Places to Visit in Glasgow : Art Galleries and Museums

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

(photo by Dalbera at Flickr Creative Commons)
(photo by Dalbera at Flickr Creative Commons)

Places to Visit in Glasgow :

Art Galleries and Museums

There are many hidden treasures contained inside the buildings of post-industrial Glasgow. Among them are the many museums that house priceless works of art and historical artefacts throughout the city.

Here is a list of the 'must-see' places in Glasgow. An added advantage of the city is that most museums are municipally owned by the City Council. Therefore these museums are free to all members of the public.

A small number of others are owned by the National Trust for Scotland who charge an admission price for non-members. Here is some information of the different museums and their exhibits, most of which are handily placed on the route of the City Bus Tour.

(photo by goodcatmum at Flickr)
(photo by goodcatmum at Flickr)

Standing grandly at the southern end of Kelvingrove Park, the Art Gallery and Museum is a magnificent architectural sight of Spanish Baroque built in Scottish red sandstone in 1906.

Unsurprisingly, it looks at its most spectacular when bathed in the warm glow of the western sunset.

It is the most popular museum in the city and second only to Edinburgh Castle in the whole of Scotland. Inside are a multitude of exhibits of every conceivable type and genre.

The fine art collection contains Dutch Masters including Rembrandt and Franz Hals, the impressionist art of the likes of Monet and Cezanne with also Scottish paintings including the Highland landscapes of John Knox.

The most famous painting is Salvador Dali's Christ of St John on the Cross which was bought for only £8,000 by the city in 1960 but which of course is now a priceless piece.

Other notable displays range from a fully restored WW2 spitfire fighter plane hanging from the ceiling to a small sculpture of a dog made entirely out of wellington boots. As you would expect there is something for everybody in this eclectic collection of art, geology, natural history, technology, architecture and design. You can spend hours in the museum enjoying the various exhibitions including Arms and Armour, the Work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, statues, busts and quirky and amusing pieces.

(photo by Design and Technology Student at Flickr)
(photo by Design and Technology Student at Flickr)

A couple of miles east of Kelvingrove is the Riverside Museum at Pointhouse Quay.

Opened in 2011 the museum contains magnificently restored steam locomotives from the golden age of the railways.

It reflects back to the world dominance of the Glasgow yards in building these for export to far flung places.

The museum also contains the colourful and affectionately remembered Glasgow double-decker trams which used to provide a public transport service until the 1960s.

For those interested in automobiles there are many vintage models from all decades of the 20th century.

A prize exhibit is a Formula 1 racing car that was driven in competition in 1970 by world champion Jackie Stewart. If you prefer two wheels then there are many classic motorbikes on display but also one of the first ever pedal bikes manufactured.

For the big kids among us there are model ships that are transported on a conveyor belt viewable from above and below. This has many detailed and impressive models of ships including many that were built on the nearby river. There are huge models of the three great ‘Queens’ the Queen Elizabeth, the QE2 and the Queen Mary.

There are also period shop fronts in a charming recreation of typical Glasgow streets of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here you can freely wander round and take a trip back in time.

Outside lies the fully restored SV Glenlee or the 'Tall Ship' which was built on the Clyde in 1896. Also the Kelvin Harbour is the centre for activities and services on the water. These include a cross-river ferry and powerboat rides.

The Hunterian Museum

(photo by Design and Technology Student at Flickr Creative Commons)
(photo by Design and Technology Student at Flickr Creative Commons)

Less than a mile walk and on the route of the Bus Tour is the oldest public museum in Scotland. The Hunterian Museum on University Avenue in the grounds of Glasgow University was opened in 1807 and is named after the 18th century physician Dr William Hunter who donated the artefacts from his private collection.

It has a paintings, ancient Egyptian artefacts, ethnography and a huge collection of coins considered one of the finest in the world. There are also zoological specimens in the nearby Graham Kerr building and anatomical exhibits that can be viewed by appointment only.

The Hunterian is a small, old-fashioned museum that has not attempted to modernise its style. Therefore it retains an intimate charm and a sense of history enhanced by its location within the neo-gothic splendour of the Gilmorehill building of the university.

