Glasgow’s an incredible place for children with a multitude of parks, museums, eateries and shops. Fit in as much as you can with this one-day itinerary the kids (and grown-ups) will love.
I’ve lived in Glasgow for about nine months now, and am ashamed to say I’ve stopped exploring as much as I did when I first moved up here. The one time I really get out and about is when people come to visit and it’s then that you realise just how many incredible places lie on your doorstep.
There’s hundreds of things I’ve omitted from here, but this is my one-day itinerary to get the most out of Glasgow’s parks, shopping, museums and eateries with children (including consideration for public transport links) in less than 24 hours. Buy a one-day pass for the subway if you’re planning on doing it all – it’s only £4.00 for unlimited travel (or, if you’re prepared and register for a smart card online it’s just £2.70 for adults and £1.35 for kids). Most importantly, however, enjoy!
9:00am – Breakfast in Byres Road
Byres Road is a Glasgow institution and, while there’s nothing particularly ‘special’ about it, when you visit you’ll see why. Crammed full of delicious cafes, restaurants and ice-cream parlours, it’s perfect for even the most fussy of small eaters with independent food havens dotted everywhere (and enough chain places for the incredibly fussy). I recommend the weekender from Avenue if you’re a fan of a big breakfast (but only if you’re visiting on a Saturday or Sunday), or Matilda’s provide a huge array if your gang all want something different (with everything from toast and croissants to full-Scottish breakfasts). If you’re a fan of coffee, you’ll be spoilt for choice – the Scottish love their java and you can’t move for the smell of rich coffee brewing; a good job, when you’ve got a full tour ahead of you.
9:45am – Botanic Gardens
With stomachs full, it’s time to burn off some calories (or energy if you’re under 10) which is where Glasgow’s incredible array of parks comes in. At the very top (North end) of Byres Road lies Glasgow Botanic Gardens – 200 years old, but still as utterly loved and beautiful as ever. If you’re expecting an array of a similar size to Kew you’ll be very disappointed; with one main large greenhouse and the Kibble Palace, it’s more like a huge green than anything else. However (unlike their West London rival) the bonnie West Scottish version is completely and utterly free and has tons to do away from the greenhouses.
There’s plenty to keep children and adults alike busy, with rainforest-esque displays in the Kibble (as well as some gorgeously large fish), play areas for the kids, and a wood-like walk that’s perfect for spotting and feeding the squirrels. On a sunny day you’ll probably want to do nothing else but lay in the sun on the vast main green, but there’s far more of Glasgow to see..
11:15am – Subway to St Enoch
Having made the most (or at least a morning’s worth) of the West End, it’s time to head to the city centre for a quick (child-friendly) shop before making the most of the culture Glasgow has to offer. The easiest way to get to the centre from the Botanic Gardens is to head back to Byres Road for the subway – Hillhead station is where you’re aiming for but, with no names on the outside of stations, just look for the giant S symbol near Iceland and Starbucks.
Tube-phobic travellers will be pleased to hear Glasgow’s underground system is as far detached from London’s as can be (trust me, I was a commuter/prisoner on it for seven years), with only two lines – Outer and Inner – both of which complete circles so you’ll always end up where you want to be. Glasgow’s main shopping district has two subway stops, Buchanan Street and St. Enoch. For the purpose of this tour, you’ll probably want to aim for St. Enoch (which I’ll explain why in the next point), getting on the Outer Circle Line – just five stops away.
Buy an all-day smart card (£4.00) for multiple trips throughout the day and don’t worry if you get on the wrong line – while the tour might not be pretty (with nothing but dark windows and random stops to look at), you’ll get there eventually and can say you’ve seen just a little bit more of Scotland’s largest city.
11:30am – Glasgow Hamley’s
Buchanan Street, Glasgow’s main shopping lane, is absolutely incredible when it comes to choice and style; from Vivienne Westwood to Bare Minerals, Pretty Green to Ralph Lauren – the city centre pretty much has it all and it’s no doubt one of the best places for shopping I’ve ever been.
There’s a Lego shop towards the top of Buchanan Street in the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre, however for the purposes of a one-day visit your mini-me will probably enjoy the huge Hamley’s in St Enoch Centre far more. Unlike its London namesake, the Glasgow store is normally much quieter meaning the kids can really interact with everything on offer and, if they’re lucky, get a balloon or demonstration. With (nearly) every type of toy imaginable and a great number of staff on hand to help, it’s a visit that will bring a smile to the grumpiest of young ones. There’s also plenty of photo opportunities and, easiest of all, a food court just outside for that all important lunch decision.
12:00pm – Lunch
There’s a huge amount of choice when it comes to kid-friendly places for lunch in St Enoch Centre. They aren’t necessarily the healthiest, but the food hall has everything from Mc Donald’s to Nandos, and cafes to Ed’s Easy Diner – you’ll find something they’ll fancy (hopefully). What’s more (if you’re feeling kind) there’s a giant inflatable play area for the kids near Hamley’s – extra bonus points for the parents.
