I’ve been putting off writing this post for months (almost a year) because I knew I would get emotional when I tried to write it. We’re talking, I’m going to book a plane ticket right now, emotional. But we’ve had growth people!!
Instead of feeling sad when I think about my five months abroad last year, I instead just feel nostalgic. Like looking back on fond childhood memories or hanging out with your besties in high school. Scotland has become a figure of nostalgia for me, so I’m ready to sit down and write this out!
I did live there for five months, and one of my bff’s is from there and still lives in Glasgow, so I feel like I’m pretty qualified to give good advice on how to spend your time there. Although my pal across the Atlantic may disagree with my “American” touristy ways.
If you’re going to be visiting Glasgow anytime soon, I got you.
Glasgow is a very walk-able city. It’s extremely easy to walk from the city center down to the River Clyde or over to the West End. I walked most places to save money while I was there, but on days I was in a rush or didn’t want to walk a mile or two I’d take the subway.
The subway it super easy to navigate, too! It’s just a huge circle and if you stand on one side of the platform you go clockwise and if you stand on the other side you go counter-clockwise. Pretty easy, right?
Plus, each subway station and car has the map posted. There’s no way you’ll get on or off at the wrong place unless you’re not paying attention.
Glasgow also has a really good bus system, but I never used it since I have a fear of buses. However, I never had any issues getting anywhere just using my own two feet or the subway.
To give a better impression of how close everything is I decided to make a map with every place I mention in this post. I know it seems like some things are super far away, but I promise they aren’t. Especially with a quick five minute ride on the subway.
Places to Eat
The only traditional Scottish food I know of is haggis, and while I never even tried it, I still don’t recommend it. Being a vegetarian and all gave me the perfect excuse to never try that… “delicacy.” So these places I’m recommending aren’t necessarily traditional Glaswegian restaurants, just good places that serve dang good food.
There are two locations of Paesano Pizza in Glasgow. One is just off George Square and one is over on the West End. I only ever went to the West End one though.
The whole time I was there, people were telling me how good their pizza was. But I’m not a pizza person so I never got up to go. That was until my Scottish pal took me for a last night dinner and let me tell you… best pizza I’ve ever had. The girl who doesn’t like pizza liked this pizza, that’s gotta mean something.
This is actually a vegan cafe over on the west end. I originally found it for my date with cute train boy (shout out to the real one who know who I’m talking about), and kept coming back after because their coffee and food were so tasty.
I even took Kay here one time and she didn’t know everything was vegan until after we left and I told her. She was shocked. So don’t you go telling me vegan food doesn’t slap.
Related: I Tried to Eat Vegan for a Week
The cafe has amazing coffee and (obviously) doesn’t charge for using non-cow milk sine that’s all they have. Basically, I was in heaven. Their baked goods are also A+ and I always enjoyed their breakfast food.
Besides being a place to grab food, the V&V Cafe is also a great place to sit down and read or do some work. I loved reading by the tall glass windows they had downstairs on a sunny day.
Blue Lagoon Fish and Chips
Blue Lagoon is a total chain, and my Scottish friend will hate me for including it in this list, but here we are. You have never had good french fries until you have had good chips.
A lot of my meals in Scotland turned out to be just chips and I was never disappointed. A lot of my drunk walks home from the bars and clubs included a quick stop at Blue Lagoon and I quite miss those detours. Nothing here in America compares to a good drunk chippy.
Gordon Street Coffee
Fair warning: this coffee shop is very very small. I’m talking about maybe six tables total if I remember correctly. BUT it’s right off the Glasgow Central Train Station and they grind and roast all their coffee beans upstairs. And you can sit and watch them. How cool is that!?
It may be small. But Gordon Street Coffee is actually never that busy because it’s not very well known and the clientele is usually train travellers not people looking to stay and sit. Hence the lack of tables. But don’t let that deter you from taking a seat and enjoying the smell of fresh coffee!
Purrple Cat Cafe
Okay, okay I wouldn’t say the food here is the best. But like they have cats so that trumps all.
