ll be spoiled for choice, but my favorite is Pulcinella on Hope Street.

Pulcinella’s lunch menu includes freshly made pasta, steaks and seafood. I highly recommend the Pollo Milanese.

2:30 pm: Riverside Museum

In the afternoon, head west along the banks of the Clyde to the Riverside Museum. It’s about a forty-five-minute walk so the best option is to take a taxi so you can fit as much as possible into one day in Glasgow.

This is my top museum in Glasgow and, to make it even better, admission is free. Exhibits include vintage cars, buses and trains as well as a whole room dedicated to model ships. Outside the museum, the Tall Ship Glenlee is moored. The ship is also free to visit and you can get onboard to get a closer look at this 19th-century vessel which was built on the banks of the Clyde.

5 pm: Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum

Take a walk back along the Clyde to see the Clyde Arc, which opened in 2006. Turning away from the river, walk north to Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum to get some photos of this stunning Victorian building from Kelvingrove Park.

Kelvingrove is a Glasgow institution and one of the city’s top museums, so you’re right to be wondering why I haven’t included a visit inside in this itinerary. It simply boils down to time. With one day in Glasgow, it’s impossible to see everything, and to do Kelvingrove justice you’d want to spend three hours here alone. Of course, if art is your thing, you could have a quick bite at lunchtime and skip the Riverside Museum to give yourself time to visit.

6 pm: Drink like Glaswegians

After a hard, but fun, day’s sightseeing, I think you’ve earned a tipple. And Glasgow is famous for its bar scene. No matter which way you turn, you’ll find a welcoming, quirky place to grab a drink.

Local tip: Some of the best pubs in Glasgow are the ones that look like you wouldn’t want to step inside!

Don’t be put off by a dreary exterior, if you’re craving a pint of Tennents or Belhaven, it always tastes better in a traditional Glaswegian pub than a fancy cocktail bar.

My go-to area for a drink is Hillhead, a ten-minute walk from Kelvingrove. I’ve got two recommendations for you here but, if you’re like me and you can’t make a decision between them, try both!

Hillhead Bookclub is a Glasgow institution despite having been open for less than 15 years. They have books, table tennis and remarkably cheap drinks.

Just around the corner on Ashton Lane, Vodka Wodka is my all-time favorite Glasgow bar. Their rooftop beer garden is the perfect place for cocktails, be it under the summer sun or wrapped up with a blanket under the warmth of their patio heaters.

8 pm: Classic Scottish dishes for dinner

Time to try some more of Glasgow’s (and Scotland’s) finest food, and this time it’s the turn of the city’s fantastic Indian restaurants. Indian food and Glasgow go hand in hand to the extent that it is often said that Chicken Tikka Masala was invented here. No one truly knows where in the UK was invented, but it certainly didn’t hail from India!

Local tip: Be sure to make a reservation for dinner, particularly on the weekends. Glasgow’s best Indian restaurants are extremely popular.

My all-time favorite Indian is Charcoals, on Trongate. From the outside, it looks like nothing, but as soon as you walk in, you’ll see the awards lining the walls. Charcoals seems never to leave an award ceremony empty handed; and once you taste their curries, you’ll know why.

If you would prefer more of a fine dining option, head to Mother India on Westminster Terrace. They offer a smaller menu of authentic Indian staples, without the British influence, served in an elegant wood-panelled dining room.

If you want to stay the night…

There’s something about Glasgow that instantly makes you want to stay for longer. Plus, there’s always the temptation to head back to Hillhead and spend the evening on Vodka Wodka’s terrace.

If you do decide to stay the night, there’s plenty of hotels to suit every budget. My first recommendation would be the Voco Grand Central Hotel which is built into the side of Central Station and has an amazing cocktail bar. Other great hotels in Edinburgh include Kimpton Blythswood Square, Radisson Red Glasgow and Native Glasgow.

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