The Most Impressive Buildings In Glasgow

| travellinglight / Alamy Stock Photo
Tori Chalmers

Like pictures, buildings can speak a thousand words. The remarkable mix of 19th century Victorian architecture, early 20th century ‘Glasgow Style’ Mackintosh-designed buildings and modern edifices, all add to Glasgow’s appeal as a playground for architecture aficionados. Here are the most impressive buildings worth discovering in Scotland’s largest city.

Riverside Museum

A sort of imitation of the shape-shifting fluidity of the clouds in the sky, Riverside Museum is a stunning example of modern architecture. Designed by the late prolific Dame Zaha Hadid, DBE — the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize — Riverside is an architectural portrayal of Glasgow’s rich industrial, maritime and shipbuilding heritage. Glass facades beckon dancing rays of light to infiltrate the building, while imposing angles add to the futuristic feel.

People’s Palace And Winter Gardens

Since the grand opening in 1898, The People’s Palace And Winter Gardens has served as a kind of time capsule for the preservation of the city’s social narratives. The building is comprised of Locahrbriggs Red Sandstone, one of the most sought after of its kind, and is the work of Alexander B. McDonald, the city engineer. Stylistically speaking, it has been deemed ‘an adaptation of the later French Renaissance’. Those with a discerning eye, will appreciate the sculptural elements and the Doulton Fountain. The magical conservatory sports sheets of glass rooted by cast-iron columns and a curvaceous steel roof.

Glasgow City Chambers

Unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1888, Glasgow City Chambers is a delight for the eyes. A stunning display of Victorian civic architecture, this noble architectural landmark evolved from a competition and is the masterpiece of Scottish architect William Young. The building, which showcases a Beaux-arts style with its ornate Italianate features, mirrors the immense wealth accumulated from the historic industrial legacy associated with Glasgow. A grandiose staircase comprised of Carrara marble, mosaic ceilings, gold leaf accents, rich Spanish mahogany panelling, swathes of stained glass and pillars of granite, make up the grand Venetian-style decorations found inside.

Mitchell Library

There’s a library, and then there’s Mitchell Library! This Edwardian Baroque temple of books was established in 1877, and boasts a vast array of windows, columns and a splendid bronze domed roof with ornate detailing. Perched atop this divine dome is Literature (or Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom), a bronze statue by Thomas Clapperton. An extension building was created between the years of 1972 and 1980.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is the very first public commission of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and, dating back to 1895, has his creative stamp all over it. Now Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, The Lighthouse has a history as the former home ofThe Glasgow Herald. The spiraling staircase is totally hypnotic and the view of the cityscape from the Mackintosh Tower is unrivalled.

Holmwood House

Completed in 1857, Holmwood House, with its influential design and ornamented garnishings, is a residential villa by the great architect and architectural theorist Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. Renowned for his trailblazing work in sustainable building, and penchant for Ionic Greek style, Thomson created this villa for prominent paper manufacturer James Couper. This Greek Revival house shows no shortage of pillars and elaborate accents. A significant amount of the original interior still exists today, most notably the polychromatic decorations, sculptures and frieze panels demonstrating Homer’s Iliad.



The most visited modern art gallery in Scotland, Glasgow’s GoMA is the pride and joy of Royal Exchange Square in the city centre. Constructed in 1778, this neoclassical building is the former townhouse of a wealthy tobacco lord. Having passed through many owners, the building underwent reconstruction from 1827 to 1832, resulting in the addition of the notable Corinthian pillars, cupola and substantial hall. Today, it receives widespread attention from visitors and locals alike, eager to unlock the beautiful wonders inside.

Clyde Auditorium

The Clyde Auditorium or SEC Armadillo is Glasgow’s own unintentional Sydney Opera House. Built to accommodate the ever-burgeoning SECC conference centre complex between 1995 and 1997, the famous armadillo characteristics actually represent a group of ship’s hulls, signifying the Clyde’s deep-rooted shipbuilding heritage. This modern alien-like edifice designed by the highly acclaimed architects Foster And Partners, is an integral component of Glasgow’s eclectic architectural style.

Glasgow Cathedral

Imposing and prominent, Glasgow Cathedral, an active Church of Scotland, predates the Scottish Reformation. Located on the very spot thought to have hosted the church of Saint Mungo, Glasgow’s patron saint, this medieval cathedral is a resplendent embodiment of Scottish Gothic architecture. Enormous ceilings, pointed arches, ribbed vaults and intricate stained glass exist in abundance.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery And Museum

Kelvingrove Art Gallery And Museum

A beloved building ingrained into the Glaswegian psyche, Kelvingrove stands out with its handsome facade constructed of Locharbriggs Red Sandstone. Design kudos can be accredited to E.J. Milner Allen and Sir John W. Simpson, who created this Spanish Baroque building in 1901. It’s hard to tell which is more impressive — the esteemed European fine art collection within or the exquisite architectural design of both the interior and exterior. Take note of the sculptural work of George Frampton, William Shirrefs and Francis Derwent Wood when you look around.

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