City Guide to Edinburgh & Glasgow, UK | Must See Attractions & Public Transportation
Disclosure: We may receive a commission for links on our blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very appreciative when you do. Thanks again for your support, we hope you find our posts and information helpful!
If you like green rolling hills, historic buildings, bustling city centers and castles, then Edinburgh should be on your list of places to visit. We were fortunate enough to have a house sit in the suburbs of Edinburgh. We cared for two sweet dogs and a home, while the owner was away on vacation. We were far enough from city center to enjoy the quietness of the suburbs and long walks on lush green paths. Yet, we were close enough to city center that a short bus or tram ride would get us into downtown in about 30 minutes.
We both really enjoyed Edinburgh. It was everything we wanted of a big city in Scotland, and more. It just took going a bit out of town to find fields and hills that were covered in thick green grass that just begged you to run through them and break into song. Thankfully, we resisted the urge. The weather was similar to what we knew when we lived in the Washington/Oregon area. We visited just before spring, so it was damp, foggy and cool. However, we had some amazingly gorgeous days where the sun was shining with bright blue skies. It was interesting that we could go from snow in the early morning, to a few hours of sunshine, followed by rain and hail and then again, back to sun. We quickly put away the weather app, since it did us no good.
As we walked around the area we were staying in, we were amazed to see footpaths everywhere. They were a few feet wide, winding between houses and apartments, or spanned several feet and ran along a river or field. They crisscrossed, going under roadways and bridges. They can be extremely hard to spot if you aren’t used to them, as they are tucked away between gardens and homes, easily mistaken as private property. We could get just about anywhere and never walk on a street. Thank goodness for GPS and maps on our phone, otherwise, we’d surely have been lost more often than not.
Once in city center we appreciated the public transport, as there were buses and trams everywhere. Even though the city is old, it seemed to be well maintained and cared for. Public transportation, the streets, and walking paths were clean and free of obstructions. There’s a charm to the city that comes from the old buildings that line the streets. The streets are narrow, lined with tall, connected stone buildings. The view up or down many of the winding city center streets is worth a moment of pause.
In the center of the city is the large hill that Edinburgh Castle sits on. It’s a great place to look out over the entire city, all the way to the river and across the hills and valley. On a clear day, you can see the bridges that cross Water of Leith River on one side and Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill on the other. You can also see up close views of the castle. Edinburgh Castle is a must see when visiting the city. It’s hard to miss, as it sits above everything else in city center.
We walked around downtown and enjoyed the shops and crowds on Princes Street, but took a reprieve by walking one block north on Rose Street, it too is lined with shops and pubs, but has much less crowded. We walked to each sightseeing attraction and really enjoyed the atmosphere of Edinburgh. It’s hard to go very far without hearing a bagpipe being played by someone in traditional highland dress. Between the sounds and sights, the mood and feel of Edinburgh is delightful!
Sightseeing Edinburgh and Beyond
We spent a couple of days in Edinburgh city center, visiting the attractions and then took a day trip to Glasgow. As we’ve traveled over the last five months or so, we’ve really honed in on what each of us likes to see from location to location. In the beginning, like in Dublin and London, we saw absolutely everything that we could. We did bus tours and boat tours, went to dozens of museums and many churches. In the beginning it seemed that just about anything made it on our sightseeing map. However, our filter has been refined and narrowed. We know that museums need to be unique and very well done to keep our interest. Churches need to be more than just old structures, they need to offer intricate designs and architecture that set them apart. Zoos and aquariums need to offer something different, because really, what does it matter if we see 'Nemo' (Clown Fish) in England, Argentina, or in the United States?
Please understand, we don’t mean to sound pretentious. We’ve just seen so much in so many places, that after a while everything starts to blend into each other. We start to feel like we’ve been there, seen that. That's the last thing we want when traveling throughout Europe. We’re extremely fortunate to be doing what we’re doing and seeing the places we’re seeing. We want each and every place to stick out in our minds. So, in that frame of mind, we’ve adjusted our wide net of sightseeing to be a much more focused one. Now, we look for things to do that are unique to us and to the place we’re visiting. We feel this is only a natural progression and are sure that over time the types of things we seek out when visiting a new place will continue to evolve.
