Glasgow Travel Guide

Glasgow Travel Guide

With its revitalised riverfront, fashion-forward shopping, and contemporary art scene, Glasgow has successfully reinvented itself from a city of post-industrial grit and gangs to Scotland's cosmopolitan capital of culture. It's true; there's never been a better time to visit Glasgow. The best introduction to the city starts with a stroll through town, where a stunningly eclectic mix of architecture showcases the evolution of Glasgow's rich cultural heritage. Think opulent Victorian mansions (Glasgow was once the Second City of the British Empire), masterpieces by genius architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and the award-winning, neo-futuristic Riverside Museum. While Gay Edinburgh tends to get all the fame, Glasgow is home to a thriving gay community, largely influenced by the fabulous Glasgay Festival that encouraged growing diversity and acceptance in the city for over two decades. Whether it's over a cosy pint at the pub or via a fierce allnighter on the dance floor, expect a thriving gay Glasgow nightlife scene that promises a little something for everyone. Now, unearth the best of this intriguing metropolis with this ultimate gay Glasgow guide.

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The best hotels in Glasgow

Turn back time with a stay at The Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel, a terrace of four 19th-century Georgian townhouses that have been reimagined into a glamorous hotel overlooking lush private gardens. Original architectural details like marble fireplaces and decadent wood panelling stand testament to the property’s aristocratic roots, while sexy red and black velvet seating feels distinctly contemporary. Afford time in your Glasgow sightseeing itinerary to indulge in one of the on-site therapeutic spa treatments, followed by sinking into a gorgeous Harris Tweed armchair (glass of bubbly in hand) at the hotel’s award-winning cocktail bar: The Salon. Another stylish Glasgow hotel with 19th-century roots, boutique Hotel Indigo lies in a magnificent Victorian building—what was originally one of Glasgow’s first power stations. Today, Hotel Indigo continues to pay tribute to its rich heritage. Walls display spectacular murals by local artists—many depicting iconic Glaswegian poets and musicians—and the restaurant specializes in updated takes on classic regional favourites (always from fresh, locally sourced ingredients.)

Crossbasket Castle

Crossbasket Castle

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Original architectural details like marble fireplaces and decadent wood panelling stand testament to the property’s aristocratic roots, while sexy red and black velvet seating feels distinctly contemporary

Grasshopper Hotel radiates style and warmth from a private penthouse in the heart of Glasgow’s thrumming city centre. The decor across the 30 rooms features modern bespoke furniture and sophisticated Scandinavian details to create an ultra-luxurious atmosphere that still exudes major ‘kick up your feet and relax’ vibes. Imagine homemade wallpaper, artwork by local Glasgow talent, and sumptuous king-size beds outfitted with Egyptian cotton sheets. Dazzling views of Glasgow’s Central Station (and its extravagant glazed roof) are a noteworthy bonus. For a high-end bed-and-breakfast experience, The Alamo Guesthouse is the obvious choice. With its lovely location overlooking leafy Kelvingrove Park, this commanding Victorian property turned charming family-run hotel is a peaceful oasis far removed from traffic-clogged downtown—yet also steps away from the hip and happening West End. The elegant rooms have a mix of antique pieces and contemporary decor. Request a room with an en suite bathroom; the grandiose clawfoot bathtubs are a lavish spot to soak after a long day spent checking off must-see things to do in Glasgow.

Crossbasket Castle delivers unrivalled indulgence in a mesmerizing fairy tale setting—just one hour or so from central Glasgow. The grandiose castle and its 16th-century tower faced near dereliction until a massive restoration project transformed the building into the ultra-luxe hotel it is today. A result of the evident attention to detail given to the refurbishment process, the rich history and opulence of the property shine through, whether in the gold leaf finishes in the Stewart Drawing Room or the lavish period window and bed dressings in each of the nine en-suite rooms. When you’re not sipping tea in one of the magnificent common areas, take a tranquil stroll through the 14 acres of landscaped gardens and forested grounds surrounding the property.

