While Ajda went on an exchange to Oklahoma last autumn, I decided to spend a semester studying at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. I have wanted to go back to Scotland since our family trip in 2014, so when I found out that Strathclyde is partnered with my University, I was more than thrilled.
I spent a bit more than 3 months in Glasgow, so I had enough time to get to know the city. The city is just small enough so that everything can be reached by foot or subway, so it is a perfect spot for students like me. And even though it is mainly known for its nightlife, there are plenty of other things to do and see. The city left quite an impression on me and I can assure you that it is a fun place to visit – Scots even say that a funeral in Glasgow is more fun than a wedding in Edinburgh.
Though I enjoyed Edinburgh as well, I found Glasgow way more alive. Here are just some of the things I enjoyed doing between classes, gym, study sessions in cafés and dinner dates with friends.
1. See the statue of the Duke of Wellington
If you’ve wondered what the symbol of Glasgow is, this is it. A statue of the Duke of Wellington on a horse in front of Gallery of Modern Art with a traffic cone on its head. I know, I was just as bewildered as you are now!
The cone appeared on the Duke’s head as early as in the 80s and by now, it became an integral part of the statue. On special occasions, the Duke gets a golden cone, and sometimes even the horse gets its own special hat. Apparently, the traffic cone is the result of a group of local’s adventures after a night out. They say that the cone is a testament to the exceptional Glaswegian humour and you have to admit it, it is funny!
2. Shop along Buchanan or Argyle street
These are the two main streets in Glasgow and they are busy with people running from shop to shop every day. Because of that it is already fun to only walk along these streets and observe people, check out small shops or have coffee in a nearby café.
The streets are not just full of ordinary people, there are also street musicians on every corner. Especially on Saturdays, you can hear so many good performances if you only stop to listen for a minute. One Saturday, as I was walking down Buchanan street with a friend, we ran into a performance of a whole orchestra in Scottish kilts.
You’ll hear bagpipes on every corner so that’s already one Scottish tradition you can check off your list!
3. Visit Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis
The oldest and definitely the most majestic building in Glasgow is St Mungo’s Cathedral. I was utterly impressed by the cathedral’s charming exterior, with its light green roof and fascinating architecture.
Behind the cathedral you will spot a small hill, which is actually a necropolis. I have never seen a graveyard this old and with such large tombstones, but, when travelling around Scotland a bit, I realized that every town has a similar graveyard. It’s interesting to just walk on the hill and find that every tombstone is older than the previous one.
Under the big necropolis, a nice view of the east part of the city opens up, which is especially nice in sunny weather.
4. Walk along river Clyde
One of my favourite pastimes during my time in Glasgow was strolling through the streets and along river Clyde. The riverbanks are not covered with trees and grass, as one might expect. The surroundings actually give off an industrial vibe which many people dislike, but it seemed very interesting to me and kind of relaxing in its own way.
The path on the banks goes along the river until it reaches West End. A soothing silence falls on the river on cold and windy days, but it feels just as calming as on sunny days, just in a different way.
5. See the city’s views from the Lighthouse
Everyone loves a good viewpoint to watch cities from above, and in Glasgow, that is the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is a small tower in the city centre, just off Buchanan Street, where you will find small galleries and also some fun figures portrayed on the windows.
The best part of the Lighthouse is definitely the final stairwell that runs to the top of the building in a spiral. When you reach the top, an interesting view of the city opens up, with river Clyde on one side and a big ‘PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW’ sign on the other. I must say, with this slogan they really captured the city’s spirit.
The view from the Lighthouse is especially pretty if the day is clear and sunny. Although, as you can see, a cloudy view has its own charm as well.
6. Walk the Mural Trail
One of the most famous sights in Glasgow is definitely their mural trail. Walking around the city you will notice many huge pieces of art painted on the buildings’ facades and all together they form a path through the city centre. The murals started as part of a project, with which they wanted to bring life again to the abandoned buildings around the city.
On every walk to a friend’s place or a grocery run I would see the murals and stop for a moment to admire them. It feels like the already buzzing city is even more alive, but at the same time the portrayed images make the city feel more serene.
