Glasgow

Destination Location

Glasgow

Overview

Glasgow's authentic atmosphere is built on working-class heritage and a tell-it-like-it-is attitude. The city's urban fabric has been retrofitted from industrial engine to finely-tuned cultural instrument. Visitors to Scotland's largest city can expect to meet friendly Glaswegians and have an honest good time.

What you see is what you get—and prepare to see a lot. Glasgow has manufactured a new identity by taking the factories and wharfs that fuelled its industrial past and updating them into museums, galleries and parks. Glasgow's Bohemian west end is home to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and Kelvingrove Park as well as several restaurants and intimate bars showcasing the highly acclaimed local music scene. Glasgow is also known to have the best shopping in the United Kingdom outside of London.

Glasgow's festival calendar is packed year-round, making anytime a great time to visit. Visitors can join the Glasgow Fair (which has been held every July since the 1190s), or attend festivals for traditional Celtic music, jazz, film, comedy, visual arts or pride. Other festivals, like the Merchant City Festival or the West End Festival, are rooted in Glasgow's distinct neighbourhoods. Still others celebrate Scotland's wider culture at the bag pipe championships and the classic Highland Games.

Central to the history of Glasgow is the River Clyde, which flows out from the ports of Glasgow into the Firth of Clyde and eventually on to the Atlantic Ocean. This important waterway gave Glasgow access to world markets and helped it become an important seaport and manufacturing hub. In the 1800s Glasgow was known as the workshop of the world—one in every three locomotives in the world as well as a large number of the world's ships were manufactured in Glasgow.

Older testaments to Scotland's aptitude for ingenuity stand tall in the form of castles and estates scattered throughout the Clyde Valley and overlooking the banks of the River Clyde. The green space and farmland surrounding Glasgow is full of history, including a connecting suburb that is reported to be the location where the Scottish patriot William Wallace was captured and turned in.

Travellers wanting to venture a little further can take the coast-to-coast drive (a little more than one hour) to Glasgow's rival city, Edinburgh. Although they're only 75 km away from each other, Scotland's two largest cities are worlds apart and have a rivalry that stretches back more than 300 years—possibly starting over a loaf of bread.

Another point of contention for Glaswegians is the long-running contest between their two prominent football clubs, Celtic and Rangers. The Old Firm, as it is known, partitions the city into supporters of either side and follows old religious lines between Catholics and Protestants. Glasgow comes from a long pedigree of sports enthusiasm, as does the rest of Scotland. Curling and the modern game of golf were both invented in medieval Scotland.

Choosing between activities in Glasgow will be the hardest work of your trip. Dinna fash yersel (Don't worry)! The fruits of your labour are sure to pay off with an unforgettable Scottish vacation. WestJet is pleased to offer seasonal service to Glasgow from Halifax. Through flights are available from Toronto as well as connecting flights from the rest of our network. 

Glasgow is a fantastic destination for:

  • outdoor adventure
  • culture and history
  • shopping and dining

Airport served by: GLA

Destination basics

Glasgow lays in the Gulf Stream and an oceanic climate makes it mild by Scottish standards. The frequent drizzle tends to blur the distinction between seasons, but summers are typically wet and winters can be cool and overcast. Snowfall is infrequent and often short-lived.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Glasgow

Glasgow is a huge, sprawling city with a river running through it. Given a comfortable pair of shoes, it's possible to walk from the west end, through the center, north-east to the medieval area, down through the east end and over one of the many bridges to the south side in only a few hours. Luckily, there's an efficient and simple underground system with 15 stops, lots of buses and a comprehensive low-level train network, which services the whole Strathclyde area, so nobody has to work up a sweat unless they actually want to. The city is sensibly laid out on a grid system so navigating your way around is a piece of cake.

The Medieval City
Glasgow Cathedral, the easterly focal point from which the city developed, dominates the Medieval City. In fact, there is actually a mixture of Medieval, Georgian and Victorian architecture here. The cathedral precinct is also the site of Provand's Lordship, Glasgow's oldest house, built in 1471. Climb up to the top of the hill in The Necropolis cemetery where many local dignitaries are buried and be rewarded by an excellent panoramic view of the city below.

