Glasgow and Edinburgh are two of the best places to visit in Scotland. But which is better to visit, Edinburgh or Glasgow? Whether you choose Glasgow or Edinburgh, you’ll have an incredible experience, but the cities offer two completely different holidays.
They might be just an hour apart, but it might as well be a whole world. The cities have a fierce rivalry and polar opposite architecture, atmosphere, and nature. Choosing Glasgow or Edinburgh is a controversial debate, and you do well to weigh it up carefully.
So, which city is better, Glasgow or Edinburgh? This article will compare both cities to help you pick the best one for you. Let’s get straight into it.
Glasgow or Edinburgh: Things to do
Glasgow and Edinburgh are bursting with attractions, but on the whole, Edinburgh’s attractions are much more famous. Who hasn’t heard of Edinburgh Castle? Or the Royal Mile? Or Arthur’s Seat? Edinburgh has a long list of well-known things to do, which is difficult for Glasgow to match, let alone top. But I’ll break down both cities’ attractions as best as possible.
Things to do in Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s best attractions are Edinburgh Castle, the Scotch Whisky Experience, Arthur’s Seat, and Sir Walter Scott’s Monument. Edinburgh Castle and Sir Walter Scott Monument are wonderful historical monuments and are situated within walking distance of each other near Edinburgh Old Town. Arthur’s Seat is a world-famous (now extinct) ancient volcano that hikers climb for unrivalled views over Edinburgh – usually at sunrise or sunset. The Scotch Whisky Experience speaks for itself, and you embark on a guided tour through a distillery and into a tasting session.
The main thing to note about the things to do in Edinburgh is that there are tons of fascinating, world-renowned activities in a very small space. This is attractive for tourists looking to tick off some major attractions in a short period, and this is why Edinburgh makes one of the best weekend getaways in the UK. You have everything – from history to hiking and whisky distilling.
Things to do in Glasgow
You can read my complete guide on things to do in Glasgow here. However, as a brief introduction, Glasgow’s best things to do are Pollok Country Park, Glasgow Necropolis, Earl’s Seat, and adrenaline activities like skiing at Snow Factor or bungee jumping off the Titan Crane.
Pollok Country Park is where Outlander filmed many of their scenes, including the gypsy camp where Jamie and Jack Randall duel. The park is also famous for its adorable herd of Highland cows. Earl’ Seat is a 578-metre tall hill that gives hikers glorious views over the Scottish Highlands, Glasgow, and Loch Lomond. Glasgow has excellent access to beautiful areas of natural beauty – perfect if you want the off-the-beaten-track experience while staying in a major city.
Most of these attractions are located outside Glasgow City Centre, so renting (or bringing) a car will be a great way to do all the best things in Glasgow. Unlike Edinburgh, you can’t walk to most of these things. For example, Earl’s Seat is an hour’s drive away.
Winner: This round is a draw. Glasgow is generally better for adrenaline activities and day trips if you have a car to travel further afield. Edinburgh is best for historical and cultural attractions. It also has many more attractions in its city centre and is easier to enjoy on foot.
Glasgow or Edinburgh: Atmosphere
Glasgow and Edinburgh both have lively, outgoing atmospheres, and both cities are full of character. However, there is a major difference.
Glasgow has a more metropolitan atmosphere than Edinburgh, which has a much more historical, old-fashioned vibe. This difference comes mainly from the cities’ different architecture. The origin of Edinburgh’s Old Town dates back to the 7th century AD in places and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the other hand, while Glasgow does have plenty of historical buildings, its centre is much more modern.
Whether you are interested in history and culture or not, Edinburgh’s atmosphere jumps out at you – completely immersing you in its scenes. If you are interested in history and culture and are visiting Glasgow, you’ll have to look for the best spots.
Winner: Edinburgh wins this round as its old-school architecture gives it an almost magical atmosphere. You’ll feel a real sense of place, and it is clear, so see why UNESCO values it.
Glasgow or Edinburgh: Weather
Again, the margin is very fine when debating between Glasgow and Edinburgh based on weather. The two cities have relatively similar climates, but if it is important to you, you can use the weather to decide between them.