Creating an Itinerary for Each Place We Visit
We’re visiting new places every few days to every few weeks. For each new place we travel to, we want to see and experience the city and country. We wish it was as simple as showing up, walking outside and magically knowing when and where to go. Instead, we spend hours researching a place, finding out what it has to offer, and narrowing it down to what interests us. We then map out the attractions with the hours, cost, and important details for each site. Honestly, this process takes some of the joy and magic away from traveling. In reality, sightseeing isn’t the 45 second montage from a TV show that shows only the happy, smiling, and laughing shots of the cast at each major attraction.
We put a lot of work into researching and planning our sightseeing. While we may not have that television montage experience, we’ve refined our planning to try to avoid getting lost, not knowing where to go to next, and showing up at an attraction that’s closed for the day. We also want to see all of the major destinations in the city, while still finding some of those hidden gems. If you’ve ever put together a plan for sightseeing, then you can probably appreciate why many people choose to travel on tours.
So, to possibly make your research on sightseeing in Edinburgh (and other destinations) easier, we’ve kept our maps with all of the information we gathered (accurate at the time of our sightseeing). Finding hours, prices, and general information can sometimes be challenging, so we’ve tried to include these details on our maps and provide appropriate links below. We travel by public transportation and every city is different. We’ve included our experience and tips on public transportation so you can learn from our mistakes and not look as lost as we do on day one in a new place. And finally, not every attraction is suitable for every visitor, but the copywriters and marketing departments for the destinations sure make it sound like it. How many times have you read “Great for kids and adults alike” and shown up to wonder why anyone over 20 years-old without kids would go out of their way to be there? Below we’ve included our itinerary with tips, impressions, and our takeaways on each place that, when combined with the official attraction information and website, may help you decide if it’s a destination for your travel adventure or not.
Using Public Transportation
Since we were house sitting a few miles from downtown Edinburgh, we took a bus or tram into city center each day. Once in city center, we walked from place to place, as most attractions were central and close to each other. If mobility is an issue, or you’d prefer to take public transportation from attraction to attraction, we'd recommend getting day passes. A single ticket costs £1.60, while a full, unlimited day pass costs £4.00. So, if you take the bus or tram more than twice, you’ll save money with a day pass. You can buy tickets and passes from automated machines that are located at all tram stops. However, the day passes purchased from these machines are valid from the moment you purchase them, so keep in mind that the 24-hour validity period starts from the moment the machine prints your ticket(s). If you prefer to purchase a pass for use in the future, go to a Lothian storefront and purchase them from there. We purchased enough for our entire visit at once from a Lothian storefront in downtown. They explained how to use the tickets; just scratch off the date and time that you first use the ticket and keep it on you, as it’ll be good on all local buses and trams for 24-hours. Lothian doesn’t offer refunds on unused tickets, so buy accordingly. You can also purchase tickets, single or day passes, on the bus from the driver. Have exact amount though, because they don’t give change.
Edinburgh public transportation is run by Lothian Buses. In addition to single fare tickets and day passes, there are also Day/Night tickets, mobile tickets, airport tickets and family tickets. Visit the ticket options page for all of the details on these types of tickets, as well as concession tickets (discounted tickets) and children’s tickets. We found that Lothian’s fares and tickets are fairly straight forward, so the site isn’t too complicated and answered most of our questions.
Edinburgh just recently put in the tram network in 2014. So, the trams are modern, comfortable, and kept very clean. We appreciated the digital screens and loud speakers that announce the next stop on the route. It makes it simple to navigate and to know which stop to exit at. The buses aren’t as new, but they were comfortable and kept clean. Some had digital monitors announcing the next stop, while older buses omitted this feature. We got around this by using the GPS on our phone to know when the bus was approaching our desired stop.
One thing we do want to mention, is to keep your ticket handy, even after boarding. We’re used to being occasionally asked by an inspector to show tickets when riding public transportation in every city we’ve visited. However, in Edinburgh, our tickets were inspected on every ride we took. We quickly learned to keep the ticket in a spot that was easy to get to, so we didn’t have to search for it in the depths of our pocket while an inspector waited for us.
