Glasgow packs a punch with its first-rate museums, distinguished dining venues, elegant outdoor spaces and other attractions.

As well as ticking off some of the must-sees, you’ll find plenty of weird, wonderful (and just plain creepy) attractions to add to your itinerary in this bustling town. Want to walk through a fossilized forest? Or how about cycling along a 200-year-old canal? The sky’s the limit in Scotland’s dynamic second city. Here’s some of the best things to do in Glasgow.

Get lost in the eclectic exhibitions of Kelvingrove Gallery & Museum

Set within Kelvingrove Park, the Kelvingrove Gallery & Museum is a must-visit for art lovers and those interested in natural history. This mammoth museum features a real patchwork of exhibits, from contemporary art installations and displays of taxidermy wildlife to rooms full of ancient armor and other war relics. With 22 curated galleries in total, you’ll want to set aside a good chunk of time to take everything in. Free tours of the museum run twice a day, too. 

Looking down the well of the helical staircase of The Lighthouse, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1895
Famous Glaswegian architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed The Lighthouse (1895), with its famous helical staircase © ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP via Getty Images

Admire 360-degree views from The Lighthouse 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh left an indelible mark on his hometown – and no visit to the city is complete without taking in the work of this celebrated Art Nouveau architect and designer. Admiring his magnificent Glasgow School of Art was once one of the top things to do in central Glasgow, but a devastating fire in 2018 means it’s currently under reconstruction. Luckily, The Lighthouse offers an evocative taste of this design innovator’s accomplishments. 

Built in 1895 and tucked away on Mitchell Lane, the former headquarters of the Glasgow Herald was Mackintosh’s first-ever commission; today, building currently houses a permanent exhibition on the designer’s life work. A highlight is the stunning helical staircase leading to a viewing platform that boasts epic panoramas across the city.

Stroll through a forest that’s older than the dinosaurs

While you’ve surely hiked through a leafy forest before, how about a forest that’s over 300 million years old? Fossil Grove in Glasgow’s Victoria Park was discovered by accident in 1887 when the tranquil green space was first mapped out on the site of an abandoned quarry. The 11 fossilized tree stumps are thought to date to the Carboniferous period, and are now protected by Glasgow City Council within the Fossil Grove Building. It’s only very occasionally open to visitors, but worth checking out if the opportunity arises. 

Panoramic view of George Square and the Glasgow City Chambers
The Glasgow City Chambers dominate central George Square © Dragos Cosmin photos / Getty Images

Marvel at the marble in Glasgow City Chambers 

George Square is the hectic heart of the city center, and at the heart of the square is Glasgow City Chambers. Built in the late 1800s, the edifice is now the headquarters of Glasgow City Council, which runs public tours twice daily. 

A trip to City Chambers is one of the top free things to do in Glasgow. Simply pick up your tickets in the reception hall and prepare to be wowed by its ornate interiors, including a magnificent marble staircase that’s been featured on the silver screen several times over the decades.

Tour the oldest dwelling in Glasgow  

A trip to Provand’s Lordship – a quaint stone house that sits at the top of Castle Street close to Glasgow Cathedral – is a unique thing to do for history buffs. Constructed in 1471, the medieval structure is decorated with 16th-century furnishings and houses several fine portraits of Scottish royals. If you have time, tour the St Nicholas Garden next door, which inspired by 15th-century medicinal gardens. 

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Discover the drying poles at Glasgow Green

Glasgow Green has had many, many functions over the years, from grazing land for cattle to the venue for one of Scotland’s biggest music festivals. One of its more rustic uses was as a drying green for washing. Venture to its northeast border to find the original iron drying poles used by thousands of working-class residents living in nearby tenements from the 1700s to the mid-1900s. According to local law, Glaswegians still have the right to hang their washing out on the Green (though very few do).

Enjoy an evening out on Ashton Lane

Spending an evening on Instagram-worthy Ashton Lane is easily one of the best things to do as a couple in Glasgow. The cobbled street is crisscrossed with strings of pretty lights and packed with an array of restaurants and bars. Check out Belgian-themed Brel for beer and savory waffles. Alternatively, Ubiquitous Chip has been serving up top-notch Scottish produce – including haggis – since 1971. There’s an independent cinema, too, if you’d prefer a more relaxed night out. 

