Well, it’s high time to confront one very controversial, age-old debate head-on: Glasgow versus Edinburgh. Which Scottish city is better? And which city should you visit during your trip to Scotland?
Truth be told, there’s a simple answer to the battle of Edinburgh versus Glasgow. And you might not like it. But after evaluating each city by category (i.e. restaurants, history, nightlife, etc.) I’ve come to a conclusion: It’s a tie.
Though only 51 miles separate the two cities, their cultures, personalities, and atmospheres couldn’t be further apart. Each city has its own charm and allure – and to really get a feel for Scotland, you need to visit both cities. However, I understand that, sometimes, time doesn’t allow for what’s ideal. Sometimes you need to make a difficult choice and choose the right city for you! So I’m going to break it down for you.
Let’s dive into the battle of Edinburgh vs. Glasgow.
Edinburgh or Glasgow: Which City is Better?
Edinburgh: At a Glance
What’s a trip to the Land of the Scots without visiting the medieval Scottish capital of Edinburgh?
As you roam down bustling Old Town streets and cobblestone lanes, lined by traditional pubs, colorful houses, designer shops, cute eateries, gilded signs, and hanging flower pots, you’ll find that history oozes from Edinburgh’s every nook and cranny.
And as you explore iconic places – like Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill, Edinburgh Castle, and Hollyrood Palace – you’ll have a hard time not feeling like your living out a scene from Outlander or Harry Potter. (P.S. Don’t miss Edinburgh’s amazing Underground Vaults Historical Walking Tour.)
If you’re after traditional Scottish culture – haggis, kilts, bagpipes, public houses, whisky, and all – Edinburgh is your place. Likewise, if upmarket shopping, luxury hotels, and the finest of dining tickle your fancy, it’s time to book your trip!
Where to Stay in Edinburgh
Already decided on Edinburgh? Here are the best places to stay:
Luxury Edinburgh Accommodation
Mid-Range Edinburgh Accommodation
Budget Edinburgh Accommodation
Glasgow: At a Glance
You wouldn’t guess it, but Glasgow is actually Scotland’s biggest city – though it receives way less visitors than its posh counterpart.
Once an industrial city, Glasgow is now endearingly known as Scotland’s capital of culture. Deemed a European Capital of Culture and a UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow has a lot going for it. Though the beauty of Edinburgh’s Old Town is hard to compete with, Glasgow’s foodie scene, epic street art, grungy-hipster vibe, endlessly vibrant nightlife, annual festivals, sweet performing arts venues, and live music gigs more than make up for it.
Glasgow is effortlessly cool. And the humans? Well, they are, too. The city’s motto “People Make Glasgow” couldn’t be more true; you’ll never feel more welcome in a big city. And that’s a fact.
Where to Stay in Glasgow
Already decided on Glasgow? Here are the best places to stay:
Luxury Glasgow Accommodation
Mid-Range Glasgow Accommodation
Budget Glasgow Accommodation
As you can see, Glasgow and Edinburgh each have their own thing going on. So let’s compare the different aspects of Edinburgh and Glasgow to help you decide which city you should visit during your trip!
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, and as such, it’s also the country’s hub for traditional culture. From the moment you arrive, this is apparent! You won’t get very far into Edinburgh without seeing a centuries-old whisky bar, an offering of some haggis, and someone in a kilt, playing the bagpipe.
But don’t get me wrong, Edinburgh’s culture runs much deeper than that.
With its impressive historical museums, brilliant history of literary, artistic, and theatrical greatness, Scottish cuisine, classic pubs, and the stunning medieval city centre, Edinburgh holds a firm grip on traditional Scottish culture.
Glasgow, on the other hand, is home to all things cool and modern. And – believe it or not – even though Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital, Glasgow is the country’s cultural capital.
As mentioned, in 1990, Glasgow was named European Capital of Culture for its thriving contemporary theater, visual performing arts, and music scene; its innovativeness in design, architecture, and modern art; and its proclivity for spreading forward-thinking ideas and culture far past the city’s borders.