The Merchant City
East of George Square is a grid-plan of streets known as Merchant City. This area used to be a center of trade and many of the Tobacco Lords built elaborate mansions here. This section of the city is an example of 18th Century town planning. Georgian and Victorian buildings provide the area with an elegant sophistication, which is less evident elsewhere in the city. In recent years, Merchant City has again become a center of trade and it is now a fashionable residential and business address. It still looks a little shabby in places which are yet to undergo redevelopment, but stylish bars, hotels and restaurants abound and there are plenty of exclusive shops to flex platinum credit cards in, not to mention the prestigious Italian Centre.

Trongate and the East End
South of the Merchant City, Argyle Street, which runs through the city center, extends into Trongate. There are a lot of independent art galleries around here as well as some good bars and restaurants, such as Café Cossachok. The jewel in its crown has to be the Tron Theatre, a former church whose 17th Century steeple, all that remains of the original structure, makes an excellent landmark. Further along, Trongate meets High Street at Glasgow Cross, marked by the Tolbooth Steeple. Keep going east and head to the Barras market which is one of the best places to experience some Glasgow color. Glasgow Green and the People's Palace and Winter Gardens are also great attractions.

The City Centre
Glasgow may seem to have many centers but the main area for shopping and nightlife is bordered by motorways to the north and west, the River Clyde to the south, and Merchant City and Trongate to the east. The main streets are pedestrianized here; Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street. Look up and you'll discover many of the shops, however modern their fronts, are actually housed in beautiful Victorian buildings with ornate detailing. There are plenty of good shopping centers for a bit of retail therapy; the St Enoch Shopping Centre and Buchanan Galleries are worth a visit for high street stores, while Argyll Arcade houses lots of independent jewelers. However, the showpiece for shopping has got to be Princes Square, where you'll find the only Scottish branches of many upmarket and trendy stores. By day, the city center population tends to be comprised of suits, shoppers and students. By night, people head to the city for the theaters and cinemas, and the large selection of clubs, restaurants and bars.

The West End
Just as the cathedral dominates the Medieval district, so Glasgow University dominates the west end of the city; it's the fourth oldest in the UK. Its parkland setting and cosmopolitan vibe mix seamlessly with the fashionable, affluent feel of the surrounding area. The west end is like a separate little town, it even has its own river, the Kelvin. Apparently there are more millionaires living in the Kelvinside area than anywhere else in Glasgow. There are also several museums here, including Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Museum of Transport. Wander down the lanes off Byres Road and you'll find quirky little second-hand shops and independent boutiques. This district even has its own shopping center, De Courcey's Arcade. Restaurants are of a variety and quality to rival anything the city center has to offer and there's no shortage of hotels and bars either.

The South Side
The area just south of the Clyde is characterized by housing estates, attractive residential streets and lush parkland, Bellahouston Park and Pollok Country Park to be precise. Both house fine collections of art, the Mackintosh House for an Art Lover in the former and The Burrell Collection in the latter. Theater-goers will love the Citizens Theatre here while those of a less cultural bent may enjoy a visit to Hampden Park at Mount Florida to watch American football or plain old soccer.

Beyond the boundaries of Central Glasgow are new towns, which developed to meet the housing needs of the city's many immigrants over the past two centuries. Further out, there are market towns and pretty rural villages, striking coastal scenery, lochs and rivers.

Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, is THE place to party. A dynamic cultural center, its many museums and art galleries are now juxtaposed with an ultra-hip image and cool new buzz. Culture by day, clubbing by night, no moment need pass without some form of entertainment.

If you're not into shopping, museums and galleries provide the best daytime diversion in the city. The area around Glasgow University, a particularly good spot for educational treats, has highlights such as Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Museum of Transport. In the center of town, visit the controversial Gallery of Modern Art and make up your own mind. For a more spiritual dose of culture, St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art is an entertaining and educational way to pass a few hours. The People's Palace and Winter Gardens is the best place for finding out about local history and culture—its multimedia, interactive exhibits will keep the kids from complaining that they're bored.

The streets around Trongate, just east of the center, are peppered with independent little art galleries, including the amazing kinetic sculptures of the Sharmanka Gallery and Workshop, which will delight and enthrall the whole family. Check out the Centre for Contemporary Arts on Sauchiehall Street for pop culture or have a walk round The Lighthouse if you're interested in architecture and design. Mackintosh fans will go mad over the House for an Art Lover, but if you can't be bothered making the trip to the south side, have a look at the Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum in the west end, which houses an excellent collection of original Mac pieces. If you only want one Glaswegian gallery on your schedule, marvel at the treasures that make up The Burrell Collection.