Alamo Guest House

Alamo GuestHouse

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Recommended hotels in Glasgow
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Things to do in Glasgow

One of the most esteemed museums in the United Kingdom, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a fitting start to any Glasgow gay scene guide. Home to one of Europe’s most impressive art collections, the gallery is organized into two parts: Life and Expression. Life explores the natural and human history, while Expression displays a stunning array of fine art collections. Of the 8,000 exhibits throughout the 1901 Victorian stunner, highlights include Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross, The French Gallery, and the 1940’s five-blade propeller Spitfire LA198. Dating back to 1807, the Hunterian at the University of Glasgow is Scotland’s oldest public museum, home to a dazzling array of exhibits that are as riveting as ever. Fan favourites include Roman artefacts from the Antonine Wall, scientific instruments used by James Watt, and—perhaps the museum’s pièce de résistance—the world’s largest permanent display of Whistler paintings.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum | Photo: Michael David Beckwith

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum | Photo: Michael David Beckwith

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The Riverside Museum is a state-of-the-art, award-winning museum perched on the lovely River Clyde

Continue your Glasgow cultural education with a visit to the Riverside Museum, a state-of-the-art, award-winning museum perched on the lovely River Clyde. A treasure trove of historic transportation relics, expect everything from skateboards to tramcars to vintage automobiles on display. That said, the definite showstopper here is the Glenlee, a marvellous three-masted sailing ship moored outside—one of only five similar boats built on the River Clyde that is still afloat today. Scotland’s national centre for art and architecture is The Lighthouse, squirrelled away in a Glasgow Herald building, the first public commission by icon Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s fitting, then, that The Lighthouse is also home to the ‘Mack’ Centre, a fascinating look into the life and legacy of Mackintosh. Take a gander at the exhibit before climbing the spiral staircase to soak in uninterrupted views of the city.

Easily one of Glasgow’s best-hidden gems, Sharmanka is a wonderfully whimsical toyshop that doubles as a unique art installation. Conceived by a Russian metalworker and theatre director, intricate clockwork creations and fantastical kinetic sculptures perform to haunting music in an awe-inspiring show that’s as curious as it is terrific. Finally, after all those museums, indulge in a local libation on a 3-hour whiskey tasting and Glasgow walking tour. It’s an excellent opportunity to discover premium single malt whiskeys and the origin behind them, while also learning delightful details about the trendy West End.

Riverside Museum

Riverside Museum

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Recommended experiences in Glasgow
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What to see in Glasgow

Head to Pollok Country Park for an enchanting afternoon of woodland walks alongside a glistening river. Named Europe’s Best Park in 2008, Pollok Country Park is home to the sought-after Burrell Collection—revered for its works by Rodin, Degas, and Cezanne—as well as the Pollok House. As you’re ambling, keep a lookout for the always adorable Highland Cattle that can sometimes be spotted roaming alongside the river. Another acclaimed Glasgow spot to get your flora and fauna fix, the Botanical Gardens is home to the radiant Kibble Palace, a famed Victorian cast-iron glasshouse. Rare orchids, exotic tree ferns, and tropical palms are a few of the highlights across the 12 exhibits. Round out the trip with a cuppa at The Botanic Gardens Tearoom.

The Glasgow Cathedral is not only one of Scotland’s most striking medieval masterpieces, but it’s also the only Cathedral on the Scottish mainland to survive the Reformation of 1560 nearly entirely intact. A guided tour is highly recommended to best appreciate the intricate architectural details and a long, storied history of the building. We’d be remiss not to mention the Cathedral is built on the site where the city’s patron saint & founder, St. Mungo, was buried—a cherished Christian pilgrimage site up until the Scottish Reformation. From here, walk to the nearby Glasgow Necropolis, a gorgeous Victorian cemetery revered for its architectural brilliance and excellent Glasgow views. The cultural landmark is perhaps at its most beautiful during sunset. While exploring Glasgow’s city centre, you’re likely to encounter vivid murals and urban street art, transforming what was once drab concrete buildings into vibrant works of art. Grab a City Center Mural Trail Map to learn more about the inspiration behind the spaces of colour throughout the city, as well as where to find them.

Botanical Gardens | Photo: Crawford Jolly

Botanical Gardens | Photo: Crawford Jolly

Escape to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to experience the bonnie hills, lush woodlands and quaint villages surrounding Britain’s largest loch

Trossachs National Park

Trossachs National Park

One of Scotland’s most picturesque locales, escape to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to experience the bonnie hills, lush woodlands and quaint villages surrounding Britain’s largest loch. Outdoor enthusiasts won’t want for amusements, whether it be hiking to a dramatic viewpoint, kayaking on glistening water, or conquering a forest trail. Or simply opt to camp out at a cosy pub in the picture-perfect village of Luss while revelling in the allure of “The Highlands in miniature.” Another must-visit that is, albeit, easier to access from ever-popular Edinburgh, the medieval Kingdom of Fife is home to some of Scotland’s most arresting landscapes. This day trip explores the highlights, including some of Fife’s quaintest coastal villages, the charming city of St. Andrews and the spectacular royal palace in Falkland.

