Glasgow Museums Guide
Glasgow has one of Europe's finest civic collections containing some truly amazing art, historical finds and natural history brought together in some of Glasgow's most beautiful public buildings.
See Old Masters, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, French Impressionists, contemporary art, beautiful old ships, Scottish history and archaeology, medieval armour and weapons, artefacts and artistry from around the world and that's just a small selection of highlights. The biggest highlight of course to all most all Glasgow Museums is that they're completely free to visit, so there's no excuse to not experience the wonderful array of Glasgow cultural attractions.
Here at Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside, we are so proud of our city's rich heritage, stunning architecture and world-class culture that we have compiled a guide to describe the best sports to sample it all.
Glasgow Art School
167 Renfrew St
The Glasgow Art School is a spectacular building featuring the best architectural designs of Glasgow's most celebrated artists, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The exterior is simply wonderful to look at and the awe continues inside too. Large, impressive rooms are flooded with light thanks to huge windows and the building's best feature, the Louvre rivalling glass roof.
One of the best times to visit the Glasgow Art School is during the month of June for the Summer Degree Show, where you are free to explore the best work from the next generation of inspired art students. At all other times of the year however, it is a privilege to go on a guided tour of the school itself. The tours are conducted by students whose enthusiasm pours through as they take you round allowing you to appreciate the building, the craft of Mackintosh on every corner and the vibrant student work that goes on. Charges for the tours go directly back to the restoration and improvement fund to keep the Art School open to the public. The building is accessible to all levels of mobility and has its own café for refreshments.
Glasgow School of Art Walking Tour
In conjunction with the Art School tours, the student led tour around the best architectural examples in Glasgow is wholly worth-while. Featuring in The Indpendent's Top 10 UK Architecture Tours of 2013, the Art School's 'Glasgow Style' walking tour through the city centre is a discovery of Rennie Mackintosh's and his contemporaries' architectural highlights. Alternatively, the 'Glasgow Miracle' walking tour is a fascinating revelation of Glasgow's modern art scene and creative renovation from the post-industrial age.
The student guides are again friendly, knowledgeable and brilliantly passionate and always provide a wonderful overview of Glasgow's amazing architectural history. Best to be done in the morning, the tours last around two and a half hours and of course they involve a fair bit of walking. It is advisable to take part in them while you're at your freshest as you'll want to take it every gem of information explaining the beautiful designs behind Glasgow's supreme structures.
Nearest subway station: Cowcaddens
Prices and times are given as a guide only - Please visit The Glasgow School of Art website for the latest information.
Gallery of Modern Art
Royal Exchange Square
Set right in the heart of the city centre, The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) is a splendid juxtaposition of the elegant, historic setting playing host to the best examples of thought provoking contemporary art in the UK. GOMA features four different galleries all within beautiful, pillared building. Over GOMA's several mezzanines there always seems to be something new on display. The central gallery has the large installation pieces and highly interesting exhibitions. On the upper levels, local artists are encouraged to hold themed exhibitions, ranging from canvas work, sculpture and video performances.
Located in a beautiful part of Glasgow, the Gallery of Modern Art is a wonderful free gallery to take in when you next visit.
Daily 10:00 – 17:00
Nearest subway station: Buchanan Street
Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery
The red sandstone of the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery is a sumptuous sight in Glasgow, particularly in the setting Scottish sun. The structure itself enhances the already lovely surroundings of the museum's gardens and near-by Kelvingrove Park. Thankfully the Kelvingrove museum continues to be just as stunning on the inside. The vast foyer, watched over by the huge pipe organ, the beautiful galleries and exhibition rooms and the museum balconies from which you are treated to striking views.
Kid and adult visitors will both agree that this is an absolute gem of a museum. The mix of exhibits is varied, fascinating and hold a bunch of information. With a range of themed exhibitions gracing the Kelvingrove Museum throughout the year there will always be something to strike your interest. From Ancient Egypt to Star Wars, Salvador Dali to Scottish Football, yes even The Dead Sea Scrolls and Dr Who!
The layout might seem a bit jumbled but it is set up perfectly for kids with great explanations of the stories behind the outstanding collection of paintings, an enticing gallery dedicated to ancient weapons and suits of armour and the spectacular natural history section complete with an elephant, dinosaurs and even the elusive haggis! Kids will love how interactive every display is and adults will be equally amazed with the chance to see up-close some of the most beautiful artefacts the world has to offer.
It is well worth relaxing in the well-catered café during 1pm while you are treated to the organ recital, just another highlight of the completely free Kelvingrove Museum.
Daily 10:00 – 17:00
Nearest subway station: Kelvinhall
100 Pointhouse Road
A visit to the Riverside Museum is worth it just for the view of the building itself. Designed by the award-winning architect, Zaha Hadid, the building alone is an amazing feat of engineering as well as being an absolutely vast museum is full to the brim of much-loved motorised attractions.
Take the kids and step into the past of you walk down the fully recreated Victorian cobbled streets, lined with shops to enter, horse-drawn carriages to admire and old fashion cars to get nostalgic over. The whole lower level is full of beautifully maintained cars, motorbikes, trams, fire engines and bicycles from every decade. If you have young children with you they can even have a go on the mini-road system which they'll love. Head upstairs to the shipbuilding exhibitions, testaments to the industrial development of Glasgow and don't forget to make your way to the Tall Ship.
The Tall Ship
Located behind the stunning Riverside Museum is the SV Glenlee, Glasgow's marvellously unique, nautical attraction. Many kids believe the Tall Ship to be a real life example of a fearsome pirate ship and will be eager to step on board, to explore every last nook and cranny of this splendid ship.
