This City In Scotland Is A Must-Visit European Destination For Art Lovers

When you think of places known for art, cities like New York, Paris, and Rome come immediately to mind. You might also think of London's British Museum or Los Angeles with its Getty art collections. One that might not come up in your list of art destinations is Glasgow, Scotland, but it absolutely should. If you're looking for a city in Scotland to fulfill your artistic craving, Glasgow is the place to visit. 

In fact, in 2019, Glasgow was crowned "the UK's top cultural and creative city," beating London and Manchester, per a report by the European Commission (via Glasgow Life). Dr. Bridget McConnell, chairman of Glasgow Life, told the publication, "Glasgow is a city bursting with energy, passion and creativity and filled with artists, designers, creators and innovators ... We're proud to have a huge and diverse cultural offer that's open to everyone, whether that's enjoying a community pantomime in venues across the city or being inspired in our world-class museums."

And it's not just museums where you're going to find some incredible works. Glasgow has stunning architectural works, astonishing street art, and the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art if contemporary works are your thing. Let's take a dive into the vibrant art scene in Glasgow, from its modern Billy Connolly mural to the classical works of Rubens, Whistler, and Rembrandt to the 1844 Duke of Wellington statue that almost always has a funny modern accessory. 

The art galleries and museums of Glasgow

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which opened in 1901, looks like a palace out of a fantasy novel. Inside, you'll find 22 galleries featuring the gorgeous 1866 Pre-Raphaelite painting "Regina Cordium" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the very trippy "Christ of St. John of the Cross"  by Salvador Dalí, which may leave you feeling a little dizzy. Even better? The museum is free and doesn't require reservations. 

The Hunterian Art Gallery has some important historical works from artists like Rubens, Whistler, and Rembrandt. It's got the titular museum and gallery, the Zoology Museum, and the Anatomy Museum, all at the University of Glasgow. The name Hunterian comes from Scottish physician and anatomist William Hunter, who left his collections to the university in 1783. The Hunterian also features the Mackintosh House, which showcases the work of famed architects Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh and is a reconstruction of their Glasgow home.

The Gallery of Modern Art is another big one, and good news: It's also free! While the museum features works by Andy Warhol, Sebastião Salgado, Ken Currie, and John Bellany, it's known for something else as well. The front of the building features the 1844 Carlo Marochetti statue of the Duke of Wellington riding a horse. That statue is usually sporting a traffic cone hat. Obviously, that's not original, and it was often removed by Glasgow City Council — but it always found its way back, where it seems to be a famous Scottish fixture today.

Festivals and street art

There is art everywhere in Glasgow, including a mural of famous Scottish comedian-slash-actor Billy Connolly, which has graced a wall on Osborne Street since 2017. If murals and street art are something that interests you, you can join the Glasgow Street Art Daily Walking Tour (there are a ton of great walking tours in Glasgow, including the Ghosts of Glasgow escape game).

The Glasgow Street Art Daily Walk Tour takes you through the city to up to 13 murals and "hidden artistic gems," according to Tripadvisor. These gems are in places "down alleys, under bridges and on busy streets that bring Glasgow alive!" It also gives you a chance to see the Glasgow School of Art. 

If you're visiting in April, don't miss the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art. It's held every other year in locations around the city and celebrates contemporary art, upcoming local artists, and all different styles. You'll see performance art, photography, and installations, as well as collaborations with some of the museums in the city.