Glasgow Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Glasgow

The largest city and seaport in Scotland, Glasgow is also one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. Famed for its 19th-century Victorian and Art Nouveau architecture, numerous musical events, football matches, traditional pubs, and food venues, this place is truly unique.

The area of Glasgow in Scotland's western Lowlands has been inhabited for millennia, with the River Clyde providing a natural location for fishing. Glasgow itself grew from a small rural settlement on the river, reputedly founded by the Christian missionary Saint Mungo in the 6th century. He established a church on the Molendinar Burn, where the present Glasgow (aka St Mungo's) Cathedral stands.

The name Glasgow is of Brittonic origin and means "green-hollow", which may refer to the ravine east of the Cathedral.

In addition to being a religious center, the establishment of the University of Glasgow in 1451 paved way to the city's becoming a major center of the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century. Thenceforth, Glasgow also grew as one of Great Britain's main hubs of transatlantic trade with North America and the West Indies. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the population and economy of the city expanded rapidly, making it one of the world's pre-eminent centers of shipbuilding and marine engineering.

Daniel Defoe, visiting Glasgow in the early 18th century, famously described it as "the cleanest and beautifullest, and best built city in Britain, London excepted". For much of the Victorian and Edwardian eras it remained the "Second City of the British Empire".

The rich legacy of the 18th–20th century prosperity helped the city's evolution into a national cultural hub, home to such institutions as the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and National Theatre of Scotland, as well as acclaimed museums and a thriving music scene.

The heart of the city is George Square, site of many of public statues and the elaborate Victorian Glasgow City Chambers. To the south and west are the shopping precincts of Argyle Street and Buchanan Street. The latter is a home to Buchanan Galleries, a major retail venue similar in grandness to that of St. Enoch Centre (linking Argyle Street and St Enoch Square), with the up-market Princes Square not far away.

If you wish to make a closer acquaintance with these and other popular sights of Glasgow, don't miss a chance to do that with the help of our self-guided walking tour!
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Glasgow Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Glasgow Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Scotland » Glasgow (See other walking tours in Glasgow)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: Caroline
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St Mungo's Cathedral
  • Provand's Lordship
  • George Square
  • Glasgow City Chambers
  • Buchanan Galleries
  • Buchanan Street
  • Lighthouse
  • Princes Square
  • St Enoch Square
  • Argyle Street
  • Glasgow Green
  • People's Palace & Winter Gardens
1
St Mungo's Cathedral

1) St Mungo's Cathedral (must see)

St Mungo's Cathedral, or simply Glasgow Cathedral, is one of the few churches to have survived the Reformation. The setting for numerous literary works over the ages, its ornate construction and rich history dating from the 12th century provide hours of learning and exploration.

The ground on which the cathedral stands is steeped in history; it was first blessed by Saint Ninian over 1600 years ago and St Mungo, the son of a pagan King of Lothian, built his church here in the 7th century. You can see his tomb under the main altar, in the crypt.

The original church was wooden and was mostly destroyed by fire. Building began on the “new” church during the 12th century, in the Gothic style. It once had towers at its west end, but these were removed during renovations in the 18th century since there wasn’t enough money to replace them.

Inside the cathedral, you can admire the ancient “rood screen”, an ornate partition between the chancel and the nave. Rood screens are rare in Scottish churches and this one is much prized. In 1999 the magnificent Millennium Window was installed in the north wall of the nave. There are several side chapels, including the Chapel of St John the Baptist where you can see St Mungo’s Well.

During the Reformation, when many churches were sacked and torn down, the people of Glasgow took up arms to defend the cathedral. In 1583 the Town Council agreed to oversee the building and pay for its upkeep. It stands today as a reminder of the devotion and determination of the people who worship in it.

Tip:
Admission is free, and it's highly recommended that you visit the interior. After that, go next door to the Museum of Religious Life and Art, across the road to Provand's Lordship, and up the hill to the Necropolis (to get beautiful views of the Cathedral and the city), and you'll see the original medieval heart of Glasgow, and experience attractions for free in one day.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9:30am–5:30pm; Sun: 1–4:30pm
2
Provand's Lordship

2) Provand's Lordship

At the top end of Castle Street, you will find Provand’s Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow, which is the home of a fascinating house museum giving a sense of life during medieval times.