St. Andrews

St. Andrews

Where to eat in Glasgow

It wasn’t all that long ago that Glasgow’s culinary scene was considered rather uninspired. But recent years of innovation and evolution have transformed this eclectic city into a true gastronomic hub, with creative takes on time-honoured classics taking centre stage. Perhaps one of the best examples of this culinary explosion is at Dockyard Social, a street food market specializing in global comfort food. Arrive ravenous—there are eleven carefully curated vendors, each who use only ethically-sourced ingredients to cook up a wide array of bold dishes influenced from all corners of the map. Then there’s Number 16, an award-winning neighbourhood haunt that brings unconventional flavours to contemporary Scottish cooking. The menu changes based on what seasonal and local produce is available; the Rump of Borders lamb served with Wye Valley asparagus is delectable (when available.) The atmosphere here is smart but cosy, with an exposed white brick mezzanine and twinkling rope lights.

One of Glasgow’s most stylish dining options—and a carnivore’s delight—is Porter & Rye. This New York-inspired steakhouse serves up quality dry-aged beef (treated in-house), cured meats and sausages alongside wild and foraged food. The exposed brick setting feels undeniably chic yet never self-important; come for a special occasion or simply a Tuesday night out. A Glasgow institution that’s stood the test of time (and trends), The Ubiquitous Chip has been serving refined Scottish dishes in a twinkling, plant-filled mezzanine for over 45 years. Tucked away on cobbled Ashton Lane, the elegant brasserie is a beloved Scottish classic for a reason—don’t miss it or a fireside nightcap at ‘The Chip’s’ romantic yet unpretentious Big Pub. Another Glasgow legend is Cafe Gandolfi, an old cheese market turned snug restaurant that features Scottish fare in an alluringly traditional atmosphere. Original stained glass, handcrafted wood furniture, and print-filled walls combine to create a warm respite on any rainy Glasgow day. The haggis with neeps’ n’ tatties is a signature Cafe Gandolfi dish that’s as authentic a Scottish dining experience as you’ll find.

Cafe Gandolfi

Cafe Gandolfi

The exposed brick setting at Porter & Rye feels undeniably chic yet never self-important; come for a special occasion or simply a Tuesday night out

Italian chef Nico Simeone first earned a name for himself in Glasgow with his award-winning restaurant 111 by Nico. Two years later came Six by Nico, a stunningly well-executed six-course tasting menu that (as the name suggests) changes every six weeks. Themes are based upon a unique place or memory and run the gamut from Thai street food to Illusion to American road trip. No matter the inspiration, expect a quality tasting menu in a modern atmosphere dominated by the buzzing open kitchen. Cail Bruich means ‘to eat well,’ and this 3 AA rosettes restaurant delivers on the promise with good-for-the-soul eats. Expect Scottish fare with a distinctly French twist, executed in an open kitchen that looks out to a lovely, recently renovated dining room. Seasonal produce and a forage ethos are evident in the menu, with items like Isle of Wight tomatoes, Woodruff, and Loch Etive trout making the occasional appearance.

Fashionable takes on tapas-style dishes are the theme at Ox and Finch, which fuses Scottish flavours with French and Mediterranean influences. In true tapas style, the plates are best shared and come out in no particular order. Don’t overlook the extensive vegetarian menu, executed to perfection. And with its relaxed, minimalist atmosphere and sparkling staff, you’d be forgiven for whiling away a day, one plate after the next. Finally, no Glasgow travel guide is complete without mentioning Rogano—Glasgow’s oldest surviving restaurant. The 1935 Art Deco and ocean-liner-influenced design are reason enough to reserve a table, but one bite of the creative seafood dishes explains why celebs and trendsetters have long flocked to this stately restaurant. Hit up the oyster bar for an afternoon snack, best washed down with one of the high-quality champagnes on offer.