Edinburgh Itinerary with a Day Trip to Glasgow
NOTE: We used this sightseeing map for our personal sightseeing adventures, because of that some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated. Information on this map was valid at the time of creation. All prices are shown in US dollars but are actually Great British Pounds (local currency). That being said, feel free to save it to your Google account and use it as a starting point (or modify it accordingly) for planning our your personalized itinerary in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh, Day 1
Tip: We start each day out by being at our first attraction a few minutes before it opens. We choose the first destination of the day by choosing a place that’s likely a popular destination for tourists and/or locals to visit. By going to the most popular places first, we usually beat the crowds and the lines. We get better pictures and have a more pleasant time seeing and experiencing the venue.
The castle is probably the most popular and well-known attraction in Edinburgh. It sits atop the hill in the middle of the city and is hard to miss. If you’re visiting on foot, be prepared for a steep walk up cobblestone streets to make it to the top of the hill and the entrance to the castle. The courtyard before passing through the main gates is a great place for taking pictures of the valley and of the castle entrance.
Tickets may seem a bit expensive, but we found it was worth the cost. We’ve seen many castles along our recent travels and find that each one falls along a wide spectrum of how well cared for, maintained and furnished they are. Edinburgh Castle was certainly on the high end of the spectrum. It includes several smaller museums and has many rooms that are very well maintained with period furniture and decorations. Visitors are allowed to wander most of the grounds and see many areas of the castle that you may not get to see at other castles. Some of the best views of the city and of the river are from the top of the castle. It can get crowded at the view points, but it’s worth making your way through them for the breathtaking views and pictures.
Princes Street Gardens
To get great views of the castle, head down to Princes Street, it’s the main street in downtown Edinburgh. Princes Street Gardens, parallel to Princes Street, is a park with a beautiful walk, and a great location to see the castle. The gardens are beautifully maintained with flowers and plants along several footpaths. On their own the gardens are a great place to visit, add the views of the castle, and it’s a must see attraction!
If you fancy a coffee, tea, or snack with a good view, cross Princes Street and head into Starbucks. It looks tiny from the outside, but go in and walk up the stairs to see a huge seating area with large windows that have a fantastic view of the castle .
St. John's Episcopal Church
Adjacent (west of) to the Princes Street Gardens is St. John’s Episcopal Church. It’s a category A listed building and free to visit. At the time of our visit it was undergoing renovations, but was still very much worth the visit. The church is small but beautiful inside. For visitor information, including hours, visit St. John’s Episcopal Church website.
Scottish National Gallery
Just a block or so east on Princes Street is the Scottish National Gallery. Find works by Botticelli, Raphael, Rembrandt, Vermeer and many others in this impressive art gallery. Some exhibitions require paid tickets, but general entry to the museum is free. The Scottish National Gallery website has visiting information.
It’s hard to miss the towering Scott Monument just east of the Scottish National Gallery. You likely saw it when entering city center or when looking down at the city from the castle. It’s the largest monument to a writer in the world, Sir Walter Scott. If you're up for it, take the 287 steps to the top of the monument for views of the city. We decided not to make our way to the top, since we felt views from other parts of the city (mainly the castle) were better. For information on visiting the monument, go to the Edinburgh Museums & Galleries website. Keep in mind that the monument may be closed during high winds.
Jenners Department Store
Once the oldest independent department store in Scotland, not only is this a place of historical significance, but a great place to shop (if you’re into that). House of Fraser acquired it in 2005, so it’s no longer an independent department store, however, it’s still a nice place to visit. Find it across the street from the Scott Monument on Princes Street.
Princes Street is the main street in downtown Edinburgh. By now you’ll have noticed that it’s lined with large and small shops, places to eat and great pubs. It’s busy, fast, and loud. Walk up and down this street for many of the tourist attractions as well as the main train station, Edinburgh Waverly, and one of the cities finest luxury hotels, The Balmoral. Walking this main artery of Edinburgh is a great way to see the city!
National Museum of Scotland
From Princes Street take the North Bridge and cross over the train station. Follow the road, and after it turns into South Bridge, make a right on Chambers Street. A block and a half down is the National Museum of Scotland. It’s a fantastic museum with exhibits on the natural world, world cultures, art and design, science and technology, and Scottish history. It’s easy to spend hours here, so we recommend looking at the exhibitions and visitor information ahead of time to plan out your visit. The museum is free, but special exhibitions require paid tickets. The view from the top level, into the lobby is well worth the climb up three-flights of stairs (or just take the elevator!).