Learn about law-enforcement history at Glasgow Police Museum

Crime and punishment cast a dark shadow over Glasgow’s history. It was the first city in Britain to have a police force, a fact explored in great detail at the Glasgow Police Museum. Tucked away on Bell Street in Merchant City, this site offers  easily one of the coolest things to do in Glasgow. 

Learn compellingly gruesome details about crimes committed around the city over the centuries, and view various uniforms worn by Glasgow’s constabulary. While the museum is small and only open on Sundays and Tuesdays, it’s jam-packed with information and run by former police officers, giving it authority and grit. 

Check out the flesh-eating plants in the Kibble Palace

Glasgow Botanic Gardens couldn’t be a better location for a breather as you’re exploring Glasgow’s West End. As well as romantic rose gardens, manicured pathways and an enviable vegetable patch, the park has several impressive Victorian greenhouses. 

The largest is the Kibble Palace, which was painstakingly dismantled and transported to Glasgow from its original home on Loch Long (some 50 miles away) in 2003. Wander inside to gaze up at towering tropical vegetation. At the entrance sits a large pond home to colorful koi carp; there’s also a room dedicated solely to carnivorous plants.

Cycle the Forth and Clyde canal

The Forth and Clyde Canal was built in the 1790s to connect Edinburgh with Glasgow, and still provides a direct 50-mile route between the two cities today (a fact more-active travelers might want to take advantage of). 

Rent a cycle from a local outfit like Bike & Go, then join the traffic-free Route 754 alongside the canal. While part of the journey takes you through not-so-attractive industrial landscapes, you’ll also get to soak up stunning Scottish rural scenery and glimpse local landmarks like the Falkirk Wheel, a futuristic boat lift built in the early 2000s to replace a stretch of crumbling canal locks. 

Cycling along the canal is best in spring or summer when the days are longest. If you poop out along the way, you can return via train to Glasgow, as many Scotrail services have dedicated bike storage onboard.

View the elaborate tombstones at Glasgow Necropolis

If you get a kick out of grand Gothic graveyards, head to Glasgow Necropolis. Situated on a hill behind Glasgow Royal Infirmary, this imposing cemetery dates back to Victorian times and is the final resting place of over 50,000 souls. Wind your way upwards along neat pathways and note the beautifully carved tombstones of the city’s elite, who made fortunes during the Industrial Revolution. Just be sure to exit before dark...

Visit a local brewery

While you certainly don’t want to miss out on visiting whisky distillery in the birthplace of single malt, Glasgow’s long list of pubs and breweries makes it one of the best cities for bar crawls

Next door to the Necropolis, you’ll find both the Tennent’s (Scotland’s favorite beer) and Drygate breweries, both of which have taprooms and offer tasting tours. Alternatively, on the edge of Glasgow Green , check out WEST Brewery (with tasty German-inspired snacks served alongside the artisan IPAs) or Shilling Brewing Company, lodged inside an imposing former bank on West George Street.

A three-masted, rud-hulled ship Glenlee moored in the Kelvin River by the Riverside Museum Glasgow
The historic Glenlee is permanently moored next to the Riverside Museum by the Kelvin River © jewhyte / Getty Images

Follow the Kelvin River

The Kelvin River weaves its way through Glasgow’s West End, offering a beautiful spot for some peace and quiet. Head down the path just behind the Kibble Palace and you’ll reach the riverside. In autumn, it’s a riot of color, with massive trees showering the ground and water with a flurry of orange and yellow leaves. Trace the Kelvin Walkway down to the Riverside Museum on the River Clyde, passing little-known historic sites like the recently excavated flint mill near the Botanic Gardens.

Get some interior inspiration at House for an Art Lover 

If you can’t get enough of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs, set aside a few hours for this gem. South of the city center in Bellahouston Park, House for an Art Lover was adapted from one of the architect’s final designs before his death in 1928. The handsome manor house functions as an art gallery, studio space and events venue, with many of its stylish interiors inspired by the designs of Mackintosh’s equally gifted wife.

Spark your imagination at Glasgow Science Centre

Searching for fun things to do with children? The Glasgow Science Centre won’t disappoint. Its awesome interactive displays and fun facilities, including a planetarium and IMAX cinema, make it a dream for tech-savvy kids. 

The center also has an immersive experience that lets you discover what it’s like to live in the Arctic, plus gardens designed to teach little ones about different habitats around the world. The Closed until summer 2022, Glasgow Tower offers an observation deck with rotating views across Glasgow and beyond.

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