You don’t have to make a reservation online, but it’s so busy that I doubt you’ll be able to do a walk in. You pay for an hour in the cafe with all the cats and can also order food, drinks and pay £1 for little bowls of kibble to feed the cats.
When I was there, the cats were really shy but it will most likely be all different cats now when you go. Hopefully they aren’t as shy!
If you have a sweet tooth, you gotta check out Deesserts on Sauchiehall Street. (That’s pronounced sock-e-hall btw.)
I even tracked down the menu for you just to show you how amazing this sweet shop is. It takes ice cream date to a new level.
Gallery of Modern Art
Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of modern art but I did enjoy this museum. They had a few exhibits I really loved so I had to include it. But also, I just really enjoy the statue out front.
Right outside the pillars of the museum is a statue of the Duke of Wellington riding a horse… with a traffic cone on his head. It’s a big thing there in Glasgow and if it ever goes missing, it always pops up again not long after. Honestly, I just love the absurdity of it and how the officials gave up on removing it.
On the left and right of the museum, there are also beautiful string lights at night. So I’d recommend a stroll down Queen Street or Buchanan street at night to see them.
I’ve always liked museums. I love learning about history and seeing art and just taking information in. But I never loved a museum until I saw Kelvingrove.
My first impression was of the towering (actually built backward) museum in the snow though. So it was truly magical. I visited for the first time like my fourth day or so in Glasgow and made multiple trips back over my time there. Their collection is just beautiful, and I love the architecture of the building so much.
University of Glasgow
This uni on the West End is often compared to Hogwarts due to its massive presence and stone facade. And while it doesn’t exactly feel magical, it’s still a beautiful piece of architecture.
I visited the campus multiple times over my time in Glasgow because my friend actually attends uni there. We’d meet up sometimes after his classes or exams and go over to Ashton Lane. (Keep reading to hear more about this place!!)
Besides just the beautiful buildings itself, the trees and views from behind the uni are amazing. I found this cherry blossom tree in May and kept going back just to sit underneath it. I once even ran there just to procrastinate studying for my exams.
You can also see Kelvingrove Museum from behind the buildings. And you can see the real “front.” As I mentioned earlier, the museum was built backward and what was supposed to be the front actually faces back towards Glasgow University.
This park is on the west end just across the street from the beautiful Kelvingrove Museum and University of Glasgow. It has a skate park, playgrounds, trails, a river, and hills upon hills.
The park is a beautiful place to walk through whether it’s snowing or a nice warm spring day. It seems everyone flocks here on warm days. I say this because on the first above 70 day of the year I went for a run and I swear every single piece of lawn was covered and people were sunbathing. True story.
Kelvingrove park will always hold a dear place in my heart because it’s where I went sledding for the first time and where I used to run to on warm days. I don’t think I’ve ever run somewhere with as nice of views as there before. Especially at sunset when you can see the bell tower from Glasgow Uni off in the distance.
This was one of the cutest parts of Glasgow and I’m sad I never got a photo of it. So let me try to paint the scene.
Ashton Lane is a small lane tucked away on the West End near the University of Glasgow. Lined with white and colorful pubs along with fairy lines overhead, it’s pretty dang magical.
You know those little picturesque streets people pose in the middle of and get a shot of them twirling or walking down? Yeah, it’s one of those streets. You can get a cute photo and enjoy all the small pubs and eateries.
I only spent time in Grosvenor Cafe. It’s an upstairs pub/restaurant. After having brunch and dinner here, both during which I got tipsy, I would totally recommend this as a stop if you want to spend more time in the area.
This place is a hands down must see. I waited until almost a week before I had to come back to the States to visit and I deeply regret that. This cemetery is just one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and actually super relaxing and interestingly built.
Necropolis houses some of the oldest graves in Glasgow and has some amazing headstones and statues for its residents. But the best part is that it’s a huge hill and you have a view of all of Glasgow. I visited it at sunset to see the sky and during the day to actually just sit and read up on the hill. Neither of these are strange activities there either. People take strolls here and I saw other people lounging around on nice days.
I actually wanted to spend the night there my last night but didn’t have the courage. Sooo we’re still not a paranormal investigator but maybe one day.