The medieval building was constructed in 1471 and was part of St Nicholas Hospital. Although it was originally intended as accommodation for the Master of the hospital, it was inhabited by a succession of Canons from the Cathedral Chapter. In the 19th century, the Lord Prebendary of Balenock lived here. A prebend is a stipend allocated to priests of the Anglican Church. It is possible that the word “provand” is a corruption of prebend.

In 1906 the house was sold to a family of confectioners who opened a sweet shop at the front and had their factory at the back. They kept the shop until the end of the Second World War when they sold the building to the Provand’s Lordship Society, who wanted to restore the house to its former beauty. In 1978 the Society had no more money, so they gave the house to the City of Glasgow, who paid for renovations and opened it to the public as a house museum in 1983.

Today when you visit the house, you will see it furnished as it would have been in the 17th century, with authentic wooden furnishings of the epoch. The house has three stories connected by a winding staircase and there are many stained glass windows to admire. Behind the house, you can visit the St Nicholas Garden where the medicinal herbs that grow in profusion fill the warm summer air with their delicate perfume.

Tip:
Start with the video introduction for a nice background and be sure to see all three floors (the steps can be difficult for those with balance issues). Make sure you then go to the end of St Nicholas' garden to see the building from a different angle.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Thu, Sat: 10am–5pm; Fri, Su: 11am–5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
George Square

3) George Square (must see)

When you see George Square today, it is hard to believe that at its origins it was a hollow filled with filthy, stagnant water and its marshy edges were used as a slaughterhouse. Between 1787-1829 the area was drained, opened out and lined with houses on the east and west sides.

Named after King George III, the square became the center of merchant activity with the Merchants House customs and exchange building constructed in 1850. No statue of King George is placed here, although one was intended to be. Unfortunately, because of Britain’s defeat in the American War of Independence, which caused so much anguish for Glasgow’s Tobacco Lords and the king’s later mental illness, the 24-meter column in the square’s center is topped by Sir Walter Scott instead.

Other statues and monuments abound on the square, including the Cenotaph by Burnett raised to the memory of Glaswegian soldiers killed in the First World War. There are rare equestrian statues representing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, figures of Robert Burns, James Watt, Thomas Graham, William Gladstone, Robert Peel and James Oswald.

If you are lucky to be in Glasgow during the winter, you can enjoy the ice-skating rink that is set up there and buy your presents in the enormous Christmas Market.
4
Glasgow City Chambers

4) Glasgow City Chambers

You will find the City Chambers on the eastern side of George Square, and while you might not be interested in the Glasgow City Council business, do go and visit the building, which you can do either on a self-guided tour or with a tour guide.

The Chambers, which have been the City Council headquarters since 1996, were built in 1889 by William Young. The City Council originally met in the Old Tolbooth but by the mid 19th century they were too small and the new building was commissioned.

Although it has been extended in 1923 and 1984, it has kept its Renaissance Classical and Italianate style with a lot of ornate exterior decorations. The sculpture work is by James Alexander Ewing, with a celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee on the central pediment.

The statues on the apex represent Honor and Riches, with Truth in the center. The statues on the tower represent the Four Seasons.

The entrance hall has a wonderful floor-mosaic of the Glasgow Coat of Arms and the ceiling is decorated in gold leaf with a stained-glass dome. Marble and alabaster pillars support the main marble stairway.

The ground floor loggia has a breath-taking mosaic ceiling and the Councilors’ Corridor is decorated in Italian faience.

The best room in the building is the Banqueting Hall with its magnificent arched ceiling and chandeliers. The murals were executed by the Glasgow School of Art and show the history and culture of the city, the granting of the Royal Charter and Scotland’s four principal rivers.

Tip:
There are free one-hour tours run on weekdays from the lobby. The tours take place at 10:30am and 2:30pm – show up at least 30 mins early. You can also walk around yourself, but you'll have significant restrictions.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
5
Buchanan Galleries

5) Buchanan Galleries

Apart from London, Glasgow is the best place in the UK for shopping. The offer is impressive with lower prices than in London, and instead of having to run all over the city, it is quite convenient, as the shopping district is concentrated in four downtown streets. The Buchanan Galleries are up the street from Buchanan Street, and is the largest and most prestigious in Glasgow, with nearly 100 stores. Apart from international brands like Gap or Claire, for example, you'll find a curious whiskey shop, which is almost a museum and has a lot of information about the different types of whiskey, along with typical silver vessels in which the Scottish national drink is taken. The building also incorporates the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Tip:
Spend your time shopping on Buchanan Street and if it starts raining out, just take cover in here.
Try John Lewis for tea and scone and take a window seat to view down Buchanan street.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Wed: 9am–6pm; Thu,Fri: 9am–7pm; Sun: 10am–6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Buchanan Street

6) Buchanan Street (must see)

In 1777 the Tobacco Lords of Scotland lost their lands in Virginia and consequently their slaves. The American Revolution had taken them both. For Scotland it became a blessing. For America it was a curse, though it did not seem so at the time.

