28 Free Things to do in Glasgow
28 Free Things to do in Glasgow
The biggest city in Scotland, close to all Loch Lomond has to offer, and rich in history, Glasgow makes for a great city break destination. To add the cherry on top of the cake, the city offers an array of attractions completely free of charge. Yes, you read that right - completely free! This is our list of free things to do in Glasgow.
FREE CULTURE, MUSIC & ARTS
1. Merchant Square
Like an indoor village square, full of bars and restaurants around it, Merchant Square is today a great spot to wine, dine and people watch right in the middle of the historic Merchant City.
While wining and dining are not free, the Square holds several free events a year and it’s also home to Glasgow’s largest indoor TV screen. Talk about watching the game in a place with atmosphere! Check their calendar of events for more information.
Child-friendly: definitely, keep an eye out for family events Address: Marchant Square, 71 Albion Street, Glasgow, Scotland G1 1NY Opening hours: Mon to Thu and Sun 8.30am - 12 midnight, Fri to Sat 8:30am – 3am Visit Merchant Square’s website
2. Glasgow Cathedral (St Mungo’s Cathedral)
The only medieval cathedral to survive the Protestant Reformation in 1560, Glasgow Cathedral (also known as St Mungo’s) is a prime example of Scottish Gothic architecture.
Expect all the usual beauties of a Gothic church, plus… its lower crypt still holds the tomb of Glasgow patron saint and founder, St Mungo – hence the name; and, if you cross the bridge beside the cathedral, you will wander on to the Necropolis, a Victorian graveyard of similar scale to the Pere la Chaisse in Paris, France.
Child-friendly: yes Address: Glasgow Cathedral, Castle Street, Glasgow, Scotland G4 0QZ Opening hours: April to September: Mon to Sat 9:30am – 5.30pm, Sun 1pm – 5pm; October to March: Mon to Sat 10am – 4pm, Sun 1pm – 4pm More information about visiting Glasgow Cathedral
3. Govan Old Parish Church
While the church itself is quite beautiful, the attraction here is really The Govan Stones, a collection of early medieval carved crossed and sarcophagus as well as rare Viking hogback tombstones that laid undiscovered in the churchyard for 1,000 years, but are now on display inside the church building. If you love history, this is definitely a must sightseeing stop for you.
Child-friendly: yes Address: Govan Old Church, 866 Govan Road, Glasgow, Scotland G4 0QZ Opening hours: daily from April 1st to October 31st 1pm – 4pm More information about The Govan Stones
4. The Ben Nevis
Fancy a taste of Scottish Music, craft beer and whiskey? Head to The Ben Nevis.
A traditional Scottish pub, Ben Nevis hosts free live music sessions on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, when you can listen to traditional Scottish music and have a taste of the famous Scotch Whisky as well as an interesting selection of craft beers, gins and more. While the drinks are not free, the music and atmosphere are. By then end of your visit, with or without the whiskey, you will be dancing like a Scotsman!
Child-friendly: no Address: The Ben Nevis, 1147 Argyle Street, Glasgow, Scotland G3 8TB Opening hours: Mon to Sat 12pm – 12am, Sun 12.30pm – 12am More information on The Ben Nevis
5. Glasgow Street Pianos
There are over a dozen decorated street pianos around public spaces in Glasgow. The idea is to encourage people who play to showcase their talent, to inspired people who don't play to want to learn and to increase the appreciation for the sound of this magnificent musical instrument.
In 2014, Glasgow Piano City Association helped charity Play Me, I'm Yours to place pianos all over the city centre for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Since them, street pianos have never left the city. If you play, find one and show us what you've got!
6. Glasgow City Chambers
One of Glasgow’s most imposing buildings, The City Chambers (or Municipal Buildings) have been the home of Glasgow’s local government since 1889. Intricately decorated and a stunning example of Victorian civic architecture, it’s definitely worth a visit if you are a lover of Victorian history.
To top it off, The Glasgow City Chambers sits at one end of George Square, quite a grand square on its own, and offers free guided tours twice a day.
Child-friendly: yes Address: Glasgow City Chambers, George Square, Glasgow, Scotland G2 1DU Opening hours: tours daily at 10.30am and 2.30pm, there is no need to book unless you are visiting with a big group Read more about visiting The City Chambers
7. Mitchell Library
Another beautiful and imposing building in Glasgow is the Mitchell Library.
Spanning over five floors, The Mitchell not only hosts a public library, but also the City Archives and collections, one of the world’s best resources for researching family history. You might have even caught a glimpse of these archives on the BBC TV program Who Do You Think You Are? The library also hosts a rich calendar of events, including regular events for families and children.
