Moving to Glasgow
Are you moving to Glasgow? There’s a gentle rivalry between Scotland’s two top cities: Edinburgh may be the capital but Glasgow is bigger. Edinburgh may attract more expats and tourists, but the Glaswegians are passionately proud of their cultured city on the Clyde. Glasgow cemented its position as an industrial powerhouse during the 19th century, a centre of shipping and trade that embraced manufacturing, textiles and engineering. It also has a strong cultural heritage as one of the originators of the Scottish Enlightenment movement, excelling at music, the arts and architecture. Today, it’s a forward-looking and friendly city, proud of its heritage as it forges a new future.
Our free, in-depth Moving to Glasgow report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting Glasgow on the Map
Glasgow lies along the banks of the River Clyde in Scotland’s West Central Lowlands. The Clyde is the third longest river in Scotland, and the eighth in Britain. About six miles west of the city, it opens out to become the Firth of Clyde, and Glasgow has long been a major port and leading centre for ship-building. Unfortunately, one of Glasgow’s other features of note is being the the rainiest city in the UK, topping the charts for both the most rainfall and for the highest number of rainy days. You’ll need to invest in a good umbrella and a raincoat when you arrive!
Being Scotland’s largest city and holding a relatively central position makes Glasgow one of the country’s major transport hubs.
- A number of private bus operators run services throughout the city from the main bus terminal, Buchanan Bus Station.
- Glasgow’s urban rail network is second only to London’s in size.
- Central and Queen Street are the two main rail terminals, with Central serving London and southern destinations and Queen Street offering services to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness and other destinations to the north of the city.
- The West Coast Main Line covers 400 miles between London Euston and Glasgow Central.
- The Glasgow Subway is the UK’s only completely underground metro system and was the world’s third underground railway.
- Ferries across the Clyde have now been rendered virtually obsolete by the bridges and tunnels across the river – only two ferry services remain, beyond the city boundaries.
- A regular waterbus links the city with Braehead, about half an hour downstream, while the PS Waverly is the world’s last operational seagoing paddle steamer – though it’s mainly a tourist attraction.
- Once Britain’s largest seaport, there is now only one dock in operation in Glasgow.
- The M8, Scotland’s busiest motorway, passes through the city centre, linking it to the national road network.
- The M8 crosses the Clyde via the Kingston Bridge, which is the busiest bridge in Europe.
- There are three international airports within reach: Glasgow Airport, eight miles to the west; Glasgow Prestwick Airport, 30 miles to the south west; and Edinburgh Airport, 34 miles to the east.
- There is a seaplane terminal on the Clyde and a heliport on the banks of the Clyde.
Living in Glasgow’s city centre will probably mean living in one of the historic Grade II listed tenement buildings for which the city is famous—tall, imposing townhouses built out of Dumfriesshire red sandstone. They offer large rooms, high ceilings and attractive period features. However, there are also modern apartments and, further out, spacious Victorian and more modern housing. There’s a wide choice of rental accommodation, much of which is offered already furnished.
As this is where most expats work, this is generally where people start to look for accommodation. The central area is based on a grid system of streets on the north bank of the River Clyde. Naturally, much of the area is taken up with commercial interests, shops and cultural venues, including a number of theatres and concert halls.
The eastern section of central Glasgow is called Merchant City, once an enclave of wealthy Victorian merchants, it’s risen rapidly to be the young professional’s area of choice. There are lots of flats here at reasonable rents, along with small indie shops, excellent restaurants and a good nightlife. Parking and gardens come at a premium but if you want a luxury apartment or warehouse conversion, this could just be the place for you.
The Financial District
On the western edge of the city centre lies Glasgow’s financial district, often referred to as “Wall Street on Clyde”. High rise offices and developments mark it out as one of the UK’s major centres of finance and insurance, with eight of the country’s top 10 insurers having offices here. It’s not so big in terms of a residential area, but there are some swanky apartments to be had.
To the east of the city, Collegelands is student territory, though there are also plenty of young professionals here taking advantage of the reasonable rents. Look out for new builds and warehouse conversions.
Townhead and Cathedral Square
Just to the north of Glasgow’s nominal centre, George Square, this quieter residential area is punctuated with buildings of historic interest, including the Cathedral and the Necropolis. It’s a fairly affordable area and there are some large housing estates.
Garnethill is Glasgow’s bohemian quarter and home to the celebrated Glasgow School of Art. It’s within walking distance to the city centre and spacious Victorian flat conversions appeal to professionals and academics alike. You might even find a place with parking or a small garden.
Lying between the city centre and the West End, Charing Cross is convenient for both. It’s busy with shops, restaurants and offices and there are plenty of purpose built apartment blocks here.
The West End
Focused around Byres Road, beyond Kelvingrove Park and the University of Glasgow, the West End is another bohemian area that is popular with tourists and residents alike. It incorporates a number of residential enclaves, including Hillhead, Dowanhill and Hyndland, Broomhill, Anniesland, Kelvinbridge, Partick and Thornwood, Finnieston and Park. The River Kelvin runs through the area and it’s home to a number of galleries, museums and sporting venues. Dowanhill is the place to look if you want a spacious family house with a garden, while Broomhill is well positioned for the city centre. Kelvinbridge has a younger vibe going for it, while Park is somewhat smarter.