(photo by cosmicsmudge at Flickr)
(photo by cosmicsmudge at Flickr)
(photo by Dalbera at Flickr)
(photo by Dalbera at Flickr)
(photo by Son of Groucho at Flickr)
(photo by Son of Groucho at Flickr)

In the south-side of the city dwells the famous Burrell Collection, nestling in the beautiful surroundings of Pollok Country Park.

Opened in 1983 it houses the massive and comprehensive purchases of shipping magnate Sir William Burrell who gathered artefacts from all over the world in the late 19th early 20th century.

It has an exquisite chinese ceramic collection located alongside Japanese prints, archaeological exhibits of Egyptian history on one side with religious statues on the other side.

There are many examples of medieval art and history including huge tapestries, stone-carved portals and furniture.

Upstairs in the mezzanine level there are excellent examples of paintings of Degas, Sisley and Cezanne with a special section for the works of Joseph Crawhall.

Downstairs you will find art from the Dutch school and there are also some colourful stained-glass pieces.

You can also view the Hutton rooms which are recreations of Burrell's home at Hutton Castle complete with original furniture, tapestries and ornaments. There are a huge variety of exhibits on display.

The park is located around 4 miles from the city centre and there is no direct transport link, nor does the City Bus Tour stop there. However there is a mini-bus service that picks up visitors for free who have arrived by train to Shawlands station or from the local bus service.

Of course if you prefer and the weather allows you can enjoy a pleasant 10 minute stroll through the park towards the Burrell Collection.

Another 10 minutes will take you to Pollok House where you may pass the highland cattle grazing in the meadows that straddle the road. The family mansion of Sir John Stirling Maxwell it contains works of art, sculpture and antiques with colourful gardens to enjoy outside. This museum is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and therefore has an admission fee in the summer months although it is free during the winter.

Also in the south side is Holmwood House, a residential villa from 1858 designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson.

It has most of its original interior decoration after a restoration in 1998. It is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public.

There is an admission charge for entry and has local bus services stopping nearby. Located in the suburb of Cathcart, Thomson’s architecture is celebrated internationally and is said to have influenced Frank Lloyd Wright.

Other buildings that he designed and which still exist include the Egyptian Halls in Union Street and the St Vincent Street Church in the city centre. The remains of the United Presbyterian Church stand at the Gorbals. His nickname of ‘Greek’ simply came from his love of classical architecture.

(photo by Dalbera at Flickr)
(photo by Dalbera at Flickr)

Back in the city centre the Peoples Palace is situated in Glasgow Green.

This is an attractive French Renaissance style building in red sandstone.

Opened in 1998 it has the Winter Gardens tropical plant display at the back covered in a glasshouse.

It is said to be shaped like the hull of HMS Victory the flagship of Lord Horatio Nelson.

The gardens also have a cafe and sometimes it holds musical recitals. Nearby is the Nelson Monument of 1806 to celebrate Nelson’s naval victory at Trafalgar.

Also in front of the museum is the Doulton Fountain the largest terracotta sculpture in the world which depicts images from the British Empire and with a statue of Queen Victoria in top. Across the way is the brightly coloured Templeton Business Centre with a design closely based on the Doges Palace in St Mark's Square in Venice.

Inside the museum are many exhibits and artefacts chronicling the social history of the ordinary people of Glasgow from 1750 until the present. There are mock-ups of old-fashioned shops and a single-end tenement home, a history of crime including a list of all the people executed in public on the Green and a political history of the city.

You can also view the outlandish footwear of comedian Billy Connolly’s ‘Big Banana Feet’ and a huge portrait of the great eccentric Sir John Glassford , one of the famous Tobacco Lords of the 18th century. Upstairs are many paintings of the history of Glasgow by the artist Ken Currie. The City Bus Tour stops outside the Peoples Palace.

(photo by Dalbera at Flickr)
(photo by Dalbera at Flickr)

Back in the city centre the Gallery of Modern Art, or GOMA for short, is handily placed near George Square in the old stock exchange building of Glasgow.

It was a controversial choice in 1996 to be utilised for modern art as the building dates from the 1780's and 1830's having been built in two stages.

