Glaswegians take great pride in their city’s ‘open doors’ policy. There are several world-class museums and galleries across Glasgow, most of which are completely free for locals and visitors to enjoy. Combine this with an abundance of green spaces and you can have an action-packed day in Scotland’s largest city without spending a penny. Here are our top 10 free things to do in Glasgow.
1. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
The jewel of Glasgow’s west end, it’s worth taking a trip just to admire the grand Victorian sandstone building alone. Inside Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, you’ll find a treasure trove of over 8,000 objects in 22 different galleries, with the most famous works including Salvador Dali’s 'Christ of St John of the Cross', Sir Roger the Asian elephant and Sophie Cave’s now iconic 'Floating Heads'.
2. Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis
Arguably the country’s most majestic medieval building, Glasgow Cathedral is the only one on the Scottish mainland to survive beyond the 1560 reformation act intact. Found within the magnificent Gothic structure in the east end of Glasgow is the crypt which houses the tomb of St Kentigern, or Mungo, the city’s founder and patron saint. The adjacent Necropolis, inspired by Paris’ revered Père Lachaise, is the site of around 50,000 burials and 3,500 tombs, and a spot that offers a unique look over Glasgow from its hilltop position by the cathedral below.
3. George Square and City Chambers
The city’s focal point, George Square is not only a place for Glaswegians to gather: it’s also a celebration of some of the country’s historical figures, with several statues depicting notable Scots including poet Robert Burns and playwright Sir Walter Scott. A regular stage for high-profile music events and festivals, George Square featured in Hollywood blockbusters World War Z and, more recently, Hobbs & Shaw. The eastern edge of the square is dominated by the prestigious City Chambers, which you can wander around on a free guided tour.
4. Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)
Located in the heart of the city centre, the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) is the most visited gallery in the country; works from local and international artists are all housed within the striking Royal Exchange Square building, the former townhouse of a Glasgow tobacco merchant. On GoMA’s front doorstep you’ll encounter the statue of the Duke of Wellington – never seen without a traffic cone on his head – a landmark that has become almost as notable as the gallery itself.
5. Kelvingrove Park
An oasis of calm in the middle of the city, Kelvingrove Park is Glasgow’s most popular green space. Surrounded by Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and Glasgow University, the park offers raw beauty throughout every season of the year. Expect to be greeted by cheeky squirrels and dogs out for a stroll with their west end owners. Make your way north to Gibson Street for a fine row of coffee shops and restaurants including the superb Stravaigin.
6. Riverside Museum and The Tall Ship
Replacing the much-loved transport museum at Kelvin Hall in 2011, Zaha Hadid’s fine feat of architecture has helped to transform the look of the Clyde, while reflecting the river’s storied shipbuilding past. Artefacts on display at the Riverside Museum – illustrating transport and travel through the ages – range from skateboards to stormtroopers, while the Tall Ship – saved from ruin and sailed back to Glasgow from Seville in 1990, over 100 years after its maiden voyage – remains a major draw.
7. People’s Palace
Look no further than the People’s Palace for an interactive history lesson on the city and its people. The stunning 19th-century building, which sits proudly in the vast, lush Glasgow Green, is home to hundreds of paintings, prints and photographs illustrating the life of Glasgow from 1750 until the present day. A trip here will also see you marvel at the incredible five-tier Doulton Fountain and the former Templeton Carpet Factory, modelled on Venice’s Doge’s Palace.
8. City Centre Mural Trail
Over the past decade, run-down and hidden areas of Glasgow in need of some TLC have been transformed by bright and beautiful murals thanks to an ever-growing local street art scene as well as vibrant contributions from overseas. The City Centre Mural Trail, a self-guided walking tour, takes in 25 such sights, many of them depicting the story of Glasgow and its people. The much-Instagrammed spots are easy to track down thanks to a straightforward mural map you can find on the trail website.
9. The Hunterian Museum
A stay in Glasgow wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Glasgow University, described by many as a real-life Hogwarts and not one for Harry Potter fans to miss. Within, you’ll find the fantastic Hunterian, Scotland’s oldest public museum, which features an eclectic array of items such as an Egyptian mummy, objects from the voyages of Captain Cook and the largest body of work from famed Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
10. The Lighthouse
Found just off Glasgow’s busiest shopping strip, Buchanan Street, Scotland’s national centre for design and architecture is the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his gift to the city’s present-day creatives. Hosting regular events and exhibitions showcasing the best in modern Scottish design, visitors are encouraged to climb The Lighthouse’s helical staircase for an uninterrupted panoramic look across the city, arguably the best viewpoint in the whole of Glasgow.
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