14 Unique Things to do in Glasgow

by Roisin McAuley  |  Published March 15, 2019

Scotland’s largest city was a giant of the industrial era. With this came a rough reputation and a population largely dominated by the working class, which Glasgow proudly parades. The unique city is bouncing back from both economic and social issues with continued, confident resilience.

Bold architecture dominates the banks of the Clyde (Photo: Harry McGregor via Flickr)

The many faces of Glasgow’s past have marked the city with a variety of strange sites and quirky characteristics. Whether it’s the odd spots that Glaswegians lovingly frequent, the unusual food consumed or the almost-tangible passion that flows throughout the city, there is no shortage of sides of Glasgow to see and enjoy.

Try a Deep Fried Delicacy
If it’s possible that a food can be deep fried then chances are someone in Scotland has already tried it. Two of the most popular calorific options, which locals show off to tourists as though they are integral in their diet and identity – really they are one-off treats – are the Pizza Crunch and the deep fried Mars Bar.

Though its origins can be traced to Aberdeen, the deep fried Mars Bar is just as good in Glasgow. A Scottish delicacy that is made, as the name indicates, by deep frying a Mars Bar, contains over the recommended calorie intake for one day. Whether you can enjoy a full one to yourself or share it with a friend, this sweet captures the attention of gastronomically curious visitors.

Though the idea of deep frying a pizza came to the Italians as well, it survives as a staple on the menu of most chip shops in Glasgow. You can order up a slice, half or a full pizza. Alternatively for those feeling extra-hungry, order a Pizza Supper for an accompaniment of chips. One recommendation for this is the University Cafe on Byres Road for either a filling battered pizza or a taste of the warm, caramel dessert.

University Cafe, Byres Road and other chip shops throughout the city

Glasgow Necropolis skyline (Photo: Patrick Down via Flickr)

Visit Glasgow Necropolis
Nestled on a low hill in the city’s east, this Victorian garden cemetery is not a typical tourist destination. Amble through the gates by the adjacent Glasgow Cathedral to access this peculiar attraction, and once you reach the sprawling network of graves it will become clear why this is such a highly rated attraction. The panoramas of Glasgow, the engulfing vegetation and embellished headstones give recognition to the city’s Victorian past. The Necropolis gives unparalleled views of the city’s sunset and is a popular place for locals to gather on Guy Fawkes Night, to watch Glasgow Green’s firework display. It is open to visit throughout the day and guided tours can also be taken.

Castle Street

King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut
King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut first opened its doors in 1990, to give a platform to bands across different stages of their careers and for audiences to enjoy daily live music. Since then it quickly became recognised as the place to play.  Over a two week period in 1993 the Verve and Radiohead played the venue, and Oasis made their debut Scottish performance, which infamously led to their record deal and the beginning of their music’s chart domination. One of the city’s most celebrated musical offerings, its 300-person capacity makes for intimate gigs, drawing crowds who know and love music, and creating the celebrated atmosphere that Tut’s is known for. Drop by any night of the week, you might catch the next Franz Ferdinand or Paolo Nutini, or even the original. Nowadays, the bar also hosts comedy nights and serves food throughout the day.

272A St Vincent Street

The Duke of Wellington and his cone hat (Photo: Harry McGregor via Flickr)

See a cone on the head of a statue
It might seem like an odd proposition, but a statue adorning a traffic cone is one of the city’s most recognised features. The statue of the Duke of Wellington is iconic in Glasgow, it is iconic not because of Wellington’s historic defeat of Napoleon but rather because local Glaswegians have taken to decorating the statue with a traffic cone. Though the origins of this tradition remain unclear, this exemplifies the humour and character of the locals and has been an ongoing battle with the police, who remove the cone from the statue’s head, ever since the eighties. This has been one of the police’s longest and least successful operations in the city; both the local city Council and the national police force have been involved in countless, expensive, initiatives to prevent the cone returning to the statue. However, after over 30 years, locals continue to replace it if they see that the Duke is missing his head-piece.

Royal Exchange Square

Climb the Lighthouse
Unlike cities south of the border, Glasgow’s central architecture boasts very few skyscrapers. For this reason, visitors can take an easy climb up the spiral stairs at the top of Charles Rennie MackIntosh’s Lighthouse for 360 degree views of the city. Originally designed in 1895, formally known as Herald Building, the premises were a warehouse at the back of the printing office of the Glasgow Herald Newspaper. Lying empty for some years after the Herald’s relocation, the Lighthouse reopened the building to the public in 1999 as the country’s Centre for Design and Architecture. Over six floors, the centre hosts exhibitions with the third floor dedicated to the work of the revered architect himself.

