A student’s guide to living in Glasgow
Glasgow is a vibrant multicultural city with rich history bursting with energy and home to over 20,000 international students.
It’s a diverse, ever evolving, friendly and welcoming city so much so that in 2013, it adopted the phrase ‘People Make Glasgow’ and has stayed true ever since.
As Scotland’s largest city and the gateway to the rest of the country, there’s always something to do. From museums, art galleries, music venues, international food scene, event calendar, impressive architecture to our beautiful gardens – you're spoilt for choice.
So welcome to Glasgow, you’ll fit right in.
What to see, do and eat around Glasgow’s universities
You’ve just started university in Glasgow and are eager to see more of what the city has to offer. Studying aside, there’s so much to see and do in and around Glasgow.
So when you have some downtime and want to escape university for an afternoon or two, you definitely won’t be short of things to do.
For when you need an escape from the books, need a new study joint or a place to meet up with friends.
This specialty coffee shop is tucked away on Otago Street in the Kelvinbridge area of the West End.
Serving some of the best coffee from around the world, as well as Asian fusion food when hunger strikes, this cafe is open from 8am right through to 8pm, making it the ideal spot for Glasgow University students.
A popular destination due to how close it is to Glasgow University, Offshore is one of the most student-friendly cafes around.
With quirky decor, free Wi-Fi and plenty of plug sockets, it’s no wonder you’ll more than likely bump into people you know here.
The first real coffee shop brand to open in Glasgow, Tinderbox now has several branches dotted all over the city.
Their Merchant City shop is just a stone's throw away from Strathclyde University, serving hot drinks and gourmet sandwiches from 7:15am until 10pm every day.
Situated a few streets down from Strathclyde University, Spitfire is a friendly, independent coffee shop serving all-day breakfast, sandwiches and cake to the masses.
With a great playlist playing in the background, free Wi-Fi and plenty of seats, you could easily camp out here until closing time.
Dine out for £5 or less. Here’s some good food that won’t break the bank.
Missed breakfast and are en route to classes? Pop past Sprigg on Ingram Street for a £2 breakfast pot. Want a healthier lunch? A £4 small salad bowl could just be what you’re looking for.
Allowing you to pick your own quality ingredients that change daily means that you’ll never have another boring lunch again.
£5 pizza before 5pm – what more could be said? Okay, how about Neapolitan Pizza right in the heart of Glasgow City Centre, less than a 10-minute walk away from Strathclyde University?
With options for vegans, vegetarians and meat lovers alike, there is something for everyone. Our tip? If you’re a meat lover, get a number 5 or 12.
£1 tacos between 4-6pm Monday to Friday. That’s pretty hard to resist with options such as Carne Asda, Chicken Tinga and Char Roasted Vegetables.
Can’t pick? Try them all! You’ve got nothing to lose.
Fan of a traditional sandwich? Serving some of the best in Glasgow, Piece (local slang for a sandwich), have locations in the city centre as well as in the West End. Grab a sandwich to take away or eat in, you’ll find most come in under £5.
Try their signature Cubano or Pastrami Special.
The University Café
A Glaswegian institution, The Verrecchia family have been feeding customers near Glasgow University since 1918, over 100 years. If you want some good ol’ local comfort food this is the one cafe you need to visit.
Make sure you leave room for their delicious homemade ice cream – it’s what they are famous for.
Good food at bargain prices, the Hillhead Bookclub has daily specials throughout the week such as 2-for-1 Mac & Cheese, Cheese Toastie & Soup for £5 or two curries for £10.
They also host a variety of events on their monthly calendar so if you’re in the West End, it’s the place to be.
Glasgow’s cultural offering
Showcased in movies and TV shows around the world, The Cloisters are an iconic feature of the University. Think Outlander and Harry Potter. They’re even more spectacular lit up at night.
Guided tours of Glasgow University are available, which offer you the chance to discover more than 550 years of history.
You could literally find yourself spending an entire day at this iconic Glasgow landmark. With over 8,000 objects on display, including pre-historic animals, Ancient Egypt, WWII Spitfire Aeroplane and Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross painting, there’s something for everyone.