James Buchanan of Drumpellier, heir of Tobacco Lord Andrew Buchanan, and twice Lord Provost of Glasgow, was a big loser in this contest. But if the American Revolution brought disaster, the Industrial Revolution was about to begin. The Buchanans weathered the storm through land sales. Sales financed a move into manufacturing and development.

Land owned by the Buchanans was in what is now the heart of Glasgow. It was here that Buchanan Street developed. Villas and townhouses were built. Shops, banks, hotels and commercial development followed.

Pedestrianized Buchanan Street is famous for its upscale shopping and sky high rents. It is second only to Oxford Street in London as a busy shopping area. At the beginning of the street is the historic Argyll Arcade, the oldest shopping center in the United Kingdom. Close by is the Princes Square indoor mall, across from the House of Fraser.

Midway along is Royal Exchange Square and Nelson Mandela Place, formerly St. George's Place. Glasgow was the first city in the United Kingdom to honor Nelson Mandela with the Freedom of the City in 1993.

Spend a day strolling. Take in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, The Gallery of Modern Art and The Lighthouse Centre for Architecture.
7
Lighthouse

7) Lighthouse

While you are visiting Glasgow you will surely hear about the Lighthouse and you wouldn’t be the first visitor to wonder what a lighthouse is doing in the center of a city far from the sea. The only way to satisfy your curiosity is to go and see it for yourself.

The building was constructed in 1895 from designs by the architect John Keppie, but it was his apprentice Charles Mackintosh who oversaw the work as his first public commission. It is because of this that most people forget about Keppie and attribute the building to Mackintosh.

The Lighthouse was once the offices and headquarters of the newspaper, the Glasgow Herald. It now belongs to the Glasgow City Council, who has turned it into a Centre all about architecture, design and the city.

The Centre’s aim is to help people understand the link between architecture, creative industry and design, through exhibitions and interactive displays. On six floors, the Centre boasts 6000 square meters of exhibition space and hosts twelve local and three international shows a year.

The first floor is dedicated to education with a computer laboratory, workshops and the “Wee People’s City”. This is a hands-on play area especially designed for 8 – 13 year olds, to promote understanding about building and design. It is great fun for the kids as they take a path that leads them through investigation, exploration and discovery of the city.

The Lighthouse has a viewing platform on the top of the Mackintosh Tower that can be reached from the third floor by a helical stairway. For those who don’t feel up to climbing the stairs, another view-point on the 6th floor can be reached by lift.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Princes Square

8) Princes Square

James Campbell was knighted by Queen Victoria. James later became Lord Provost of Glasgow. James owned Princes Square, a four-story yellow sandstone building covering a market square. James named the square Princes Square to honor the then Prince of Wales. Time marches on. James is not universally remembered today, but the square is renowned.

In 1986 the Hugh Martin Partnership made a great redo of the Square. It is now five stories enclosing the 112,500 square foot cobbled square of 1841. The entire square is sheltered by a clear glass vaulted domed roof. Atop the roof is the Princes Square icon, a metal sculpture of a peacock in full display.

The sandstone facades are now inside the square. Staircases and galleries provide ways to the upper stories. The remade square has been described as "one of the most intelligent pieces of urban renewal."

Located on Buchanan Street, Princes Square is an oasis of high-end specialty shops. It is definitely a boutique heaven. There is no shortage of hip restaurants and bars and even an art cinema.

The square has won several prestigious awards for architecture and design. In 2016 it was voted Scotland's best building of the last 100 years. James would have been proud.

Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 am – 7:00 pm; Saturday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm; Sunday 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
9
St Enoch Square

9) St Enoch Square

South of the intersection of Buchanan Street and Argyle Street is a large open Square called St. Enoch Square. Who is or was Saint Enoch?

A long time ago the square of today was a part of Glasgow Green by the river Clyde. The Green is gone, but the river flows on. The green had a chapel and was the burial site of Saint Thenew aka Saint Enoch, mother of Saint Kentigen, Scotland's patron saint.