Greyfriars Bobby Memorial Statue
Continue down Chambers Street until it ends and make a left. On the corner, likely surrounded by tourists taking pictures, you’ll find a statue of a dog. Once a drinking fountain (now dry for public health reasons), this monument was erected for Bobby, a Skye terrier who maintained vigil at his master’s graveside until he himself died 14 years later. Greyfriars Bobby’s story was popularized by the 1961 Walt Disney film, Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog. Behind the monument, and inside Greyfriars Kirkyard, you can find the pink granite stone marking Bobby’s grave. Inside the Museum of Edinburgh you can see Bobby’s collar and bowl.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
Head north on George IV Bridge road and make a right on High Street. High Street is a part of a succession of streets that form the Royal Mile, which runs through Old Town. It’s a touristy area with tons of shops, street performers, and places to eat. Just a block down, you’ll find St. Giles Cathedral. The architecture and stained glass windows make this a church you’ll want to see. Check the St. Giles Cathedral website for hours, tours, and other visiting information.
Heart of Midlothian
Just outside St. Gile’s Cathedra, you may notice a heart in the cobblestone walkway. You may also notice people passing by and spitting on the heart. We’ll leave it up to you if you choose to spit or not, but for some interesting history on this cobblestone heart check out Edin Bug.
Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
Head west and uphill on the Royal Mile. It’s only a couple of blocks from the Cathedral, but be warned, the short trek is uphill. Camera Obscura, on a sunny day can be a great place to visit. Fun for kids and most adults, the presentation at the top of the building is very interesting and fun. The floors beneath are filled with displays of optical illusions. Many of them reminded us of things we’d seen in our younger years in school. The entire museum is visual illusions, and for us personally, it got a bit repetitive after a few rooms. However, for kids, this museum could mean hours of entertainment. Truly, a very unique experience, especially since it’s all under the same roof!
Only visit on a sunny day, otherwise, it probably isn’t worth it. The price of entry is steep, but they do have a satisfaction, money back guarantee. The Camera Obscura website has prices, hours of operation, and additional visitor information.
Museum on the Mound
Head back down the Royal Mile (Lawnmarket) and make a left on Bank Street. When Bank Street makes a hard left turn, on your right, just below the street, you’ll see a sign for the Museum on the Mound. We put this on our list of attractions because it seemed very unique from the other museums we’ve seen. It’s a museum about money, focusing on coins and economics of money. It’s a small museum located in the offices of the Bank of Scotland. This museum has several interactive activities for kids. After visiting, we'd have to be honest, this did not end up on our list of top places we saw while in Edinburgh, although we did enjoy it. If you’re in the area, it’s worth a look, especially, since the entrance is free.
Edinburgh, Day 2
Put on your walking shoes, because this is a day of beautiful walks and hiking.
Walk all the way down Princes Street (east) and it’ll turn into Waterloo Place and then Regent Road. When it turns into Regent Road, look carefully on the left side for a set of stairs that lead up the hill. If you’ve reached the roundabout, you’ve gone too far. Make your way to the top to take in city views from Calton Hill. It’s a short, but steep walk. At the top, you’ll see two observatories, the Old Observatory House (1792) and the City Observatory (1818). There are several monuments to see here:
- Dugald Steward Monument - A memorial to Dugald Steward, a Scottish Philosopher, built in 1831.
- Nelson Monument - A tower built in memory of Admiral Lord Nelson to commemorate the victory over the French and Spanish, at the Battle of Trafalgar. Visit on October 21, Trafalgar Day, and see the Trafalgar flag signal being flown that reads “England Expects that every man will do his duty”. The tower has a time ball that is dropped daily at 1 pm, historically used to set your time piece by. Visit during opening hours to climb to the top for views of the city. We arrived before it was open and didn’t get to go inside the tower. However, views from Calton Hill itself were enough for us.
- National Monument of Scotland - A memorial to the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died during the Napoleonic Wars. It was designed in and modeled after the Parthenon in Athens and construction began in 1826. However, it was left unfinished in 1829, due to a lack of funds. It still stands, unfinished and is now known as ‘Edinburgh’s Disgrace”.
