Skip to main content


Where to find the hidden gems in Scotland's biggest city

Edinburgh is Scotland’s picture-postcard capital but Glasgow – 50-minutes west by train – is the country’s largest city. And while Glasgow has almost as many souvenir shops, there’s much more to this former industrial powerhouse than sporran-shaped fridge magnets. In recent years, the River Clyde metropolis has spruced up its grand Victorian buildings and reinvented itself as a style, culture and dining hotbed — making it a top lure for urban explorers keen to see the city from a local’s perspective.

Great Stays

First, though, you’ll need a place to unpack. 2014’s Commonwealth Games triggered a raft of new Glasgow sleepovers, including city centre standouts Z Hotel — with its compact, mod rooms and great George Square location — and Citizen M, a quirky contemporary concept imported from Amsterdam that adds a little fun to your stay with its communal hangout lounge and peek-a-boo room showers. Craving some swank? The stylish Dakota Deluxe is a boutique charmer fusing chic rooms with first-name service.

Brilliant Breakfasts

The Dakota’s velvet-soft Scottish smoked salmon and scrambled eggs provides the perfect start to any day, but there are several locally-loved alternatives also worth sampling. Consider hearty black pudding (a traditional blood sausage) at the charming Ubiquitous Chip bistro; succulent smoked kippers at Hyndland Fox (patio table recommended on sunny days); or heaping haggis, bacon and eggs at the subterranean hidden gem Singl-end Cafe — add a slice of their house-baked caramel shortcake to-go.

Burn off the calories with an uphill walk to the Glasgow School of Art. Its handsome main building – designed by art nouveau architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (but destroyed by fire in 2014) – is under restoration. The school’s student-led walking tours introduce the wider area’s rich architectural heritage. Street art fan? Ask your guide for spotting tips on hidden locations around the city.

Another local tour worth joining: book ahead for the brilliant behind-the-scenes exploration of Glasgow Central – Scotland’s busiest railway station – and you’ll descend three levels below the concourse to forgotten platforms and disused mail tunnels, learning eye-opening real life Glasgow stories along the way.


If you prefer exploring at your own pace, check out popular spots including transport-flavoured Riverside Museum and stately Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, then dive into some sparkling lesser-known gems that only the locals seem to know about.

The highly evocative Tenement House is a preserved early 20th-century home illuminating ordinary Glaswegian lives. Complete with ‘bed closet’ and gas lighting, it feels like the residents have just stepped out for a few moments. And while Scotland Street School Museum recalls cane-whacking old teaching methods through the ages, its grand Charles Rennie Mackintosh building is just as intriguing. And be sure to save time for the smashing Britannia Panopticon, a preserved music hall theatre — reputedly the world’s oldest — that explores how yesteryear Glaswegians entertained themselves: check ahead for shows and silent movie screenings during your stay in the city.

Stylish Shopping

Intriguingly, Glasgow is also Scotland’s retail therapy capital with its Argyle Street, Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street thoroughfares routinely packed with shoppers. Alternatively, take your wallet off the beaten path to home-grown style favourites like Instrmnt — famed for its self-assembly watches — and Bluebellgray, with its achingly beautiful floral-patterned housewares: their colourful mugs are perfect souvenirs.

Prize Dining

Glasgow has become known for its famously adventurous dine-out scene. Named Britain’s Curry Capital four times, Glasgow’s two Wee Curry Shops provide great value East Indian lunches, while you’ll also find the ultimate fusion dish at Mister Singh’s India: haggis pakoras.

There’s also a haggis twist at Stereo, a live music venue and vegetarian diner serving Turkish-spiced vegan haggis wraps. Alternatively, hip Drugstore Social offers great soup and sandwich lunches, while Òran Mór Theatre’s A Play, a Pie and a Pint may be Glasgow’s best meal deal — entertainment included.

Dinner-wise, try Old Salty’s elevated take on fish and chips or reserve a table at Alchemilla: prepare to be blown away by their butter-soft mackerel.


Pub grub is popular at Drygate Brewing but beer is the main reason locals line its long tables. Planning a bar crawl? Add beer-hall-like West and the whisky-loving Pot Still.

But you don’t need a drink to have a great night out in Glasgow. With one of the UK’s best indie music scenes, check The Skinny’s online listings for Glaswegian acts like singer-songwriter RM Hubbert — known locally as Hubby — and rootsy Roddy Hart & the Lonesome Fire at revered venues including tiny King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and Saint Luke’s, a former church. Rubbing shoulders with the locals at gigs like these will be the highlight of your Glasgow visit.