Scotland is such a fascinating country with mesmerizing landscapes that a road trip is probably the best way to explore it. What can be better and more comfortable than renting a car and starting your trip in Edinburgh and then make your way westwards to Glasgow and then drive northwards to Inverness and Loch Ness and finish your journey in the Scottish Highlands?
Renting a car is a great option if you’ll be spending some time in Scotland as it gives you the flexibility and freedom to travel where you want. Americans can use their driver’s license or an international driving permit. You’ll also need a valid passport and vehicle insurance. That said, it can be a great idea to invest in a car rental insurance policy for extra coverage.
It’s easy to fall in love with Glasgow because of its friendly and welcoming residents, dozens of free museums, thriving music scene and beautiful parks. Here are some of the beautiful things you can see and experience here.
The Hidden Gem of Scotland
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the must-see attractions in the city because of its world-class collection of arts and artifacts from natural history to arms and armour. It is housed in an iconic red sandstone building located next to the beautiful Kelvingrove Park.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is in the heart of the West End. Inside the building you’ll find over 22 themed galleries where more than 8,000 objects will capture your attention.
From exhibits of dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals you can also admire Salvador Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross and paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir and Pissarro in a single day.
In fact, Sir Roger the Asian elephant is one of the museum’s major attractions and there’s even a Spitfire plane hanging from the ceiling of the west court and an exhibition of floating heads in another court!
The collections exhibited here are wide-ranging, extensive and internationally significant. The building itself is an attraction as it has been designed with children in mind. There’s a restaurant, a café and a gift shop as well.
To round up the visit to the museum, make sure you spend some time in the expansive Kelvingrove Park that surrounds the museum. It’s a classical Victorian park with many paths to walk and cycle along the banks of the river.
Stand in Awe at Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow Cathedral is one of the only great medieval cathedrals that is still standing in the United Kingdom and it’s the only one in Scotland that survived the Scottish Reformation without much damage to its structure.
It’s been a place of worship for more than 800 years and has one of the largest collections of post-war stained glass windows.Take your time to admire the hand carved pews, the stunning arches and memorial pieces that are dotted on every wall.
Other exceptional features include the stone bosses intricately carved on the ceiling of the Blackadder Aisle. It’s thought to have been built on the site of St Kentigern’s tomb and marks the birth of the city of Glasgow. It’s designed in the Scottish Gothic style both inside and out.
The cathedral is divided by a late fifteenth century stone choir screen decorated with seven pairs of figures that probably represent the seven deadly sins.
There are four stained-glass panels on the east window that depict the Apostles and there is an entrance to the fifteenth century upper chapter house in the NE corner where the University of Glasgow was founded.
The lower church is the most interesting part of the cathedral and it can be reached via a stairway. It’s where the tomb of St. Kentigern or St. Mungo can be found.
Behind the Cathedral lies the Necropolis, a sprawling Victorian garden cemetery built into a hillside that offers superb panoramic views of Glasgow.
Located along Castle Street and near George Square, there are free guided tours available if you want to learn more about this impressive historic building. In October it yearly hosts a week-long festival where attendants can enjoy live poetry and music shows during their visit.
Explore the Riverside Museum
The Riverside Museum offers visitors a splendid opportunity to go on exploring the city’s interesting past. It’s an award-winning transport museum that has something for everybody: from locomotives and vintage cars to an actual Stormtrooper and even skateboards!
It’s definitely a great attraction for children and curious adults, especially when you consider that you are able to climb aboard the exhibits and have lots of fun.
There are more than 3,000 objects in exhibition and 90 large touch screen panels full of images, memories and films that tell the fascinating stories behind the objects.
Located on the banks on the river Clyde, the Riverside Museum is an absolute must-do. You can even walk down an old cobbled street with shops dating from 1895 to the 1980s!
Needless to say, it’s one of the most popular venues to visit with children. Imagine how thrilled they’d be if they could climb aboard a train, tram or bus; discover Glasgow’s rich shipbuilding history; explore the car and motorbike walls or help put out a fire with an interactive fire engine!
Visit the Tall Ship
The Glenlee, better known as The Tall Ship, is one of only five Clyde-built sailing ships in the world that remain afloat. Located just outside the Riverside Museum on the River Clyde, it’s also free to enter.
It’s also a great experience for children as visitors can scrub the deck, ring the ship’s bell, test the fog horn or practice climbing on the small soft play below deck.
It’s also possible to explore almost every cranny and nook of The Glenlee including the refurbished Captain’s Cabin. There’s also a shop and a café on board.
