Swap Edinburgh for Glasgow and discover hidden gems

Last updated: Friday, 4 August 2023

We challenged Edinburgian and lifestyle blogger Gillian to take part in The Great City Swap. Armed with an itinerary packed with some of Glasgow's hidden gems and a train ticket, we sent Gillian on her way...

Despite living less than an hour away from Glasgow, I rarely make the trip through from Edinburgh. When you already live in a busy, bustling city, it’s easy to forget what other nearby cities have to offer. When ScotRail told me about the Great City Swap, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to discover more of Glasgow, so I hopped on the train (with my boyfriend in tow) to get exploring.

With trains running between Edinburgh and Glasgow several times an hour, every day of the week, it couldn’t be easier to plan a little city excursion. Plus, the return ticket is only £14.90 so it’s a very affordable day out too. We headed to Waverley Station last Sunday to catch the train through to Glasgow for the afternoon.

Our first stop of the day was Glasgow Cathedral. After arriving at Queen Street Station, we took a 10 minute stroll along Cathedral Street to reach the impressive building. Dating back to the 12th century, Glasgow Cathedral has been an important part of the city for hundreds of years. It’s still used as a place of worship, but it’s also open to visitors who want to find out more about the history of Glasgow.

It was raining (typical Scotland, eh?) when we visited, so we headed inside to take shelter and explore the Cathedral. There’s lots to look out for, including beautiful stained glass windows, memorials and historical artefacts. It certainly gives Edinburgh’s St Giles Cathedral a run for its money! We sat and enjoyed the atmosphere (and listened to the organ being played) for a little while before heading off to our next destination.

Edinburgh doesn’t really have much street art, but Glasgow is full of stunning murals. Keep your eyes peeled as you’re walking around the city, and you’re sure to spot a few gems. As we left Glasgow Cathedral and headed down the High Street, we stopped to take a few snaps of this beautiful piece of street art on the end of a row of tenements.

Another thing Glasgow is well known for is its fashion. Whether you’re after the latest high street trends or something a bit more vintage, Glasgow is a great place for a shopping trip. Our next stop of the day was The City Retro 41 on King Street. A haven for vintage lovers, this wee shop is packed full of stunning retro clothes from every era.

I was hoping I might find a vintage dress to wear to my friend’s upcoming wedding, but sadly the ones I liked weren’t in my size – the perils of vintage shopping! There were plenty of other things I was tempted to buy though, from cosy winter jackets to retro scarves and bags. The City Retro 41 also has a great selection of men’s vintage clothing too.

A short walk along the Gallowgate, we found our third stop of the day, the Barras Market. This is the place to come if you want a true taste of old school Glasgow. A proper Glasgow institution, the Barras Market has been around since the 1920s – and in some ways it has barely changed since then. Open every weekend, you’ll find a variety of indoor and outdoor stalls selling everything from fruit and veg to kilts.

Keep an eye out for little shops and cafes near the Barras too. We spotted a lovely little plant shop, called Tuck Studio, just by the entrance of the Barras Market. I can never resist leaving places like this without a new cactus to add to my collection.

After a busy day wandering around Glasgow and discovering the city’s history, culture and shopping, we had worked up quite the appetite. We headed back towards the centre of town to find somewhere for a bite to eat before the train home.

Whereas Edinburgh is more known for its Michelin star dining and traditional Scottish food, Glasgow excels at tasty street food-style restaurants. Whether you fancy going to a burger joint, a pizza parlour or an authentic Asian restaurant, Glasgow has plenty of dining options. We settled for Mexican, and headed to Topolabama on St Vincent Street for dinner.

The food at Topolabamba is tapas-style, so you can order as many small plates as you want, depending on how hungry you are. We were ravenous after a busy afternoon, so got a huge selection of tacos, quesadillas, taquitos, chicken wings, jalapeno poppers, salsa, guacamole and tortilla chips to share… phew! Don’t forget to order a couple of margaritas too – the frozen mango ones are my favourite.

Luckily, Queen Street station is just round the corner from Topolabama so we didn’t have too far to walk after eating all that food! Having purchased our off peak day return tickets in the morning, we didn’t even have to worry about leaving enough time to buy our tickets at the station. We just hopped straight on the train and were back in Edinburgh within the hour.

Glasgow and Edinburgh have such different things to offer, so it’s definitely worth making use of the rail link to explore the opposite city. Using the train makes it easy to have a day out in Glasgow, and I’ll definitely be heading back soon to visit more of the city’s great historical spots, vintage shops and street food restaurants.

Check out Gillian's blog Elevator Musik and follow her on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter .

Ready to take part in The Great City Swap?