Scottish Parliament Building
Head down Calton Hill and make your way back to the main road towards city center. About a block down, make a left on Calton Road and then a left at the end of the road. At the roundabout, the Scottish Parliament Building will be on your left. (Alternatively, use GPS and a mapping app to take a footpath down the hill from Calton Hill that intersects with Calton Road near the end of the street.) Scottish Parliament will be hard to miss, it’s a very modern building that sticks out among the older, traditional stone buildings of Edinburgh. Go inside and see the Parliament Debating Chamber on a self-guided tour, or get a guided tour.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
Just across the street from the Scottish Parliament Building is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British Monarchy in Scotland. While here, you can tour the State apartments, The Queen’s Gallery, the gardens, and the remains of the 12th century Holyrood Abbey. Information about visiting can be found on the Royal Collection Trust website. The most interesting part for us was the Holyrood Abbey ruins, which requires paid entry.
Head south to Queens Drive, the main road. From here, having a GPS and a map, will be very helpful. You’ll need to locate the foot path up to Arthur’s seat, the highest point in the park. When we hiked it, there were plenty of people around, but it wasn’t too crowded. Arthur’s seat is an ancient volcano and is 251 meters above sea level. It’s definitely a hike to get to the top, and the views are great. We went on a windy day and the further we hiked up, the more and more windy it became. Definitely be careful and stay away from the cliff's edge, the wind can be very, very strong. Details and reviews on the ‘walk’ can be found at Walk Highlands.
It’s about a three-mile walk from Arthur’s Seat, so you may want to take a bus. Dean’s Village was once a grain milling village next to the river. It’s a picturesque part of town with a pathway along the river to have a nice, romantic walk. We made our way there, snapped a few pictures in both directions at the bridge, and then followed the road through the ‘village’ and down to the water where there's a footpath. It’s a short but very nice walk along the water and a great way to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city.
Edinburgh, Day 3
Royal Yacht Britannia
Start your day at the Royal Yacht Britannia, the former royal yacht of the British Monarch. The Royal Yacht was in service from 1954 to 1997. Having traveled over one-million miles, it served the Royal family for over 44 years. It’s a well done experience and the self-guided audio tour was great. It can be busy at times, so consider purchasing your tickets online in advance.
Edinburgh zoo is fairly close to city center but a few miles from the Royal Yacht Britannia, so you’ll probably want to take transportation there. Unlike most zoos, the Edinburgh Zoo is tucked into a hillside among, what seems to be, the rest of downtown. However, once you enter the gates, you forget you’re in the city. The zoo’s claim to fame are Giant Pandas (Tian Tian, and Yang Guang), Koalas, and Penguins. We sadly were unable to see the Pandas because of mating season, but enjoyed the rest of the zoo. It’s a climb to get through the zoo and to the top of the hill, but you’re rewarded with a great view of the city. It’s a small, well maintained zoo with excellent animal enclosures. The Zoo website has all the information you need for planning your visit as well as seeing all the animals and attractions the zoo has to offer. Also, buy your tickets online and in advance to save a few dollars.
If you want to see the pandas, you can at no additional cost. However, you do need to book a time slot for viewing in advance. You can do it when you arrive, but to be sure you secure a time slot, book online in advance. To do so, you’ll have to purchase your entrance tickets at the same time. See more information on visiting the Giant Pandas.
Forth Bridge (The new one, the old one, and the rail one)
End your day by taking a bus or train to Forth Bridge. We found out the hard way that the cities, Queensferry and North Queensferry aren’t served by Lothian buses. So, if you have a Lothian bus pass, it won’t get you across the bridge. You’ll need to purchase a train or bus ticket to North Queensferry. Or do what we did, and take the bus to the Tesco Superstore on Ferry Muir and walk over the bridge to North Queen’s Ferry.
The views from either side of the bridge are great. On our visit, they were still working on constructing the new Forth Road Bridge, although it was nearly complete. The large red bridge is the rail bridge, and the tall, white harp-like bridge is the new one. We walked across the older Forth Road Bridge and made our way to the outlook on the North Queensferry side. We walked down the steps and east into the town of North Queensferry. It’s a small, quiet town that catches your imagination. We followed the street through town and all the way to its end, underneath the red rail bridge. The day we visited was stormy and as we walked it got more and more cloudy. By the time we walked back to the bus stop on the Edinburgh side, the storm clouds had rolled in and we were soaked by the rain. Even though it wasn’t a clear day, we were lucky to get a few good views of the Water of Leith River and the bridges.
Edinburgh, Additional Places of Interest
We filled up three full days with our sights in downtown Edinburgh. However, there were a few places, further out from Edinburgh that we didn’t get to see. If you have more time and want to venture out a bit, here are our recommendations for additional attractions.
