How to have the perfect weekend in Glasgow: a 2-day itinerary
Looking for the perfect city break? Here's our guide to a weekend in Glasgow, including what to see, where to stay, and all the delicious things you need to eat.
Stepping out from Glasgow station for the first time, we should’ve known this would be a city we’d thoroughly enjoy.
The pretty, yet grungy streets were vaguely reminiscent of our hometown of Melbourne, although the weather was definitely cooler (we're still struggling to get used to a northern hemisphere winter!). With each step we felt more at home, and over the course of our weekend in Glasgow, the similarities grew larger.
We found a creative city filled with a ‘real’ vibe, full of world-class museums, outstanding culinary delights, a thriving live music scene, hipster districts like the west end, and a passion for sport. The city is a classic tale of gentrification, having transformed itself from industrial powerhouse to a European city of culture, a UNESCO city of music, and a centre of world-class cuisine. Former dockyards are now thriving museum quarters, abandoned warehouses breathe new life as hipster hangouts, and trendy bars and restaurants spill over with happy patrons.
In short, everything about the city fits exactly with our idea of the perfect weekend break. Here are our recommendations for the perfect weekend in Glasgow.
a weekend in Glasgow: our perfect 2-day itinerary
WELCOME TO GLASGOW
If you’re travelling from the south, you’ll likely arrive at Glasgow Central station, right in the heart of the city.
From there, it’s a short walk to most city hotels, including the Apex Hotel, a modern, comfortable, and super friendly hotel with amazing views of the city. Their beds are also some of the largest and most comfortable we've ever encountered!
After check-in, head out and stroll the city streets before jumping aboard the Glasgow Subway to the famous West End.
DINNER + DRINKS IN THE WEST END
Glasgow’s West End is a super trendy hub of all things good, including restaurants, trendy cafes, bars, and boutique and antique shops.
Ashton Lane is the epicentre of the action here, a quaint fairy-lit cobblestone laneway housing restaurants, bars and everything in between. Have a pint or two (we definitely had two!) at the Innis and Gunn micro brewery, which serves their own brews as well as imported bottled beer. Their upstairs section is particularly nice and cosy - perfect for a date night drink!
For dinner, walk about 100m down Ashton Lane to the Ubiquitous Chip, a local institution serving incredible modern Scottish cuisine. We’re comfortable in saying it was the best meal we’ve had in the 18 months we've lived in the U.K, so you definitely won’t be disappointed. For mains, try the organic salmon, while for dessert you just can’t go past the highland crowdie (a local speciality) cheesecake with bramble sorbet and honeyed oats.
If the food coma isn't too strong and you’re up for a few more beers, hit up one of the many trendy bars in the area. Otherwise, it's time to head back into the city proper for a good night's sleep at the Apex Hotel.
BREAKFAST AT KEMBER AND JONES
What's a weekend getaway in Glasgow without a cheeky sleep in? Enjoy a lie-in and get up later than usual, before making your way back to the West End for an excellent coffee and brunch at Kember and Jones.
One of Glasgow's best, Kember and Jones is a split-level hipster bakery, cafe and store that prides itself on using fresh, seasonal ingredients to whip up simple yet delicious meals like belgian waffles, fresh scones, or the brunch classic: avocado on toast with a choice of additional toppings.
They also grind their own beans, and we can vouch for the quality. They make a damn good cup of coffee, even by these two Melbourne-coffee-snobs standard!
UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
A short stroll away is the University of Glasgow, established in 1451 on the Glasgow high street before relocating to the West End in the 1870s. Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, architect of the impressive St. Pancras Hotel in London, the university is home to some of the most beautiful architecture in Glasgow. In fact, rumour has it that the campus inspired J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts - and as you wander between the gothic buildings, castle-like turrets, and peaceful sunny courtyards, it won't take long before you realise exactly why!
Head towards the Hunterian Museum, Scotland's oldest public museum and, with an unrivalled collection of historic anatomical specimens (Winston Churchill's dentures, anyone!?), it's also one of Scotland’s most important cultural spaces. The famous fluted columns of the Cloisters just outside the Hunterian are also well worth a visit (and photoshoot, in our instance!).
KELVINGROVE ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM
Built in the early 1900’s, the beautiful red sandstone Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is reminiscent of London’s Natural History Museum - with an equally impressive yet eclectic mix of collections. The 22 galleries and 8,000 artefacts here cover everything from Ancient Egypt to the 'Glasgow Boys', a collective of Galwegian artists who challenged Victorian artistic norms. There's even a Spitfire hanging from the ceiling in one of the main halls!
It's free to enter, and a free organ recital is also held in the main entrance each Saturday at 1pm.