Fed up with museums? Worship the medieval beauty of Glasgow Cathedral then check out Provand's Lordship next door; it's the oldest dwelling in Glasgow. If all the history gets oppressive, relax in one of the city's many parks. The sprawling Glasgow Green is in the east, while Kelvingrove Park, Botanic Gardens and Kibble Palace out west offer peace and quiet with squirrels to watch, statues to admire and greenhouses to explore.

As the light fades, choose between noisy and civilized pursuits. Glasgow is blessed with a wealth of good writing and since the 1990 Year of Culture, theater has been a thriving presence in the city. The Citizens Theatre is widely regarded as the best in Scotland and the Theatre Royal often welcomes the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Arches and the Tron Theatre are great for cutting-edge drama, whilst King's Theatre is musical-land. Glasgow is home to the Scottish Ballet company as well as Scottish Opera, so lovers of high-brow culture will not be disappointed. Tramway is the place to go for performance art and the kind of groundbreaking work you won't catch elsewhere. For a bit of a laugh take in a show at comedy club The Stand.

There are plenty of cinemas in town, the Odeon City Centre shows all the big Hollywood productions and the Glasgow Film Theatre has an excellent programme of art-house and foreign films.

Feeling groovy? Slip on your glad rags and prepare for a night of funk and frolics. The nightlife in Glasgow is difficult to fault, although it is worth noting that most clubs operate a curfew policy—if you're not in by around 12.30p, you might as well go home. With something for everyone, cheesy popsters can party as hard as professional techno-heads, and rock chicks can mosh in style.

If live music is your bag, there are plenty of venues to try. Big names often pop up at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre and the Royal Concert Hall, but many bands prefer to play several nights at the smaller Barrowlands, a former ballroom, because the atmosphere is second to none. Gigs at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut feature fresh new talent and established names, whilst the 13th Note has salsa classes as well as top bands. On Sauchiehall Street Nice 'n' Sleazy is a great night out and the stage is often graced by the cream of the local music scene. For a taste of traditional folk music, pop into the Scotia Bar; it's one of Glasgow's oldest pubs and there's usually someone playing. 

 Glasgow has many clubs to rave about. There's a high concentration on and around Sauchiehall Street; The Garage is a favorite with student poptarts and disco divas, whilst the Velvet Rooms attract an older clientele a few doors along. Alaska has a good mix of big name DJs and mainstream dance. The Cathouse near Central Station, has three floors of metal, industrial and goth madness. A mainstay of the gay and lesbian club-scene is the popular Polo Lounge, while Bennets Disco, also in the Merchant City, pulls in a more casual crowd. Serious clubbers head to The Arches, which regularly plays host to famous guest DJs in its atmospheric vaults.

It used to be known primarily for its Indian food, but Glasgow now has a great variety of places to eat, drink and make merry. Contemporary cuisine, Euro-food and organic menus are all on offer for the hungry client. There's no shortage of pubs and bars either, so dining and drinking in this Scottish city are a real pleasure, whatever your tastes.

The Merchant City has a healthy collection of bars and restaurants, which are all conveniently located near to each other. Feeling spicy? If you fancy fajitas or chili, Pancho Villas' lively atmosphere and tasty menu will add sizzle to your evening, or try Khublai Khan for a taste of Mongolian magic. Local food is also well represented in this area. In the heart of Merchant City, Schottische and Rab Ha's serve excellent Scottish fare, while the City Merchant specializes in seafood and local cuisine. Merchant City is a popular night-time haunt for Glasgow's beautiful people so there's no shortage of fashionable bars to be seen in. Try Bacchus and Bar 91 for a more relaxed atmosphere. Corinthian and Arta attract a civilized and slightly older clientèle who feel at home in the equally palatial settings.