Child-friendly: definitely, check the events calendar for family activities Address: The Mitchell Library, North Street, Glasgow, Scotland G3 7DN Opening hours: Mon to Sat 9am – 5pm Read more about visiting The Mitchell Library
8. The Trainspotting Tour
Cult film Trainspotting put actor Ewen McGregor in the Hollywood spotlight. While the film, and the book on which it is based, are set in the grim corners of Edinburgh’s 1990s drug scene, a few of its filming locations were actually in Glasgow. You can follow the trail below and visit some of the most famous locations in the movie.
Child-friendly: Not really Address: various locations around Glasgow Opening hours: Depends on the location Read more about visiting Trainspotting filming locations
9. Argyll Arcade
Right in the heart of Glasgow’s shopping district, Argyll Arcade is a beautiful Parisian-style walking gallery linking Argyle Street to Buchanan Street (see listing number 28) . Home to more than 30 jewelers and diamond merchants, it is known as the diamond centre of the north. Maybe not what you expect on a list of free things to do, but the historic arcade is a listed building so it’s worth a visit even if only to window shop and dream.
Child-friendly: yes Address: Argyll Arcade, Glasgow, Scotland G2 8BG Opening hours: Mon to Sat 10am – 5.30pm Argyll Arcade website
FREE MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
10. St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art
Around the corner from Argyll Arcade (see entry number 9), and sitting alongside the medieval Glasgow Cathedral, is the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life & Art. As random as the subject of the museum might sound, especially if you are not into religious things, it actually offers an intriguing insight into the part religion plays in people’s lives all around the world and across time. It aims to promote tolerance, respect and understanding between different religions as well as people that don’t follow any. A very interesting outlook, definitely worth a visit.
St Mungo Museum is directly connected to Provand’s Lordship (see entry number 17), Glasgow Cathedral (check entry number 2) and St Nicholas Garden (see entry number 26).
Child-friendly: definitely - family arts & crafts, quizzes and games every other Saturday 1pm – 3pm Address: St Mungo Museum, 2 Castle Street, Glasgow, Scotland G4 0RH Opening hours: Tue to Thu and Sat 10am – 5pm, Fri and Sun 11am – 5pm Visiting St Mungo’s Museum
11. Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
One of the most visited museums outside of London and the third most popular attraction in Scotland, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum has 22 themed galleries with exhibits covering modern art, natural history and Scottish art, history and archaeology. You can even download a treasure hunt or guided tour app to help you explore the museum. The Gallery is also located inside the Kelvingrove Park (see entry 27).
Child-friendly: definitely, check their calendar as they host events for children Address: Kelvingrove At Gallery & Museum, Argyle Street, Glasgow, Scotland G3 8AG Opening hours: Mon to Thu and Sat 10am – 5pm, Fri and Sun 11am – 5pm Visiting Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
12. Riverside Museum
The new home to the Glasgow Museum of Transport, here you will find some of the world’s finest bicycles, cars, locomotives, ship models and trams. Perfect for families and an absolute dream if you have a member of the brood that is a car fanatic. Riverside Museum even offers free guided tours, just ask at the information desk.
Child-friendly: definitely, check the calendar as they host events for children Address: Riverside Museum, 100 Pointhouse Place, Glasgow, Scotland G3 8RS Opening hours: Mon to Thu and Sat 10am – 5pm, Fri and Sun 11am – 5pm More information about visiting the Riverside Museum
13. The Tall Ship at Riverside
Glasgow has been associated with the production of ships since 1712 and The Tall Ship Museum aims not only to highlight the history of this heritage, but also showcase the barque Glenlee – one of the only five ships still afloat today that were built in one of the River Clyde’s old shipyards. Meet the crew and explore every nook and cranny of the Glenlee.
There is a lot on offer for families too, including family events during school holidays, a mini cinema and an under 5s play area in the cargo hold! Most certainly a must when visiting Glasgow.
Child-friendly: definitely, check the calendar as they host events for children Address: The Tall Ship at Riverside, Across from the Riverside Museum, 100 Pointhouse Place, Glasgow, Scotland G3 8RS Opening hours: daily, February to October 10am – 5pm, November to January 10am – 4pm (opening times might change due to events and functions, please check the website below for more information) More information about visiting the Tallship Museum
14. GOMA – Gallery of Modern Art
In the heart of the city centre, GOMA is home to a library and an ever-changing modern art exhibition that aims to showcase the interests of the city itself as well as its artists. For families, GOMA hosts an Art Club every Saturday from 10.30am to 12.30pm. Come, visit, get inspired and get creative!