In other words: Glasgow is pretty cool.
The Winner? Glasgow.
The Foodie Scenes
A little more traditional, Edinburgh’s foodie scene features classic Scottish cuisine and modern, fine-dining establishments, along with a variety of ethnic eateries. Generally speaking, I think the restaurants in Edinburgh can be hit or miss: some average, others spectacular.
Top Edinburgh Restaurants
Some favorites, that fall into the spectacular category, include:
- The Kitchin: If you’re looking for Edinburgh’s finest, this Michelin-starred restaurant is it. In an old, renovated whisky warehouse, dine on the finest, freshest Scottish ingredients – from succulent seafood to Highland game – infused with French techniques.
- Oink: At Oink, you’ll find deliciously Scottish hog roast sandwiches, stuffed with your choice of sage and onion or haggis, and topped with sauces like apple, chili jam, and more. Quick, affordable, scrumptious.
- El Cartel: You don’t often find a noteworthy Mexican restaurant outside of Mexico or the USA, but El Cartel is a definite exception. The duck carnitas tacos, carne asada tacos, street corn, and chamoy wings are all musts; their extensive list of mezcal and tequila is equally impressive.
- The Broughton: How can you not like a pub this quaint and lovely, serving Scottish food with a fresh twist, ice-old draught beer, and carefully crafted cocktails?
- The Table: Share a table with nine of your mates (or perfect strangers) as two chefs prepare you elaborate, innovative, delicious Modern European cuisine in front of your eyes.
- Purslane: Savor Scottish cuisine and game by candlelight in this small and cosy eatery; a must!
- Macau Kitchen: Looking for something different and exciting? I bet you’ve never tasted Macanese (Macau-Portuguese fusion) food before… And that you’re going to love every mouthful.
On the other hand, every last morsel you’ll eat in Glasgow will be delicious – and probably inspired by far-flung places across the globe.
Flavorful, authentic (and often, affordable), Glasgow boasts a vibrant foodie scene that tempted me to never leave! From spicy Indian curries and perfect Neapolitan pizzas, to mouth-watering bao and banh mi, delicate seafood dishes, and authentic Chinese dumplings – whatever you’re craving, you can probably find it in Glasgow.
Top Glasgow Restaurants
Here of my favorite and can’t-miss Glasgow eateries are:
- Crabshakk: If you like perfectly cooked, succulent seafood, fresh ingredients, bright flavors, and a lively atmosphere, then you’ll think Crabshakk is seafood heaven. Also, oysters.
- Paesano: Glasgow’s first traditional Neapolitan pizzeria, and probably still the best; hand-picked ingredients and well-kept pizza traditions are what set Paesano apart.
- Mother India’s Café: You’ll find some of the spiciest, richest, most flavorful Indian food at Mother India’s Café. Feast family-style, at least three dishes per person will do the trick! (Yum.)
- Tantrum Donuts: The difference at Tantrum is love: “Made by people, not machines.” All of their donuts are amazing, so whether you choose Pistachio & Hibiscus, Peanut Butter & Jam, or Creme Brûlée (if you’re feeling extra naughty), you can’t go wrong.
- Two Fat Ladies at The Buttery: A romantic, old-school setting and friendly service, combined with Glasgow’s finest Scottish cuisine, makes for a dining experience you won’t soon forget. Emphasis on the seafood here, friends!
- Banh Mi & Tea: If you want seriously delicious Vietnamese food (Glagow’s best, easily), then come here. From banh mi and pho to bun bo hue and bun cha, they have all the goods!
- Dumpling Monkey: From dumplings and steamed buns to wontons and chow mein, if you need a little Chinese fix, this your place. And with such affordable prices, come ready to feast.
I give Glasgow five stars for its awesome restaurants – especially in the West End, Finnieston, Merchant City, and Partick areas.
