Five Fun Things to Do in Glasgow at Christmas
I’m perspiring, the fear of misplacing one of my personal belongings is real, and… I’m totally excited to be in Glasgow at Christmas time. Once the inevitable flap to locate my train ticket is over, I’m through the electronic barriers at Queen Street Station, composure restored and loving life. I’m a sucker for the buzz of Glasgow, and the fact that it consumes me from the second I arrive.
Keen-bean day drinkers cluster in a cloud of smoke outside Dow’s Bar at the station’s exit, while the Buchanan Street buskers perform to a hive of hurried humans on their mission to shop. The dining options are abundant, the music culture is enviable, and the people are some of the friendliest you’ll encounter. Glasgow is the real deal; it’s edgy, humble and guarantees a good time.
Such a city is the perfect host at Christmas, and Glasgow has no shortage of fun and festive festivities. The Glasgow Loves Christmas website showcases the city’s seasonal attractions, from the annual Santa Dash to the gift laden shops of the ‘Style Mile’. There’s even a handy Festive Map to help you plan your outing.
Inspired by a few festive days I’ve spent through the west, here’s a wee pick ‘n’ mix of things to do at Glasgow’s Christmas, with some non-Christmassy options thrown in for any bah-humbug buddies who want to tag along.
1. Visit the Christmas Markets
Be like a moth, and follow the lights. You won’t have to flutter far to immerse yourself in some quintessential Christmas shenanigans. For your convenience, one of said markets is directly outside Queen Street Station in George Square. It is here you’ll be seduced by the sizzle of street food, the cuteness of the Christmas crafts, and the warm winter-spiced beverages. Oh, and there’s a big wheel too!
For Glasgow’s Christmas Markets Round Two, walk down the festively lit main thoroughfare of Buchanan Street, admiring the particularly beautiful Princes Square façade. Soon you’ll reach the markets at St Enoch Square which feel somewhat cosier – or maybe just more crowded – than the previous. Then, go and find the food vendor offering ‘Yorkshire pudding wraps’ filled with haggis or Christmas dinner and trimmings. You won’t regret it!
2. Go to the Panto
I would happily elect myself as President of the ‘Panto Attendance Enforcement Group’, if such a thing existed. The hilarious theatrics never fail to deliver festive cheer and laughter, and can be enjoyed by all ages. After a near twenty-year gap in my panto frequentation, my appreciation of the experience remains, and I find myself shouting “HE’S BEHIND YOU” as good as every other kid/big kid in there.
Glasgow has no shortage of banter, or Christmas-time pantomimes which showcase it at its finest. From big shows featuring famous faces to smaller local productions, there are numerous fairy tales and locations to choose from.
Alice in Weegieland anyone?
3. Treat yourself to Festive Afternoon Tea at the Malmaison
I’m going to tell you how I feel about afternoon tea. It’s a treat and it’s a novelty, but it’s got really popular and samey, don’t you think? I love a sandwich, scone and cake as much as the next glutton, but the carbon-copy afternoon tea menus have left me yawning. Nowadays I’m keen for a theme, or something non-traditional. Something like… festive afternoon tea.
There is only this one pocket of the year where winter spices and Christmassy treats are available, so I say get stuck in. The Malmaison in Glasgow have done exactly that by switching their standard offering for much-appreciated festive delights like:
• Pigs in blankets on a brioche roll
• Turkey and cranberry wrap
• Winter spiced scones
• Sherry trifle
• Yule log
My nibbles were washed down with a glass of prosecco (included in the price of £25pp), followed by a standard breakfast tea – I have the cheek to talk about boring! The Chez Mal Brasserie within the hotel is a fabulously festive setting, and the experience was every bit as indulgent as it should be. Tis’ the season to give up on healthy eating…
4. Stay Indoors at the Kelvingrove Museum
The Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery is hands-down one of my favourite museums in the country, and holds a special place in the hearts of many Glaswegians who have been visiting since childhood. My love affair with the place begins outside with the stunning red sandstone building in Spanish Baroque style, which was illuminated by striking red lights on my last after-dark visit.
Step inside to discover a vast collection of artwork, including an extensive display of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s instantly recognisable design pieces. You’ll also find a beautiful feature organ, a famous stuffed elephant, and the ever-photographed ‘Expressions’ exhibit. There’s enough to keep you entertained for hours, and it’s FREE. I’m going to time my next visit around one of the daily organ recitals in the Centre Hall.
5. Go Outdoors with Photo Walk Scotland
If we constantly confined ourselves to the warmth of the indoors throughout the winter months, us Scots would all be even more pale and vitamin-D deprived than usual. Being a hermit isn’t cool, and cabin fever is certainly not on my Christmas list. Sometimes you’ve just got to get the layers on and get outside. Personally, I enjoy the frosty freshness of winter, and the sight of my breath on the air.
A great reason to remain outside in Glasgow at Christmas is to join a photography tour with Photo Walk Scotland. Combine local facts and trivia with some top-notch photography tuition, and you’re in a for a pure dead brilliant few hours. Tommy from Photo Walk Scotland is a passionate Glaswegian, a fantastic photographer, and an all-round great guy; all of which have earned him a well-deserved five-star rating from Visit Scotland.