Deep Sea World
In North Queen’s Ferry, Deep Sea World is a themed aquarium. If sharks are your thing, then you won’t want to miss Deep Sea World; it has the largest collection of sharks in all of Europe. Check the Deep Sea World website for the current exhibits and for visitor information including prices and hours.
If the Edinburgh Castle wasn’t enough, there are a few more castles to see nearby.
- Blackness Castle - A 15th century castle, that from an aerial view looks like a ship. The most interesting part of this castle is its dark history as a fortress and a state prison. Check Historic Environment for more information on visiting Blackness Castle.
- Craigmillar Castle - Craigmillar Castle was built in the 15th century and became a residence located just a mile outside of Edinburgh city walls. Check Historic Environment for more information on visiting Craigmillar Castle.
Day Trip to Glasgow
Getting to Glasgow from Edinburgh is an easy, one-hour train ride on ScotRail. You can go directly to ScotRail’s website to purchase tickets. Alternatively, we found tickets a bit cheaper for the same train with GoEuro. We left from Waverly station in Edinburgh and arrived at the Queen Street station in Glasgow. Two round trip tickets, which let us take any return train that day, cost us $40.35. We didn’t mind booking a specific departing train as we knew when we wanted to leave Edinburgh. However, we weren’t completely sure how much time we’d need in Glasgow, so having a flexible return ticket was helpful.
Glasgow Public Transportation
If you’re up to putting some substantial mileage on your pedometer, sightseeing in Glasgow can be done by foot. However, if you prefer to take public transportation, Glasgow has buses, rail, and a subway system that will help you get around town. Glasgow public transportation is run by SPT. The website is simple and easy to navigate. We looked into all the options, from a Glasgow day pass to single ride tickets. While we didn’t end up using public transportation, a day pass seemed like the way to go.
There are three different types of day passes, called Travelcards.
- All Day Ticket - £4.00, one day, all day, unlimited travel on the Glasgow Subway.
- Roundabout Ticket - £6.80, one day, unlimited travel on Glasgow Subway and Rail. Valid Monday through Friday after 9 am and all day on weekends and holidays.
- Daytripper Ticket - £11.90, for one adult and up to two children. £21.00, for two adults and up to four children. Good for one day, unlimited travel on Glasgow Rail, Subway, buses, and some ferries in the Strathclyde region. Valid Monday through Friday after 9 am and all day on weekends and holidays. Daytripper tickets are not valid on night service buses, tours, excursions, or premium services, including First Glasgow X7 and 500 services. To use, scratch off the year, month, and day when you first start your journey and seal down the plastic cover.
Glasgow Day Trip Itinerary
Glasgow City Chambers
If you take the train to Glasgow and get off at Queen Street station, you’ll be only a few blocks from Glasgow City Chambers. If you plan your arrival time correctly, you can take a City Chambers Tour at 10:30 am or 2:30 pm. The tour is great to see parts of the building you wouldn’t otherwise see, and to buff up a bit on your Glasgow knowledge. However, the building alone is worth the visit, in our opinion, for the architecture both inside and out.
Just outside of Glasgow City Chambers is George Square. A great place to take pictures and enjoy a snack on a nice day. The square has a history of being the place for political gatherings, protests, and celebrations. If you’re wondering what’s going on right now, there's a Glasgow George Square Webcam that updates every 20 seconds.
Gallery of Modern Art
Down a couple of blocks on Queen Street is the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). The architecture of this building is worth pictures. In front of the building, you may want to take a selfie with the statue of a man riding his horse, albeit with a traffic cone on his head. Take a step inside and look up. In the center of the building is a great view of the terraces on each floor. That alone is a piece of art. Hang your coats, enjoy a beverage at the café, and read a book in the library downstairs. Head up for the exhibitions on each floor. This gallery opens at 10 am, so if you’re getting an early start on your day in Glasgow, move this destination to the end of your day. Find hours, information on current exhibits and the library on the GoMA website.
Get out your GPS, this one is a bit of a walk. Mitchell Library is one of Europe’s largest libraries. If you like books, you can find over a million items stocked at this library. We’re fans of good design, architecture, and a memorable picture, so this was a must on our sightseeing adventure. Find hours and more information on the Glasgow Life website.
