Going on a day trip to Glasgow from Edinburgh is the perfect way to spend a day in Scotland. Read below to find an itinerary on how to spend a day in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland and the third-largest in the UK.
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It’s August 2019 and in less than a month I will be saying goodbye to Edinburgh. Although I managed to visit many great places in Scotland, I still have many more in my list, including Glasgow. So it is about time to get on a train and explore the big city of Scotland. My original scheduled allowed me to spend two days in the city, but some last-minute issues with my dissertation only permitted me to spent only one day there. So, below I am presenting you with the itinerary I followed on my day trip to Glasgow that covers the most important places of interest. In the end, you can find some suggestions for things to do if you have one more day to spare in Glasgow.
Tips for planning a day trip to Glasgow
It is very easy to plan a day trip to Glasgow, simply because not much planning is needed. Getting there from Edinburgh (and it rest of the UK) is very easy. Once in Glasgow, it is easy to move around as there is a very good public transport network of trains, subway and buses to take you around the city. Regarding the things to do, there is a huge variety, from history to architecture to food. As Glasgow is a student-friendly city, there are many student-(and budget)-friendly places.
Getting there from Edinburgh
There are very frequent trains to Glasgow from Edinburgh (every 5-10 minutes), and this means that you can simply turn up at the train station and take the next train. Don’t forget to buy a ticket first! Trains depart from Edinburgh Waverly and stop at Haymarket and Edinburgh Gateway stations (which means you can take a train to Glasgow right from the airport) before heading out of the city. If you see the map Glasgow has many train stations. The one servicing Edinburgh is Glasgow Queen Street. The quickest trains can arrive in Glasgow in about 45 minutes, but there are some services which require 1h30mins, so you may want to check that before boarding a train.
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Moving around in Glasgow
Although Glasgow is a big city, the itinerary below can be easily followed without using public transport. All the places included are within a short walk from the train station and form a great walking route.
An itinerary for a classic day trip to Glasgow
Important: The timings below should be ok to follow on weekdays and Saturdays. If you visit on a Sunday, you want to move the times one hour forward and reduce the lunch break (so that you still manage to finish everything by 5 pm). This is because of the Sunday opening hours of the places included in the itinerary. To be more specific, on Sunday’s GoMA opens at 11 am, the Lighthouse at 12 pm and the Cathedral at 1 pm, while the People’s Palace closes at 5 pm.
10:00 Gallery of Modern Art
The first stop of the day is the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). It is located at the Royal Exchange Square in a neoclassical building that gives Greek and Roman vibes. Inside the gallery, you can find exhibits from many contemporary artists from around the world such as Andy Warhol.
BONUS: At the entrance to the museum by Queen Street, you can find the statue of Duke of Wellington. This equestrian figure is one of the symbols of Glasgow (at least in tourist merchandise) and it is often decorated with an orange traffic cone.
Find out more about GoMA here.
11:15 The Lighthouse
When looking for the Lighthouse, don’t expect to find a traditional lighthouse in the middle of the city. Instead, look for a neon lights sign with the word “Lighthouse” placed vertically on the side of a building on Michel Ln. Michel Ln itself is a small side street off Buchanan Street, one of the main shopping streets in Glasgow.
The Lighthouse houses Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture and it is famous for its spiral staircase that leads to great views of Glasgow. Most people came here for the views and ignore the Design and Architecture museum on the lower levels of the building, which is very interesting and it worth having a look around.
Tip: To find the spiral staircase you need to enter the building and get up to the third floor. Then, you need to find a separate entrance to the Mackintosh Tower, which is where you can find the staircase.
Find out more about the Lighthouse here.
12:30 City Centre
After getting all the culture, it’s time to explore Glasgow’s city centre. Pedestrianised Sauchiehall St, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street bustle with shops and restaurants. Find a place to have lunch, before heading to another part of the city. A very popular place to have a break is the Willow Tea Rooms with their characteristic long chairs. Note that unless you have a reservation, you may have to wait to get a table (especially on the weekends).
