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The 10 Best Museums In Glasgow

25 February, 2022by Bounce

Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland and well worth a visit. Known for its Victorian and art nouveau architecture, the city attracts history, art, and architecture aficionados from far and wide. This cultural hub boasts grand institutions like the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and National Theatre of Scotland. But it is a haven for museum lovers too.

Glasgow Museums and art galleries are a perfect way to spend a day in the city, and not only for history and art lovers. The best part is that all major museums in the city are free, so you can enjoy these attractions anytime you please. However, small donations are always greatly appreciated.

Before you start your museum hopping, make sure to store your belongings. Most museums prefer no large bags or do not allow you to bring them inside. Instead, drop your things at a safe luggage storage location in Glasgow.

Without further ado, here is a list of some of the best museums in Glasgow, so you are well prepared for your trip to Scotland's most populous city.

Riverside Museum

Near Glasgow Queen Street Station, Riverside Museum is a free museum that started in some controversy only to become the European Museum of the Year in 2013. This transport and travel museum has over 3,000 objects on display including some of the finest vintage automobiles in the world. You will also find bicycles, trams, skateboards, steam locomotives and trams you can hop on, and a Stormtrooper too!

There are 90 large touchscreens for images and videos that allow you to discover more about the exhibits. And interactive displays to explore including walking through the cobbled streets of Glasgow with shops dating from 1895 to the 1980s. Step outside the Riverside Museum and board the Tall Ship, Glenlee, on the River Clyde, where you can go on a mouse hunt (only if you are under 5 years old).

Hours: Monday to Thursday & Saturday 10 am - 5 pm, Friday & Sunday 11 am - 5 pm

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

More people visit this UK museum than any other in the UK outside of London. Divided into two wings, one of which houses one of the best displays of European art including Dutch masters and French impressionists. The other wing features the most spectacular displays of strange and amazing collections of dinosaurs, armor and weapons, a real Spitfire plane, a stuffed elephant named Sir Roger, and much more.

With over 8,000 objects and art, the Kelvingrove Art gallery and Museum has entertained and educated more than a million visitors since it opened in 1901. You know you are in for something special just by looking at the stunning Spanish-Baroque red-sandstone building. If you are bringing the kids with you, they are going to thoroughly enjoy exploring the galleries and attractions.

You will find the museum in the beautiful setting of the Kelvingrove Park of The Merchant City.

Hours: Monday to Thursday & Saturday 10 am - 5 pm, Friday & Sunday 11 am - 5 pm

Scottish Football Museum

If you are a fan of the "Beautiful Game" this is a must-see museum. Even though football (soccer) has been in other European countries longer than Scotland, the Scottish Football Museum is the oldest in Europe. There are more than 2,500 exhibits through 14 galleries, plus the Hall of Fame housed within the walls of this cherished museum.

When you are at the museum why not take a stadium tour? You can sit in the original dressing room and listen to the famed coach Craig Brown giving a pep talk to the Scotland team, or watch Archie Gemmill score his amazing goal against Holland at the World Cup. And don't forget to have a look at the Scottish Cup, the oldest national trophy in the world.

Hours: Open 3 days a week 10 am - 5 pm, check website for days.

National Piping Centre and Museum

It is pretty hard to think of Scotland without thinking of bagpipes. It is true that the unique sound of the bagpipes is not for everyone, but you can't help but be fascinated by it. The museum hosts 300 years of piping heritage with artifacts from the National Museums of Scotland. Without a doubt, this is the greatest display of historical bagpipes in the world, which includes the Iain Dall Mackay Chanter (the oldest piece of bagpipes in the world), and relics that belonged to the poet Robert Burns.

One of Glasgow's hidden gems, you can explore the musical heritage and the history of Scotland's national instrument. In other exhibits you will discover bagpipes from Poland, Hungary, Spain, and Italy, proving it truly is an international instrument.

Hours: Monday to Friday 9 am - 5 pm

Glasgow Police Museum

Another one of Glasgow's hidden gems, this is a museum of Scotland's first police force, which was also the first police force in Britain. It houses wonderful exhibitions of over 2,000 items such as uniforms, headgear, and insignia from other police forces around the world. It provides a historical look at how the Glasgow Police Force influenced the spread of policing throughout the world.

Located in the heart of the Merchant City is where you will find this museum which won the Best Day Out Award in 2019 at the Glasgow Awards.

Hours: Summer Monday to Saturday 10 am - 4:30 pm, Sunday noon - 4:30 pm, Winter Tuesday 10 am - 4:30 pm & Sunday noon - 4:30 pm

Hunterian Art Gallery

Located in the middle of the Glasgow University campus, just a 5-minute walk from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, you will find the Hunterian Art Gallery. Although small, it is worth visiting if you are interested in Glasgow, art, architecture, design, or history. The gallery is one of the oldest in Scotland and features one of the world’s best collections of James McNeill Whistler, the American painter who introduced modern French painting to England. 