The Winner? Glasgow.
From the day you arrive in Edinburgh, until the day you leave, you’ll feel like you’re on some sort of medieval movie set. Especially on the Royal Mile, with the Edinburgh Castle looming in the distance. Everything just seems too perfectly preserved and too insanely charming to be real.
In reality, though, visiting Edinburgh feels like time traveling back to the city’s medieval heyday. Walking down the beautiful cobbled streets and narrow alleyways past centuries-old, gothic-style buildings is something you won’t soon forget!
Make sure to explore the Old Town and experience the magic for yourself.
Glasgow’s development peaked during the Industrial Age, between the 18th century and the first half of the 20th century. So basically, its buildings are much newer than their Edinburgher counterparts!
Throughout the city, you’ll find stunning Victorian-style buildings. From the Clock Tower at Central Station, to the St. Enoch Subway Station and the Royal Exchange, the Victorian style dominates.
However, the city also produced its own “Glasgow Style,” which was influenced by the Art Nouveau movement. This style is highlighted by the unique Glasgow School of Art, Queen’s Cross Church, and Scotland Street School!
The Winner? Edinburgh.
It seems that in Edinburgh, the locals are hit or miss – just like in thousands of other cities around the world! I’ve encountered very pleasant people in Edinburgh, as well as some very rude people. Enough said.
Glaswegians have a saying that goes, “People Make Glasgow.” Glasgow has been voted the world’s friendliest city, and everything and everyone I experienced in Glasgow showed me that that statement is true.
Every single person I met in Glasgow – from my Airbnb host and Uber drivers, to restaurant waitstaff, museum clerks, shop owners, and even random people on the street – was incredibly kind, friendly, easy to engage, and willing to help me with recommendations, tips, and directions!
Each time I met someone new, I left thinking something like: “Wow, that person was so nice… The people here really do make Glasgow.”
The Winner? Glasgow.
When you walk through Edinburgh’s Old Town and along the Royal Mile, it’s as if you can feel the city’s history living and breathing around you, and it also looks as if you’re inside of a Harry Potter movie – which I love.
As a loyal and raving Harry Potter fan, I think The Potter Trail is Edinburgh’s most important history. History buffs might argue, however, that the city’s medieval, Scottish history is what’s most fascinating! (Fine.)
While in Edinburgh, you can take an Underground Vaults Historical Walking Tour to go underneath Edinburgh’s streets, listen to ghost stories, and explore historic vaults.
And of course, visiting Edinburgh Castle is a must, so make sure to get your hands on this Skip the Line Edinburgh Castle Ticket!
I can’t leave out the 16th-century Holyrood Palace either.
Though most of Glasgow’s historical monuments are distant memories (as they’ve since been replaced with new and innovative buildings), Glasgow’s story can be traced back through many centuries.
The Glasgow Cathedral – which still stands today – was built in 1119, and sparked the beginnings of medieval Glasgow. And the beautiful University of Glasgow – which is now one of the city’s top attractions – was founded back in 1451.
The Winner? Edinburgh.
Outdoors in Edinburgh
Edinburgh certainly isn’t lacking in the outdoor recreation department. You can easily feel as though you’ve left the big city (without actually going anywhere), by just visiting one of the city’s many parks!
Summiting Arthur’s Seat is a beautiful, and somewhat challenging, hike and it’s located just outside the city center. Do not miss it. The views of Edinburgh, the sea, and Holyrood Park from the top simply are incredible!
Calton Hill is a must-visit UNESCO World Heritage Site in Edinburgh. Atop the hill, you’ll find stunning views of the city, along with historical monuments like Dugald Stewart’s Monument, the Nelson Monument, and the National Monument.
The Princes Street Gardens, located in city center, also provide a breath of fresh air and benches to rest your feet after lots of Old Town exploring.
The Royal Botanic Garden is also a beautiful place to spend some time outdoors, to escape the capital’s constant hustle and bustle!
