Author: Pauliina Ketonen
I moved to Glasgow in 2016 from a small city in Finland and, safe to say, was overwhelmed. There was so much to see and do that I didn’t know where to start – and so I procrastinated getting to know the city I lived in.
Even after 3 years of living in Glasgow, there are probably key sites I have not visited, places and events I’ve missed out on and so many things I could have done differently when getting to know this city. But I’ve come to realise that trying to see absolutely everything – and then feeling bad about not being able to reach that unrealistic goal – is not the point of living somewhere you’re not from. The point is to make the city you come to as a visitor a home, even if it’s just for a short while.
In light of the above, this article is therefore not a to do list. It is a collection of ideas and experiences that have helped me feel at home in Glasgow, sprinkled with things I am yet to try myself. Whether you’re just starting out in this city or have been here for a while but want to experience something new, I hope you are inspired to step outside your comfort zone. Go forth and explore!
Better to start from the very beginning – the classics. Glasgow was recently named by the European Commission as the ‘cultural and creative capital of the UK’. It is a city full of art, music, history and good food, meaning there’s something for everyone. Here’s a few iconic places to start you off:
Opened in 1901, this free museum is home to extensive art and natural history collections. Close to the university, this is a must!
Curious about history? The Tenement House lets you explore early 20th century life in Glasgow with the help of friendly guides, making it more than just a museum.
Tramway is one of the key hubs of culture in Glasgow – if you are at all interested in art, dance or film, Tramway is worth your time.
Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis
Glasgow Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Glasgow. Volunteers at the cathedral offer free tours, on which you can spot the chapterhouse (original home of the university from 1451 to 1460!), go deep underground and marvel at the stained-glass windows. Necropolis is just next to the cathedral. While getting to the top is a trek, the view more than makes up for the climb.
It’s the best pizza you will ever have. A Glasgow classic, visiting Paesano is a must. Not a lot more needs to be said, be there or be square.
Nature is near
Are you a fan of parks and rivers? Glasgow has plenty. Beautiful walkways along rivers Kelvin and Clyde are the perfect way to familiarise yourself with Glasgow and get some fresh air in the process. These routes are flexible, and you can make them as long or as short as you like. More information about nature walks, in Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland, can be found on this website.
Glasgow Green, the Botanic Gardens and Kelvingrove park are staples of Glasgow life. The moment the first rays of sun reach Glasgow in spring, the parks are packed with people – a sight that even good old Sir Attenborough would marvel.
We’ve gone through the basics – it’s time to delve in deeper. These hidden gems are pockets full of authentic Glaswegian spirit. Here you will discover the people that really make this city, and can find something great to do:
This café and bakehouse, with locations in Garnethill and Merchant city, is the epitome of a good brunch, lunch and afternoon tea with inventive (and HUGE) platters of food and cakes of all shapes and sizes. If you like food, visit Singl-end. It’s that simple.
Opened in 2018, this community space on Glasgow’s south side houses a rich collection of zines and runs events all year round. Pop in for a cup of tea and a different kind of culture experience.
Big Feed is a full body experience – this indoor street food market is an amalgamation of good food, music and games. It’s also dog-friendly, which just adds to the charm.
CCA, in addition to Tramway, is a hub for arts in Glasgow. Their programme is always fresh and thought provoking. Not convinced yet? They also have a phenomenal café bar and a gift shop like no other!
This open access textile printing studio is perfect if you’re looking for something special to do. Print Clan champions for community empowerment and encouraging participants of all skill levels to develop personal and creative confidence. Get crafty!
GFT caters to everyone, with screenings of new films and classics. It is also the home to the annual Glasgow Film Festival, a celebration of film in all its glory. You can get tickets for a mere £5.50 by signing up for their 15-25 youth cinema card!
SWG3 is a multi-disciplinary arts venue and events company – that’s to say, there something for everyone. High profile club nights, concerts, food and drink events… What more could you ask for?
University of Glasgow classics
There are certain UofG staples you need to experience to really live the quintessential UofG student experience:
GUU Beer Bar
The floors may be sticky, but the pints are fun, and you are guaranteed a unique night out.
The best part about a subway system that is a circle, in addition to never getting lost, is that it is an ideal setting for a subcrawl. Subcrawls are legendary in Glasgow, and if you get the opportunity of attending one, go – it’s a must.
Looking for like-minded people? SRC’s club directory is the perfect place to find a club and build your own community in Glasgow. You can find academic societies, performing arts societies and everything in between and beyond.