11 Mitchell Lane

Watch a film at the World’s tallest cinema
At 203 ft tall, Cineworld’s Renfrew Street branch is the tallest cinema in the world. A commercial cinema, Cineworld screens the latest films throughout the day and evening. Overlooking the city’s main shopping district, a trip to the top screens in the glass lift – take the one in the right corner for the best views – gives guests a new perspective on Glasgow.

7 Renfrew Street

Glasgow Festival of Burlesque – one of many events in Glasgow (Photo: Glasgow Festival of Burlesque)

Head to a Festival
Whether it’s film, art or music, Glasgow is the culture capital of Scotland with international festivals all year round. Music events vary: Celtic Connections celebrates traditional celtic music giving a platform to up-and-coming performers as well as established figures of the genre, while the newly introduced TRNSMT music festival brings international acts to Glasgow Green. For arts and culture there is the Glasgow International Festival, taking place every other year, and the Glasgow International Film Festival that premieres big names and local stories, fiction, documentary and artist’s films. The creative programme of the city continues to grow, check out our article to see what is on during the year.

Ride the Clockwork Orange
In Glasgow, we like things done easily. The prime example of this is our easy to navigate subway with two lines both going in a circle, in opposite directions. Nicknamed, somewhat curiously, “the clockwork orange”, the subway connects the city centre to the West End in one easy-to-navigate route, with an outer and inner line depending on which will reach your desired destination first.

Various stops around the Glasgow City Centre, the West End & South Side 

Glasgow City Cloisters (Photo: Ian Dick via Flickr)

Glasgow University Cloisters
For those in the West End, wander through Kelvingrove or meander up the back of Ashton lane to reach Glasgow University. The most beautiful of the old fashioned university’s features is the cloisters in the centre of the main building. The impressive architectural detail of these archways has made them a shooting location for both national and international films. On either side sit the East and West quadrangles, which are particularly busy during the city’s odd sunny day and are where graduations are enjoyed.

University Avenue, Glasgow

Find a Vintage Bargain
Both Ruthven Lane and Cresswell Lane are characterful cobbled streets in the west end of the city, and easy to miss if you’re not looking out for them. In the arcade on Cresswell Lane, climb the stairs back in time to pick up vintage fashion and browse records. On the other side of Byres Road head to Starry Night for unique treasures: jewellery, fashion and furs from all ages, and Ruthven Mews, another arcade-style building with art, furnishings, electronics and vintage comics.

Ruthven Lane and Cresswell Lane

Dance beneath the bright lights in Glasgow (Photo: Ralph Thompson via Flickr)

Go to the Dancing 
With stricter curfews and early closing times than the rest of the UK it comes as a surprise that Glasgow’s nightlife still manages to maintain a reputation worldwide. Whilst clubs close at 3am, or 4am for special events, the city’s clubs and bars are known for showcasing homegrown talent, with many new local and established DJs playing at the Sub Club. The nightlife follows a similar pattern to the city’s art culture: even the biggest names stay faithful to the city and regularly return for nights at the clubs. Pop-up venues and one-off nights are popular in alternative spaces and in the SWG3 warehouse complex.

Visit the Glasgow School of Art
Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architecture is that emblematic of the city that you won’t be short of recommendations of where to see it. In the middle of 2014 the Glasgow School of Art experienced a traumatic fire. Though surprisingly no one was hurt, there was worldwide outcry and remorse for the damage to the iconic piece of architecture. Now in the mid-phases of reconstruction, tours can be taken both in the new, modern design building and to select areas of the burnt-out masterpiece: this currently varies depending on the construction.

167 Renfrew Street

Stroll through Kelvingrove Park
Admittedly, outdoor activities in Glasgow are hard to recommend given the climate. The sprawling Kelvingrove Park neighbours many zones of the city: the trendy West End to one side, the bars and restaurants of Finnieston to the other, and the expensive Park Circus in the centre. The University of Glasgow shares grounds with it too, as do Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Charing Cross. KG as it’s known locally, connects all the areas people frequent locally and, when the sun is out, is the meeting point for students and locals to meet and enjoy a drink or BBQ. For those visiting, it might be useful to know that drinking alcohol in public places is illegal, but it doesn’t mean people don’t do it.

Kelvingrove Park

Two pipers play on Buchanan Street (Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr)

Enjoy the atmosphere of Buchanan Street
A walk down Glasgow’s shopping heart, Buchanan Street, is not only an experience for shoppers. Whilst big brands line the streets, local buskers and international musicians create a soundtrack. The atmosphere is regularly conducted by an eclectic mix of piping bagpipes, thumping drums and acoustic strings accompanied by contemporary songs; it might sound like chaos on paper, but the unusual symphony is an unmissable piece of Glaswegian culture.

Buchanan Street