This post is part of a paid partnership with People Make Glasgow to explore Glasgow’s music scene, all opinions are mine, forever hold my peace.
Glasgow’s Music Scene
After spending the last weekend of my 20’s exploring Glasgow’s music scene, I’ve banged together an absolutely cracking guide for a city break in Glasgow centred around Glasgow’s rich music scene. The city became a UNESCO City of Music in 2008 and has won various accolades over the years for its contribution to art, music, and culture. Glasgow has always been a love of mine and one of my favourite cities in the world due to its vibrant personality, sense of humour, and civic pride. I’ve visited numerous times over the years, either for sport, music, or street art, but never on this level. I’m sharing our itinerary with you, so you too can explore Glasgow’s music scene.
How to get to Glasgow
Glasgow is easy to get to, it’s in Scotland’s central belt so you can get the train or bus from near enough anywhere in the country. We took the ScotRail train down to Glasgow from Aberdeen. The 6.56am train too, I know you’re proud of me. A wee tip for travelling to Glasgow, it definitely pays to be organised. Book the train or Megabus in advance to save money. Although, this guide is also useful for last-minute trips to Glasgow as many of the activities can be booked with less than a day’s notice. It does help restaurants to know you’re coming, so if you can book, definitely do.
The Museum of Piping at The National Piping Centre
Where else would I send someone interested in Scottish Traditional Music? Visit The National Piping Centre to find both pipers and the history of the bagpipes. Responsible for many an iconic Scottish tune and rooted in Scottish pride, the bagpipes are as much a national treasure as the thistle. The National Piping Centre is first and foremost a museum, making it a great place to explore Scottish history, but it is also a gathering place for pipers around the world. We visited Glasgow during Piping Live, a yearly piping festival held in the city. We never got along to our piping lesson as the piper we were meant to be seeing had the wind taken out of his pipes (sorry) so seeing as we were a piper down, we did the only thing that made sense, cocktails. Could be worse.
This place has long been on my radar and with it being so close to our next stop, it just made sense. Bucks Bar in Glasgow definitely has a cult following, which I love. It’s very rock n roll and music themed, but cool, vibrant and welcoming. You’re going to want to head to Bucks Bar for a cocktail or two before you stop for lunch. Breaks the journey and all that. I had a mango and passionfruit cocktail in a huge balloon glass. I don’t think there’s anything better on a hot day in the city than an icy cold fruity cocktail. Prove me wrong. Bucks Bar also does food if you find yourself too comfortable to move.
The Butterfly and the Pig Restaurant
We followed up our pre-lunch cocktails at the charming Butterfly and the Pig. Think shabby chic, vintage wallpaper, mismatched furniture, cosy and cool vibes with a wee bit of attitude. Their menu had better banter than you’ll ever find around here. Although I do keep trying. The food was fantastic and the prices reasonable. I ordered gammon steak with fried egg and chips, getting my protein in and all that. My better half ordered the sirloin steak which could have been confused with a doorstop, it was huge! The sirloin steak course was only £21 which really, is pretty good going, considering the size of it. This is a cosy, casual but cool restaurant and bar not far from Buchanan Street and exactly what you need to top up before walking it off.
Glasgow Music City Walking Tours
We then walked off lunch on a music walking tour with Phil from Glasgow Music City Tours. What Phil didn’t know about the history of Glasgow’s music scene, wasn’t worth knowing. He provided lots of info in an accessible and humourous manner.
Phil is also a musician himself and has been in bands for many years. He grew up in Glasgow and his passion for the city and its culture shone through from the get-go. He walked us to The Art School which was tragically destroyed in a fire in 2014, we also stopped at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where Sam Heughan and David Tennant studied, and then on to a couple of Glasgow’s famous venues. A highlight for me was visiting the infamous Nice N Sleazy, a launch pad for many great bands and an iconic venue on Glasgow’s music scene. We went down to the basement stage and enjoyed a wee cocktail and more of Phil’s charming chat. We then finished up our tour at the world-famous King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. King Tut’s was where Oasis were signed in a chance performance as the band famously gatecrashed a gig and were last-minute added to the billing.
voco Grand Central Hotel
Head to the hotel for a wee bit of chill before pounding Glasgow’s streets in search of class scran and brilliant traditional bars. We checked in to voco Grand Central Hotel. This is one of my favourite hotels in Glasgow, it’s opulent, classic and modern, and luxurious. voco is also about as central as you could get. Many iconic musicians and stars have stayed at this hotel over the years, as featured in voco’s wall of fame. We followed in the footsteps of Frank Sinatra, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Frank Sinatra played 5 nights at Glasgow’s Empire, which Phil takes you to on his music walking tour. Sinatra stayed at the Central Hotel (now voco Grand Central) where he also held a press conference. I wonder if he had a quick bubble bath before heading out on stage, I definitely did.
We stayed in a King Premium Room and enjoyed a lovely room and peace and quiet with views over Central Station. Perfect for a moment of peace.
Head to Five March for dinner. Five March, close to Kelvingrove Park, is sophisticated from the outside and features a sun terrace, perfect for those Summer nights. But inside, the restaurant is a lively hub with a lovely atmosphere. The dining concept at Five March is unique too, encouraging a “sharing is caring” approach not totally unlike tapas but on a larger scale. We ordered 5 plates between us, both small and large, and shared Duck Breast, Monkfish, Mussels, Freedom Bakery Sourdough Bread and Spicy Olives. The food was fantastic but the concept made it one to remember. This fine dining restaurant knocks tradition on the head with a modern and interesting experience. More sharing dining for me, please!
The Ben Nevis Bar
Walk through the charming streets of the West End to The Ben Nevis Bar, a traditional Scottish pub with a Highland Bothy feel. With an impressive whisky offering, live music and a great location, not far from some of the other iconic Scottish bars, The Ben Nevis Bar is a must when exploring Glasgow’s Music Scene.
The Park Bar
The famous Park Bar has been on the go since 1895 with a reputation which precedes itself. I am a huge fan of Scottish folk music and tales of times gone by and “The famous bar they call The Park” (as sung by Gaberlunzie) has long been on my hit list. It did not let me down. This is a great crowd of Scottish mainland and island folk, letting loose to traditional Scottish Music. When we visited, the fantastic Argyll band Rhuvaal were playing. The Park Bar has attracted stars of the Scottish music scene for decades. Their whisky and gin offering is a class one and they also offer hearty pub grub. Definitely head here when exploring Glasgow’s music scene, it’s a must-visit.
The Islay Inn
Is there any other way to follow up The Park Bar, than with a stop at The Islay Inn?! We’re not long back from spending just under a fortnight on the Isle of Islay, and this wee Scottish bar is definitely a love letter to the island. Islay is one of the friendliest places we’ve ever visited and The Islay Inn is no exception. The Islay is a stone’s throw from The Park Bar and The Ben Nevis Bar, making it a great addition to a good old-fashioned Scottish bar crawl. There is also live music every weekend, a cracking whisky offering and traditional pub food.
Late Night Bars and Clubs
Glasgow has one of the most famous nightlife scenes in the world. We went to one of the cheesy clubs, Club Tropicana (across the road from the voco Grand Central Hotel), for ’80s and ’90s music but really, your options are endless. We usually go to Cathouse; a rock and metal club in Glasgow City Centre. There is something to everyone’s taste in Glasgow. From dance music at Sub Club, the world’s longest-running underground dance club, Indie at Nice N Sleazy, a mix of pop, dance and cheesy vibes at Scotland’s biggest nightclub, The Garage, Slouch, SWG3, Howlin’ Wolf, The Corinthian, Le Cheetah amongst many more Glasgow clubs and late night bars.