In fact, the SV Glenlee is a fully restored 19th Century cargo ship. One of only 5 ships of its kind (a barque) remaining in existence, the Tall Ship was built just a few miles down the River Clyde way back in 1896. Today it is the only remaining example of a Clyde built sail ship still afloat. Almost the entire ship is open to view and very well presented. Look out for the SV Glenlee's figurehead "Marydoll" which is a wonderful piece of period artistry.
Then travel below deck into the bowls of the ship, the cavernous cargo holds, the crew living quarters and of course the magnificent captain's cabin. It's a great show of contrast between the luxury officers' accommodation and the deck hands' cramped conditions that make you really appreciate the hardships of life on the waves from that time. There is an audio guide available for the adults and a cinema in the cargo hold that shows what hardships and forces of nature that were faced during the Tall Ship's voyages.
Don't think that children will be bored with a visit, far from it. There are loads of Discovery Pack activities for kids to get stuck into; dressing up like pirates in the play area, trying and spot all the stowaway creatures on board the ship and if they are bad buccaneers, make them walk the plank!
For a free day out that will fascinate both adults and young ones, the Riverside Museum is a great choice.
Daily 10:00 – 17:00
Nearest subway station: Partick
House for an Art Lover
10 Dumbreck Road
Situated in Bellahouston Park, The House for an Art Lover is a masterpiece of Mackintosh design. Constructed after Charles Rennie Mackintosh's death, is a breath-taking showpiece of the famous Glasgow artist's visions. The original plans for the building were actually undertaking as part of a competition that until after his death were never materialised.
Slightly off-the-beaten track, House for an Art Lover is one of the most beautiful creations in Glasgow. Whether a fan of Mackintosh designs or not, you cannot help to be awe-struck at the intricate designs and details that ooze from every inch of the building. Mackintosh was completely liberated from any design limitations and his unbridled imagination went into everything in this amazing place, he even so far as to design the cutlery.
Every room is unique but the music room with its glorious carvings has to be seen by anyone with an interest in art, design and architecture. The Walled Gardens are a fabulous place to explore on a sunny day and the café offers some truly excellent lunches.
Adults - £4.50
Under 10 - Free
Open most days 10:00-16:00
Nearest subway station: Ibrox
Opening times do vary as functions and weddings are regularly held on the house's grounds - Please visit the House for an Art Lover website for full details.
University of Glasgow
Tucked away in the historic University of Glasgow, The impressively gothic Hunterian Museum is as diverse and interesting collection of art work as you could find in any gallery.
The museum was commissioned at the insistence of Dr William Hunter, a leading Scottish physician, whom studied at the University of Glasgow. Naturally, due to the museum's father, the majority of collections focus on life sciences and biology, which for the lighter stomachs may slightly off-putting. This shouldn't dissuade you from visiting however; the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow also contains impressive artefacts from the Roman Antonie Wall, objects from Captain Cook's Pacific voyages and the very instruments employed by James Watt, Joseph Lister and Lord Kelvin during their famous scientific discoveries.
Other particular highlights are the array of dinosaur bones, the fossilised shark and the Egyptian mummy which was have children intently examining for hours. Visitors to the Hunterian Museum will also be fortunate enough to see one of the finest collections from Whistler, Rembrandt as well as Scottish masters like Margaret Macdonald. All this culture and wonder for free is absolutely worth taking a few hours from your day.
Admission: Free to both the Hunterian Museum and The Mackintosh House
Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 – 17:00
Sundays 11:00 – 16:00
Nearest subway station: Hillhead
11 Mitchell Lane
In you find yourself in need of escape from the delights of Buchanan Street, make your way to the iconic Lighthouse Building. Hidden down a 'wee' lane in Glasgow's city centre, the Centre for Scottish Architecture and Design or The Lighthouse, as it is known, offers one of if not the best vantage point of Glasgow.
The building incorporates examples of exciting art, architectural projects and local exhibitions throughout the year, paying homage to the continuing vibrancy of Glasgow and its cultural development. It is a fascinating visit that explores some genius use of light and space. It is a world-away from the hustle and bustle of Buchanan Street, offering a peaceful place to relax in the well-stocked tearoom, or browse the world-class exhibitions.
It is up the 134 steps to the top of The Lighthouse Tower where you'll really escape to the heavens however. A full 360 panoramic view of the sprawling Glasgow landscape awaits, you may be exhausted after the climb but feel proud and privileged to make the effort to see such a sight.
Daily – 10:00 – 17:00
Nearest subway station: St. Enoch's
The Burrell Collection
Pollok Country Park
2060 Pollokshaws Road
This small museum, full of treasures is worthy of a visit on any day. Majestically set in woodland surrounding of Pollock Park that enhances the staggering beauty of the glass-walled structure, The Burrell Collection is an eclectic gathering of some of the world's most exquisite works of art.
Many museums are somewhat overwhelming but the beautiful treasures inside The Burrell Collection just leave you wanting more. Every item once belonged to the wealthy Glasgow art collector, William Burrell, who donated his collection so the city could admire and appreciate all the pieces after his passing. Stained glass windows, rich tapestries, medieval weapons and armour, Islamic art, artefacts from ancient Egypt and China, Impressionist works by Degas and Cézanne, modern sculpture, oak furniture and a whole host of other pieces from around the world are all dazzlingly displayed and expertly explained.
The interior of the museum is airy and is well organised thanks to the clever floating floor. Outside the huge grounds of Pollack Park that surrounding the gallery really pleasant with an excellent child playground and a cheeky highland 'coo'. After a lovely few hours exploring the fantastic displays, we would highly recommend the Burrell Restaurant to stop and replenish with delicious home-cooked food to satisfy any appetite.
An often overlooked attraction in Glasgow, The Burrell Collection makes for a great day out in Glasgow.
Daily 10:00 – 17:00