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How to See the Best of Glasgow in 2 Days

Spend two days in Glasgow City and find out why Glasgow is worth visiting. Learn about things to do in Glasgow Scotland on a weekend city break.
Is Glasgow worth visiting? Our motto is 'every place is worth visiting at least once'. 

With this in mind, we set out from Dublin to Glasgow Scotland for a 2-day weekend jaunt. We've been to Edinburgh in the summer several times but weren't sure what things to do we'd find in Glasgow which has a more rough and edgy reputation. 

It didn't help that it was raining when we arrived but we didn't let a bit of bad weather get in the way of making the most of our Glasgow-based weekend break.

2 days in Glasgow Scotland: Arch at Glasgow Green

A Walk Through Pedestrianized Glasgow

We took a walk down pedestrianized Buchanan St. in Glasgow City. We stepped out of the rain and into the lovely Argyle Shopping Arcade. A message from a bygone era (1904!) still adorns the wall: Notice: Parties taking Shelter from the Weather are requested to pass into the inside of the ARCADE and not to stand in the passage. No Dogs Allowed. 

We continued our walk through Glasgow's Merchant City. We were intrigued by McDonalds...McDonalds Bakers, that is. We popped in to sample some sweet treats. There wasn't a French fry to be found anywhere.
2 days in Glasgow: Buchanan St. in Glasgow City
The window and open door of Mrs. Mitchell's Sweetie Shop beckoned. We bought a small bag of Lucky Tatties. I thought they would be cream flavored with a light dusting of cinnamon on the outside. 

My mistake! Lucky Tatties taste overpoweringly of cinnamon and are hot. These Glasgow candies aren't for the faint of heart. We passed Trongate which stood out brightly among the gray surroundings. 

We passed a bakery specializing in fondant topped cupcakes and wedding cakes. We popped into the weekend market at Merchant Square. We couldn't resist Lady G's whimsical cupcakes. We tried Sticky Toffee and Chocolate Orange. 

We finished our walk by admiring the eclectic mix of architecture that abounds in Merchant City. Despite the rain, our trip was off to a fun start with an invigorating walk.

Glasgow as a Filmmaking Destination

Our visit to Glasgow happened to coincide with the filming of Brad Pitt's zombie flick World War Z. Strangely, Glasgow was chosen as a doppelganger for Philadelphia. We took a walk around George Square to check out the set. Looks like World War Z features a lot of carnage.
Glasgow transformed into Philadephia for the filming of Brad Pitt's World War Z
Walking around the film set was particularly surreal since we used to live in Philadelphia. US street signs and Philadelphia landmarks were dotted around the square. The Glasgow City Council building really does look a bit like City Hall in Philadelphia. 

I wonder if they'll digitally add the pointing William Penn statue that sits atop Philadelphia's landmark? We even found a faux map of Center City Philadelphia. 

Unfortunately, the map was not at all accurate not to mention that 'Centre City' was spelled the UK way and 'Independence Centre' (Independence Mall?) is located in Old City not near Rittenhouse Square. The devil is in the details. 

I took a ton of pictures with Glasgow transformed into Philly. Some of the street signs in place were actually only a couple blocks from where we used to live in Center City. The experience definitely brought back memories. Too bad we didn't have any Brad Pitt sightings while we were in town.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Do Glasgow and Philadelphia really resemble each other? See for yourself with this post about visiting Center City Philadelphia in the winter.

Mackintosh’s Glasgow at Willow Tea Room

Charles Rennie Mackintosh is a famous Glaswegian architect. We visited the Willow Tea Room to check out some of his work. The seating area was in a lovely balcony area overlooking a shop. 

Tea was served in crisp white china. We had lunch as well including Scottish rarebit. I made a bit of art from my tea leaves. After lunch, we descended the stairs and were on our way once again.
Things to do in Glasgow Scotland: Experience Rennie Mackintosh architecture at the Willow Tea Room

Glasgow’s West End

We took Glasgow's old fashioned subway out to the West End. We were pleased to see that the clouds had parted giving way to bright sunshine. 