Once you’ve made your way around the museum, exit towards the park for some more exploration. Although, at 85 acres, it may take some time.
A lover of more contemporary art? Try the Gallery of Modern Art at the Royal Exchange Square where you can see a variety of exhibits split into four sections. The museum is also home to a library if you're looking for somewhere different to study.
You’ll also find the Duke of Wellington’s statue here, complete with the iconic traffic cone on his head. Why? Because it's Glasgow.
Looking for the best views of the city? The Lighthouse is where it is at.
Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, you’re guaranteed 360-degrees views of the city from the panoramic viewing platform which is accessed via a spiral staircase. Nothing else beats it.
Riverside Museum and Tall Ship
Discover Glasgow’s shipbuilding past, walk through old Glasgow streets, sit in an old Subway carriage, climb aboard a ScotRail train and explore the numerous cars on display at this award-winning museum in Partick.
Ever wanted to get up close to a historic sailing ship that circumnavigated the globe four times? Moored directly outside the Riverside Museum, you’ll find The Tall Ship built in 1896 which is now a floating museum and events space.
Glasgow is home to some impressive street artists. These artists have been brightening up areas in the City Centre and West End for years. From a floating taxi and Scottish wildlife to Glasgow’s own Billy Connolly murals and an authentic Banksy creation, you can use a specially curated Mural trail map to help you pinpoint the locations of these masterpieces.
The Glasgow Food Sub-crawl
A student’s rite of passage, a Sub-crawl, is not for the faint-hearted but it’s an excellent way to discover the city and make new friends along the way, especially in your first year.
The sub-crawl involves purchasing an all-day Subway ticket (currently priced at £4.20) and stopping off at every food joint along the way, 15 in total. Usually, a traditional sub-crawl is a mass pub crawl but if that’s a little too messy for your liking, try the alternative food version!
1. St Enoch’s
Starting right in the heart of the city centre, you can’t get much closer to the station than with Lazord Syrian Street Food. Line your stomach with shawarma. Utterly delicious. If you want to take things easy to start with, share between two and save yourself.
2. West Street
There aren’t too many restaurants in this area, but go to The Village Curry House, 10 minutes away. Get the Zaikadar Grill to share. If you feel like something more substantial, the Bombay Chicken Biryani or Lahore Karahi is a wise choice.
3. Shields Road
The Fish Peoples Cafe located right next door to the station, serve high quality local Scottish seafood. Want to go all out? Try the Cumbrae Rock Oysters or Campsie Glen Smoked Salmon from the starters menu.
4. Kinning Park
By this point, you may regret agreeing to do a food Sub-crawl. The perfect solution comes in the form of The Good Coffee Cartel, a roastery and small cafe two minutes’ walk away. Grab a coffee flight – espresso or flat white and filter to set you on your way.
Home to several Middle Eastern restaurants, head to Beirut Star for some authentic Lebanese cuisine. Mezze platter to share with some freshly made flatbread is a personal favourite that won't fill you up too much.
You can’t come to Scotland and not try the local delicacy of a square sliced sausage on a crispy Morton's roll. Good Times Roll is just the spot to try it. Opened by Glasgow influencer, ForeverYoursBetty, and her partner Steven, you can guarantee you'll get the perfect Instagram photo while you're there.
This is the epicenter of Asian cafes and restaurants in the city. Looking for just a small snack? Taiwan Chicken Chop, a few doors down from the station, serves crispy chicken chop freshly made to order in a variety of spices.
If you've got a sweeter tooth, head to Bing Soul for a bubble waffle or Bing Su.
Brave enough to try Haggis? Cross the road and you've reached The Bothy for Isle of Harris Haggis – a Neeps and Tatties in a Whiskey sauce. You've got to try it at least once while you're in Scotland. Trust me.
Paesano Pizza has a cult following in Glasgow. Less than 3 minutes away, you may struggle for a table. If you do, get a few takeaway Napoli style pizzas to share between you and friends and sit in the nearby park. Weather permitting of course.
