Glasgow is an arty city. There is a buzz of creative energy that flows through the streets. Whereas you can feel the history oozeing from the ancient bricks and cobbled lanes of Edinburgh’s Old Town, in Glasgow it's all about the creativity. The Glasgow Mural Trail is a brilliant example of the innovative and hip vibe of the city. Cleverly located around the city centre these stunning colourful Glasgow Murals help fill up empty and dull spaces, show off the talent of local artists and help to tell the tale of Glasgow. It’s pretty easy to see the murals for yourself, most are located within walking distance of Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow Central Train Station and Queen Street Train Station. I’ve found an easier way though, a lazy option. I hop on the City Sightseeing Bus.
Leaving from George Square every 15 minutes the open top bus winds its way around the city, with stops at all of the main attractions like Glasgow Cathedral, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery And Museum and Merchant City. I always grab a seat on the top deck so I can take photos without a window reflection and I always stick in the earphones (even though I could probably tell you every story, I’ve heard it so much) and listen to the mesmerising tones of Scottish historian Neil Oliver. I quite enjoy being a tourist for a while and the stops are so handy, especially, in this case, if you want to see some Glasgow graffiti. The fact you can hop off wherever you like and get back on once you're done having a nosy around is perfect.
The Glasgow Mural Trail
Officially launching in 2014 and ever changing and growing as more artwork is added, the Glasgow Mural Trail is a walking trail which takes you through the streets of Glasgow showing you each and every one of these stunning pieces of art. Or you can get the bus, like me.
In this article I’ll show you how you can use the Glasgow Hop on Hop off City Sightseeing bus to see the Glasgow Street art as well as all the major attractions in this stunning city.
Let’s begin on George Square. Before you board the bus have a walk along George Street to the corner of John Street. This is where you’ll find the Hip Hop Marionettes. You can see them while on the bus but you’ll get a better view if you pop along beforehand. This fun piece was created by the superstar street artist Rogue One in collaboration with the Art Pistol Gallery. Inspired by photos of the Beastie Boys and Run DMC these cool puppets have become celebrities themselves.
A little further along George Street you'll find easily the biggest piece of street art in Glasgow in, celebrating the people of Strathclyde University and their many achievements. Covering 7 stories and at 200 meters long this is huge!
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In the area...
Glasgow City Chambers, statues of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, James Watt and Sir Robert Peel
The next stop on the Glasgow Mural Trail you’ll spot is just after the bus stop for the Glasgow Cathedral. Created by another local street art giant, Smug, the image is on the side of a building as you head down hill towards Merchant City. Saint Mungo cradling a robin, or Saint Mungo as he might have looked now anyway, is one of the most popular pieces of street art in Glasgow and has been here since the very beginning. I love the look of gentle fascination in his eyes as he gazes at the bird.
If you get off the bus at the Cathedral to explore head down the High Street to the junction to George Street and you'll find a new mural which complements the mural of St Mungo (below). Also by Smug this is St Enoch, cradling her baby, St Mungo himself. Like the mural below he has really captured the expression of love.
In the area...
Glasgow Cathedral, The Necropolis, St Mungo's Museum of Religious Art and the Provand's Lordship
Past Merchant city as you head towards the People’s Palace, in the Gallowgate, you’ll discover one of the newest pieces on the Glasgow Mural Trail, a rather colourful and quirky mural of the legend that is Billy Connelly. This was the 2nd of 3 murals dedicated to the life of the comedian and this one was created by Rachel MacLean. It’s shows his greatest achievements and covers the entire side of a building. It’s also bright purple so pretty hard to miss.
As the bus heads down towards the Clyde and heads west look out for the portrait of yet another Glasgow Legend, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This is probably my favourite Glasgow mural. Again created by Rogue One you’ll spot it at the traffic lights just before the Clutha Bar. Charles is looking through a stained glass window and it’s utterly gorgeous, the perfect addition to the Clutha Bar which itself has some pretty fantastic murals along it’s wall. Depicting the history of the pub and it’s visitors, see if you can spot comedians Stan Laurel and Spike Milligan, boxer Benny Lynch and musician Alex Harvey. Mostly painted in black and white with touches of bright yellow it’s a beautiful piece of art.
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The bus then travels under the Kingston Bridge where Smug has created a huge mural named “The Swimmer” featuring Olympic swimmers which transforms what was once a dull spot to wait at those dreaded traffic lights. You’ll definitely not miss this one, your guaranteed to get stuck at these damn lights.
The hop on hop off Glasgow bus then meanders past the award winning SSE Hydro and the landmark Armadillo, a unique building which is used as a conference space, to the Riverside Museum. This gem is well worth a visit and is free to enter. Celebrating the transport history of Glasgow and Scotland itself there is a full scale traditional steam train, a look inside a Glasgow subway, a huge wall of cars through the ages, Ewan McGregor’s motorbike, a old cobbled Glasgow Street complete with horse and cart, shops and a bar and a massive range of quirky and alternative options to travel.
Hopping back on the bus you’ll travel along the famous shopping district that is Argyle Street, towards Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Like the Riverside Museum, and in fact every museum in Glasgow, it’s free to enter. This place is fantastic, in fact it’s so good it’s the most popular free to enter attraction in Scotland. The museum part covers human history, natural history and prehistoric artifacts and is excellent but if it’s art you are after here you’ll find works by the Scottish Colourists and the Glasgow Boys as well as international artists such as Salvador Dali, Monet and Renoir.
One thing I love about travelling on these buses, on the top floor, is that you see the city from a different angle. If you walk at street level you find yourself looking at the passing cars and shop windows but if you are up high you get the opportunity to really see Glasgow’s stunning architecture. This next section of the bus route really shows this off as you pass the beautiful Glasgow University and travel along some of the most expensive to live in streets of the city. Look out for the different brickwork, the dates etched into the walls and spires and sculptures dotted around the higher sections. As you drive along another of Glasgow’s famous shopping streets, Sauchiehall Street, enjoy some cracking views of the historic buildings that you would never notice at ground level.
If you stay on the bus back to George Street you can now get off and walk to see the rest of the Glasgow Mural Trail by foot.
Additional photos kindly provided by Kathi from Watch Me See
Find out more about the Glasgow Mural Trail here and if you fancy hopping on the Glasgow City Sightseeing bus you can find timetables, stops and running times on their website
My trip on the Glasgow bus tour was kindly provided by City Sightseeing but as always, this blog reflects my honest opinions.