A walk around the buzzing port of Leith never goes astray either.
Outdoors in Glasgow
Glasgow rivals Edinburgh with its many parks to enjoy nature!
The Pollock Country Park is a lovely place to go for a stroll, maybe have a picnic, and appreciate the company of some very hairy, very cute Highland coos!
Kelvingrove Park is another beautiful outdoor space, perfect for soaking up the sunshine, going for a walk or jog, relaxing, and playing with the many doggies you’ll meet there.
The Glasgow Botanic Gardens – especially during the springtime – are also a great place to spend an afternoon in nature.
The Winner? Edinburgh.
When in Edinburgh, there’s one museum you need to experience: the National Museum of Scotland. This museum covers the details of Scotland’s rich history, telling stories about everything from art, design, and fashion, to science, nature and technology.
For anyone who loves art, the Scottish National Gallery is also a must! The museum has a variety of different pieces on display, and entry is free!
If you have an hour or two to kill, the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is also worth a visit, because it’s likely completely different from any other museum you’ve visited!
Glasgow boasts a wide variety of awesome museums that you won’t want to miss!
The Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel is one of the most unique, surprisingly interesting museums I’ve ever been to. This museum is a real hidden gem. Plus, it’s free to visit!
When in Glasgow, try to visit as many museums as you can. There are many things that the Glaswegians do well, but of them, their museums might just be the best!
The Winner? Glasgow.
Every year, Edinburgh plays host to the Fringe Festival, which is the world’s largest arts festival. This festival turns Scotland’s capital into one giant party, for three whole weeks, every August. From opera and theatre, to circus and comedy, this arts festival floods the street with thousands of performances.
Edinburgh also holds the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an unforgettable celebration of Scottish dance, music, and military processions. As Edinburgh Castle lights up in pink, blue, and purple hues, nearly 1,000 different dancers, singers, bagpipers, and drummers regale an eager crowd.
The Edinburgh International Festival is another big one.
A number of other festivals also take place in Edinburgh throughout the year!
Unlike Edinburgh’s popular Fringe Festival, Glasgow doesn’t have one single festival that dominates the scene; rather, it hosts various awesome ones throughout the year!
Some of the most popular Glasgow festivals include Celtic Connections, which is a winter music festival that shows off traditional Celtic artists, and the Merchant City Festival, which shows off all aspects of Glasgow’s culture. Glashow also hosts the Jazz Festival and Pride Glasgow.
The Winner? It’s a tie.
When it comes to location, Edinburgh is situated in the perfect spot for day trips out of the city!
Here are a few highly-rated day trips departing from Edinburgh:
- Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small Group Day Trip
- Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle and the Kelpies from Edinburgh
From Edinburgh, some other nearby places to check out include North Berwick, Aberdeen, Dundee, St Andrews, and Stonehaven.
Glasgow is also a great base for exploring the rest of Scotland, too. There are many day trips you can take from Glasgow, to get out of the city for a bit and experience Scotland’s natural beauty.
Here are a few highly-rated day trips departing from Glasgow:
- Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small Group Day Trip
- Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Whisky Trail Small Group Day Trip
- Oban, Glencoe, Highlands Lochs & Castles Small Group Day Tour
The Winner? It’s a tie.
Shopping in Edinburgh
If you’re after high-end designer shops, antiques, or souvenirs Edinburgh is your place. Some of the best shoppings areas in the city include George Street, Princes Street, Multrees Walk, and Victoria Street.
Shopping in Glasgow
After London’s West End, Glasgow offers the United Kingdom’s best shopping. Whether you’re looking for chic boutiques, cool vintage shops, high-end designers, or anything else in between, you could probably find it in Glasgow’s Style Mile (a combination of many mostly-pedestrian streets, including Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street, Argyle Street).
The Winner? Glasgow.
