10 Free Things to do in Glasgow

Despite having lived in Glasgow for many years, it was only when I went back as a visitor that I realised what Glasgow had to offer.

Below is my top 10 list of free things to do in Glasgow at any time of year.

1. Gallery of Modern Art
Gallery of Modern Art with Coned Duke of Wellington
This iconic old building in Glasgow city centre is slightly less famous for its wonderful works of art than it is for the statue of the Duke of Wellington on horseback by its entrance.  There is nothing particularly enthralling about the statue itself, except that the Duke is never without a traffic cone on his head. This image has become so iconic; postcards with the cone sell better than ones just of the statue.  Despite the council’s persistent removal of the traffic cone, another appears so quickly that many people living in the city have never seen the statue without it.

2. The Burrell Collection
Paintings, sculptures, tapestries, ceramics, stained glass, furniture, silver and metal work are but some of the wonderful and unusual objects, from nearly every period in history, on display at the Burrell Collection.  This collection belonged to ne man, Sir William Burrell, a wealthy Glasgow ship owner, who started collecting in his teens and was still adding to his collection in his nineties.  When he donated the 8000 objects and £450,000 to construct a building to Glasgow Corporation in 1944, he stipulated that the collection should be in a rural setting but no more than 16 miles from the city centre.  Debates about where it should be housed went on for many years and the collection remained in storage for nearly 40 years after his death in 1958 at the age of 96.  It wasn’t until 1983 that the predominately glass building in a wooded section of Pollok Park opened to the public.
The Burrell Collection in Pollok Park

3. Pollok Park
There are over 90 parks to choose from in Glasgow but I’ve chosen Pollok Park not because it’s Glasgow’s largest park, nor because it’s Glasgow’s only Country Park but because it is home to about 100 highland cattle – the collective name of which, you may be interested to know, is a fold.  The park itself is in beautiful woodland with themed trails, riverside walks and an orienteering course.  Every year around September or October, it plays host to the Highland Cattle Show and you can even subscribe to Pollok Park’s newsletter, ‘The Hairy Coo Herald’.

4. The Hunterian Museum
Part of Glasgow University, the Hunterian Museum has recently undergone refurbishment Apart from the architecture of many of Glasgow University’s buildings, this museum is a treasure of archaeology, palaeontology, Ancient Egypt and other world cultures.

Glasgow School of Art designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
5. Charles Rennie Mackintosh
There are examples of Mackintosh’s work all over the city from The Glasgow School of Art, The Willow Tea Rooms, The Mackintosh Church at Queen’s Cross (the only church Mackintosh designed), The Lighthouse, originally designed as offices for the Glasgow Herald Newspaper and in the south side of the city, Scotland Street School and the House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park.  Although the House for an Art Lover is not free, it is worth a visit for the architecture of the outside and park grounds which include a Victorian walled garden and a sunken garden.

Inside the Glasshouse of Queen's Park
6. Queens Park 
While over on the south side of the city, you may want to pay a visit to the Queen’s Park.  It is situated on a mound of boulder clay left there by the last Ice Age and reaches a height of 65 metres above sea level providing great views north into the city and beyond to the Campsie Fells.  Despite being created during the reign of Queen Victoria and being situated at the end of Victoria Road, Queen’s Park is actually dedicated to Mary Queen of Scots whose army fought the Battle of Langside in 1568 at the south eastern edge of the park.

Finnieston Crane at the SECC
7. Walk the Clyde Walkway
The Clyde walkway is 40 miles long beginning from the city centre and finishing in New Lanark.   But before you completely rule this option out, if you just walk the first few miles from the SECC you’ll pass some interesting places like the Glasgow Science Centre, The Waverley Paddle Steamer, the last of its kind and the tall ship, Glenlee which has circumnavigated the world 4 times since she was launched in 1896.  She is berthed outside the Riverside Museum, Glasgow’s newest free museum which provides an insight into the role Glasgow played in transport and technology.
You may even see the sea plane take off or land in the river.

Templeton's Carpet Factory
8. Glasgow Green
If you carry on along the walkway for another mile or so, it will bring you to Glasgow Green. Home to the People’s Palace, a museum devoted to Glasgow’s social history from 1750 to the end of the 20th Century; the huge glasshouse of the Winter Gardens and the Templeton’s carpet factory, designed to imitate Doge’s Palace in Venice but now unfortunately just a business centre.
The People's Palace and Glasshouse
9. Glasgow University Zoological Museum
Like most natural history museums, specimens are stuffed and labelled and stuck behind glass.  However, this museum has something a little bit extra – live animals.  Yes.  Bearded dragons from Australia greet you as you enter the museum and other little critters like snakes, lizards and invertebrates live there too.  For the ophidiophobias among you don’t panic. The live animals may not be stuffed or labelled but they are all behind glass.

Fossil Grove @ Victoria Park
 10. Fossil Grove
It might surprise you to learn that Glasgow and its surrounding areas are rather well known for fossils.  Not the wrinkly old people kind of fossils but the flora and fauna turned to stone palaeontological kind.  One of the best places to see all kinds of local fossil examples is at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  However, if seeing some fossils in situ seems quite appealing, head to Fossil Grove, situated in Victoria Park in the west end of Glasgow.  There you will find fossilised tree stumps that were discovered in 1887, a small section of a vast ancient forest that grew in a tropical swamp similar to the climate the Florida Everglades experiences today.  Oh how I wish Glasgow still had a climate like that.
Fossil Grove

I have deliberately not listed the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and museum in my top 10 because I wanted to choose 10 unusual and less well known features.  However, the Kelvingrove museum is probably one of the most interesting museums in the city and certainly located in one of the nicest settings, situated just below the University of Glasgow and beside the River Kelvin. 

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