Being a Glaswegian I often get asked about things to do in the city and one question I get a lot is for my recommendation of the best Glasgow tours. Until recently I hadn't been on that many tours in Glasgow so I decided to rectify that and have spent the last few months on a mission to discover the top unique tours in the city. After walking countless streets, climbing umpteen stairs, having a peek behind the scenes of several city landmarks and even exploring a few graveyards (all in the name of research!), I'm finally ready to share my findings.
Recommending the best tours in the city is pretty subjective as it really depends on personal interests, so I have decided to include a range of unique tours that in my opinion are 6 of the best in Glasgow...
Glasgow Central Station Tour
If you think a tour of a railway station might be dull, think again, this is actually my top recommended unique Glasgow tour overall, guaranteed to educate and entertain, just remember your hankies!
Paul Lyons is the mastermind behind the 90 minute tours that take you on a journey below the station platforms through forgotten Victorian tunnels and hidden rooms. It is his vision and passion that has made these tours a success and his plans to restore historic parts of the 135 year old station with money raised from ticket sales are commendable. Paul's ability to bring the human stories of the station to life is powerful, when he tells you at the beginning he will have you "Greetin' before the tour is over", he isn't kidding, although pan faced Glaswegian humour is also something he does very well.
It's no surprise that this is also the number one Glasgow tour on TripAdvisor, a well deserved accolade.
Glasgow City Chambers Tour
I've explored Glasgow City Chambers quite a few times over the years and I'm always surprised how few people realise that free guided tours take place every weekday providing a look behind the scenes of this grand Victorian building filled with mahogany, mosaics and marble.
As the seat of political power in Glasgow, the City Chambers was designed to impress and not surprisingly the interior is just as ornate as the exterior. As it is a working building and the headquarters of Glasgow City Council, access to some areas may be restricted at certain times although tours generally take in the opulent banqueting hall, the grand marble staircase which is reputed to be the largest in the world, the portrait gallery and even the opportunity to sit in the Lord Provost's chair, an ideal photo opportunity! I've yet to find a better free tour in the city.
The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis Walking Tour
As part of my research I did a few history based Glasgow walking tours and the only one I felt really stood out as being unique was the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis Tour around the city's most famous graveyard. This might not be everyone's idea of a fun day out but in my experience graveyard's offer one of the best insights into the history of a place and the volunteer guides really bring this city of the dead to life with their knowledge about monuments of interest and anecdotes about people that are buried here.
The Glasgow Necropolis is a 37 acre cemetery which has seen 50,000 burials and is home to 3,500 tombs, some of which are works of art in themselves designed by major architects and sculptors of the time. It also boasts impressive views over Glasgow from the top of the hill and joining a walking tour will really enhance your visit and knowledge about the city.
Mackintosh at the Glasgow School of Art
Charles Rennie Mackintosh is not the only talented architect associated with Glasgow, however he has undoubtedly become the most famous and the Mackintosh Building of the Glasgow School of Art is seen as the defining masterpiece of his career. Unfortunately the west wing of the building was damaged by fire in 2014 and no visitor access is allowed while restoration work is undertaken.
The good news is that the GSA still run tours and I joined one of their student led 'Mackintosh at the GSA' tours to find out more about the architect's life and his designs and to get a look at their new Mackintosh furniture gallery. I thought I knew quite a bit about Charles Rennie Mackintosh but I actually learned quite a lot on this tour which is why I'm recommending it. During the summer the GSA also offer walking tours of Glasgow which focus on architectural styles in the city and if I get the chance I plan to join one of them as I enjoyed my first GSA tour so much.
Tennent's Brewery Tour
There are a few brewery tours to choose from in Glasgow but Tennent's Brewery is unique in its industrial scale. The purpose designed visitor centre tells the story of Tennent's 450 years of heritage and brewing tradition before a behind the scenes tour takes you through the giant sized production process which is unlike anything I have seen before. The scale of the bottling and canning just blew my mind and you will even discover the other beers that are brewed here, some of which might surprise you.
Of course no brewery tour would be complete without tasting the goods and there are plenty of generous samples on offer. I can't confess to being a fan of Tennent's but for the purposes of research I felt it my duty to try all the beers in their range and actually found the Whisky Oak Aged Beer quite pleasant.
The tour has been designed to be fun, from the street art on the walls outside to the quirky objects in the visitor centre and the laid back guides, definitely a brewery tour with a difference which even non-beer drinkers should enjoy.
Glasgow Music City Tour
Glasgow is the UK's first UNESCO City of Music, a testament to the number of live venues and musical talent that have emerged in the city over the years. I'm a big music fan and put that down to the fact I grew up in Glasgow and spent most of my weekends at one of the many pubs, clubs and concert venues on my doorstep so a music themed tour of the city is right up my street.
Glasgow Music City Tours offer a choice of two walking routes and I decided to join their 'Glasgow's Music Mile' tour which takes in a diverse selection of city centre venues past and present including the infamous Apollo, the civilised Royal Concert Hall and sticky floors of Nice N Sleazy. The tour ends at the legendary King Tut's Wah Wah Hut with an exciting opportunity to take to the stage for a selfie, an absolute highlight of the tour for me.
With established music journalists as your guides you are also guaranteed to get some backstage gossip!
These are my top recommendations for unique Glasgow tours, feel free to share suggestions of any other tours in the city that I should be checking out or let me know if you have been on any of the tours mentioned in the comments box below.
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