When it comes to fancy, five-star hotels, Edinburgh is the winner. If you can, then stay at The Balmoral Hotel, located smack in Edinburgh’s old city centre, on Princes Street. The Balmoral Hotel is, by far, the best hotel in the city!
However, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly hotel, Edinburgh has no shortage of great options. I’d go with either Wilde Aparthotels or The Rutland Hotel & Apartments for mid-range, and Hotel Ceilidh-Donia or Point A Hotel Edinburgh Haymarket for budget!
Glasgow is also home to some very nice hotels, though they’re a lot more affordable! Glasgow’s best (yet semi-budget-friendly) stays include the Dakota Glasgow, Hotel Du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens, and Blythswood Square.
The Winner? Glasgow.
A night out on the town in Edinburgh might consist of a pub crawl or a ghost tour (so much fun!) followed by a couple of whisky bars… You will find some unbelievable whisky collections throughout the city.
There are also some centuries-old, traditional bars throughout the city – such as The White Hart Inn, “Edinburgh’s Oldest Pub, Est. 1516” – that are worth visiting!
For me, a perfect night out in Edinburgh looks like: a long, multi-course dining experience at The Kitchin or Purslane, a few more cocktails at a chic bar nearby, and then bedtime. But that’s just me!
If you’re looking for a fun night out, Glasgow is the city for you! After all, the old saying goes, “You’ll have more fun at a Glasgow funeral than you will at an Edinburgh wedding.”
Glasgow is home to a bumping nightlife scene and hordes of young, fun-loving people. So in other words, a night of drinking, dancing, singing, and whatever other mischief you get up to, will likely last until the wee hours of the morning. And when you wake up later that morning, you won’t even be mad about it.
Some of my favorite places for a craft beer or cocktail include Grunting Growler Craft Beer, Kelvingrove Café, Duke’s Bar, Brewdog (of course!), and Drygate Brewing Co. There are so many cool live music and gig venues too – like the iconic Barrowlands; it really just depends what’s on during your visit.
Also, ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that the Sub Club (an underground dance club) is the place to go out, out.
The Winner? Glasgow.
Edinburgh vs. Glasgow: Which City Should You Visit?
So, should you visit Edinburgh? Or should you visit Glasgow? Well, if you have time to visit both, you should.
Both cities have their own unique perspectives and personalities, so your experience in Glasgow will be completely different than in Edinburgh! And that’s simply because both Glasgow and Edinburgh are awesome, in their own ways!
But if you only have time for one city, now you have all of the information to make a decision, based on each city’s offerings and your own interests!
If you’re down for the modern (hipster) culture that loves a stylish, yet delicious restaurant or laid-back bar, some contemporary architecture and art, cool performing arts venues, and an overall chill vibe, Glasgow is your place.
Yet, if you’re more interested in history and museums, medieval architecture, posh bars, fine-dining restaurants, fancy hotels, sipping fine whiskies and outdoor activities, Edinburgh might be the city for you.
So, what do you say? Which city will prevail in the argument of Edinburgh versus Glasgow?
I say both cities are winners.
What to Pack for Scotland
The season of your visit to Scotland will help determine what you need to pack!
Summer in Scotland can still be variable weather. It can be lovely and warm but still with expected rain showers and random cold days. Prepare for most eventualities. Winter is really cold and often very damp so pack layers and plenty of warm clothes.
Here are a few top tips of what to wear in Scotland:
- Wool coat: During the colder months a beautiful wool coat is essential for style and practicality. You will fit in with the locals with this one. The chance of rain is also pretty high so pack a waterproof jacket no matter what the season.
- Comfortable boots: As expected, you’ll walk a lot, so opt for a comfortable but stylish boot that you’ve worn in. You can’t go wrong with a smart Chelsea boot, like these. In the summer I love a good sandal like this.
- Warm layer: A good sweater is always worth packing, even in summer!