10. St Georges Cross
Are you a lover of Vegan food? Rawnchy is great for some delectable and very Instagram-friendly cakes or The Hug and Pint for an Asian inspired menu that changes daily with a laid-back vibe.
11. Buchanan Street
By the time you get to your final stop, you probably won’t want to look at any more food but try to squeeze in some tea and a scone from The Willow Tea Rooms or if you are still yearning for more food, a Greek gyros from Yiamas Greek Taverna is a good way to end the evening.
With your belly full and hopefully with a new friend or two, you’ll rest easy knowing you’ve ticked off one of the best days you’ll have in the city.
Glasgow’s independent food markets
The city has a variety of local, diverse and independent markets that sell fresh produce whether you’re looking for organic, free-from, gluten-free, specialty, kosher or halal.
With an emphasis on local produce and healthy natural foods, Roots and Fruits is a Deli, Shop and Café catering to vegans, vegetarians and free-from. Head to the greengrocers for organic fresh fruit and vegetables at great prices, including a newly introduced veg box delivery service.
If you’re looking for something ready-made, the deli serves both cold and hot dishes throughout the day for all dietary requirements.
A relatively new addition opening across the city, OAKA Supercity now has 4 branches to its name. The flagship store is located in the city centre next to Strathclyde University, and brings you a wide range of products from across Asia.
Each branch serves Asian street food, with their own unique menus, such as a dim sim platter, stuffed bao buns, rice dishes and ramen. They even host sushi making classes in their Kelvinhaugh branch.
This is one of the best Middle Eastern supermarkets in the city, bringing you products from all over the Middle East right at home in Glasgow.
With an in-house bakery creating traditional bread, cakes and pastries, and their very own Halal butchers selling a range of different cuts of meat, Babylon is definitely worth the visit for high-quality, value for money produce.
A Family run delicatessen with branches in both the West End and East End of Glasgow selling traditional homemade and imported Polish produce such as meats, sourdough bread, vegetables, home-made cakes and spirits.
You can even pick up newspapers and magazines direct from Poland.
An Afro-Caribbean specialty market selling food from Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa such as biltong, boerewors, goat, snapper and a range of traditional spices, fruit and vegetables.
They also supply hair and skincare products to their clientele in addition to their in-store salon.
Selling artisan Spanish food to Scotland since 2015 from their Byres Road shop and popping up at Farmers Markets across the city, Taste Spain offers Jamon, charcuterie and pancetta from Castilla y León, an array of olive oils and sheep cheeses.
Taste Spain has created a reputation for selling some of the finest Spanish produce at reasonable prices.
The largest Chinese supermarket in Scotland, See Woo is a city institution for lovers of Asian food. Set over 60,000 square ft, the supermarket houses Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Japanese, Korean and Thai specialty products.
If you’re looking for specific ingredients whether it be fresh, dried, preserved or frozen, you’re guaranteed to find it in store.
Mark’s Deli is the largest kosher deli in Scotland and the only dedicated place for kosher food in Glasgow. Operated as both deli and café, hot traditional Jewish food, such as salt beef sandwiches, meatloaf, latkes and the hearty chicken soup, is served straight out of the kitchen.
They also stock varieties of dairy-free, sugar-free and gluten-free products within their deli.
How to explore Glasgow in your first week
If you've just arrived or are about to arrive in Glasgow, welcome to Dear Green Place. The old nickname for our fine city. So what makes Glasgow such a great city? Its people.
You probably feel a mixture of excitement, dread and homesickness. And you have no idea what lies ahead of you.
Here are five things you need to know about life in Glasgow:
Glasgow is built on a grid system, divided into four main areas; East-End, City Centre, Southside, and West-End. Now, although Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, navigation is extremely easy. Google Maps is your best friend, no matter where you are.
“First Glasgow” is the city's main bus transportation provider with over 100 different routes. Wherever you go, there will undoubtedly be a bus available to you. Busses operate from early morning to late at night depending on your route.
Staying out past midnight? Some busses only offer a limited service after midnight, so make sure you check online or with the driver themselves.
You can buy your tickets onboard and use your contactless debit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay to purchase tickets and since you're a student, you'll even get discounted tickets with a valid Student ID card.