LUNCH AT BREAD MEATS BREAD
It’s time for lunch, which means burgers, poutine and milkshakes at Bread Meats Bread. There are burgers, and then there are burgers - and Bread Meets Bread definitely falls into the latter category. The overindulgent food coma you've been waiting for has arrived.
The best part is, they cater for vegetarians and even vegans (their falafel burger is very, very good!).
Now that your stomach has well and truly been filled (read: stretched to capacity), walk it off by making your way to Merchant City, where Glasgow's Museum of Modern Art (GoMA) is located.
Housed in the former neo-classical townhouse of a wealthy tobacco merchant, the building has seen previous lives as the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Royal Exchange, and a library before becoming the home of the contemporary art collection. Today, GoMA looks like your typical modern art gallery, with wide open spaces and architectural angles, and an eclectic collection of displays.
We particularly enjoyed the 'Abstract' film piece by Hito Steyerl in the Polygraphs group exhibition (running until 20 May 2018), which explores the concept of truth and fiction in a globally complicated world. Entry to GoMA is free, and there's also a cafe and library downstairs to sit and relax in too.
DINNER AND DRINKS AT DOCKYARD SOCIAL
Street food trucks, beers and live music... sound good? Then Dockyard Social is your place.
Located in an abandoned warehouse in Glasgow’s former docklands, dockyard social features carefully selected local street food trucks, serving ethically-sourced deliciousness, from pizza to dumplings, while bands and DJs pump out the tunes live on stage. We mixed it up and tried a bit of everything, but can definitely recommend the pizza and truffle fries!
Tickets are £5 each, which also gets you a free drink on arrival. You also swap cash for tokens on arrival, and all meals are super well-priced (between £2-10 each). Better yet: enjoying a night out here is doing good. Dockyard has plans to launch a training and development centre in the venue to nurture up and coming talent, and provide employability services to local homeless as well. Eat well, be merry, do good.
Glasgow is famous for its nightlife, so enjoy a few post-dinner drinks and kick on at one of the many bars and clubs in the area.
THE GIN SPA
Enjoy another sleep in before heading off for a few hours of pampering at the Gin Spa, Glasgow’s latest trendy spa treatment.
The brainchild of Glasgow's Gin71 bar, the Gin Spa is the world's first gin-inspired day spa, dedicating all their treatments to the botanicals found in the spirit. Enjoy a full-body massage, facial, or manicure and pedicure, tailored to your skin type using various botanicals, like clove, lavender, pink grapefruit and bergamot.
If you're after a true pampering experience, check out the the spa day treatment with prosecco afternoon tea, an hour-long treatment followed by sandwiches, cupcakes and - you guessed it - prosecco at Cup Glasgow. We opted for the full body massage and high tea (£90, 1hr massage, high tea).
Just be sure to book ahead, as the Gin Spa has been very popular since opening!
GLASGOW CATHEDRAL AND NECROPOLIS
It might be a slightly morbid sounding end to a great weekend break, but a visit to Glasgow's Cathedral and Necropolis area is definitely a must-do when you're here.
The Cathedral is the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland to have emerged relatively unscathed from the Protestant Reformation of the mid-1500s, while the Victorian-era Necropolis (cemetery) on the low hill behind is absolutely beautiful. Modelled on the peaceful Père Lachaise garden cemetery in Paris, the Necropolis is the final resting place of over 50,000 people, and has a stunning vista over the Cathedral and Glasgow too.
All good things must come to an end, and sadly this weekend break has to do the same. It's time to head back to the Glasgow Central Station, and board a train back to home again! But of course, not before mentally making a plan to come back and explore the rest of Glasgow again, hopefully soon.
WHERE TO STAY in glasgow
We stayed at the Apex Hotel, conveniently located right in the heart of Glasgow and a 5-minute walk from Glasgow Central station. It's a modern and stylish hotel with amazing views over the city - and the biggest, comfiest bed we've seen in a long time!
GETTING To/from glasgow
We travelled to Glasgow from London Euston on Virgin Trains. They're comfortable, convenient, and run regularly - perfect for any spontaneous weekend adventures.
You can also fly into Glasgow Airport, just check Skyscanner for the cheapest flight deals now.
GETTING AROUND GLASGOW
Glasgow's subway is by far the easiest way to get around the Central and West End areas of the city, and tickets for a one-way journey start at £1.40.
The bus network operates over 100 routes across the city. There's also a City Sightseeing bus operating between the key tourist areas in a hop-on-hop-off format - tickets for this are available online, or on the bus itself.
Glasgow's grid-designed city makes for easy-navigation. If the weather's nice, grab a map and lace up your walking shoes for a great day of exploring by foot!
MORE THINGS TO DO IN Glasgow
The list of cool things to do in the Glasgow is basically endless - check out some of our fave day trips and tours below!
Have you been to Glasgow? What was the highlight of your time there? Let us know in the comments below!