Kaye shares her top five must-see sights of the this underrated Scottish city.
Two days in Glasgow. So much to do, so little time, so we have to hit the ground running to cover the highlights, including our top five:
- City Sightseeing Bus Tour
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
- Glasgow Cathedral/St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art
- Mitchell Library
- House for an Art Lover
First stop is the City Sightseeing hop on–hop off bus tour. And at GBP14, what great value this proves to be.
Operating every 15 minutes between 9.30 am and 4.30 pm, this one hour and 20-minute journey is the best starting point for all new visitors. We board at Queen Street Station and settle in on the top deck to enjoy the best sights, informed by TV personality and author Neil Oliver’s recorded commentary.
There are highlights aplenty – so we note most of them for a separate return visit, either this time or next. They include Glasgow Cathedral, the Tennent Caledonian Breweries, the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, the Riverside Museum, funky Argyle Street and the Mackintosh Visitor Centre in Renfrew Street. Unlike Australian cities, Glasgow’s many museums and exhibitions are free, so a holiday here is affordable as well as enriching.
Where we do decide to alight is at our number two attraction, the extraordinarily beautiful Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, in Argyle Street.
Built in 1901, this is Glasgow’s most popular visitor attraction. Featuring a combination of architectural styles, loosely described as Spanish Baroque, it is a vast, sprawling building with multiple galleries containing artworks by Rembrandt, Whistler, Dali and the local ‘Glasgow Boys and Girls’, as well as Sir Roger the Asian Elephant and a host of other natural science exhibits.
There are free guided tours daily, but half the fun is to sit in the open space at the entrance and marvel at the grand staircase peopled by ‘hanging heads’. A short walk further up the hill is Glasgow University, the fourth oldest university in Europe, featuring stunning cloisters and courtyards. Here is where you can also hop back on the City Sightseeing Bus Tour.
Our third pick was St Mungo’s Cathedral, aka Glasgow Cathedral. Situated east of the CBD, behind Strathclyde University, it marks the birthplace of the city of Glasgow and contains the tomb of St Kernigan, more commonly known as St Mungo. A Gothic building dating back to 1136, it has seen worship for more than 800 years, and boasts an abundance of stained glass windows.
Adjacent to the cathedral, the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art is also named after Glasgow’s patron saint. Housed in a Scottish Baronial building constructed in 1993, this simple museum with just four main galleries allows the artefacts to tell their own diverse stories of all types of faith across the centuries. Visiting this peaceful museum is an uplifting and rewarding multi-faith experience. And if the galleries aren’t peaceful enough, outside, the Zen Garden offers a tranquil retreat.
Our Glaswegian treat number four is the family history section of the Mitchell Library in North Street. A one-stop shop for family histories, this massive repository of records including burial records, births, deaths, marriages, census data, telephone books and war casualties is a great starting point for your ancestry search. Opened in 1911, at the bequest of tobacco merchant Stephen Mitchell, it is one of Europe’s largest and grandest public libraries, but the friendly and helpful staff make it one of the more personal. Warning – there is no point in rushing a visit to this beautiful building and amazing resource, so budget at least a half day to ensure you enjoy the exhibitions and extensive references available to all.
And last but certainly not least, our pick number five is the work of a genius, brought to life long after his death.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, or CRM as he is affectionately known, is Glasgow’s main man and his influence is everywhere. An extraordinarily talented artist and architect, he married another gifted designer, Margaret McDonald, and their joint legacy of architecture, interior design, furniture, textiles, wall panels and watercolour paintings forms an astonishing body of ‘Glasgow style’ Art Nouveau work.
Start your exploration of their lives and times in the ‘Mack Centre’ at The Lighthouse in Mitchell Lane. Continue in Renfrew Street at the Window on Mackintosh Visitor Centre and Shop, opposite the imposing Glasgow School of Art. And then for a truly special treat, take a bus or cab to the House for an Art Lover, at Bellahouston Park. This art gallery, exhibition centre, venue and café is a country house, designed by CRM in 1901 and opened a century later, in 1906, to share his vision of a house where art is triumphant.
Take your time to enjoy each room, and CRM and Margaret’s personal histories as well as their design and fine arts.
Follow up with a meal in the café and a wander around the gardens and then enjoy the views from the summit of Bellahouston Park.
Kaye Fallick and her family travelled courtesy of Glasgow Life and are very grateful for a jam-packed itinerary which allowed them to sample the highlights of this extraordinary city. Like General Macarthur, they vow they will return.
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