The Riverside Museum is home to some of Glasgow’s best loved industrial heritage. It showcases transport and products of heavy industry made in Glasgow and further afield during the height of the industrial revolution. In 2013, Riverside Museum won European Museum of the Year and in 2017, it received just over 1 million visitors.
If these recent accolades weren’t enough of a reason to visit the museum, then its architecture may convince you. The museum was designed by the late visionary architect Zaha Hadid and resembles an enormous industrial workshop with a jagged roof resembling waves. It sits on the banks of the River Clyde in the historically important Harbour area. Appropriately, this was where several of the largest shipyards within the city were located. The former industrial wasteland is completely transformed by this unique museum which combines the utility of heavy industry with contemporary design. Right next to the Riverside Museum is The Tall Ship at Riverside, a maritime museum built upon the former sail training vessel called the Glenee. This museum is also free and well worth a visit.
The Riverside Museum, although opened in 2011, is not necessarily new. Many of the contents bring together much of what was in the older transport museum which was located a short distance away at the Kelvinhall, a building that has been transformed into a large leisure and library complex.
The museum is a striking building with a large open area outside with benches and grass. As you walk towards it, you can see several other important modern Glasgow buildings including the Science Centre, the SECC, and the Hydro. Although much of the older shipbuilding infrastructure has been removed from the banks of River Clyde, the iconic Finnieston Crane remains as a lasting monument to shipbuilding, facing directly towards the SECC.
Inside the entrance to the museum you are met with a bright display of trains, cars, trucks and bicycles. These items offer a flavour of what the whole museum offers. These items come both from Scotland and abroad and each has their own important and fascinating story.
The main hall of the museum has rows of motorbikes on the walls. One has to crane their neck upwards to see the great number of motorbikes displayed within the collection. In the centre of the main hall, there are several large locomotives on which you can climb aboard. Standing next to these engines gives one an appreciation of how enormous and powerful these Victorian iron horses were during their zenith. The main hall also features many buses and trams which operated in Glasgow during the 1950s. These are complete with their old signs and numbers. Additionally, there is a luxury caravan dating from the 1960s and many other classic cars.
The highlight of the museum is undoubtedly the replication of an old Glasgow street. Walking down this cobbled street lined with tenement flats, you are transported to the Glasgow of 1912. This replica is complete with a sweet shop, a green grocers, a pub and even a subway stop and carriage. This vivid and accurate recreation of a Glasgow street offers visitors a chance to see how many of the city’s streets might have looked more than 100 years ago.
The Riverside Museum is the perfect place for a visitor to Glasgow to spend the day. It offers a glance at the city’s rich industrial heritage in a contemporary setting and shows how the River Clyde continues to forge and shape the city.