Child-friendly: yes Address: Gallery of Modern Art, Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow, Scotland G1 3AH Opening hours: Mon to Thu and Sat 10am – 5pm, Fri and Sun 11am – 5pm View more information about GOMA
15. People’s Palace
Set in historic Glasgow Green (see entry number 24), The People’s Palace documents how Glaswegians lived, worked and played from the 18th to the 20th Century. Expect to see photographs, paintings, historical artefacts, film and interactive computer displays as well as special exhibitions. And while you are there, don't forget to admire the beautiful Doulton Fountain right outside the palace. It is the largest terracotta fountain in the world!
Child-friendly: definitely, check their calendar for family workshops Address: People’s Palace & Winter Gardens, Glasgow Green, Glasgow, Scotland G40 1AT Opening hours: Tue to Thu and Sat 10am – 5pm, Fri and Sun 11am – 5pm More information about visiting People’s Palace
16. Winter Gardens at People's Palace
Right behind People's Palace (see listing above) you will find an enormous glasshouse - The Winter Gardens. Why is it not listed as part of the People's Palace, bearing in mind they are connected? Because this attraction is honestly a beast of its own. Filled with exotic palms and plants, you would be forgiven for thinking you are in some oasis in the Middle East! A beautiful green and warm space you can visit in all weathers, even if you don't like museums.
Filled with exotic palms and plants, you would be forgiven for thinking you are in some oasis in the Middle East! A beautiful green and warm space you can visit in all weathers, even if you don't want to visit the museum itself. The Winter Gardens are so beautiful, pictures of it take over social media whenever you search for People's Palace. They even have a cafe in there. The team here are Citybase Apartments is trying to move our office in there for the whole English winter!
Child-friendly: definitely Address: People’s Palace & Winter Gardens, Glasgow Green, Glasgow, Scotland G40 1AT Opening hours: Tue to Thu and Sat 10am – 5pm, Fri and Sun 11am – 5pm More information about visiting The Winter Gardens
17. Provand’s Lordship
Immerse yourself on medieval Glasgow by visiting one of the only four surviving medieval buildings in the city! Peruse the rooms decorated in 1500s and 1700s style and learn more about life in Glasgow during these periods.
Provand’s Lordship is directly connected to St Mungo Museum (see entry number 10), Glasgow Cathedral (see entry number 2) and St Nicholas Garden (see entry number 26).
Child-friendly: definitely - family arts & crafts, quizzes and games every other Sunday 1pm – 3pm Address: Provand’s Lordship, 3 Castle Street, Glasgow, Scotland G4 0RB Opening hours: Tue to Thu and Sat 10am – 5pm, Fri and Sun 11am – 5pm More information on Provand’s Lordship
18. SSSM - Scotland Street School Museum
This imposing building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and was once a large and well-known school servicing the shipping industry’s growing population. Today, as a museum, it gives a great insight not only into the architectural style of the building itself, but also into the history of education in Scotland from the 19th to the 20th Century.
Child-friendly: definitely, check their events calendar for family activities Address: Scotland Street School Museum, 225 Scotland Street, Glasgow, Scotland G5 8QB Opening hours: Tue to Thu and Sat 10am – 5pm, Fri and Sun 11am – 5pm Find out more about Scotland Street School Museum
19. The Lighthouse
The first public commission completed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, The Lighthouse was for many years the home of local newspaper The Glasgow Herald. Today, it is fittingly Scotland's Centre for Design and Architecture, hosting permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as a calendar of events including workshops.
The Lighthouse is also where you should start your Mackintosh Trail (see entry number 23), as it is home to the Mackintosh Centre.
Child-friendly: definitely, check their calendar for family-friendly events Address: The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, Scotland G1 3NU Opening hours: Mon to Sat 10.30am-5pm, Sun 12pm - 5pm More information about The Lighthouse
20. GMRC - Glasgow Museums Resource Centre
Basically, the GMRC is a warehouse where the artifacts not currently on exhibition at Glasgow museums live. The cool think about it is that you can book to have a guided tour completely free! There are different types of tours, including tours for the visually and hearing impaired as well as extra family activities during school holidays. Please note that while all the tours are free, you must book your slot in advance. More details on the types of tours and when they take place here.
Child-friendly: definitely, check their calendar of events for family activities Address: Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, 200 Woodhead Road, South Nitshill Industrial Estate, Glasgow, Scotland G3 7NN Opening hours: Mon to Thu and Sat 10am – 5pm, Fri and Sun 11am – 5pm Visiting the GMRC
21. Hunterian Museums & Art Gallery
Originally assembled by William Hunter, the Hunterian Museum aimed at improving knowledge of the world. Two hundred years later, a visit here will find a varied collection, including displays of archaeology, palaeontology, geology, zoology, entomology, ethnography and numismatics. Great fun and varied enough to be of interested to different members of the same family.
