Edinburgh may be the most popular urban destination in Scotland for tourists, but Glasgow is actually the country’s largest city. Don’t overlook it as part of your Scotland itinerary — there are so many things to do in Glasgow for families. You’ll find kid-friendly museums, free attractions like amazing parks, fascinating walking tours full of history and fun, and more.
Every great urban getaway includes outdoor playtime, and Britain’s oldest park, Glasgow Green, beckons families with its incredible playground and wide open green spaces, ideal for roaming or kicking a ball around. Dating back to the 15th century, it is a perfect place to take toddlers and school-age children alike. Be sure to duck into the People’s Palace at the far end of the park, a free attraction with rotating exhibits about life in Glasgow throughout history.
Museum visits pair perfectly with outdoor playtime, which is why the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is such a favorite with families due to its location in the heart of Kelvingrove Park. Try to time your visit over a weekend or during school holidays when family activities are offered in the museum. The art collection itself is full of Dutch and French classics as well as masterpieces by Glasgow natives. If you’re visiting in July and looking for things to do, families love the Kelvingrove Bandstand Family Festival, which offers three weeks of live music and children’s shows.
Connected to Kelvingrove Park via the River Kelvin, Glasgow’s famed Botanic Gardens offer a variety of activities and experiences. This is also one of Glasgow’s most popular free attractions. Walk along one of the dedicated children’s trails, spotting unique wildlife and plants along the way, and don’t miss the large koi pond. Pop into the glass greenhouses, especially Kibble Palace, which feel balmy and tropical. These winter gardens are a great respite from Glasgow’s often dreary weather. Children love the carnivorous plants collection, including the Venus flytraps.
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The Glasgow Science Centre is a fun-filled landmark for children of all ages. Highlights here include the three floors of interactive exhibits (called the Science Mall), the tower with beautiful views of the city, the planetarium and IMAX theatres. For budding scientists, the museum has exceptional hands-on workshops that are included in the entrance fees, so be sure to check the daily schedule. And for families with special needs, there are autism-friendly hours.
Afternoon tea is a must-do experience when visiting the UK, and Glasgow offers numerous tea rooms that work well for families. One favorite is the Willow Tea Rooms, which serves afternoon tea all day long and has a dedicated children’s menu. Their Buchanan Street location is just a few blocks from George Square, making it an easy spot to enjoy tea as a sightseeing break when exploring the center of the city. Nothing warms you up on a rainy day like a family friendly spot of tea!
While Glasgow has long had a reputation as gritty and industrial, particularly in relation to Edinburgh’s regal and historical vibe, a thriving art scene has fully emerged in recent years. Even better, it’s quite accessible to kids. Teens enjoy capturing perfect Instagram shots on the City Centre Mural Trail, and children of all ages are typically welcome at the city’s pubs, where live music is a fixture.
For families who have rented a car and are craving fresh air, it’s worth the short drive out to Glasgow’s largest park, Pollok Country Park, for a day full of fun. Here, children can experience a taste of Scotland’s rural life, with horse stables, Highland cattle, walled gardens and woodland walks. There are even orienteering courses for older children who love the outdoors and want a more physically challenging experience. Adventure play like this is fun for the whole family.
Located in the hub of Glasgow’s urban-regeneration harbour district, the Riverside Museum is housed in a modern building that delights families from the moment they see its jagged, wavy roofline. The focus of this museum is Glasgow’s various modes of transportation used throughout history, and most exhibits are very hands-on and child-friendly. Just look for the spires of the tall ship and you’ll know you’ve arrived.
To get a better sense of Glasgow’s history and culture, invest in a tour guide to show you around the downtown area. Ciao Bambino family travel advisors can arrange a kid-friendly guide as part of our full travel planning service, whether you want to focus on history, art, food or another aspect. Or consider spooking the family with a ghost tour one evening or a walk through the notorious Glasgow Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery. For little legs, hopping aboard one of the tourist sightseeing buses is a great option, as it will drop you off at the entrance to many of the sites listed in this post and the recorded narration will orient you along the way.
For families with only one day to enjoy Glasgow before setting off to explore elsewhere in Scotland, we suggest starting with a morning walking tour of the city to get your bearings, followed by an early afternoon tea or pub lunch to fuel everyone for an afternoon enjoying whatever museum or park most piques your interest.
With more time to explore Glasgow’s attractions, organize your sightseeing by location. For example, the Riverside Museum, the Science Centre, Kelvingrove Park and Art Museum, and Glasgow Botanic Gardens are grouped on the west side of the city, while Glasgow Green, the main train station, and the immediate downtown area are clustered near each other. If you plan accordingly, you can hit quite a few of the attractions detailed in this post with just two or three days in town.
If you prefer to hunker down and use Glasgow as a home base for enjoying other areas of southern Scotland, you’re in luck. There are quite a few scenic areas within a 90-minute drive or train ride of the city, including Loch Lomond, Oban, Stirling and Falkirk. Edinburgh itself is only a 45-minute train ride away, so it’s quite easy to experience both cities in one trip. Families could easily spend a week in Glasgow and sprinkle in excursions to some of these other areas to round out a full Scottish experience that’s easy on logistics and full of fun.
While Scotland’s famed countryside, quaint seaside villages, legendary golf courses and the charms of Edinburgh capture a lot of attention, Glasgow is well worth incorporating into your kid-friendly Scotland family vacation itinerary year-round for its endless attractions and long list of things to do.
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Its worth mentioning that Glasgow’s night scene is fantastic and so if there is the opportunity to get a babysitter and for parents to break away for a couple of stolen hours then do it!