Scotland’s largest city has plenty to offer the budget traveler, whether it’s tremendous free museums or the city’s renowned social life. It’s a working city full of contrasts, by turns gritty, glamorous and generous – and one well worth getting to know a little better.
Here’s how to enjoy this great city while saving along the way.
Budget Guide to Glasgow
How to get to Glasgow
Glasgow’s International Airport handles most of the flights and is well served by the budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair (with a £10.50 shuttle bus into the center of town). If you’re traveling within Europe, check out Ryanair flights from Prestwick Airport too. Slightly farther out, but it’s an easy and inexpensive journey into the city by bus.
Traveling within the UK? Getting to Glasgow by train is probably the most convenient option: Make sure to book your journey well in advance for the best fares, or consider buying a BritRail pass before you go if you’re planning to do a lot of travel. Edinburgh is also just over an hour away by train. There are regular departures and tickets cost around £10-13.
Getting the bus is by far the cheapest option — although going by bus from London, for example, will take at least double the time than the train. Check out the MegaBus and National Express for prices starting at around £15 going all the way from London to Glasgow (book well in advance) and just £3.50 from Edinburgh.
What to see and do
There are plenty of tours that will help you get your head around the city’s rich history, although many, unfortunately, will leave your budget a little poorer. However, there are some great free downloadable options to be explored here, with self-guided walks covering everything from an “obscure history guide” to a tour celebrating Glasgow’s musical heritage.
Mackintosh, with a great view
The works of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh are among Glasgow’s main attractions (you can read more about it in our Glasgow Art Nouveau guide), but many of the Mackintosh attractions do charge admission.
A happy exception is the Lighthouse building, which was Mackintosh’s first architectural commission. It now hosts displays and exhibitions, including one about Mackintosh himself. For an added free bonus, climb its spiral staircase to the top of the tower for a fantastic view over the city.
Free galleries and museums
There’s an amazing array of free museums and galleries in Glasgow, which often comes in handy in a city not blessed with the sunniest of weather! This is just a taster of what’s on offer:
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of most visited museums in the country, with a collection that caters to all tastes, and encompasses everything from Salvador Dali to Spitfire planes, stuffed animals and armor.
The Hunterian, part of the University of Glasgow, is the oldest museum in Scotland. Head here for its archaeological and ethnographical displays.
The People’s Palace offers an excellent overview of the social history of the city, while the Gallery of Modern Art does exactly what it says it does. Take note of the statue of the Duke of Wellington outside and his alternative headwear: It’s actually a proud Glasgow tradition that he wears a traffic cone!
Glasgow is blessed with lots of parks, perfect for relaxing. Pollok Country Park in the south of Glasgow is the city’s largest green space. It’s also the site of another excellent free museum, the Burrell Collection. Housed in a distinctive 1970’s-era building, this gallery includes medieval and Gothic art, Chinese ceramics and masterpieces by the likes of Degas, Manet and Rembrandt.
You’ll find the Botanical Gardens in the west end of the city. Established in 1817, it’s home to many rare and valuable plants, as well as being a lovely place to escape the bustle of the city. Don’t miss the magnificent Kibble Palace glasshouse.
The building of this impressive cathedral was begun in the late 12th century, making it intrinsically linked to the history of the city. It’s still in use for Christian services today and is open for free visits.
Adjacent is the imposing Victorian Necropolis. More than 50,000 people are buried here, and although you may not have heard of its most famous “residents”, it’s still well worth a look. Take one of the free guided walks to find out more about its fascinating stories.
Affordable restaurants and bars
You are spoiled for choice for both eating and drinking in the city. Often you don’t have to decide between the two activities, as many bars and pubs also serve tasty and reasonably priced food. It’s also definitely worth seeking out a traditional fish and chip shop (although whether you want to test out the Scottish habit of deep-frying everything is up to you) — let your nose guide you to the best!
One for the carnivores. This no-bookings restaurant attracts rave reviews for its burgers. Prices start at £6.50 for a classic Scottish beef burger, but there are many variations on offer. See how Scotland tackles North American classics such as Poutine, hot dogs and pulled pork. Tempting extras include caramelized sweet fries.
To atone for all that meat, pay a visit to this vegan restaurant, which — in true Glasgow style — also doubles as a late-night bar, gig and club venue. The food is reasonably priced but especially worth checking out on a Monday when you can indulge in five tapas dishes for £12. Like this? The 13th Note is another vegetarian (and arty!) option to consider.
Another late night license bar/veggie restaurant in yet another great free gallery. It’s housed in the Centre for Contemporary Arts, a venue specializing in film, music, literature, and spoken word. A particular bargain is the theater menu, served between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., where a three-course meal is priced at £12.95. At other times, expect to pay around £10 for a generous main.
More of a traditional pub, this is named for the shape of its bar – all 104 feet and three inches of it! Its dark wood and antique-tiled interior (topped with an ornate ceiling!) gives a taste of what drinking in Glasgow was like in the past. It’s far from being a museum piece however: you’ll be drinking from its great range of Scottish drinks alongside sports on the TV and the pub’s legendary karaoke sessions!
Where to Stay
Like most of the UK, it can be hard to find super cheap accommodations, but Glasgow does offer a few budget gems in good locations.
If you want to be in the heart of the city center on the main shopping streets, the Alexander Thomson Hotel is just a few feet from the Central Rail Station and offers rooms for under $100.
Sandyford provides a full Scottish breakfast (eggs, meat, mushrooms, beans, the whole deal) and is within easy reach of good shops, museums and galleries.
The family-run Argyll Hotel is close to Kelvingrove Museum and rooms are equipped with private bathrooms and free Wi-Fi.
For more options, search over 145 Glasgow hotels.
Source: Euro Cheapo