After the land had changed hands several times, it passed to the Glasgow City Council. In 1780 the Council replaced the long gone chapel with St. Enoch's Church and St. Enoch's Square came to be. This church was replaced in 1827 by another, designed by David Hamilton. The center of the square was grassed over and used to graze sheep.

By 1860, the church's congregation had moved away from the area. The sheep meadow was paved over and the church was demolished in 1926 and replaced with a bus terminal and a car park. Today, on the site of the former hotel, adjacent to the Square, is St. Enoch Centre. The Centre is the largest glass-covered commercial area in Europe.

Every year from November to December the Square is taken over by the Glasgow Christmas Market. Continental-style bars sell boutique beers and mulled wine in observance of the season.
10
Argyle Street

10) Argyle Street

Argyle Street is the longest street in the City of Glasgow. Along with Buchanan Street and Sauchiell Street it is one of the main shopping streets in the city center, running for over two miles. It is pedestrianized south of the city center as far as Queen Street. This section includes the St. Enoch Centre and the Argyle Arcade.

The street terminates as a through road under the Clydeside Expressway, emerging in the West end of the city, connecting with Sauchiell Street by the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

Originally called Wester Gate, the street was renamed Argyle Street. This was done, naturally, in honor of Archibald Campbell, Third Duke of Argyll. Sir Archibald laid in state in the Highland Society's House after he died in 1761.

Argyll Arcade is Britain's oldest covered shopping arcades and the crown jewel of Argyle Street. Designed by John Baird it has an ornate iron hammer beam roof. The arcade was built in 1904 and has under its roof an array of jewelery designers' shops and antique jewelers' shops.
11
Glasgow Green

11) Glasgow Green

In 1450 William Turnbull, Bishop of Glasgow, donated a strip of land alongside the river Clyde to the people of Glasgow. Originally the land was used for washing and bleaching laundry, grazing sheep, and drying fishing nets. The land at the time was a marshy flood plain and it served as the city's only green space.

The Green covers 136 acres. It was a swampy area divided into several separate "greens." There was the High Green, the Low Green, the Carlton Green, and the Gallowgate Green. There were no major improvements to the parkland until 1817.

In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars there was a depression and the Town Council hired 324 workers to remodel Glasgow Green. The park was leveled out and drained and the land was used more extensively by the public. Throughout the 19th century to this day the park was often the scene of political and revolutionary activities.

In recent days the park has been a popular spot for live music events. The park has hosted events by Michael Jackson, the Stone Roses, the Download Festival Scotland, featuring Metallica, Linkin Park, Korn, and Slipknot.

The most distinctive part of the park itself is the Heritage Trail. The trail takes one and a half hours to complete, moving at a casual pace. The trail starts at the Peoples Palace, a museum built in the French renaissance style.

Other attractions include: The Doulton Fountain; The Winter Gardens Sculpture Park; The Children's Play Village; St. Andrews Suspension Bridge; Admiral Nelson's Column and McLennan Arch.
12
People's Palace & Winter Gardens

12) People's Palace & Winter Gardens (must see)

On the northeast side of Glasgow Green, find the People's Palace and Winter Gardens, opened to the public in 1898. At the time it was described by Lord Roseberry as "A palace of pleasure and imagination..." For others it is a "Social history museum..." It is in fact a museum about the people of Glasgow, their history and struggles.

The People's Palace has three floors. The ground floor provides a route to the Winter Gardens attached to the rear of the Palace. On this level there is a museum shop and some exhibition space. The next floor shows the life of Glaswegians.

There's the "Steamie", the public laundry facilit; "Doon the water", Glaswegians at the seaside of the Clyde estuary; World Wars I and II and; "Dancing at the Barrowland". The Barrowland is a ballroom nearby the People's Palace.

The upper floor divides into two wings and a center space under the roof dome. The wings are separately dedicated to everyday life of the people of Glasgow and their housing conditions. The center section attempts to pull both themes together.

Attached to the rear of the People's House are the Winter Gardens. Here is a vast Victorian house of glass. Like a biodome, it houses an enormous variety of tropical plants and a small cafe offering coffee and snacks.

Tip:
Be sure to take a look at the Doulton Fountain outside, described as the largest terracotta fountain in the world.

Opening Hours: Mon-Thu, Sat: 10am–5pm; Fri, Sun: 11am–5pm
Free admission

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