We popped in to the Byres Road Makers Market housed in the Hillhead Library. We took a turn off the main road onto Ashton Lane. I like how Scots use the word 'wee' in a wide range of contexts. We spotted The Wee Pub and The Wee Curry Shop.
2 days in Glasgow City: a sunny day in Glasgow's West End
We pressed on toward Kelvingrove, a popular and eclectic museum in Glasgow. On our way, we passed the stately entrance to the University of Glasgow. We could soon see Kelvingrove in the distance. 

We turned off the road into the lush park surrounding the museum. Unfortunately, the sun was short-lived and we were soon facing clouds and rain again. 

We were able to get some protection from the canopy of trees in the park. I liked the unusual sculptures peppered through the park and on the bridge over the river. 

Glasgow's Kelvingrove Museum

Kelvingrove stood out among the trees and then loomed ahead of us. We stood on the balcony outside the entrance to admire the view and interesting clouds. 

The inside of the museum had a definite 'wow' factor. We spotted Queen Victoria with an array of expressive heads behind her. We spotted larger-than-life spectacles and more works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 
Things to do in Glasgow City: Visit Kelvingrove Museum
We emerged from the museum and admired the Glasgow University tower in the distance. We continued our walk through the park past an ornate playground. We also discovered a lovely fountain. 

There were still some colorful flowers in bloom. We ended our long walk from the West End with a stop for some refreshments at The Brass Monkey, a bright and airy pub in the neighborhood approaching the river.
What to see in Glasgow Scotland: Bronze sculpture on a fountain

Along the River Clyde in Glasgow

Suitably refreshed, we walked toward Glasgow's River Clyde. There are a number of iconic buildings along the river including the Clyde Auditorium. We found our way onto the Clyde Walkway footpath along the river. 

In the distance, we could see a modern bridge. The Clyde Auditorium looks like an armadillo (or perhaps a croissant?) when viewed from the side. We could see the Glasgow Science Centre across the river. We continued our stroll along the river past BBC Scotland. 

We would have happily kept walking but encountered an unexpected obstacle: a helipad and an impenetrable fence. We turned back and crossed the river passing a colorful array of sculpture. 

We finished our walk at the Cessnock subway stop. We'd walked a long way and it was nice to catch a ride back to the center of Glasgow City.
2 days in Glasgow: Clyde Auditorium
We finished our evening with dinner at an Indian restaurant in the core of Glasgow. We then took a twilight stroll through Scotland's biggest city. We were impressed by the ornate architecture and bracing sculptures. I liked the sunset reflection of old viewed in new. 
Things to do in Glasgow City: sculpture wearing a gas mask in Glasgow Scotland

Scottish Comedy in Glasgow

We capped our Saturday evening at a Glaswegian comedy club. Fortunately, the majority of the acts were from England or Australia. I found comedy with a Scottish accent difficult to interpret. 

There was one Glaswegian Comedian. We eventually got all the jokes but we definitely had a delayed reaction. The Scottish comedian would make a quip and the crowd would burst our laughing. 

About 5 seconds later, we’d get it and join in. Despite some things getting a little lost in translation, it was good fun all around.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Want to experience another city in Scotland? Learn about what to do in Aberdeen.

Day Trip from Glasgow to Stirling

After a fun day in Glasgow, we decided to spend our Sunday in Stirling, a historically important town about an hour from Glasgow by train. We walked through town toward the castle. 

Do Yer Duty - a sign bearing this slogan called to us from a four-story facade. We passed an old stone sculpture with Liberty and Loyalty engraved on the side. 

We started our ascent toward the castle and passed a lovely green oasis. Signposts marked spots of historical interest. Wee cottages dotted the hill. Blue and purple flowers added a punch of color to the landscape. We passed the Erskine Church. 

The local tolbooth had been turned into a venue for the arts. We passed the Stirling Church of the Holy Rude which backed-up to a cemetery. We took a shortcut through the cemetery to emerge on the doorstep of Stirling Castle.

A Visit to Scotland's Stirling Castle

We opted to take the free guided tour to better understand the history of Stirling Castle. The bottom line is that Stirling Castle was the most strategically important castle in Scotland. In the center of the country and sitting alongside the river, whoever controlled Stirling controlled Scotland. 

