Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland and the fourth-most populous city in the United Kingdom, as well as being the 27th largest city by population in Europe. In 2020, it had an estimated population of 635,640. Straddling the border between historic Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, the city now forms the Glasgow City Council area, one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, and is governed by Glasgow City Council. It is situated on the River Clyde in the country’s West Central Lowlands.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Glasgow’s population grew rapidly, reaching a peak of 1,127,825 people in 1938. The population was greatly reduced following comprehensive urban renewal projects in the 1960s which resulted in large-scale relocation of people to designated new towns, such as Cumbernauld, Livingston, East Kilbride and peripheral suburbs, followed by successive boundary changes. Over 985,200 people live in the Greater Glasgow contiguous urban area, while the wider Glasgow City Region is home to over 1,800,000 people, equating to around 33% of Scotland’s population. The city has one of the highest densities of any locality in Scotland at 4,023/km2.
The city’s principal municipal library, the Mitchell Library, has grown into one of the largest public reference libraries in Europe, currently housing some 1.3 million books, an extensive collection of newspapers and thousands of photographs and maps. Of academic libraries, Glasgow University Library started in the 15th century and is one of the oldest and largest libraries in Europe, with unique and distinctive collections of international status.
Glasgow has the most extensive urban rail network in the UK outside London, with rail services travelling to a large part of the West of Scotland. Most lines were electrified under British Rail. All trains running within Scotland, including the local Glasgow trains, are operated by ScotRail, which is owned by the Scottish Government. Central station and Queen Street station are the two main railway terminals. Glasgow Central is the terminus of the 642 km long West Coast Main Line from London Euston, as well as TransPennine Express services from Manchester and CrossCountry services from Birmingham, Bristol, Plymouth and various other destinations in England. Glasgow Central is also the terminus for suburban services on the south side of Glasgow, Ayrshire and Inverclyde, as well as being served by the cross city link from Dalmuir to Motherwell. Most other services within Scotland – the main line to Edinburgh, plus services to Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness and the Western Highlands – operate from Queen Street station.
There are three international airports within 45 minutes travel of the city centre, as well as a centrally located seaplane terminal. Two airports are dedicated to Glasgow, and Edinburgh International airport, situated on the west side of Edinburgh, is not far from Glasgow. These airports are Glasgow Airport (GLA) (eight mi or thirteen km west of the city centre) in Renfrewshire, Glasgow Prestwick Airport (PIK) (30 mi or 50 km southwest) in Ayrshire, Edinburgh Airport (EDI), (34 mi or 55 km east) in Edinburgh and Glasgow Seaplane Terminal, by the Glasgow Science Centre on the River Clyde. There are also several smaller, domestic and private airports around the city. There is a heliport, Glasgow City Heliport, located at Stobcross Quay on the banks of the Clyde.
Glasgow is a major centre of higher and academic research, with the following universities and colleges within 10 miles of the city centre:
- University of Glasgow
- University of Strathclyde
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- University of the West of Scotland
- The Glasgow School of Art
- Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
- City of Glasgow College
- Glasgow Clyde College
- Glasgow Kelvin College
- West College Scotland
In 2011 Glasgow had 53,470 full-time students aged 18–74 resident in the city during term time, more than any other city in Scotland and the fifth-highest number in the United Kingdom outside London. The majority of those who live away from home reside in Shawlands, Dennistoun and the West End of the city.
Glasgow has four professional football clubs, who all play in the SPFL: Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle, and Queen’s Park (after their move from amateur status in November 2019). Prior to this, Glasgow had two other professional teams: Clyde (now playing in Hamilton) and Third Lanark (liquidated in 1967), plus four others active in the league in the 19th century: Thistle, Cowlairs, Northern and Linthouse. There are a number of West of Scotland Football League clubs within the city as well, such as Pollok, Maryhill, Benburb, Ashfield, Glasgow Perthshire F.C., Glasgow United (formerly Shettleston Juniors), and Petershill, plus numerous amateur teams.
Glasgow was the first city (since joined by Liverpool in 1985, Madrid in 1986, 2014, 2016 and 2018, Milan in 1994 and London in 2019) to have had two football teams in European finals in the same season: in 1967, Celtic competed in the European Cup final with rivals Rangers competing in the Cup Winners’ Cup final.
Glasgow has a professional rugby union club, the Glasgow Warriors, which plays in the European Rugby Champions Cup and Pro14 alongside teams from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Italy and South Africa. The Warriors current home is Scotstoun Stadium and has been since 2012, previously they played at Firhill Stadium. They have won the Melrose 7s in both 2014 and 2015 and were also crowned champions of the Pro12 at the end of the 2014/15 season after beating Irish side Munster in Belfast.
The city has many amenities for a wide range of cultural activities, from curling to opera and ballet and from football to art appreciation; it also has a large selection of museums that include those devoted to transport, religion, and modern art. Many of the city’s cultural sites were celebrated in 1990 when Glasgow was designated European Capital of Culture.
Glasgow is home to a variety of theatres including the King’s Theatre, the Theatre Royal and the Citizens Theatre and is home to many museums and art galleries, the largest and most famous being the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) and the Burrell Collection. Most of the museums and galleries in Glasgow are publicly owned and free to enter.
The city is home to numerous orchestras, ensembles and bands including those of Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and related to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland and the Universities and Colleges.