Over the past couple of decades Glasgow has undergone a dramatic cultural and economic revolution and is now home to many incredible cultural and artistic venues, including theater, opera, music, comedy, film, ballet, and three of the largest football stadiums in the United Kingdom, which makes visiting Glasgow an incredible experience. What follows is an easily digestible menu on what to wear, what to do, and where to go during a vacation in this amazing city.
- Layer – Yes. Scottish weather is notoriously terrible, and can be especially rough in the winter. Wear layers that you can easily remove indoors.
- Overcoats – Yes, year round, but especially in the winter. Don’t go with just a blazer. It’ll get soaking wet in the standard Glasgow downpour. You will see all manner of overcoats, trench coats, parkas, covert coats, chesterfield coats, and car coats in Glasgow.
- Wallet in your pant pocket – No. You will be inviting pickpockets. Keep your wallet secure in an inner pocket of your jacket.
- Money clip – No. Revealing the amount of money you carry can attract unwanted attention.
- Navy blazer – Maybe. Navy blazers are associated with school children’s uniforms. They’re generally not worn by adults in Glasgow.
- Bright colors – No. Bright colors and pastels are reserved for children’s clothing.
- White/beige/standard khaki pants – Nope. The rain, mud, and general grime of the city will stain these suckers faster than spilled coffee on white linen.
- Leather soles – Also no. The streets and pavements are rough on shoes and the constant rain doesn’t help. Stick with rubber soles.
- Wear black – Yes. Black is Glasgow’s go-to color.
- Slim-fitting pants – Yes. Glaswegian men wear pants that range from slim-fitting to ball-popping skinny fits. This is your chance to experiment with a closer fit.
- Boots – Yes. Once more for emphasis. Yes.
- Bring an umbrella or wear a coat with a hood – YES.
Travel and Accommodations
- Pay with your American credit or debit card – No, unless you have a rareEMV chip and pin card.
- Pay with cash. – Yes. Use a Clydesdale Bank or Royal Bank of Scotland ATM and pay with cash.
- Fly directly to Glasgow Airport – Yes, through IcelandAir or KLM/Delta, you’ll shave 5-10 hours off travel time. Otherwise, go through Heathrow.
- Book Flights while in Glasgow – No. Flights cost significantly less if they’re booked while you’re still in the US.
- Reserve a taxi to pick you up from the airport – No. The airport has a dedicated taxi queue right outside the international arrivals terminal. Clean, vetted airport taxis are waiting 24/7.
- Stay at an authentic Scottish hotel – No. Scottish hotels are hellholes. It would be an understatement to say that the Scottish standard for hotel rooms is low. You should avoid Scottish hotels and B&Bs at all costs, even if there are hundreds or thousands of glowing reviews online from the locals. Seriously. I warned you.
- Make sure your hotel room has a bathroom. – Yes. “Ensuite” is the keyword.
- Stay in the City Centre or West End neighborhoods – Yes.
- Cabs – Yes. Stick with Hampden Cabs or Glasgow Taxis.
- Subway – Yes. Buy a SPT “daily cap” or a “7 day” ticket for everyone in your group. The subway stops running at 6PM sharp, so expect to take a cab or walk after that.
- Pay-as-You-Go phone – Yes. It’s well worth spending $20-30 to purchase an inexpensive, sim-free phone on Amazon. Pair it with a prepaid $10-15 sim card from Three or O2. Payphones are uncommon, and hotels are generally unwilling to help in this regard.
- Note: if you have an unlocked American iPhone or Android phone that uses sim cards, I highly recommend Three’s “All in One £15” pay as you go sim card. It’s perfect for visitors: a month of unlimited data within the UK, and enough minutes and texts for dealing with cabs and other reservations.
- Take the train – No. There’s generally no need, unless you’re visiting Edinburgh. A taxi will be less expensive for trips within the city when the subway’s not an option.
- Expect customer service – No. The Scottish do not believe in customer service.
Food & Drink
- Expect customer service – No. Repeated for emphasis. The Scottish do not believe in customer service. The customer is usually wrong. Not, “not always right“, but usually wrong.
- Eat breakfast/brunch out – Yes! Avenue G has the best coffee in town, and the food is reasonably priced and consistently excellent. Enjoy brunch on the weekends at The Left Bank (also, the muscles on the evening menu are incredible).
- Enjoy lunch or dinner at Kember & Jones – Yes. Their pastries and sandwiches are the best in the city.
- Get your fill of Indian food – Yes! Indian food is hugely popular in Glasgow. Try Ashoka, The Wee Curry Shop, Mother India, or one of the other hundreds of Indian restaurants.