- Hat, scarf ,and gloves: For the winter you absolutely need these to keep warm
- Floaty dress: In the summer opt for a long floaty dress so you stay cool, and bring a light scarf so you are always prepared to enter religious sites and cover your shoulders.
- Sunscreen: Nothing spoils your trip (and your photos!) more than sunburn. Remember to prepare with a good, natural sunscreen and stay protected.
- Umbrella: If you manage to avoid the rain you will be very lucky! Bring an umbrella even for summer showers.
- Reusable water bottle: Remember to keep hydrated during your adventures; it can’t all be wine and coffee all the time! Bring a reusable water bottle so you can keep topped up.
- Tote bag: For those souvenirs and treasures found on your travels
- Travel insurance: As with any trip, you should ALWAYS purchase travel insurance in case anything goes wrong. I’ve had my fair share of travel mishaps!
Quick Tips for Scotland
- HOTEL: I use this website for scoring amazing deals on accommodation worldwide. Find amazing deals on accommodation here.
- HOSTELWORLD: If you’re traveling on a budget, this is the best website to score cheap hostel deals.
- VACATION RENTAL: I use this site for finding the perfect vacation rental for an unforgettable getaway.
- TRAVEL INSURANCE: Never go on a trip without travel insurance! It isn’t worth the risk if something goes wrong.
- GUIDED TOURS & EXCURSIONS: Many of the tours I recommend are hosted with Viator, which also works with local tour operators. Search them all here. I loved the Underground Vaults Historical Walking Tour in Edinburgh.
- CHEAP FLIGHTS: Get great deals on flights using my favorite flight fare aggregator.
- TRAVEL GEAR: A collection of all of my must-have travel gear are all listed here. Most important to remember is comfortable shoes and an umbrella, the chances of rain are high, even in summer!
- CAR RENTAL: If you are taking a longer road trip book car rental in advance here for the best deals.
Glasgow vs. Edinburgh: Travel FAQs
Edinburgh is an expensive city, that’s for sure! While Glasgow isn’t cheap, it’s certainly more affordable than Edinburgh, in pretty much every category. From restaurants and bars to hotels and attractions, Glasgow is a more budget-friendly destination.
Yes, of course! If you have the chance to visit Glasgow, don’t miss it! Glasgow is an incredibly vibrant city with a lot to offer visitors: great restaurants, cool bars, pubs, and clubs, amazing music and arts venues, fascinating museums, a grungy-hipster vibe, and super friendly locals. Glasgow was deemed a European Capital of Culture for a reason! This city is awesome.
The age-old debate of Glasgow vs Edinburgh continues, the answer just depends on who you ask. Do you enjoy the finer things in life, like modern Scottish seafood restaurants, exquisite whiskies, and fabulous 5-star hotels? Would you rather stroll past centuries-old buildings along medieval cobblestone streets? Stop in for some haggis for lunch? Visit castles? Wander through a royal garden, go for a hike up to Arthur’s Seat, or take in the views from Calton Hill? Edinburgh is for you. Or would you rather spend time at a cool live music venue drinking craft beer? Dine on dumplings or curries or tacos or bao? Head to an interesting museum? Drink at a chic cocktail bar? Go out for a crazy night of dancing? Then choose Glasgow. In my opinion, the answer to the question “Edinburgh or Glasgow?” is simple: Both. Both cities are incredible in their own way and full of surprises and hidden gems. If you have time, spend at least 3 days in each city!
If you’re looking for high-end designer brands, antiques, or souvenirs Edinburgh is the city for you. But on all other accounts, Glasgow is better than Edinburgh for shopping! If you prefer independent boutiques and vintage stores, Glasgow is more your speed.
WANT MORE SCOTLAND INSPO? CHECK OUT:
- Scotland in August: When is the Best Time to Visit Scotland?
- Glasgow Foodie Guide: 9 Places to Eat & Drink in Glasgow, Scotland
What’s your take on Edinburgh versus Glasgow? Which city do you prefer? Let us know below in the comments section!
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