You will also find plenty of 19th-century Scottish paintings, and many from the Glasgow Boys, young artists, and pioneers of modernism in Scottish painting. But you will also see works from Rubens and Rembrandt from the 17th-century Baroque period, as well as many French impressionists. Finally, just outside the gallery, you will find an outdoor sculpture courtyard featuring a small display of British modern art. 

Getting to the gallery is easy. Within 10 minutes walk is Hillhead Underground Station, where you can take the train back to the city center.

Hours: Tuesday - Sunday from 10 am - 5 pm

Mackintosh House

Once you have seen all of the Hunterian Art Gallery, stop by the Mackintosh House re-creation. Both of the galleries are open all week long from 10 am to 5 pm, except for Mondays, and they take no longer than an hour to explore. For about a $15 entry fee you will become completely immersed in the story of the famous Scottish architect, designer and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret.

The interior is designed with the architect's own furniture, and all of the decorations and designs are based on photographs and descriptions of the Mackintosh house of the time (1906-1914). Wandering around the gallery you will come across up close drawings, sketches and letters. Guides are knowledgeable and provide detailed commentary, making your visit well worth your time and money.

Hours: Tuesday - Sunday from 10 am - 5 pm

Inveraray Jail

Just outside Glasgow, you will be stepping back in time almost two centuries to discover the real stories of what it was like to be a prisoner in Inveraray Jail and how easy it was to find yourself behind bars. Men, women, and children as young as 7 years old found themselves here for as little as stealing a turnip.

Inveraray Jail is one of the best-preserved jails and courtrooms in the world. You will discover how a trial was held 150 years ago, see torture chambers and branding irons, you can even try thumbscrews. Walk the narrow halls of the old prison, meet the warder and hear the dark stories of the past. If you were thinking today's prisons are tough, you may change your mind after you visit this one.

Hours: Everyday 10 am - 5 pm

Provand's Lordship

In just a 2-minute walk from Glasgow Cathedral and Glasgow Royal Infirmary, you will find Provand's Lordship, one of the four surviving medieval houses in the city. Built in 1471, this old house takes you back to medieval times in Glasgow, a perfect way to spend a day while in the city.

You get to see a fine selection of 17th-century furniture and interesting royal portraits for free. When you've had enough hearing stories about the eerie medieval times in Glasgow, head outside and behind the building. There, you will find St Nicholas Garden, a delightful herb garden, where you can breathe in the fresh air and unwind away from the city noise.

Hours: Tuesday to Thursday & Saturday 10 am to 5 pm; Friday & Sunday 11 am to 5 pm

Glasgow Science Centre

One of Scotland's premier tourist attractions is the Glasgow Science Centre. With interactive exhibitions, shows, workshops, a planetarium, and Imax theatre in three buildings on two acres, they bring you science and technology in entertaining and fun formats.

One of the biggest highlights is the Science Show Theatre where you will experience big flashes, loud pops, and a lot of other really cool things that will blow your mind. If you want a little more cerebral experience, relax and wonder as the universe comes to you in the planetarium.

Hours: Summer: Monday to Sunday 10 am - 5 pm, Winter: Saturday & Sunday 10 am - 5 pm

What are the best free museums in Glasgow?

There are many free museums in Glasgow, in fact, most museums and art galleries not just in Glasgow, but in Scotland and the UK are free.

Start with the award-winning museum in the Glasgow Police Museum. It truly holds some fascinating history and an insightful look into the creation of police forces throughout the world. The museum that offers the best diversity of art, history, nature, science, and just cool stuff is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It has so much to offer everyone, no matter the age or interest.

Which are the best museums in Downtown Glasgow?

Staying in City Centre? There are a lot of museums to choose from, but there are two categories that stand out: art and science. One of the best museums in Glasgow for art is the Gallery of Modern Art. With world-class exhibitions by local and international artists, workshops, and tackling contemporary social issues, it really should be on your must-see list. The Glasgow Science Centre is one of the most fun museums that you'd want to visit during your stay in Glasgow. It challenges the minds of the old and young alike with amazing hands-on experiences.

Are there any cheap museums in Glasgow?

Located on the southern outskirts of Glasgow, East Kilbride National Museum of Rural Life gives you a look at how life used to be in Scotland. It's not just a museum, it's a working farm with cattle, sheep, Clydesdale horses, and more. It also just happens to be the museum with the best homemade baked goods.

Glasgow Museums

The diversity of Glasgow museums is a reflection of the rich heritage and culture that has not only shaped Scotland and Britain but in some cases the world. From the starting of the modern-day police force to poetry and art, you can find it all preserved within the walls (and sometimes outside) of the museums in Glasgow.

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