The exterior of the castle was lovely with fine views. A slightly crumbling ornament was likely damaged in one of many onslaughts on the castle. This contrasted with the lovely Queen Anne Garden on the premises. 

One of the buildings in the castle courtyard stood out starkly from the rest as it was painted bright yellow. Quite a bit of work was done at Stirling Castle to recreate what the castle looked like in the era of its use. 

This yellow building was really the only one accurately depicting life at the castle. They'd also restored the interior of one building and had character actors on the grounds to recreate life in the period. The array of colors made me smile.
Glasgow to Stirling for a day: bright yellow building at Stirling Castle

Ways to Ward Off the Cold of Glasgow in Summer

It was actually quite cold when we were in Scotland. What is the weather like in Glasgow? It was August and I needed to wear wool gloves! 

We stopped for warming soup and bread in the Stirling Castle canteen. We took one last look out across the river valley and then descended back toward town. 

Along the way we decided to stop at The Portcullis for a nip of whisky. The bartender was able to recommend two contrasting choices with one quite smooth and the other with heavy peat. 

Down the hatch! Sufficiently fortified against the cold, we continued our walk past a lovely unicorn sculpture. We stopped at the Darnley Coffee House for a sweet treat. 

In town again, we passed Bank Street and then popped through a Victorian era shopping arcade. It was soon time to catch the train back to Glasgow. I caught a reflection of the Victorian-styled station through the glass before boarding our train.
2 days in Glasgow: Whisky at Portcullis Bar in Stirling Scotland

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Did you like Glasgow? Are you looking for other cities to visit in the UK? Why not spend a day in Liverpool, a fantastic weekend city break destination that can also be combined with a day in Manchester.

Glasgow Green

Back in Glasgow, we set our sights on Glasgow Green. En route, we saw a lovely set of mosaic posts along the sidewalk. We passed a former church crafted from multi-colored bricks. 

We saw a similar motif at the entrance to Glasgow Green. A large obelisk loomed in the distance. One of the most striking features of the park was the large Victorian-era gazebo.
Things to see in Glasgow Scotland: Mosaic bollards near Glasgow Green

DID YOU KNOW?  European Capitals of Culture have been designated since 1985 and Glasgow was the European Capital of Culture in 1990. We have visited a bunch of cities in Europe that have been honored with this designation. Looking for Europe travel ideas? Here are our recommendations for other past European Capitals of Culture to check out.

  1. Explore 23 ways to do a day in Dublin Ireland (1991)
  2. Spend a weekend exploring Luxembourg with a Luxembourg Card and do some day trips from Luxembourg City (1995, 2007)
  3. Spend a day in Stockholm Sweden (1998)
  4. Experience Rotterdam in winter (2001)
  5. Drink port as old as you are with 3 days in Porto Portugal (2001)
  6. Learn about awesome things to do in Cork City Ireland (2005)
  7. Head to the Baltics and visit Riga Latvia (2014) or Vilnius Lithuania (2009)
  8. Explore Bulgaria’s Roman past with a bus ride from Sofia to Plovdiv for a weekend (2019)

              Reminders of Glasgow's industrial roots smoked in the distance. We could see an old Moorish-inspired carpet factory. We passed another fountain with scenes from various countries in the Commonwealth. 
              2 days in Glasgow Scotland: Greenhouse in Glasgow Green
              We passed through the arch marking the entrance to Merchant City and headed to the train station for our return journey to the airport. Our 2 days in Glasgow certainly exceeded our expectations.

              Map of Things to do in Glasgow Scotland

              Check out this handy map for the points of interest discussed in this post about Glasgow including the day trip to Stirling Scotland. Click on the image to open up an interactive version in Google Maps to help you plan your 2 days in Glasgow itinerary.

              Things to do in Glasgow Map

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              How to spend 2 days in Glasgow Scotland. Queen Victoria Pinterest Pin
               How to spend 2 days in Glasgow Scotland: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum


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              Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: How to See the Best of Glasgow in 2 Days
              How to See the Best of Glasgow in 2 Days
              Spend two days in Glasgow City and find out why Glasgow is worth visiting. Learn about things to do in Glasgow Scotland on a weekend city break.
              Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog