Glasgow Architecture


Glasgow has always had a gravitational pull towards the creatives of the world which can be traced back to as far as the 18th century when painters such as Allan Ramsay and Gavin Hamilton first drew acclaim. Since then, Glasgow has gone on to produce creatives of all types from writers and musicians to painters and street artists. But amongst these creative industries, a simple stroll along the River Clyde or a wander in Kelvingrove Park will make one particular creative industry in Glasgow very apparent — architecture.

The city is decorated in all forms of architecture from the medieval and the Victorian to the contemporary and the outright futuristic. Wherever you are in the city, it’s likely you aren’t far away from a unique building bound to capture your eyes' attention.

  1. Discover Glasgow's Medieval architectural history
    1. Visit Glasgow Cathedral
    2. Walk around Necropolis
    3. Visit Provand's Lordship
  2. Learn about Glasgow's Victorian influence
    1. Explore Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
    2. Take in the tenement houses
    3. Visit City Chambers
  3. Head back to the future of architecture at the River Clyde
    1. Marvel at Riverside Museum
    2. Discover SEC
    3. Visit Glasgow Science Centre
  4. Learn more about Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Discover Glasgow’s medieval architectural history

Little remains of Glasgow’s medieval architecture, however, the structures that are still around are something to behold.

Visit the incredible Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral from a distance

There is no greater example of Glasgow’s medieval architecture than the stark and imposing Glasgow Cathedral. Located next to Strathclyde University, it is the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow, dating back to 1197. It was this spot that the city was first founded on by the patron saint of Glasgow, Saint Mungo. The gothic structure and stained-glass windows are immediately eye-capturing from the outside while the interior boasts impressive stonework. From its inception to the present day, the cathedral has always had an active congregation.

Admission:Free
Address:Castle St, Glasgow G4 0QZ
Hours: 10am-12pm, 1-4pm Mon to Fri, Sat
Closed on Sunday
Website:Glasgow Cathedral

Walk around the unique Necropolis

Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland

Rest assured the gothic medieval architecture of this area doesn’t end with the cathedral but instead spreads its way to a rather enigmatic cemetery. The Necropolis is undoubtedly one of Glasgow’s most compelling must-see places. Situated next to Glasgow Cathedral, the gothic cemetery contains over 3,500 monuments and emits a mystical atmosphere. As you meander around the captivating architecture and wonderful sculptures, take note of the spectacular view of Glasgow from the top of the hill to truly get a sense of Necropolis’s place in time.

Hours: 7am-4:30pm 7 days a week

Visit the medieval house of Provand’s Lordship

Exterior of Provand's Lordship

Located on Castle Street in Merchant city lies an unassuming yet significant medieval building — Provand’s Lordship. A wander around here will take you back centuries. Nicknamed the ‘auld hoose’, it was constructed in 1471 by a Bishop of Glasgow named Andrew Muirhead as part of St. Nicholas’s hospital. The medieval building has since been transformed into a historic house museum decorated with 17th-century historic furniture and royal portraits.

Admission:Free
Address:3 Castle St, Glasgow G4 0RH
Hours: 10am-5pm Tue to Thu, Sat
11am-5pm Fri and Sun
Closed on Monday
Website:Provand's Lordship

Learn about Glasgow’s Victorian influence

Besides the very few well preserved medieval structures, what you see of Glasgow today mostly dates back to the 19th century. As a result, and due to being a Second City of the Empire, Glasgow is steeped in a wealth of spectacular Victorian architecture. As you explore the city, one particular feature will come up time and time again — red or blond sandstone. It’s everywhere in the city and was an architectural staple of the Victorian era.

Explore the astounding Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Exterior of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Arguably the pick of the bunch, the majestic Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a remarkable piece of Victorian architecture. Located amongst the serene greenery of Kelvingrove Park, it is one of the most visited museum in the UK outside of London and the most popular free tourist attraction in Scotland. Suffice to say, that reputation isn’t solely from what’s on the inside. The majestic red sandstone building, built in the Spanish baroque style, sits impressively on the edge of the park and is immediately noticeable. Inside the museum is an eclectic collection of more than 8,000 pieces containing a broad range of exhibits from Salvador Dali’s masterpiece ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’ to ancient Scottish and Egyptian artefacts.

Admission:Free
Address:Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8AG
Hours: 10am-5pm Mon to Thu, Sat
11am-5pm Fri and Sun
Website:Kelvingrove Museum

Take in the tenement houses

Rooftops of buildings in Glasgow, Scotland

Since the Victorian era, one feature which has defined Glasgow’s architectural appearance is the red sandstone tenements. Found all over the city in its various neighbourhoods, the tenements are best characterised by their high ceilings and bay windows.

If you’re not keen on the idea of asking a stranger to see the interiors of their home then head to the Tenement House museum on Buccleuch Street. Inside is a snapshot of early 20th-century life in Glasgow with four rooms to explore.

Admission:£8.50 per adult, £6 per child
(family tickets available)
Address:145 Buccleuch St, Glasgow G3 6QN
Hours: 10am-5pm 7 days a week
Website:The Tenement House

Visit the remarkable City Chambers

City Chambers, Glasgow, Scotland

Many things stand out in George Square; the Sir Walter Scott statue, the Glasgow cenotaph, the James Watt statue, and many other monuments. However, nothing stands out quite as much as the remarkable City Chambers building. The City Chambers in George Square, where various forms of governing bodies have operated for over a century, was opened by the one and only Queen Victoria herself in 1888. One of the most iconic buildings in the city, the magnificent Victorian structure was designed by the architect William Young and continues to be the focal point of George Square today.

Be sure to go on a free guided tour of the building to learn more about this fascinating Victorian structure. The tours are conducted twice per day at 10.30 am and 2.30 pm Monday - Friday on a first come first serve basis.

Admission:Free
Address:George Square, Glasgow, G2 1DU
Hours: 8:30am-5pm Mon-Fri
Closed on Sat and Sun
Website:Glasgow City Chambers

Head back to the future of architecture at the River Clyde

River Clyde, Glasgow

Although the streets and buildings of Glasgow are filled with architecture from previous historical eras, it is by no means a city stuck in the past. A brief walk along the River Clyde will make that clear. Where there was once the clanging sights and sounds of a booming shipyard in operation there are now stunning works of modern architecture. The unique (often futuristic) buildings make the River Clyde one of the best places to visit in Europe for exemplary contemporary architecture.

Marvel at the unique Riverside Museum

Riverside Museum

Situated on the north side of the river is the award-winning Riverside Museum designed by the late trailblazing architect Zaha Hadid. The 7,500-square-metres of metal and glass stand out immediately as they zigzag along the top of this stark piece of modern architecture. A five-star rated attraction, what’s on the inside is equally as impressive with a collection of vehicles documenting Glasgow’s manufacturing history.

Admission:Free
Address:100 Pointhouse Rd, Partick,
Glasgow G3 8RS
Hours: 10am-5pm Mon to Thu, Sat
11am-5pm Fri, Sun
Website:Riverside Museum

Discover the incredible SEC

Made up of two striking structures, The Scottish Event Campus (SEC) is home to The Armadillo and the SSE Hydro, both designed by architect Norman Foster. Frequently compared to Sydney’s Opera House, The Armadillo is an auditorium that was opened in 1997. The second structure, the SSE Hydro, is a multipurpose arena. Upon first viewing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Aliens had come to Glasgow. The large, circular metallic structure looks much like an enormous flying saucer.

Address:Exhibition Way, Glasgow G3 8YW
Website:SEC

Visit the futuristic Glasgow Science Centre

Glasgow Science Centre

Across the river from the SEC lies one of Scotland's most popular paid-for visitor attraction — the Glasgow Science Centre. Rather appropriately as a science centre, the bright metallic dome and crescent-shaped construction wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi film. There is also the Glasgow Tower, designed by Richard Horden, which is the tallest freely-rotating tower in the world at 127 metres. Once you’ve finished marvelling at the buildings from the outside, you can then enter inside where there are three floors teeming with over 250 interactive exhibits including a Planetarium and a Science Show Theatre.

Admission:£12 per adult, £10 per child,
free for under 3's
Address:50 Pacific Quay, Glasgow G51 1EA
Hours:10am-5pm Thu-Sun
Closed Mon-Wed
Website:Glasgow Science Centre

Learn more about Glasgow’s most famous son, Charles Rennie Mackintosh

One name that sticks out among Glasgow’s architects is the man behind the Glasgow style — Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Known as Glasgow’s most famous son, without him, it’s fair to say Glasgow would look a very different place today. Born in 1868 in Townhead, Glasgow, he is considered to be one of the most creative figures of the 20th century and as a leading figure in the European Art Nouveau movement. All over the city, his legacy can be felt with an array of buildings, designs, and drawings created by him.

To learn more about his impact on Glasgow and the world, book yourself a guided tour with the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.