Written by Siobhan Divers – Student Writer
We all know how expensive travelling to a new city or going on holiday can be – its why everyone saves up for weeks, months or even years before a big trip (the power of the phrase ‘treat yoself’ is too much for even the strongest willed people among us…). But holidays and day trips don’t have to bankrupt you – there are so many things you can do in major cities without burning a hole in your wallet.
And with the majority of Glasgow’s museums, galleries and parks offering free admission, what better city to spend your free time in!
Here are 15 things you can do in Glasgow for absolutely nothing or very next to nothing!
- Walk through George Square and visit the City Chambers
A short walk away from both Queen Street and Central Station, George Square is geographically the centre of the city. With 12 statues of famous Scottish figures including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Queen Victoria, the Square is a must-see attraction for Scottish history enthusiasts.
Glasgow’s City Chambers is also located on the Square and is one of Glasgow’s most iconic buildings. Unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1888, boasting Victorian architecture and décor, the building is stunning from the inside and outside with mosaic ceilings and a marble staircase. And in the style of true Glaswegian hospitality (People Make Glasgow after all!), the Chambers offer free, guided tours.
- Enjoy GoMA’s modern art displays (and take a photo of the Duke of Wellington Statue with his cone(s)!)
The most visited modern art gallery in Scotland, GoMA is a popular free gallery which is frequently visited by local art students and tourists. Providing thought-provoking displays and colourful artwork, the Gallery displays both local and international pieces as well as temporary exhibitions.
Outside the Gallery is another one of Glasgow’s most iconic attractions – the Duke of Wellington Statue. And while the Duke is famous for being a leading military and political figure who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, this is not why his statue gathers crowds in Glasgow – its actually because of the traffic cone that is almost always on his head (and sometimes on his horse’s head and body too…).
- Take photo’s with The Doctor’s Tardis(‘s)
A trail for the Whovians – why not locate and take photos with Glasgow’s Police Boxes? While these Boxes were once spread out across the city, they have mostly all disappeared with the exception of a few remaining Tardis’ scattered around the Centre and West End of Glasgow. There’s one on Buchanan Street, Great Western Road, Sauchiehall Street, Cathedral Street and Wilson Street and next to Barrowland’s Park so why not wander around the city and find these quirky boxes – you can even grab a cuppa from both the Great Western Road and Cathedral Street Tardis’!
- Follow Glasgow City Centre’s Mural Trail
While Glasgow’s artwork is showcased within the walls of GoMA, it’s also celebrated outside through street art on the sides of walls and buildings in the city centre.
From a floating taxi to the Hip Hop Marionettes and Strathclyde University’s Wonderwall, the city has a number of impressive murals that are totally worthy of your Instagram!
- Sample a local ‘Spoons
With five Wetherspoon’s in the city centre (The Counting House, The Society Room, The Crystal Palace, The Sir John Moore and Hengler’s Circus) and another four around Glasgow (The Esquire House, The Lord of the Isles, The John Fairweather and The Kirky Puffer), the pubs are great places for a cocktail or a cheap pub lunch.
One of the most impressive Wetherspoons in Glasgow is The Counting House. Situated on George Square, The Counting House gets its name from the fact that the building was once owned by the Bank of Scotland and was used as their Glasgow Head Office with the original ceilings, columns and vaults still intact!
- Visit the West End – Byres Road, Botanic Gardens and the Lanes
The west end has it all: shops, restaurants and an interesting past so if you have the chance, don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful parts of Glasgow. If you fancy some bargain hunting, Byres Road doesn’t disappoint, with a great number of charity shops available while there are some great options for food and drinks too. And at the top of Byres Road, is Glasgow Botanic Gardens – a beautiful area of greenery. Entry to the Gardens is free as is entry to the Kibble Palace and greenhouses and the Gardens even have a viewing point of an old railway station! Just off Byres Road too is Ashton Lane, an iconic part of Glasgow’s West End. With a number of bars offering cheaper cocktails on weekdays and The Grosvenor Cinema offering screenings of new films and cult classics, the Lane is worth a visit. And if you visit the iconic little lane at night, you can see it lit by overhead fairy lights.