Music City Sightseeing Bus Tour
Woke up the next morning considerably fresh due to the 8 glasses of water I had before going out (if I could only tell my younger self this) and headed out on the BEST bus tour ever. We’ve been on the general City Sightseeing Bus Tour in Glasgow, but the Glasgow music tour is elite. We had a cracking day for it and sat on the open deck with the breeze blowing through our hair, listening to Billy Connolly and lots of class folk tunes and stories whilst we toured Glasgow. I’m also now obsessed with Cod Liver Oil and The Orange Juice, a funny folk song from the late Hamish Imlach. Pure class. I can’t recommend this enough, it was absolutely class, especially if you’re a music lover like me. The bus is also the best way to get around Glasgow.
Stop at The Riverside Museum
The award-winning Riverside Museum, also known as The Transport Museum, is a must-visit attraction in Glasgow. The City Sightseeing Bus regularly stops here so it is easy to get to and it’s also free to visit. The museum is located on the River Clyde, the famous river with a mass of history which runs through Glasgow City. The bus also stops at The Clydeside Distillery which is well worth visiting. Make sure to keep an eye out for the Finnieston Crane on your way down to The Riverside Museum.The Riverside is home to a vast transport collection, if old cars are your thing, you’ll love it here. I love the old-timey street scenes (perfect for a photo opportunity). We went to visit the new music display; Spinning Around: Glasgow’s Remarkable Record Shops which pays tribute to Glasgow’s internationally renowned music, cultural and creative scenes. AC/DC tickets for 80p, save my soul.
The iconic Riverside Museum is also home to the annual Riverside Festival which takes place in Summer and is the perfect festival for dance music fans.
Stop at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Ranked in Lonely Planet’s top 500 experiences in the world in 2020, the architecturally significant Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum houses one of Europe’s finest civic art collections. Kelvingrove opened in 1901 and features 22 galleries showcasing everything from local art to the dinosaurs and Ancient Egypt. There are temporary exhibits throughout the year, Kelvingrove also features John Patrick Byrne – A Big Adventure. This is the first compilation of Scottish writer and artist John Byrne’s career, for more than 20 years. John Byrne, a cultural icon continued to work, paint and create plays well into his 80’s.
Make sure to visit the Charles Rennie MacKintosh and Glasgow Style exhibit and the daily organ recital.
Have you ever had food that good that you’ve cried? Awww man, what a place! Stravaigin prides itself on quality Scottish food, great cocktails and mocktails featuring one-third more drink than you’ll get anywhere else, alongside sustainable artisan wines and old-fashioned cooking lagers. I had one of the best seafood dishes I’ve ever had at Stravaigin and cried a little bit. Stravaigin has now cemented itself as one of my favourite restaurants in Scotland. It’s absolutely gorgeous inside, featuring a rustic, glamorous feel with Scottish touches throughout. The food here was an absolute 10/10 with the squid dish was out of this world, completely perfect in every single way. Hop off the City Sightseeing Bus just across the road and make your way to Stravaigin for fantastic food and cocktails. You won’t regret it.
Hidden off the busy shopping street Byers Road in Glasgow’s West End is Ruthven Lane, a charming hidden lane with lots to offer. We found ourselves exploring the antiques market, Ruthven Mews, looking at the old Glasgow Empire Exhibition antiques and collectables from 1938. There’s a lovely wee vintage shop on Ruthven Lane called Starry Starry Night which is also worth visiting if you like all things vintage and second-hand. Ruthven Lane is also home to the famous Bothy Scottish Restaurant and Hanoi Bike Shop, a Vietnamese dining delight. There are a couple of other hidden shopping lanes in the West of Glasgow, namely Hidden Lane in Finnieston and Cresswell Lane also just off Byers Road. All are accessible from the Music City Sightseeing Bus tour. Check them out.
Glasgow’s Music Scene
We had a fantastic 48 hours in Glasgow exploring some of the city’s vast cultural offering. We visited some lovely Scottish bars and restaurants, went out on not one but two music tours, each offering something different, and we even went antique shopping. If you are looking to visit Glasgow for a city break or like us, are looking to delve deeper into Glasgow’s music scene, check out People Make Glasgow, the city’s visitor portal.