Glasgow Botanical Gardens
Next on our list is the Glasgow Botanical Gardens. This is the furthest north-west place on the map and it's a nice walk through several Glasgow neighborhoods. The Botanical Gardens are located in a large, scenic park. When we were there it seemed like the place many locals went for a walk with their families and dogs. There are two green houses, of which both are free to enter. You’ll see one that is brown, in need of some TLC and has fewer people in it. If you have extra time, and a great affinity for botanical gardens, spend a bit of time here. Otherwise, just go straight for the large white, greenhouse. It was pretty crowded when we visited, with kids running around and an art exhibition in the main entryway. The fountain and gardens are beautiful and nice to see when in bloom. Information on visiting the gardens can be found on their website.
Hunterian Art Gallery
Next we’re heading a bit south towards the University of Glasgow. Just before crossing over the main campus, you’ll find the Hunterian Art Gallery. It’s free to visit, although some exhibitions require a paid entrance ticket. The University of Glasgow’s Hunterian is the oldest museum in Scotland. It includes several museum facilities, located in different buildings around campus. So, if your interests are in zoological studies, anatomy, or various other areas, then you’re in luck. With only a day to see the city, we opted to see the Hunterian Art Gallery. It’s small, covering about half-a-dozen rooms, but well presented. Information on the collections and visiting the museum can be found on the Universities website.
University of Glasgow
Just across the street from the Hunterian Art Gallery is one of the main campus buildings for the University of Glasgow. Founded in 1451, the buildings on the campus are beautiful and worth admiration. We walked right on campus and looked specifically for the location of the pictures we’d seen online, with rows of stone and overhead arches. We had no idea where to go, so we stopped in the bookstore and got directions. We were looking for the ‘Cloisters’ or ‘The Undercroft’. They connect East and West and lead inside the Gilbert Scott Building. We took our time admiring the cloisters and the adjoining areas of the building. We walked through campus and enjoyed the architecture and views from atop the hill.
If you’re interested in learning and seeing more of the university, download the PDF Self-Guided Tour.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Looking out from the University of Glasgow, down over the city, you may have noticed the building that houses the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It’s free to enjoy and we highly recommend planning your visit ahead of time. We picked a few exhibits we wanted to see while there, because we realized how easily we could spend half a day exploring the museum. Without kids we enjoyed our time there, but definitely appreciated how far the museum went to make even the adult focused exhibits interactive and engaging for children. Hours and museum information, including exhibits, can be found on the Glasgow Life website.
Riverside Transport Museum
From the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, we walked along the River Kelvin to the Riverside Transport Museum. The building is unique and one you won’t miss while looking over Glasgow’s skyline. It’s free to visit, and the exhibits are very well laid out. Kids will love to go on Glenlee, a Tall Ship and visit the play area in the cargo hold. The museum artfully displays an amazing variety of transportation objects. From trains to skateboards and everything in between. This two level museum is a great stop for families with kids. For us, it was fun to walk through, but we didn’t spend a lot of time there. Find information on visiting the Riverside Transport Museum.
Glasgow Science Centre
Continue your walk from the River Kelvin to the River Clyde. Just before the Crowne River Plaza, you’ll be able to cross over the river to the Glasgow Science Centre. For us, since we don’t have kids, this was a stop for pictures of the interesting architecture and shape of the building. If you have kids, this could be a good place to stop, explore the science center and take in an IMAX. Plan ahead with information for your visit, the IMAX, and ticket prices.
Cross back over to the north side of the River Clyde and continue your walk towards city center. You’ll end up at Glasgow Green, the oldest park in Glasgow. There's plenty to see as you walk around the park. At the North West entrance, you’ll find the McLennan Arch and in front of the People’s Palace is Doulton Fountain. For more to do in the park, download the Glasgow Green Heritage Trail PDF.
The People’s Palace and Winter Gardens
While at Glasgow Green, don’t miss the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens, both are free to visit. Inside the People’s Palace view the collection and learn about the history of Glasgow and the people who lived there in the 18th to 20th centuries. It’s near the end of your day, so visit the Winter Gardens to relax and enjoy palms and other exotic plants. More information on visiting can be found on the Glasgow Life website.
From here, head back to city center. There are shops and city life to enjoy if you want to take a quick tour of downtown. Otherwise, catch the next train back to Edinburgh, sit back, and take in the views of the lush green countryside.