I wish I had more photos of the place but I only ever had my phone with me when I went. Just trust me when I saw it’s beautiful.
Glasgow Botanical Gardens
I visited the botanical gardens twice: once in the winter and once in the spring. Visiting during the winter was so cool because everything outside is dead, but all the plants inside the greenhouses are thriving. Seeing all the vibrant green plants just made winter that much more bearable and I think every major city in the US should hop on this trend of having one.
There’s also a flea market for used books every once in a while at the gardens!! It took so much self-control for me not to buy heaps of books from them. If you’re a book lover, I’d definitely recommend looking for the schedule for that!
The best part of the gardens? It’s all free.
The greens was another place I did a lot of my running. It’s 136 acres of land and is right along the river Clyde, one of the reasons I loved running down there. Bodies of water always make me happy, and a happy runner makes a longer, better run.
On the greens, you can find multiple statues and structures dedicated to different people and events, as well as a rowing house, sports complex, and even outdoor workout machines. This is the spot to see a lot of dogs, too. They have a dog park and a lot of stray dogs hang out here, but they aren’t dangerous! I’m terrified of dogs and I never had any issues with them.
On the grounds is also another museum, but I thought it was pretty boring to be honest. However, the winter gardens attached to the People’s Palace? STUNNING. I would go here to sit and drink tea (who am I?) and do work. Just further backing my intention to get more US cities to build public winter gardens.
This section is quite long but I promise that doesn’t mean I became an alcoholic in Scotland. They just have such cute pubs! Plus, having a pint is just how friends hang out there. Soooo no judgment please and thank you.
Tingle is where I started every night out. Why? Because it’s a shot bar and it’s hella cheap. Every shot is only £1.50. That’s like barely $2!!
Plus, they have all these fun shots you can try. By fun I mean crazy names with cool alcohol mixtures. To name just a few I can remember: Princess Peach, Poptart, Crazy Scotsman, Cookie Monster, Gold Digger, and Mad Scientist. That last one there? It actually has tabasco in it and my friend made me try it on my last night out and I actually liked it so jokes on him.
This is definitely not a place to dance though as it’s very small. You either get in, grab a couple of shots and get out, or get in and wait around for a seat. Just be warned, because it can get very crowded on weekends.
I wasn’t sure if I should include this or not, but I thought I might just in case whoever is reading this loves to go out and dance like this girl does. Bamboo is the only club I enjoyed in all my time in Glasgow.
They have a lot of students free nights and I think ladies free nights as well. Plus, they have three different rooms with different DJ’s so if you’re not vibing with a song you can also skip on over to the next room. However, this is a super popular trend in most clubs across the pond.
I just liked this one because the crowd was more uni-aged and I never saw any creepy men looking to prey on girls. So, enough said.
This church turned pub was definitely one of the cooler places I went during my time in Glasgow. I passed it so many times thinking it was a real church…. Until I was invited to go one day and realized it was actually a pub. So cool right?!
It’s very large on the inside and super nice! Totally recommend going here one night for some casual pints. If you’re lucky like me, maybe you’ll visit the same night there’s a rugby event across the street and get to see lots of tartan.
The Crafty Pig
This pub was on the West End and definitely the most casual one I went to. It actually reminded me of a sports bar back in the States! They had tv’s mounted showing rugby and (European) football games.
I’d definitely recommend this place if you’re too scared to go to a “real” pub or if you’re looking for a piece of home.
The Counting House
This pub is right off George Square making it the one I think I visited the most. It seems relatively fancy from the outside, and what you can see just upon entering, but you don’t have to be all dressed up to stay. I once even visited right after sledding in Kelvingrove Park and my friends and I were all sweaty and snowy.
This pub also has food! Which is always a bonus because so many bars/pubs don’t have food.
This is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written, but that’s because Glasgow is massive and there’s so much to do!! If you want more recs, or just want to talk about Scotland with me, I’m always down! Drop a comment or send me an email. I’ll always love to talk about what I know like to call my “second homeland.”
What would you do in Glasgow?
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