Therefore the neo-classical surroundings of Corinthian pillars topped by an ornate ceilings and forward atrium can seem incongruous with the contemporary art inside.

Nevertheless there are many fine works in the museum from both local and international artists. It specialises in contemporary art from 1950 to the present day and is the second most visited of such museums outside of London. Work by Beryl Cook, Peter Howson and Andy Goldsworthy feature regularly in the rotation of the permanent collection. As well as painting and sculpture it also displays photography, video, mobile and installation art.

About one mile uphill from the heart of the city is Cathedral Square where you can visit four places of interest. This is the oldest part of Glasgow being where the origins of the city began.

This is reflected in the fact that the oldest building in the city Glasgow Cathedral from 1172 is here and across the road is the oldest house Provands Lordship from 1471. Additional buildings were constructed in the 1980s but in a medieval-style pastiche to complement the surroundings.

These host the Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art which is believed to be unique in being the first and apparently the only museum dedicated to all the main religions of the world. All of these museums have the hillside graveyard of the Necropolis towering over them which is where the notables of Glasgow were buried from the 1830's.

(photo by gajtalbot at Flickr)
(photo by gajtalbot at Flickr)
(photo by Gilder at Flickr)
(photo by Gilder at Flickr)
(photo by maxf at Flickr)
(photo by maxf at Flickr)

The gothic edifice of Glasgow Cathedral contains the tomb of St Mungo the patron saint of the city lies in the lower crypt.

The building is the only Scottish mainland cathedral to survive the destruction of the Reformation, the only other being in Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands.

Guided tours are available to introduce visitors to the splendid architecture and stained-glass.

Across the road Provands Lordship was the resting place of Mary Queen of Scots when she made her brief visits to Glasgow in the 16th century.

It was built originally as the Preceptor's House of the Hospital of St Nicholas by Bishop Muirhead.

In the 19th century it became a Manse and was due for demolition in the late 19th century but rescued and retained as a museum.

Adjacent to the Cathedral and opened in 1993 the Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art contains examples of artefacts from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism.

It contains a mixture of art and artefacts and its aim is to promote understanding and respect among people of different faiths.

A highly appropriate undertaking given the historical problem of sectarian division in the city. Behind the building is Britain’s first permanent Zen garden.

The Glasgow Necropolis (meaning 'City of the Dead' in Greek) was designed as a graveyard for the rich merchant classes of the Victorian era.

As you would expect it has many grand and ostentatious mausoleums, statues and gravestones reflecting the wealth and status of the high and mighty of old Glasgow.

It is multi-sectarian and contains the graves of Christian and Jewish people although the hill is dominated by a statue of Protestant reformer John Knox on top of a large column.

In Buccleuch Street in Garnethill at the north end of the city centre is the Tenement House, an authentic 19th century house which was the home of an ordinary Glasgow lady Agnes Toward for over 50 years.

She made very few changes to the house after she moved in to the house in 1911 and therefore it has all its original fixtures and fittings as well as household items that she kept over the years. For example there are old photographs, newspaper cuttings and ration books from World War 2. It is owned by the National Trust for Scotland who bought it in 1982. There is an admission charge for entry except for National Trust members who can access for free.

Glasgow School of Art

(photo by IK's World Trip at Flickr)
(photo by IK's World Trip at Flickr)

The works of the famous Glaswegian architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh are celebrated in buildings throughout the city and beyond. His masterpiece the Glasgow School of Art, built in two stages in 1899 and 1909.

It is still a working seat of education and therefore access is restricted. However there are fascinating guided-tours at 3pm usually conducted by a student at the school. It sits at Garnethill in Renfrew Street.

The style of the building is quite unique containing facets of Scottish baronial architecture, art nouveau and modern industrial materials. Being a centre for the arts there is lots of glazing to allow natural light to flood in.

The interiors were designed in collaboration with his wife Margaret MacDonald with floral and geometric motifs. The spectacular beauty of the library is designed with dark-finished wood and contains pendant lights, carved balusters, chairs and work tables with art nouveau motifs.

(photo by Dalbera at Flickr)
(photo by Dalbera at Flickr)

After a tour of the School of Art and a visit to the Tenement House you may consider a refreshment or a snack at the nearby Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street.