The University of Glasgow, home and keeper of the Hunterian Museum, also has other Hunterian collections spread around its campus, such as the Hunterian Art Gallery, Hunterian Zoology Museum and the Country Surgeon Micro Museum, all free to visit. Once you are there, you might as well explore the other venues, as they are all walking distance from one another.
Child-friendly: yes Address: Hunterian Museum, Gilbert Scott Building, University of Glasgow Glasgow, Scotland G12 8QQ Opening hours: Tue to Sat 10am – 5pm, Sun 11am – 5pm More information on what is on offer in all Hunterian Museums and Art Gallery
OUTDOOR SPACES & ACTIVITIES
22. City Centre Mural Trail
Glasgow has some amazing street art. Funded by Glasgow City Council itself, the City Centre Mural Programme aims to brighten the dark corners and gable ends of the city centre as well as promote local artists. If you love street art or just love to see something different, download of pick up a copy of the City Centre Mural Trail and go hunting for them. You will not only find the murals in the process, but also explore Glasgow's city centre.
23. Mackintosh Trail
If you are a fan of architecture, this one is a must for you.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was one of Scotland’s most renowned architects, designers and artists. His work influenced design movements such as the Art Nouveau and Secessionism. Today, several buildings designed by him still exist in Glasgow; some you will be able to enter, some you will not. Either way, you will still be able to admire the work of this visionary architect. Start at the Mackintosh Centre at The Lighthouse.
More information on the Mackintosh Trail, the history and locations of the buildings.
24. Glasgow Green
Glasgow’s oldest park, Glasgow Green follows the River Clyde and covers 136 acres not far from the city centre.
Here you will find a play village and local play area for children, the Clyde viewing platform as well as an array of walking paths and grassed fields to explore and relax on. You can also download of pick up a copy of the Glasgow Green Heritage Trail and go on the hunt for monuments, buildings and landmarks. The People’s Palace (see entry 15) is also within the grounds of this park.
Child-friendly: definitely Address: Glasgow Green, Greendyke Street, Saltmarket, Glasgow, Scotland G1 5DB Opening hours: open 24 hours Download Heritage Trail leaflet here More information about Glasgow Green
25. Glasgow Botanical Gardens
If you are partial to a flower or two, then the Glasgow Botanical Gardens is definitely not to be missed. You can visit the whole garden for free, including the glasshouses! If that wasn’t enough, they also host an array of free events.
A visit to the Botanical Gardens is particularly recommended in spring or summer, as the grounds are perfect for picnics and watching life go by while soaking the sun laid on the grass… We can see ourselves doing that already!
Child-friendly: definitely Address: Glasgow Botanical Gardens, 730 Great Western Road, Glasgow, Scotland G12 0UE Opening hours: Grounds 7am – dusk, Glasshouses 10am – 6pm (shorter opening times in winter) Visiting Glasgow Botanical Gardens
26. St Nicholas Garden
Sitting just behind Provad’s Lordship house (see entry number 17) and recreated in the manicured style of 15th Century gardens, St Nicholas Garden is a corner of quiet contemplation in the middle of busy Glasgow. While there, don’t forget to spot the Tontine Heads carved into the stone walkway that surrounds the garden.
Child friendly: yes Address: Provand’s Lordship, 3 Castle Street, Glasgow, Scotland G4 0RB Opening hours: Tue to Thu and Sat 10am – 5pm, Fri and Sun 11am – 5pm More information on St Nicholas Garden
27. Kelvingrove Park
Designed in a classic Victorian style, following the contours of the River Kelvin and serving as a grand backyard to Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum (see entry 11), Kelvingrove Park is essentially 85 acres of beautiful parkland just outside Glasgow’s main centre.
Here you will find three children’s play areas, a skateboard park and beautiful river walks. Download or pick up a copy of the Kelvingrove’s Heritage Trail leaflet to discover monuments, garden spaces and buildings inside the park. It’s great fun, especially for families.
28. Buchanan Street
Together with Argyle Street and Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street is one of Glasgow’s main shopping thoroughfares. Largely pedestrianized, and connecting both Argyle and Sauchiehall, it runs right in the middle of Glasgow’s famous shopping district. Expect to see designer stores as well as upmarket high street retailers.
For more affordable high street brands, head to Argyle and Sauchiehall. The latter is also home to coffee shops and high street restaurants. While shopping is not free, these three streets are largely pedestrianized, so they provide an opportunity for a nice stroll down one of Glasgow’s most vibrant districts.
Child-friendly: yes Address: Buchanan Street, Glasgow, Scotland Opening hours: open 24 hours, but best visited in between 9am and 5pm More information on Buchanan Street