Cafe Gandolfi

Cafe Gandolfi

Ox and Finch

Ox and Finch

Shopping in Glasgow

Start your Glasgow shopping spree at Xile, one of Scotland’s most revered independent fashion outlets for alternative menswear. A melange of coveted British brands ranges from classic Lyle & Scott to trendy Blood Brother and Boy London. Add to the mix a healthy smattering of up and coming labels, and you’ve got a veritable playground for the fashion-forward man. Housed inside an unassuming shed (previously the last Comme des Garcons Guerrilla Store,) W2 is an independent menswear shop offering a refined selection imagined by some of Britain’s top designers. Alongside the expected Comme essentials, come for a brilliant curation of labels with the likes of Margaret Howell and Norse Projects lining the racks. For high-quality, design-forward watches that will, quite literally, stand the test of time, head straight to Paulin. Designed and produced in Glasgow, these stunning timepieces make a statement while also supporting environmentally sustainable British manufacturers. A collection of leather pieces and wall clocks also line the Glasgow concept shop and studio.

Need a good book to keep you entertained during all those inevitable layovers? Head to Category Is Books, a ‘Fiercely Independent Queer Bookshop’ that provides a space to share in queer culture, writing, and storytelling. Founded by a wife and wife team, you’ll find a stirring selection of books, magazines, films, and art, dedicated to exploring everything queer. Skip the tourist traps when looking for a gay Glasgow getaway momento. Glasgow’s most endearing souvenir shop is easily Janet & John, a retail space for locally crafted, one-of-a-kind works of art. You’ll find a charmingly retro range of handmade items that include everything from handmade buttons to decoupage to fine art and photography. This haven for Scottish creativity is hidden away upstairs at De Courcy’s Arcade in effortlessly cool Hillhead.

Paulin

Paulin

Designed and produced in Glasgow, Paulin watches are stunning timepieces that make a statement while also supporting environmentally sustainable British manufacturers

River Clyde

River Clyde

Glasgow nightlife

Glasgow is home to a thriving LGBTQ community, so it comes as little surprise that Glasgow gay nightlife is fiercely fabulous and fun. Whether it’s a sundowner at a moody cocktail bar or an all-night fiasco at a reverberating nightclub, locals know how to have a good time—you’d be remiss not to join them. Starting this Glasgow gay bar guide is The Riding Room, a quirky and colorful show bar that hosts burlesque, cabaret, and even magic shows throughout the week. Inventive cocktails are served by stable-boys in a modge podge of vessels, from jam jars to silver kettles—a sweet old-fashioned touch to an otherwise wonderfully flamboyant evening.

Speakeasy is a stylish gay bar and drinking den where ‘anything goes, and everyone is welcome.’ Don’t worry—there are no telephone booths to crawl through or ridiculous passwords needed to gain entry. Instead, expect a sultry spot with artisanal craft cocktails and damn tasty bites. Don’t miss Saturday nights when Speakeasy hosts the iconic Trophy Room, a high-energy evening of pop music and eighties bangers. In the epicentre of Glasgow’s gayborhood (Virginia St.) lies Delmonicas, known by locals merely as ‘Dels’ since its 1991 opening. This friendly neighborhood hangout is an ideal spot to meet and mingle—and find out where the best gay parties are happening later in the night. Dels also hosts karaoke, quizzes, and other events most nights of the week.

Photo: Amie Johnson

Photo: Amie Johnson

Blue Dog exudes classic sophistication with its vintage wallpaper and baby grand piano, where regular live jazz performances take place throughout the week

Blue Dog exudes classic sophistication with its vintage wallpaper and baby grand piano, where regular live jazz performances take place throughout the week. Mixologists here are masters at their craft; you can’t go wrong with any of the innovative concoctions, though the Alchemist’s Elixir is a constant crowd-pleaser. You don’t need to be a bourbon aficionado or a Charles Bukowski fan to appreciate Chinaski’s, an intimate cocktail bar influenced by both. The narrow, candlelit space is as romantic as can be, while the sun-dappled terrace beckons those who prefer to pair their bourbon with a cigar. Historic Kelvingrove Cafe is easily one of Glasgow’s most beautiful cocktail bars. Founded in 1896, the renovated interior pays homage to its old-school roots with thoughtful touches like chesterfield booths, brass detailing and monochrome floor tiles. Libations feel very reminiscent of the 1930s, though don’t overlook the fantastic list of small-production wines.

Photo: Paul Byrne

Photo: Paul Byrne

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