The city center, unsurprisingly, has a greater selection of eateries than any of the other districts. All the popular menus are on offer here, from Chinese to Indian, French to Italian. Curry with good music is the dish of the day at Bombay Blues and Kama Sutra puts the spice into Baltis. Malmaison Brasserie and 78 St Vincent offer fine French fare in opulent surroundings. If you're a fan of pasta and pizza, you'll love the enormous amount of Italian restaurants in the city center. Fratelli Sarti has a lively, vibrant atmosphere and Rico's is a top place to eat before a film at the Odeon. La Tasca, just around the corner, is popular for munching on tasty tapas, no matter what the hour. When it comes to seafood, you can't beat Rogano for quality or luxury, although this is a restaurant best visited when somebody else is paying. Bars to check out include Strata, Spy Bar, Budda and the Bier Halle Republic. The latter is representative of an East European trend amongst Glasgow's newer drinking holes. For a more traditional atmosphere, admire the interiors in The Counting House or The Drum and Monkey, both of which are housed in former bank buildings, or call into The Horseshoe to discover why it merits an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

Most of the options for a late drink or meal are to be found around Charing Cross on either side of the motorway, which separates the city center from the west end. Glasgow Noodle Bar serves food until the early hours of the morning while Insomnia never closes. For an alcoholic beverage when it's past normal closing time, try the Baby Grand.

The west end itself has a flourishing dining scene, with treats to tickle most taste buds. Chow down on a curry feast at Mother India or the Killermont Polo Club. Diet-conscious diners might be put off by Two Fat Ladies, but rest assured, the Scottish seafood here is really good. If juice is your thing, don't miss the chrome charms of Tinderbox and Naked Soup, who both whip up delicious fruity crushes and smoothies. For a taste of the Orient, there's Chinese at Amber. The best in contemporary local cooking can be enjoyed at Sixteen Byres Road, a tiny but perfect gem. The Puppet Theatre is great for romantic dinners a deux and The Ubiquitous Chip is upmarket with a lively atmosphere to be savored as much as the excellent contemporary cuisine. At Kelvinbridge, La Parmigiana serves Italian food so good that the ex-pats flock. The Bay Tree is a self-service café offering vegetarian fare with a Middle Eastern theme. Stravaigin has one of the best bar menus in the city, but if you just want to fill up on beer, check out Ashton Lane's pubs; Cul de Sac, Brel and Jinty McGuinty's; they stay open a little later than most and are always packed as a result. Air Organic and the Living Room are trendy places to down a pint or two, while Curlers is a student favorite and claims to be the oldest pub in Glasgow. 

The area south of the River Clyde has less eating establishments than the rest of the city, but there are a few gems worth seeking out. Not far from The Burrell Collection, the Stoat and Ferret offers good pub grub and nicely pulled pints, while you can sit outside The Church on the Hill and admire its stunning architecture. Battlefield Rest is a great Italian joint.

Glasgow

Country: Scotland, United Kingdom

Glasgow by the Numbers
Population: 606,340 (city); 2,300,000 (metropolitan area)
Elevation: 6 meters / 20 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 111 centimeters / 44 inches
Average January Temperature: 3°C / 37°F
Average July Temperature: 15°C / 59°F

Quick Facts
Electricity: 240 volts AC, 50Hz, standard square three pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT/UTC

Country Dialing Code: +44

Area Code: 0141

Did You Know?
The coat of arms of Glasgow features Saint Mungo and four emblems representing the miracles he supposedly performed - a bird, tree, bell, and fish. The motto of Glasgow is also part of the arms - "Let Glasgow Flourish."

Glasgow’s Horse Shoe bar has the longest bar in the United Kingdom, measuring in at a little over 31 meters (104 feet).

Orientation
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and is located in the southwestern part of the country on the Clyde River. It is about 66 kilometers (41 miles) west of Edinburgh.

Glasgow's name derives from the Gaelic word Ghlaschu, meaning dear, green place. It's generally agreed that the city was founded in the 6th century by St. Kentigern, a Christian missionary more commonly known as St. Mungo. Mungo means the dear one, who is also Glasgow's patron saint. The 13th century Glasgow Cathedral was supposedly built on the site upon which his settlement's church originally stood. This ground was consecrated in the 4th century by St Ninian.

The city's coat of arms is: Here is the Bird that never flew Here is the Tree that never grew Here is the Bell that never rang Here is the Fish that never swam.

It may sound like a riddle, but it's actually based upon miraculous events in the life of St. Mungo. The bird represents a robin that he brought back to life after being unfairly blamed for its death. The bell represents one that the Pope gave to him. The tree represents a hazel branch that Mungo ignited after some boys extinguished the holy fire of the monastery in Culross. The fish recalls a time that Mungo came to the rescue of an adulterous queen. King Hael suspected his wife, Queen Langeoreth, of infidelity and his suspicions were not unfounded. He discovered that she had even given her wedding ring to her lover, a knight. Hael secretly took the ring, hurled it into the River Clyde and demanded that his flighty wife produce it. At a loss, Langeoreth asked her lover for help. He confessed all to St. Mungo, who bid him catch a salmon from the Clyde and lo and behold; the ring was in the mouth of the fish.