Outside you will observe the typical style of Mackintosh on the white-coloured facade and inside, above a jewellers shop selling Mackintosh souvenirs, are the tea-rooms.

A thriving business it provides meals and snacks in the attractive surroundings of Mackintosh's interior designs and art.

You can sit on his famous high-back designed chairs while you enjoy a late afternoon snack or a meal at tea-time.

Further afield in the west end of the city opposite the Hunterian Museum is the Mackintosh House museum. This is a recreation of the interior of the home of the architect and his wife Margaret MacDonald when they lived nearby in Southpark Street.

It is decorated as closely as possible to the original in the distinctive and colourful style of the couple’s art and design. The furniture is original taken from the house in Southpark Street in 1963 as it was earmarked for demolition. Attention was given to reproduce the rooms as they were and utilising natural light to the benefit of the interior.

Over the river is the Museum of Education which was the former Scotland Street School built for the Glasgow School Board in 1906.

It closed as a school in 1972 and thereafter was used a museum for school parties to visit and learn about children's schooling in the past.

However after a major £1 million renovation and development in 1990 it was fully opened up to the public as a museum.

As well as temporary exhibitions on any subject it contains permanent exhibits on the history of education.

This includes some charming displays on playground games and activities and also the dreaded tawse when corporal punishment was a regular fate for young miscreants at the hands of teacher.

There are three rooms covering different generations of education in Scotland. One that recreate a classroom of the Victorian era, another depicts a typical scene from a class in World War 2 and the last is in the style of the 1960s.The museum is less than two miles south of the city centre and is situated only 100 yards from Shields Road Subway station.

Another 2 miles west of here stands the House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park. Designed in 1901 it was eventually built to the original Mackintosh plans in 1996. Work had actually begun in 1989 but financial problems halted its construction for several years. There is an admission fee. Lunches and dinner are served in the cafe.

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Comments 12 comments

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

This is a great comprehensive listing. Most of the well known ones I've been to but I'd never heard of the Museum of Education. Not surprising, I suppose, as I left Glasgow in '79, before it was open. I always enjoyed the Peoples Palace exhibits, and GOMA was a great addition to the city centre.


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland Author

Hi TWA

Princes Square is an attraction :-) Hope the coffee and cake was pleasant.

Thanks for stopping by


Thai Women Advice profile image

Thai Women Advice 6 years ago from THAILAND

Hi Shinkicker have enjoyed this hub.Ashamed to say that the only place in your piece I have visited is the Burrell,unless you can count coffee and cake in Princes square!!


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland Author

Glad you enjoyed your visit to the 'Auld Country' Elayne. Thanks for the comment


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

I was in Glasgow last summer and loved it. My ancestors came from Scotland and so I went with my father to see where they were from. I hope to return again. Aloha!


theazorean profile image

theazorean 6 years ago from Florence, Italy

Ciao! This article is so great- I want to visit Glasgow! I still have not been to Scotland but I want to go. I love the photos, too. Nice job!


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland Author

I agree Tony

I like to see how ordinary people lived in another time.

If you ever decide to visit Glasgow I would recommend August because then you can travel through to the Edinburgh Festival too.

But don't depend on the weather being good :-)


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

All the places look so interesting and beautiful. The one I think I would most enjoy is the Tenement House - I love places like that which give us a taste of life from another time and place.

Thanks for sharing - I would love to get to Glasgow sometime.

Love and peace

Tony


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland Author

Thanks Russell

Glad it brought back memories. The Museum of Transport is a favourite with kids, I loved the model ships.


Russell-D profile image

Russell-D 6 years ago from Southern Ca.

A great flash back, shinkicker> With my daughter and granddaughter living in

Glasgow for 5 years, during our twice a year visits, everyone of your visuals rings a bell, especially the Willow Tearoom and out in Helensboro the home of the

designer, Charles Macintosh. Whenever we were out for a walk, granddaugher Rebecca always pulled grandpa to the Museum of Transport to "ride" the trolley.

Thanks for the memories.


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland Author

Cheers CM

Used to love going there as a child :-)


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

That museum of transport is sooo cool. Thanks for a fun hub!

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