Overall, Edinburgh tends to experience (marginally) better weather than Glasgow. The city has fewer rainy days, and in summer and winter, you’ll appreciate the fact that Edinburgh is usually a degree or two warmer than Glasgow.
Edinburgh is the better option if you really want to maximise your dry days. Glasgow experiences much more rain, which is less fun when trying to sightsee.
Winner: Edinburgh wins this round. Despite Glasgow’s and Edinburgh’s temperatures remaining fairly similar all year round, Edinburgh takes the weather crown for its fewer rainy days.
Side Note: Of course, part of Scotland’s allure is its wild weather and often harsh conditions. Our advice? Invest in some thermals and embrace the weather, rain or shine. And if you are feeling courageous, there are some fantastic winter hikes in Scotland to get the ultimate Scottish weather experience.
Glasgow or Edinburgh: Budget
Glasgow and Edinburgh are roughly on par cost-wise. The major difference is that Edinburgh has more expensive rent, but we will ignore that part since it won’t affect those visiting Edinburgh as tourists. Just try to book accommodation further in advance if you visit Edinburgh to avoid the most budget-friendly accommodation choices being sold out.
As for other factors to consider, I’ve compiled a comparison table using data from Numbeo. The table below should give you a better idea about what prices to expect from both cities. `
|Domestic Beer||Litre of milk||Taxi 1km normal tariff||Mid-range restaurant meal for two|
Consumer prices in Edinburgh are 2.15% higher than in Glasgow (without considering rent). Sure, pennies can add up, but you shouldn’t notice too much of a difference whether you visit Glasgow or Edinburgh.
Winner: Glasgow wins this round, as it is marginally cheaper than Edinburgh.
Glasgow or Edinburgh: Nightlife
Oof. Now, this is a tough round. Glasgow and Edinburgh both have quite fierce nightlife opportunities. The cities have many nightclubs, pubs, bars, and even rooftop venues. Let’s take a look at each city individually.
Edinburgh’s nightlife is highly influenced by its culture. You’ll find late-night comedy shows, intimate gigs in small pubs, and packed-out sports bars streaming the latest football game. Edinburgh is your match if you want to explore alternative venues and really cool, hidden spots.
There are also some lively clubs, including Bourbon Nightclub, The Mash House, and La Belle Angele. While Edinburgh is best for folk music and live performances in classic bars and pub venues, there are always bassline beats to be found in the city’s major clubs. Don’t forget to drop by SkyBar either for rooftop views over Edinburgh and tasty cocktails.
You can easily walk between venues in Edinburgh, and Old Town or New Town host endless nightlife options. If you like your nightlife closely linked to culture and in a traditional setting, this is where Edinburgh gets the upper hand.
Glasgow’s nightlife has emerged from a chrysalis to a butterfly in recent years. That cosmopolitan atmosphere comes in full clutch to give the city an incredible, upbeat nightlife – full of swanky, busy bars and nightclubs. Club Tropicana & Venga, Sub Club, and Bonjour are the best clubs.
Head to the City Centre, Merchant City, and Finnieston for the best nightlife options.
Winner: Edinburgh wins this round, but it was super close. The city’s cultural and historical atmosphere gives it a unique setting for you to enjoy its nightlife. However, the cities are neck and neck with their quality and quantity of venues.
So, which city is better, Glasgow or Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is our overall winner. It might not surprise you as it is seen as Scotland’s ‘leading’ city, but I will say that Glasgow gave it a good run for its money.
Edinburgh’s beautiful Old Town and its incredible network of attractions set it apart. Edinburgh is easily a bucket list destination, and you’ll find yourself snapping photos everywhere you go (probably justifying each photo stop with the words “It is just SO pretty!”). Its public transport is cheap and efficient, although you probably won’t need it since the city is so walkable. In short, Edinburgh is pretty much the angel of UK city breaks.
What about Glasgow? You might be wondering. Well, Glasgow is a fantastic second city. If you get a chance after visiting Edinburgh, I’d recommend visiting Glasgow over a longer period (three days or more) and bringing a car to visit its attractions on the outskirts. Who knows. Maybe you’ll be able to take a road trip and visit both Edinburgh and Glasgow?