Not long ago, Glasgow resembled Detroit — once proud city in the midst of a depression that was characterized by liquor, drugs, and crime. Today, Glasgow is possibly the trendiest city in the UK, catering a booming arts scene and a musical surge reminiscent of Motown in Detroit. Despite the Scottish hotspot’s growing popularity (and the all-mighty pound), there are still lots of free or nearly free ways to enjoy all the culture to be found here. These are some of our favorites.
Glasgow School of Art
The magnum opus of Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, is among the most stunning creations in the industrial-driven city. You can see his touch in each carefully etched each detail of the building, from the grandiose library to the individual high-backed chairs (more fit for an NBA all-star than the average person). Architecture students give hour-long tours of the building for £10 (just under $15), but visiting is completely free.
William Burrell was a shipping merchant at the end of the 19th century, and most wouldn’t have guessed that he’d turn out to own one of Scotland’s finest collections of art. Located a few miles from the city-center, the Burrell Collection features an armory, Egyptian art, and your typical art museum favorites, like Degas. Just as beautiful? The medieval stained glass assemblage that the collection is housed in.
Glasgow Necropolis and Cathedral
Glasgow’s known for its green spaces. In fact, the entire country of Scotland can be considered a green space — but the beauty within the Necropolis is especially remarkable as it is eerie. Here, the tombs of wealthy merchants form mini skyscrapers that overlook the city, as a perfect spot for a quiet stroll or even a rather creepy afternoon picnic. Next door is the famous 800-year-old Glasgow Cathedral, another free and can’t-miss attraction if you love Gothic architecture.
Bathe at Arlington Bath Club
One of the oldest Victorian baths in the UK, Arlington Bath Club follows the Roman ritual of approaching the spa as a center for exercise and sociability. While you technically need a membership to use the baths, visitors can actually tour the baths and even enjoy a “trial” bath for £5, just in case you “feel like joining.” (It’s typically £52 for a month of membership — still pretty reasonable if you’re staying a while.)
Created as a center for design and architecture in 1999, the real beauty of the Lighthouse lies in its views over Glasgow. Mackintosh Tower, at the top of a dizzying staircase, provides panoramas overlooking the city. Also in the building is a splendid bar to accompany your view with a scotch (not free, unfortunately).
Enjoy a free show at one of the city’s many pubs
Did you know that UNESCO awarded cities for their music scenes? And, yes, Glasgow holds one of these rare awards. Nearly every pub in the city, on most nights of the week, lines up an array of live music. You might find the likes of everything from Scottish indie rock to traditional Celtic folklore. If you’re interested in the sounds of the highlands, we especially suggest Wintergills as a perfect spot.