If you’d rather try something more ‘Glasgow’, the Willow Tea Rooms further up Buchanan Street do a fantastic selection of sandwiches, cakes and afternoon tea. What’s more, for the cultured, its decor and layout is based on Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s original designs for a tearoom of the same name.
1:15pm – The Lighthouse
One of the city’s best kept secrets, The Lighthouse is an incredible cultural institution in itself with exhibitions on art, culture and architecture. However, with the majority of its displays more interesting for adults than small ones, a quick visit might be best if your time is limited. From St Enoch Centre, walk up Buchanan Street (the direction with the most shops ahead) and keep an eye out for a small alleyway called Mitchell Lane opposite Princes Square shopping centre (with an impressive iron design on its exterior, you’ll know it when you see it). The entrance to The Lighthouse is on the left-hand side, just past a huge street art Muriel of a panda (worth seeing in itself). Go to the back of the shop behind the main reception desk, and get the lift up to the sixth floor viewing platform for some of the best views of Glasgow city centre (below).
There is an even higher viewing platform out in the open, but with a huge number of stairs that aren’t necessarily child-friendly, you’ll hear much less complaints doing it via the lift (there’s not all that much difference in the photos you’ll get for the sake of some aching legs and only one day to do everything). What’s more, if you want to see the benefits of those music lessons you’ve been paying for, there’s even a piano anyone visiting can play…I apologise in advance as the kids will probably love that more than the views.
1:45pm – Train/Subway to Partick
From The Lighthouse, you’re only a short walk to Buchanan Galleries and Buchanan Street subway station. If you’re feeling generous, quickly pop into Buchanan Galleries and get the escalator up to the Lego Store (though I can’t guarantee how long your little one will make you stay) before using your Subway day card to get an Inner Circle train through to Partick, from where you’ll have a ten – fifteen minute walk to the Riverside Museum & Tall Ship – one of the best museums in the city.
2:15pm – Riverside Museum & Tall Ship
A showcase for the city’s transport history, Glasgow Riverside Museum is a spectacular sight – even from the outside. Designed by the recently departed architect Zaha Hadid it’s an iconic structure that looks empowering but not imposing along the otherwise fairly desolate patch of riverbank where the city’s once-thriving shipbuilding used to take place.
If you’ve got transport fans, it will probably take far longer than the two hours I’ve put aside for it, but you won’t be disappointed. There’s tons to see and a fascinating timeline for children and car-mad adults alike, topped off with impressive views over the river and a fascinating exhibition inside the Tall Ship (let’s call it a pirate ship) outside.
4:15pm – Walk along the river
If you’ve managed to escape the Riverside Museum and Tall Ship at a fairly decent time and the rain’s not made an appearance, a walk along the river is a must. Head Eastwards, in the direction the tall ship is facing, back toward the city; while it might be wasteland next to it, after a few minutes of walking you’ll arrive at the SECC building. If you take the path along the river from here onwards, you’ll see some of Glasgow’s most iconic structures including the BBC Scotland building, Finnieston Crane, Clyde Arch and Armadillo. If you’re doing it on the right day, you might just see the city’s famous zip slide across the river, though it only happens twice a year. And, if rain in the morning means you’re heading ahead of schedule, the Glasgow Tower is open until 5pm for absolutely incredible views over the city.
6:30pm – Dinner
Depending on how far you walk and the weather, you’ve got a few options. The river walk is absolutely stunning all the way to the city centre and St. Enoch subway station. I’d recommend coming off the river path when you reach the Grosvenor Casino/Riverboat Glasgow sign and heading up Oswald Street, past Glasgow Central Station and along Argyle Street back to Buchanan Street. Otherwise, if a long walk isn’t your style, you can either grab a train (not a subway) back to Partick from Exhibition Centre or walk back in the direction you came. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to see more of the city, head up to Argyle Street and then onto Kelvingrove Park (directions here). It’s absolutely breathtaking and has tons to do for the kids (with a playpark tried and tested on both a seven year old and 18-month baby) – what’s more, walking back toward Byres Road, you’ll see Kelvingrove Museum and Kelvin Hall in their full glory and will have some gorgeous photo opportunities of the University Hall.
Glasgow is a foodie’s paradise and, whatever your tastes, you’ll hardly be stuck for choice. Staying in the West End, La Riviera at the bottom of Byres Road is a family-run Italian that treat kids how they deserve to treated – princes and princesses! There’s a fantastic selection of foods for any taste buds, and a kids menu with firm favourites (and sensible sized portions). It’s a fairly small restaurant so I’d always advise phoning ahead, and if you’ve got a buggy that doesn’t fold down mention it to them to make sure they can find a good space for you and baby to rest peacefully.
This is just one idea for a day out in Glagsow and I’ll be writing more soon (there’s thousands of combinations and ideas). I’m loathed to have missed some of the best locations (Kelvingrove Park & Museum to say the least), but have any suggestions of your favourite child-friendly places or anything else you’d like to see? Let me know on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook – or leave a comment below!