So, you’ve found yourself with a day to spend in Glasgow’s iconic West End but with so much to see, do, eat and drink, where should you start? This one-day guide should help you get your bearings in Scotland’s largest city, from the beautiful parks and wooded areas, to the exciting and diverse cultural festivals.
1. Perk up with breakfast at The Rio Café
Get your busy day of sightseeing off to the right start with a hearty breakfast at one of Glasgow West End’s infamous breakfast locations: The Rio Cafe
The recently refurbished Rio Café on Hyndland Street has been turning West Ends heads for years with its 50s style diner décor and live music. They also do a cracking breakfast ranging from hot filled rolls to full Scottish breakfasts, all washed down with freshly brewed coffee and tea. Not to be missed.
2. Get schooled in art, culture & history at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
Opening to the public in 1901, the Kelvingrove Museum houses some of the most unusual and rare artefacts in Scottish and world history. Main attractions include the world famous Salvador Dali painting Christ of St John of the Cross, a female unopened mummy and a full sized hanging LA198 Spitfire. The museum also has regular guest exhibits in the basement ranging from interactive dinosaur exhibits aimed at kids, to a collection of Kylie Minogue’s extravagant costumes from through the years. These exhibits generally have an entrance fee but offer something unusual to add to your Kelvingrove experience.
Another massive pull to the Kelvingrove Museum are the stunning organ recitals which have gained a recent rush in publicity when the organ player Chris Nickol decided to play a touching tribute to David Bowie on the day he died. Organ recitals take place at 1pm Monday to Saturday and 3pm on Sundays. The museum is open most days from 10am to 5pm with the exception being Friday and Sunday 11am to 5pm. Combined with the stunning architecture of the Kelvingrove Museum itself, this really is a must-visit attraction for the West End of Glasgow.
3. Discover everything you need to know about transportation at The Riverside Museum
The Riverside Museum replaced the Transport Museum at Kelvinhall in 2011 and aside from being one of the most interesting museums in Scotland, is also one of the most iconic buildings in Glasgow. Housing the 3000 item rich exhibit of cars, motorbikes, skateboards, subways and essentially every mode of transport you can think of, the building has won countless awards for design and architecture. The museum also contains a Victorian Street complete with cobbled streets and horse and carriage so if you fancy a walk through time, head down to the Riverside Museum.
4. Tour The University of Glasgow’s campus
Although the university isn’t technically a museum, it does house several along with stunning architecture and impressive alumni. The iconic architecture of the University of Glasgow’s main campus is said to have inspired J. K. Rowling’s wizarding school Hogwarts and has been described in literature and featured in film numerous times. Pop up to the cloisters to see the beauty of this historical institution but remember not to walk on the grass (a custom reserved for graduates only).
Heading down from the cloisters, pop into the Huntarian Museum for another dose of museum goodness. The collection includes art and artefacts from throughout history but if you want something a little more unusual head along to the Anatomy Museum. Often eerily quiet, the Anatomy Museum is filled with all sorts of human and animal biological objects in jars. This exhibit is not for the faint hearted but will give you something talk about over dinner (or not!)
The University itself is also one of the top Universities in the world claiming 7 Nobel laurites and Scotland’s First Minister as alumni. Take a wander towards the enormous University library on Hillhead Street, being sure to stop in at the Charles Rennie Macintosh House for a design treat.
5. Indulge in a spot of shopping at Byres Road
Glasgow’s West End also offers some of the best boutique and vintage shopping in the country, largely centred around the buzzing Byres Road.
DeCourcy’s Arcade on Cresswell Lane holds a selection of vintage and independent stores filled with enough retro clothing, designer stationary and bric-a-brac to please even the pickiest shopper.
Byres Road also offers one of the UKs only FOPP music stores which, after declaring its closure in 2007, saw droves of West End residents demand the store be saved by writing messages of love across the store’s exterior. The store opened back up with different ownership and continues to sell cheap music, books and DVDs even to this day.
Only a few doors down, the local Oxfam Books store holds a wealth of unusual and sought after titles at reasonable prices. Similarly, further down Byres Road, there is also an Oxfam Music store offering second hand CDs, Vinyl, band merch and instruments, all for a good cause.
If you’re more interested in food shopping, Byres Road offers specialist wine and snack shops like Peckhams (do not miss the crème brulee cheesecake) and even an independent cheese monger George Mewes Cheeses.
5. Rest your tired feet at Kelvingrove Park
Glasgow is known for its green spaces and the West End is no exception offering multiple parks and wooded areas to enjoy a stroll or catch some sun on one of Glasgow’s summer days. Surrounding the Kelvingrove Museum is the West End’s pride and joy: Kelvingrove Park. The huge wooded area is a favourite for runners, walkers, cyclists and dogs across the West End, not to mention offering a popular skate park and bowling green. In the summer, the Kelvingrove Bandstand comes to life hosting big names such as Echo & The Bunnymen and Glasvegas.
6. Or chill at the Botanic Gardens
The Glasgow Botanic Gardens sit at the top of Byres Road and run along a portion of the Kelvin River. Opening to the public in 1817 the gardens include wide open spaces, a rare plant garden and the iconic 19th Century Glasshouse Kibble Palace. During the summer months you can also enjoy a live Shakespeare performance from the wonderful Bard in the Botanics.
Remember to keep an eye out for Glasgow’s many festivals which showcase the best talent in theatre, music, art, dance and much more. The biggest is the West End Festival which lasts for about a month and offers multiple gigs, plays, musicals and art exhibits across the West of the city, before finishing with the lively Mardi Gras parade made up of colourful floats, loud drum groups, and impressive dancers.
7. End your day with a hearty meal at Ox and Finch
If you’ve got a bit of flexibility in your budget and fancy a really special evening meal, Ox and Finch might be the place for you. Serving tapas style bistro dishes in an extremely stylish setting, the Ox and Finch has been critically acclaimed by writers both locally and across the UK and is tipped for Michelin recognition any day now. The Crab and Crayfish Cocktail will leave you craving its fresh flavour for months and the Smoked Ham Hock and Cheddar Croquettes will blow you away. Even the Sourdough and Butter is to die for but be warned, Ox and Finch is very popular so a reservation is advised, always.