Glasgow couldn’t be more proud of its cultural offerings, and you’ll have your pick of inspiring exhibitions and events to choose from. What’s more, many of the attractions are free so you can get a king-size culture fix on a fun-size budget. And if you prefer your culture of the student kind, you’re in luck. With three universities located either in or just outside the centre plus one amazing art school, the city’s cultural scene is always kept fresh. Have a look through our guide for our top picks on where to give your eyes a feasting and don’t forget that our Glasgow hotels will put you in pole position for all of the city’s best outings.
Culture in Glasgow
Whether you want a gander at a Gaugin or prefer a mooch around an Old Master, art lovers will be spoilt by all the cutting-edge art galleries in the city.
Named ‘the most popular free museum to visit in Scotland’ there are lots of reasons to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. There’s all the natural history exhibits in the ‘Life’ galleries for starters but, if it’s art you’re after, head straight to ‘Expressions’. Here you’ll find one of Europe’s finest collections, with works by Monet, Gauguin and Renoir as well as important paintings by Rembrandt and Salvador Dali. But what makes it that extra bit special is the beautiful building itself. Built in a Spanish baroque style, the rich red sandstone is a knockout.
It’s the story behind the House For An Art Lover that makes visiting it such a must. Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed the house back in 1901 for a competition and while he didn’t take home the prize, he was commended for his originality. Come 1989 and his designs have been picked up by architect Graham Roxburgh who made the dream a reality by building it. Now, standing in the stunning Bellahouston Park, it’s an inspiring art gallery, exhibition space and events venue with a lovely cafe.
In the heart of the city centre, the Gallery of Modern Art lays on a plethora of temporary exhibitions and workshops from local, national and international artists. Sharing the same space as the city library, it’s the perfect place to discover the city’s rich heritage and its talents. Look out for the Duke of Wellington statue outside the front of the gallery. You won’t miss it - he’s wearing a traffic cone on his head! That’s Glaswegian humour for you.
The Glasgow School of Art has produced four recent Turner Prize winners. Housed in the city's famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh building, you’ll find inspiration at every corner of the GSA, but its Exhibitions Department also lays on a year-round public programme showcasing the works of contemporary artists and designers from here and abroad. And of course, it gives you the chance to see what the artists of tomorrow are coming up with - GSA undergraduates and postgraduates! And, whether you’re coming for an event or an exhibition, there’s a Premier Inn hotel near the Glasgow School of Art that’s ready to welcome you.
Time to explore a different aspect of Glasgow culture - the student side! As Scotland’s cultural capital, it’s no wonder students flock here, drawn by the artsy lifestyle, buzzing nightlife and warmth of the Glaswegian locals. With the three main universities located in or just outside the city centre, students and culture go together like Mars Bars and batter.
With a campus full of over 100 listed buildings, the University of Glasgow has some historical tales to tell. Founded back in 1451 and the fourth oldest university in the world, this establishment is also one of Scotland’s four ancient universities. Just three miles from the city centre, you’re not far from all the excitement, plus we’ve got a range of hotels near Glasgow University to make sure your visit here gets off to a great start.
It’s hard not to feel inspired at this Uni when the chancellor is Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Often ranking in the UK’s top modern universities, Glasgow Caledonian University has excellent facilities.This modern, award-winning university is known for its high-tech equipment and use of the latest technologies. Due to its convenient and centralised location, it’s never a few feet away from all the action, and there’s a Premier Inn hotel near Caledonian University to keep you at the heart of it all.
As Glasgow’s second oldest university, the University of Strathclyde couldn’t be more proud of its eclectic mix of students from all over the world. With the main campus in the heart of the city centre, business and research are their thing. The winner of the Times Higher Education Business School of the Year award in 2016, it’s no wonder it comes high on lists of top places to study.
Glasgow School of Art is perfect if you were looking for a culture fix. Not only has it produced four recent Turner Prize winners, there’s the chance to see some fabulous exhibitions by students past and present. Housed in the city's famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh building, you’ll find inspiration at every corner of the GSA.
Glasgow museums are a wonderful way to pass the time on your city break; rain or shine. Whether you’ve got an appetite for knowledge, a love of natural history or just want to climb aboard an old-fashioned tram, take your pick from a selection of museums full of historical stories.
Originally built in 1901, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is home to 22 stunning themed galleries and various natural history exhibits. Amongst its 8,000 objects (including a Supermarine Spitfire that dangles from the ceiling) are pieces from ancient Egypt and ancient Scotland.
Marking Glasgow’s rich industrial heritage the Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel is the perfect place for family fun. From vintage cars and locomotives to old school prams and skateboards, you’ll find 3,000 fascinating objects on display. Everyone can get hands-on with the interactive exhibits and touch screens and even walk down a replica of an old cobbled Glaswegian street from the 1900s. Don’t forget to say ‘ahoy there’ to Glenlee, the sailing ship moored outside of the museum.
Hidden away on Bell Street, opposite Merchant City, the Glasgow Police Museum tells the fascinating story of the city’s police force from 1779 - 1975, through artifacts, images - and the stories of the retired police officers who run the place. Small and free to enter, it’s an entertaining way to find out all about the city’s major crimes and most notorious characters.
Is there an exhibition you’ve been dying to see? From business events to the arts, Glasgow has a great range of conference centres.
On the north bank of the River Clyde, the SECC is the place to watch huge exhibitions and music events. Every year it hosts the BBC Good Food Show, but you’ll also find huge sci-fi conferences, golf shows and even wrestling. Affectionately named ‘ The Armadillo’ due to its unique architectural design, the SECC is one of the most visited places in Glasgow.
In 2003, the SECC decided a new venue for concerts and major exhibitions was needed and the SSE Hydro was born. Designed by Sir Norman Foster, this amphitheatre inspired building is simply mesmerizing. Come the evening, you can watch as the translucent material used to make the bubble-like outside appears to glow in the night. The SSE Hydro’s hosted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, and in 2014 was the backdrop to the largest televised political debate in Scotland’s history during the Scottish independence referendum.
The Lighthouse building was once office for the Glasgow Herald newspaper, designed by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. After a revamp, it’s now an exhibition and visitor centre and venue for celebrating the creative, design and architectural industries. As well as a jam-packed programme of exhibits and events, it also celebrates the life of the architect himself at the Mackintosh Interpretation Centre. And, for unrivalled views of the city, head up to the Mack Tower via the spiral staircase.