The East End
From Glasgow Cross to the city’s boundary with North and South Lanarkshire, the East End is populated by original tenements and industrial conversions. This is a particularly historic area of Glasgow, once home to wealthy tobacco merchants and there are plenty of historic landmarks.
This part of Glasgow is slightly more edgy on the whole, though there are some smart neighbourhoods such as Whitecraigs, Giffnock and Thorntonhall. The Southside sprawls but there are good train services into the centre of town and it benefits by having some of the city’s best state schools. Shawlands has an urban buzz, attracting young professionals to its terraces, while Newlands Park is green and leafy for the family brigade. Pollokshields is the smartest part, with big Victorian villas. Look out for the redevelopment of the docklands at Pacific Quay.
Here you’ll find the affluent suburbs of Bearsden, Milngavie and Bishopbriggs, but there are some gritty areas too. Regeneration programmes are gradually changing the face of North Glasgow but it will take some time. However, the tenement areas of Maryhill Park and North Kelvinside might be worth a look.
Who lives and works in Glasgow?
At its peak in the 1950s, Glasgow was one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with more than a million residents. However, its current population has dropped to approximately 600,000, after the poverty-stricken slums were raised and people were provided with new accommodation in a number of new towns around the city. Even so, the wider urban area of Greater Glasgow accounts for 1.2 million people. As Scotland’s economic power house, Glasgow has attracted immigrants for hundreds of years, particularly from Ireland, Italy, Pakistan, India, China, Poland and Lithuania.
Glasgow is Scotland’s largest economic area and has the third highest GDP per capita of any city in the UK. There are 12,000 companies trading in the city, responsible for 410,000 jobs, and in terms of annual economic growth, Glasgow comes second only to London.
- Historically, shipbuilding and engineering drove the city’s economy and there are still major manufacturers here—including Clyde Blowers, Weir Group, Howden, British Polar Engines, Aggreko, William Grant & Sons and many others.
- The city is still the UK’s main shipbuilding centre, with BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships working here.
- Tobacco was another important industry that has contracted in recent decades.
- Today, the strongest sectors are financial and business services, communications, bioscience, healthcare, higher education, creative industries, tourism and retail.
- Glasgow is one of Europe’s 16 largest financial centres and a significant number of blue chip companies are based here.
- One third of Scotland’s call centres are located in or around Glasgow.
- Other industries represented here include engineering, construction, brewing and distilling, printing and publishing, electronics, biotechnology, chemicals, software and textiles.
- The public sector is also a major employer in the city.
The Best Bits
As the European City of Culture in 1990, Glasgow is one of the UK’s hubs for the arts and has done well to transform its reputation from gritty industrial city into a modern intellectual centre.
- Glasgow is home to Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, the National Theatre of Scotland, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
- It was the UK City of Architecture in 1999 and the European Capital of Sport in 2003.
- The Mitchell Library is one of Europe’s largest reference libraries, with more than 1.3 million books.
- There are three major theatres—the King’s Theatre, the Citizens Theatre and the Theatre Royal.
- Glasgow has an abundance of museums and galleries, including the Gallery of Modern Art, the Burrell Collection and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
- The city plays host to comedy, jazz, visual arts and a plethora of other festivals.
- There’s a strong music scene here with plenty of live venues including the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the Hydro Arena and the SECC.
- The 13th century St Mungo’s Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in the city.
- It has its own school of architecture, The Glasgow School, who’s main proponent was the Arts and Crafts designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Bringing the Kids
Glasgow’s long-held reputation for being somewhat rough has completely dissipated in the last couple of decades and the once-notorious tenements are now desirable residents dwelled in by professionals and academics. A major centre for culture and the arts, it’s friendly rivalry with Edinburgh to be Scotland’s number one city looks set to run and run. It’s also a major academic centre and a research hub.
- The city boasts four universities—Glasgow, Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian and the University of West Scotland.
- There are also three colleges of further education, plus a teacher training college, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art.
- There are 29 state secondary schools in the city, including one which teaches exclusively in the Gaelic language.
- Independent schools include Hutchesons’ Grammar which dates back to 1639, Glasgow Academy, Kelvinside Academy and The High School of Glasgow, which was founded in 1124 and is Scotland’s oldest school.
- There are 149 state primary schools.
- Unfortunately, there are no international schools in Glasgow.
Relocating to Glasgow
Glasgow’s history is a rich tapestry of Scotland’s industrial past and evidence of it is written all over the city—from the now desirable sandstone tenements to the names of the streets and the lavish public buildings of the Victorian era. But it’s a modern and forward-looking city at the same time—a major financial focus and world-class research centre. Culturally, it’s brimming over with music and the arts, and in recent years its restaurant scene has undergone something of a culinary renaissance. There’s a wide choice of accommodation, from city-centre apartments in tenements and modern blocks to warehouse conversions and a wealth of Victorian housing stock. However, if you don’t know the area and need to find suitable schools, using the services of a relocation agent will considerably smooth your path.
At Saunders 1865, our teams of experts combine local knowledge with first-hand experience to pinpoint the right area and the right property that will tick all your boxes. Do you have children that need to be enrolled in school? Are the transport links convenient for your needs? Does this location fit with your expectations of expat life and is the space configured in a way that suits your requirements? We can bring expertise to all these factors and help to arrange smooth, efficient and stress-free relocations – to Glasgow, London and destinations across the world. Our services include home finding assistance, school finding, lease negotiations, temporary accommodation, move management and immigration assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how we can help you.
Average monthly rent - Glasgow