7. Visit the University of Glasgow
If you are a Harry Potter fan like me, you would love the sight of high towers of the University of Glasgow. As many other buildings in Scotland, the main building gives you a feeling like you just stepped on the grounds of Hogwarts castle. Walking through the courtyard and under beautiful arches, it is easy to image that you have to be in Charms class in just a few minutes.
I visited the University of Glasgow quite a few times, but I must say that the sights of the university’s buildings are definitely most magical at sunset.
8. Have a drink in a pub
There are numerous pubs scattered around the city, so you can definitely find one that fits your mood.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try doing a pub crawl: go on the subway, which is in itself a small attraction (literally), but get off on every station and have a drink in one of the pubs nearby. This is especially popular among the locals for Halloween: dressing up and spending the night travelling through Glasgow’s pubs.
My personal favourite is probably the Hillhead Bookclub, a vintage looking pub that’s located in the West End, but you can find amazing pubs in the city centre as well.
9. See the Kelvingrove park and museum
All museum and galleries in Glasgow are free to visit for everyone. Me being the art fan that I am, I spent quiet some time walking through Kelvingrove museum in West End. There are some bizzare artefacts on display, but there is also a room full of Monet’s paintings and even one painting from Salvador Dalí.
If you visit on Sundays, they have an organ recital you can listen to and it makes you feel like you’re in a church.
Even more, I was mesmerised by the exterior of the museum. It looks like a palace with a huge garden but that garden is in fact Kelvingrove park. It connects the centre of Glasgow and West End. I found it curious how you can find such a calming and quiet place almost in the centre of a big city.
10. Try churros at Loop & Scoop
I tried churros for the first time when I was spending a semester in Glasgow, so you can guess I was completely obsessed! They are very popular on Christmas markets but if you are visiting Glasgow any other time of year, you should try churros at Loop & Scoop.
Loop & Scoop is an ice cream and churros bar in West End, where you can choose churros with many different toppings including dark or white chocolate, salted caramel, or even peanut butter. The shop has a very pleasant, kind of retro vibes – perfect for a hangout with friends!
11. Walk through Ashton Lane
Supposedly, Ashton Lane is the prettiest street in Glasgow, and I can’t argue with that. Though very short, the street is filled with houses with beautiful facades, cute bars and restaurants and on top of everything, you will see fairy lights hung above the lane throughout the whole year.
If you have time, check out if they play anything good at The Grosvenor Cinema; I promise you, this old-fashioned movie theatre with small halls but large and comfortable seats won’t disappoint you.
12. Go partying on Sauchiehall street
Everyone knows that Glasgow is a student city – there are actually 3 universities and many more colleges, so you can imagine how many students there are each study year! A lot of international students come to Glasgow every year as well, so naturally, it got a reputation of a party city.
The most popular partying place is Sauchiehall street and its surrounding streets, with so many different clubs and bars that you can for sure find one that matches your taste. My favourite club/bar was The Buff Club, with a different music theme every night of the week – one night it’s techno, another night it’s hip hop and there are also ‘Old Skool Saturdays’. Most of these clubs have drink promos so some places can be really cheap!
13. Make a day trip
Glasgow is a great starting place for exploring Scotland and its beautiful countryside. ScotRail trains go in every direction and they are also conveniently fast.
During my exchange, I took a train to Stirling, Edinburgh and Baloch, which is a town beside the beautiful Loch Lomond. But my favourite trip was a two day stay on Isle of Arran. I couldn’t believe the views on this island, the sea on one side and hills on the other side.
Even though it was pretty cold already in October, we took walks on the beach, hiked on top of Goatfell, strolled through meadows full of sheep and had dinner in a pub with live music. They say that Isle of Arran is miniature Highlands, very convenient if you don’t have the time or plans to travel to the north of Scotland.
This got me missing Glasgow just a wee bit, haha! I believe that 3 months isn’t enough to call myself a local and that there are so many more interesting corners, cafés, restaurants and streets that I haven’t yet discovered. So, I’m looking forward to visiting this fun city again and remembering the good old times!
And, as the Scots say - cheers!