Alternative options include the restaurants inside the elegant Prince’s Square shopping centre (we had lunch at Darcy’s) and along Buchanan Street such as Hard Rock Cafe or Stack and Still for some pancakes. Even if you have lunch somewhere else, I recommend visiting Prince’s Square to check out its unique (at least for a shopping centre) interiors. Other places worth having a look are the Argyll Arcade full of jewellery shops and the City Chambers.
Did you know that Glasgow is full of murals? Street arts is on its full swing in Glasgow with huge murals all over the city. There is even a mural trail to follow that covers all the artwork. You can find it here on the website of the project, along with some information on what each mural represents.
If you follow this itinerary, you will be able to come along a few of those. Just remember to look around and at the side of the buildings. We encountered the most murals on our way to/from the Glasgow Cathedral and behind the Lighthouse. Some popular ones to look for are the Wind Power, St Enoch and Child and Honey…I Shrunk the Kids.
14:00 Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow Cathedral is said to be located at the birthplace of the city of Glasgow. The cathedral is dedicated to St Kentigern (also known as St Mungo) and dates to the 13th century. Unlike other medieval cathedrals in Scotland, this one managed to escape the destructions that other churches faced during the Protestant Reformation of 1560. Once inside the cathedral, you should have a look at the architecture of the place and visit the crypt. The crypt is one of the oldest parts of the cathedral, and there you can find the tomb of St Kentigern / St Mungo.
Find out more about Glasgow Cathedral here.
15:00 Glasgow Necropolis
Glasgow Necropolis is a Victorian cemetery behind Glasgow Cathedral. It is built on a hill and from the top of the hill, you can enjoy the views of the city. There you can find many statues and monuments of great people of the past.
Find out more about Glasgow Necropolis here.
16:00 People’s Palace and Glasgow Green
People’s Palace is a museum about the history of the people of Glasgow, known as Glaswegians. It is a social history museum regarding the lives and struggles of Glaswegians over the years. The Palace used to house the Winter Garden, a glasshouse conservatory but when I visited it was permanently closed. In front of the People’s Palace, you can find the Doulton Fountain, while around the building is a large green area named Glasgow Green. Glasgow Green is the oldest parks in the city and has a Green Flag award. There, you can find scattered around different statues and monuments.
Note that the People’s Palace closes at 5 pm.
Find out more about People’s Palace here.
17:30 City Centre
Return to the city centre for the last walk before going to the train station to return to Edinburgh. If you want, before leaving you can visit one of the many cafes and restaurants for a dessert/early dinner.
This walking route is to be used when following the itinerary above. When you click on the map, it opens on Google Maps and you can follow it while walking in Glasgow. The map should work offline if you load the directions beforehand and leave the app open on the background. Google also allows you to download the map if you prefer to have it printed.
Things to do on another day trip to Glasgow
As I said at the beginning, I initially planned to spend two days in Glasgow (in two consecutive day trips from Edinburgh, as it was cheaper this way than spending the night at a hotel), but things didn’t work out in the end. Nevertheless, I had already prepared a rough plan for what we would do on that second day that covers West End. Below you can find the list of places I wanted to visit along with the walking route that we would follow. Note, that as this route is not tested, I am not sure if it is manageable in a day.
- University of Glasgow: One of the oldest universities in the country, the University of Glasgow features impressive buildings and grounds.
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum: The 8000 objects housed in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, make it one of the most important museums in Scotland with a range of exhibitions.
- Riverside Museum: A transport museum about the history of public transport, ships and other vehicles of the area.
- Glasgow Science Centre: A great place for the whole family with many hands-on activities, a planetarium and an IMAX theatre. Glasgow Tower (additional payment; seasonal and weather permitting) offers 360o views of the city and the River Clyde from its 127 m observation platform.
Enjoy your day!
P.S. All the places included in the classic itinerary have free entry (but accept donations). So, this is a very budget-friendly way to spend a day in Glasgow.
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