Built in Port Glasgow’s Bay Yard in 1896, The Tall Ship circumnavigated the globe four times before being bought by the Spanish Navy in 1922. She returned to Glasgow and it’s now owned by the Clyde Maritime Trust and she’s now kept as a museum.
The ship is also famous for holding maritime-themed events throughout the year, most of them kid-friendly. It’s very well preserved and it’s really fun to explore.
Visit Glasgow Science Centre
Designed with children in mind, the Glasgow Science Centre is a must-do for anyone visiting the city with children. The goal of the museum is to teach and entertain children while giving them an insight into the world of technology and science.
With interactive exhibits and a plethora of hands-on experiences, children are invited to use water and operate a crane to keep a pretend cargo ship balanced, put on their own little puppet show under the sea, climb the bubble wall, explore the night sky in the planetarium or become mesmerized by the Vortex tunnel or the Phantom Hand and much more!
Situated on the Regeneration area of the Clyde Waterfront, The complex includes three main buildings: the Science Mall, the Glasgow Tower and the Planetarium.
You can go outside to the center’s revolving tower Glasgow Tower and rise 417 feet for a stunning overview of the city. Then, explore a virtual panoramic view on iPads to see all 360° around the viewing platform and zoom in to more than 12 places of interest, all while staying safe within the cabin.
The Planetarium is a show of its own. It has been upgraded to a stunning state-of-the-art full-dome digital projection system that takes you on journeys through the solar system, into the Milky Way and beyond. While you wait to board the Planetarium you can marvel at the Space Zone!
Take a Stroll Along Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Glasgow Botanic Gardens is located in the heart of the city’s West End by the River Kelvin and it’s definitely a must-see for nature lovers with its plethora of plant species, woodland and riverside walks.
Kibble Palace, a magnificent glasshouse that houses the national collection of tree ferns, is another highlight. It’s one of the largest glasshouses in Britain and contains a rare collection of rare orchids, tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand and plants from Africa, the Americas and the Far East.
It’s a popular place for locals and tourists and it’s a great spot for a picnic or a stroll. There’s a lovely Heritage Trail that will take you through the gardens and ends at the Arboretum. There’s also a charming tearoom in the former curator’s house.
The Botanic Gardens consist of various outdoor gardens and glasshouses. You can see many types of tropical plants, ponds and fungi within the glasshouses. It’s an ideal spot for artists and photographers.
Admire The People’s Palace
The People’s Palace offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about the history of Glasgow and what life was like there throughout the eighteenth and twentieth centuries.
Inside the main house you’ll find a collection of photographs, artifacts, interactive displays, prints and films from across the years. If the weather allows, take your time to stroll the Winter Gardens outside of the building and admire plants from afar.
The Winter Garden is home to a fine collection of tropical and subtropical plants. Don’t miss the lovely Doulton Fountain: the world’s largest terracotta fountain built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
The collections cover important aspects of city life as Billy Connolly’s Banana Boots, Tobacco Lords and Trade Unions. It’s an interesting place to bring children along and let them see how much life has changed!
Exhibitions also include a reproduction of a “Single End” home from the 1930s, a look at “the steamie” bathhouses and a display dedicated to remembering the dance hall at the Glasgow Barrowlands Ballroom.
Admire The City Chambers
Though it may seem strange to recommend the administrative headquarters of the Glasgow City Council as a must-do, the City Chambers is definitely worth a visit. Free tours are offered Monday to Friday twice a day.
It has been the home of Glasgow’s local government since 1889. It’s intricately decorated and it’s a stunning example of Victorian civic architecture. Located on George Square, the main open space in Glasgow, it gives tourists a great opportunity to explore this square too.
Amongst the interior’s most outstanding features we can mention the entrance hall’s vaulted ceiling, sustained by granite columns topped with marble, the impressive marble staircases and the beautiful Venetian mosaics.
The banqueting hall is huge and has murals illustrating Glasgow’s history. The Council Chamber is also stunning: it has dark mahogany panelling and solid, weighty furniture with heavy leather padding.
Enjoy Sunset at the Lighthouse
The Lighthouse is Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture and it was the first public commission completed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Glasgow’s most remarkable architect and designer and it’s especially delightful on a sunny day.
Climb up the most beautiful and Instagram-worthy spiral staircases and emerge at the top of the tower to enjoy stunning panoramic views of the city. As you climb through the floors there are various exhibitions to see.
There’s a viewing platform on the 6th floor but if you go all the way up views can be even more awesome. Climbing up the Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful things to do on a sunny day. Just imagine watching the sunset over the nice Glasgow roofs!
There are so many things to see and do in Glasgow. And with the sheer beauty of the place, it’s no wonder it can be referred to as a hidden gem of Scotland.