- Wander into any of the bars on Ashton Lane – Yes! Drink with a curious mix of locals, students, and professors. Stop in Brel and head to their back garden to enjoy enormous pints on the grass, or make your way up the unmarked staircase to find yourself in Jinty McGuinty’s Beer Garden.
- Try the local beers. – Yes! Look for beer from Belhaven, William Bros (especially Joker IPA), Cairngorm, Harviestoun, or Broughton. If you’re a connoisseur, try to find every beer on this list from the Herald.
- Have a pint at Oran Mor – Yes, if you want to drink at the West End’s most popular bar with the locals.
- Take your significant other to dinner at Stravaigin – Yes. Glasgow’s upscale gastro pub is a great venue for a date night.
- Try the Haggis at The Ubiquitous Chip – Yes. Head upstairs to the Brasserie if you’re adventurous and enjoy the “haggis, neeps ‘n’ tatties” or the vegetarian haggis.
- Take a detour to the Cossachok, Glasgow’s best USSR-style Russian restaurant – Yes! Book a reservation for one of the concert nights to enjoy amazing live music.
- Order an Irn Bru – Yes, if carbonated bubblegum sounds appealing to you. Irn Bru is Glasgow’s own soft drink company, and the most popular soda in Scotland.
- Complain about your food – No. Especially not at a local restaurant.
- Send your food back – No. That isn’t commonly done here. It’s tremendously offensive.
- Tip – Yes. Tipping is usually optional, however, as a tourist you should tip 10-15% at restaurants or 1-2 pounds per round of drinks in a pub. You’ll notice a dramatic increase in the level of service.
- Attempt to order food/drinks in a Scottish accent – No. It sounds silly, but many American students and tourists believe that they can speak with a flawless Scottish accent. You won’t fool anyone, and your impersonation will not be appreciated by the locals.
- Eat Fish and Chips at a Chippy – Yes, if it’s Doon the Lane. Otherwise, no.
- Take a turn off Byres Road to eat Vietnamese food at The Hanoi Bike Shop – Yes. This is the best (non-Indian) Asian food in Glasgow. It’s down a little alley across the street from the subway station, just north of Glasgow University.
- Hit up a Starbucks – No. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of excellent Scottish coffee and tea houses.
Sights & Sounds
- Attend a concert – Yes. Glasgow has a wealth of live music. Attend a concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, or the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Or go off the beaten path and attend a Red Note Ensemble concert for some experimental classical music.
- Visit the University of Glasgow – Yes, Glasgow University is the “fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world”. Its appearance is frequently compared to Hogwarts. Be sure to visit the University’s museums: The Huntarian Museum, The Huntarian Art Gallery, and The Mackintosh House.
- Take your partner to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens – Yes. The Botanic Gardens are a mix of beautiful indoor greenhouses and mediocre outdoor gardens, but they’re well worth touring.
- Going for a run in Kelvingrove Park – Yes. Glasgow’s 85 acre city park is located just south of the university. It’s a favorite spot for locals and students alike.
- Visit the Kelvingrove Museum – Yes. It’s an interesting mix of art, architecture, historical artifacts, stuffed animals, stuffed English politicians, and more. All of the exhibits are completely free. It’s located just south of the university and Kelvingrove park, and just north of many of Glasgow’s best restaurants and pubs.
- Stop in the Glasgow School of Art – Yes. This treasure was almost lost to a fire earlier this year. Go for the Macintosh tour, or to enjoy the mix of historical exhibitions and emerging artists’ displays.
- Spend half a day on Buchanan Street – Yes. Buchanan street is home to the Royal Concert Hall and all major shops and shopping centres. You can easily spend a full day shopping, drinking, and eating here.
- Take a detour to the Necropolis – Yes. Glasgow has its own Victorian City of the Dead. It’s a fair distance from the University and City Centre; take a cab.
- Eyeball the marble in Glasgow’s City Chambers – Yes. Queen Victoria apparently had a thing for marble, and it shows. Some claim that this building has more marble than the Vatican. Make sure to snap a picture of the Duke of Wellington Statue outside, that Glaswegians nightly crown with a traffic cone.
- Attend a football game – Yes. Pick between Celtic Park, Hampden Park, or Ibrox Stadium. Alternatively, root for the underdogs at a Partick Thistle game. Drink responsibly. Cheer as loud as humanly possible along with the locals.
About the author: Chris (aka Bruschetta) is an America-born university researcher and teacher based in Glasgow, Scotland, as well as a moderator on Threads. His sense of style is inspired by a childhood dressed in Ivy league trad, and the fact that he is enormously well bred.