The city's motto is "Lord let Glasgow flourish through the preaching of thy word and praising of thy name." Sadly, there are no good stories associated with it and it's usually shortened to the much snappier "Let Glasgow Flourish."

Glasgow became a Burgh in 1175 when King William the Lionheart signed a charter. Another William who played a part in the city's history was William "Braveheart" Wallace, who was born in the village of Elderslie in Renfrewshire. At the start of the 14th century, Wallace trounced the English in a battle which was waged where the top end of High Street is nowadays.

In 1451 Glasgow University was founded; it's the fourth oldest in the UK and the second oldest in Scotland. St Andrews came first. The original site was in High Street, it re-located to Gilmorehill in 1870. In 1490, an archbishopric was established and Glasgow was consequently granted city status.

It was as a port town that the city's trade began to flourish. In 1707 the Treaty of Union with England prepared the way for a growth in overseas trade, especially with the colonies. The Treaty was met with great resistance by the people of Glasgow who resented any alliance with the "auld enemy," even if it was to their benefit. Glasgow imported goods such as tobacco, rum, sugar and cotton from the Americas. Many of these imports were promptly re-exported to France, Germany, Italy, Holland and Norway. Fortunes were made but they were in danger of being lost again as the American War of Independence was looming so overseas trading was due to receive a major blow. Luckily for the city, many of the merchants were far-sighted enough to diversify before it was too late. With the development of a super-charged steam engine by Greenock-born James Watt in the 18th century, Glasgow turned its attentions to the textile industry and started to build cotton mills. The Industrial Revolution had begun.

Glasgow then went on to shipbuilding and by 1835 it was responsible for half the tonnage of steam ships produced in Britain. It's from this economically powerful period that much of the city's magnificent architecture springs. The shipbuilding legacy lived on into the 1900s. The Cunard Shipping Line was established here and famous transatlantic liners like the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, QE2 and the Royal Yacht Britannia were all built at Clydebank. As was The Waverley, the last ocean-going paddle steamer in the world, which was built by A&J Inglis in 1947.

Railway lines to Garnkirk (1831) and Edinburgh (1842), in addition to the Caledonian Railway (1845), boosted both Glasgow's productivity and population further. There was a huge influx of Irish immigrants escaping from the potato famine of the 1940s as well as Highlanders, all in need of work and shelter. By the mid-19th century the population of Glasgow had reached 420,000. As with most cities experiencing such a boom in their working-class population, housing was built cheaply and inadequately resulting in a proliferation of slums. Nonetheless, Glasgow had the best water supply in the UK, thanks to pipes from Loch Katrine in the Trossachs. Glasgow's water is still piped from this source today.

At the end of the 19th century, Glasgow decided it was time to show off a little. The International Exhibition was held in 1888 in Kelvingrove Park and again in 1901, when Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was opened as part of the celebrations. The underground network had opened in 1896 so travel around the city was easier than ever before, despite its expanding boundaries. Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), a local designer and architect, is responsible for many of the private homes and public buildings which sprang up around this time, as well as influencing the development of art nouveau across Europe. Glasgow got the chance to showcase its treasures again in 1938, when the Empire Exhibition was held in Bellahouston Park.

After World War II, the city's population dropped dramatically as people moved away from the hustle and bustle of Central Glasgow out to new towns on the outskirts with a less industrial atmosphere. The unemployment rate was high and morale was low, the city was suffering under harsh economic conditions and the industries of old, which had brought Glasgow such prosperity, were no longer viable. In the 1980s, the city cleaned up its act (and its streets) and set out to reclaim its reputation as "Second City" of the much depleted Empire. A smart promotion campaign, in addition to the opening of prestigious attractions in the 1980s such as The Burrell Collection, the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, and Princes Square kept Glasgow in the public consciousness. The city honed new skills in tourism and service industries, leading to its role as host to the National Garden Festival in 1988; a major coup.

Glasgow is now Scotland's largest city. It has also won awards in the past such as "Europe's City of Culture" and the "UK City of Architecture and Design." An incredible city rich in history and beauty, Glasgow plenty to offer the interested traveler.

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

Explore our world.

or find your dream vacation with our Vacation Finder