- Enjoy Charles Rennie MacKintosh’s designs
The Lighthouse on Mitchell Lane was the first public commission completed by Charles Rennie MacKintosh. It was once owned by Glasgow Herald but now acts as an exhibition centre and events space. If you feel like some exercise, you can climb a stunning spiral staircase to the top of the tower and on a clear day, you can enjoy spectacular views of Glasgow. Also in the City Centre is the Willow Tea Rooms which was recently restored and preserved, opening around the same time as the dreadful School of Art fire – one of MacKintosh’s other masterpieces. Queen’s Cross Church is also worth a visit as one of the lesser known of Mackintosh’s architectural gems.
- Learn some of Glasgow’s local history
Maryhill, an area within the North of Glasgow has quite a colourful history and is also worth a visit! Come and see the Barracks where Rudolph Hess (Hitler’s second in command) was held in WW2 and visit Maryhill Burgh Halls which is known for the stunning panels displayed in the main hall, depicting local industries and working class people. The Forth and Clyde Canal and River Kelvin also flow through the area with the Kelvin Aqueduct – the Bridge which carries the Forth and Clyde Canal over the River Kelvin still attracting visitors to the area.
- Experience the past in the present at The Riverside Museum
Step aboard trams, walk down a cobbled street and enter shops from the early 1900’s – The Riverside Museum offers a unique experience for tourists and returning visitors of all ages. Entry to the award-winning museum is free and the museum has over 3,000 objects on display so don’t rush your visit as every object and room is just as exciting as the last!
- Visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Kelvingrove Park
You can easily spend hours in this remarkable gallery as there is a so much to see – art work, historical objects and a range of interactive exhibits. One of the most interesting is the emotion exhibition which features moulds of faces with different expressions hanging from the ceiling! Kelvingrove Park is also a must visit with a skate park, bandstand, children’s area, a stunning waterfall and beautiful greenery. Why not walk the length of the park and explore the area fully!
- Walk through Barrowlands Park
Commissioned for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Barrowlands Park is rainbow-coloured street art which lists all the artists who have played at the iconic Barrowlands music venue up until the Games and the year they played. While you’re heading in that direction, you could also check out the Barras Market which opens every Saturday.
- Visit some areas which have been featured on the big (and small) screen
One for the TV/ film enthusiasts among us, Glasgow has featured on many a television show and film. Danny Boyle’s 1996 flick Trainspotting is set in Edinburgh and Glasgow with the iconic scene where Begbie throws the glass over the balcony being shot in Crosslands Pub now called the Kelbourne Saint. BBC comedy Still Game is also filmed in Glasgow with the majority of scenes being filmed in and around Maryhill while Glasgow City Centre hosted Brad Pitt during the filming of zombie apocalypse film World War Z.
- Take a look and a photo of Glasgow’s Medieval Cathedral
One of Glasgow’s most impressive architectural masterpieces, Glasgow Cathedral is the only medieval building in Scotland to have survived the Reformation intact and is definitely worth a visit. Built on the site where St Kentigern is thought to have been buried, the cathedral features carved stone bosses and fine stained glass windows – it’s also located very close to the city centre!
- Discover more about Glasgow’s earliest histories
One of Glasgow’s lesser known tourist attractions is the Govan Stones. Located within Govan Old Church, the stones mark Govan’s place as a Viking Power Centre. The stone collection consists of 31 medieval monuments including the Govan Sarcophagus which is the centrepiece and lynchpin of the collection.
- Walk or cycle along the River Clyde
Stretching over 100 miles, the River Clyde is Scotland’s most famous river. The perfect place for a morning walk or cycle, there are also a number of attractions situated along the Clyde. These include Glasgow Science Centre, The Tall Ship, Springfield Quay and Intu Braehead – enjoy!