ScotRail covers all of Scotland's local and regional routes. Depending on the route, you might find yourself waiting just a few minutes before a train arrives or waiting for up to an hour if you're going further afield like Edinburgh or Aberdeen.
Using the Trainline app, you can easily check timetables, purchase tickets for collection at your closest station as well as receive notifications on any delays you may face.
Nicknamed ‘Clockwork Orange’, due to its circular routes (Inner and Outer lines) and bright orange appearance, the subway links the West End and City Centre together. It runs from 6:30am to 11:40pm Monday to Saturday and 10:00 am to 6:12pm on Sundays.
With trains every 4 minutes during peak times and 6-8 minutes during off-peak, you can go around the entire network in just 24 minutes.
A single ticket will set you back £1.75, a return journey £3.30 and a daily unlimited travel ticket £4.20, perfect if you’re exploring Glasgow via the subway network.
There is no shortage of taxis around Glasgow. You can choose between the classic black hackney cabs operated by Glasgow Taxis and private hire taxis.
Private hire companies are dotted around different areas of the city, depending on where you choose to live, you will undoubtedly have a local company. Unlike black cabs, you can't hail them on the street and you have to book in advance. You save money though, which is an upside.
Uber is also available to you. The drivers are licensed via Glasgow City Council and go through extensive background checks before being allowed to drive for the popular ride-share company.
You're never going to have a problem trying to find an Uber, but you may have a price surge at nights and weekends that isn't ideal.
The best student areas to live in Glasgow
Depending on the university you're going to attend, there are quite a few different areas you can choose from. There is no right or wrong answer to this because, quite frankly, it's all down to personal preference.
However, you have a few questions to answer: Would you like to try to stay in university-owned student halls? Or are you looking for private accommodation for students? Do you want to rent a room in a private flat or even rent a whole flat out?
It can be difficult to get a place in university-owned student halls which is why most international students opt for private student accommodation. Charging a flat rate per week that includes all your bills, there are numerous companies in prime locations throughout the city.
For Glasgow University students, areas in the West End such as Hillhead, Partick, Kelvinbridge, Finnieston and Maryhill are widely popular.
If you’re going to Strathclyde University, areas such as Merchant City, Garnethill and Dennistoun have the biggest student population.
Wherever you end up living, integrate as much as you can. Glasgow is a vibrant, multicultural city with people from all faiths and backgrounds. Soak in everything.
Glasgow’s obsession with football
‘What team do you support?’ – A sentence frequently asked. Usually there’s only one of two answers; Rangers or Celtic.
Glasgow is a football city. A city with two historic teams who just so happen to be fierce rivals. One thing they both have in common is the dedication of their fans that makes going to a game a memorable experience. The atmosphere is like nothing else.
So while you’re in the city, pick a favourite or just say you support Partick Thistle if you want to stay on neutral ground. Or choose rugby.
Don’t be put off living in Glasgow or even Scotland as a whole, but the biggest piece of advice a local could give you is always carry an umbrella. It rains here, a lot.
In just one day, you can literally experience all four seasons, but when the sun is out, the city becomes alive.
The city’s shopping haven - Glasgow’s Style Mile
The main shopping area of Glasgow is Buchanan Street, which leads from one end to Sauchiehall Street and from the other to Argyle Street. A ‘Z’-shape, collectively all three streets are known as the Style Mile.
Buchanan Street is one of the most popular streets with brands including Starbucks, Apple, H&M, Victoria's Secret, GAP, and Zara. Buchanan Galleries shopping mall is home to brands such as John Lewis, Lego, Monki, Next and Hollister.
The more upmarket shopping mall, Princes Square down towards Argyle Street houses Vivian Westwood, Ted Baker, Kate Spade, and Kurt Geiger.
St Enoch’s Centre, on Argyle Street was the first of its type in Glasgow, opening in 1989 with iconic brands such as Hamleys, Nando’s, Debenhams, Boots, and Disney all within this mall.
With most of the city's shops offering at least 10 percent discount if you're a student, what more could you want?