Traveling to Scotland can be expensive, especially if you’re visiting the Scottish Highlands. Fuel and car rental costs can quickly add up! If you’re visiting the highlands, Glasgow is the perfect city to explore for budget travelers.
Better yet, there are bucket loads of free (that’s right, FREE!) activities to do here.
Are you planning a trip to Glasgow?
Well, read on…
(And make sure to check out our guide to visiting Glasgow on a budget!)
We’ve put together a list of 13 free things to do in Glasgow:
1. Check out the craft & design fair at Merchant Square
Merchant Square is mostly known for its nightlife with endless bars and restaurants. On the weekends, however, it’s home to craft and design fair, held every Saturday (11 am – 6 pm) and Sunday (12 pm – 6 pm). This fair is a great place to visit if you want to pick up souvenirs, as all products are handmade in Glasgow.
2. Visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
One of my favorite free museums in Glasgow, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a must-visit for budget travelers to Glasgow. The museum has a variety of exhibits – from animals in the Scottish Highlands to a painting by Salvador Dali. The building itself is incredibly beautiful – it’s been around since 1901 when the museum first opened in Glasgow!
3. Explore the Glasgow Botanic Gardens (and Kibble Palace)
Incredibly popular with visitors, the Glasgow Botanic Gardens is beautiful regardless of time of year. If you’re visiting in the winter, make sure to visit the indoor glasshouse, Kibble Palace.
4. Pretend you’re at Hogwarts the University of Glasgow
There is just that special something about universities in the UK. You can’t help but think you’re in the corridors of the Hogwarts castle from the Harry Potter books! A short walk from the Glasgow city center, The University of Glasgow is well worth a visit if you love archways and architecture. Make sure to visit the main building (where the visitor’s shop is located) for these beautiful archways.
5. Stroll along the Riverside
Are you in Glasgow on a sunny day? Make sure to go for a stroll along the Clyde. You can even rent a bike if you’re not up for walking, and be sure to read onto #6 to find out more about what you can do when here!
6. Visit the Riverside Museum of Transport
If walking isn’t your thing, or maybe you ended your walk at the Riverside Museum? Be sure to stop by the Riverside Museum (which one the 2013 European Museum of the year!) The museum is home to a variety of cars, bicycles, ship and tram models. It’s also very interactive and a great place to learn about the development of transport in Glasgow.
7. Visit the People’s Palace and Winter Garden (at The Green)
This is one of my favorite spots to visit in winter in Glasgow – located on The Green, a massive park in Glasgow, the People’s Palace is a free museum worth checking out if you want to learn more about Glasgow’s history. Out the back of the building is the Winter Garden, a greenhouse with a café attached. The perfect way to spend the afternoon!
8. Visit the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)
When visiting Glasgow, we, unfortunately, missed out on visiting GoMA, but it is definitely at the top of our list for the next time we visit! The Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow is home to both local and international artists and offers free entry for everyone!
9. Take a free tour at the Glasgow City Chambers
When visiting Glasgow, we were only there across the weekend so unfortunately were not able to visit the Glasgow City Chambers. If you’re in Glasgow on a weekday, however, you’re in luck! The City Chambers hold free public tours twice per day at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm (Monday to Friday). You don’t even need to book – just show up!
10. Check out the architecture at the Glasgow Cathedral
If you love architecture (or medieval buildings), Glasgow Cathedral is a must when visiting. Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, it’s hard not to be in awe of this magnificent structure. Entry is free, but make sure to check their website as the cathedral is occasionally closed during adverse weather conditions.
11. Take a tour of the Glasgow Necropolis
If you’re visiting the Glasgow Cathedral, right next door is the Glasgow Necropolis, which is well worth a stroll. If you’re interested in a tour, The Friends of the Glasgow Necropolis offers free tours of the grounds. Make sure you book ahead, their upcoming tour dates are listed on their website.
12. Visit The Lighthouse
The Lighthouse is not a real lighthouse (it would be a bit awkward in a major city like Glasgow!), but despite its somewhat misleading name, The Lighthouse is worth a visit. Hidden in an alleyway and a bit of a local secret, this is home to Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture. This space is home to ever-changing exhibitions and is free for all visitors.
13. Take a day trip to Loch Lomond
Not technically in Glasgow, Loch Lomond is a short 45-minute drive from Glasgow. Popular with local residents on the weekend, it’s hard to believe that something so beautiful can be so close to the city. You’ll need a car to visit, so make sure to stop by if you’re driving from Glasgow to the Scottish Highlands.
Glasgow is often overlooked by tourist friendly Edinburgh but is a great place to visit if you’re heading up to the Scottish Highlands. One of the many things I loved about this city was how livable it is… So many of the items in our Free things to do in Glasgow list were museums and experiences, rather than tourist spots!
Are you planning a trip to Glasgow? Make sure you download my free Scotland Packing Checklist:
This has got everything you could possibly need in Scotland – regardless of the time of year you’re traveling in!
After more Glasgow guides? Check these out: