A weekend in Glasgow
Everything you need to know for a break in Scotland’s city of culture
Why you should visit Glasgow
Most visitors to Scotland will fly into the capital city Edinburgh before “dashing out to explore a slice of the Highlands”, either to Loch Ness or the Isle of Skye, said Barometer Earthstar on Medium. But “I am here to convince you” that Glasgow is “not to be overlooked”. Sure, Scotland’s biggest city “doesn’t have an Arthur’s Seat”, or an “imposing Castle”, but it “more than makes up for this in other ways”.
Scotland’s “funniest and most unpredictable” city has long lived in Edinburgh’s shadow when it comes to tourism, said Jamie Lafferty in The Times. “Part of this comes from its reputation”. It never seems quite able to “shake its clichés, nor, in truth, does it entirely want to”. From the “often fierce” Old Firm rivalry of its football teams, Rangers and Celtic, to its “symbiotic relationship” with alcohol, “Glesga” always seems to be trying to overcome adversity.
There is no doubt though that “vibrant” and “creative” Glasgow is Scotland’s city of culture, said Kayleigh Dray on Stylist. Visitors can enjoy museums, galleries, cocktail bars, cafes, restaurants, green spaces, comedy clubs, music venues, shopping districts and breath-taking architecture.
With “in-your-face inner city swagger” and a “rip-roaring” restaurant scene, Glasgow “delivers a knockout kiss”, said Mike MacEacheran in The Independent. It’s a “dream destination” for a city break, “no matter where you’re coming from”.
You will “for sure” love Glasgow, said VoyageTrips.com. One of the “most dynamic” and “modern” cities in the UK, it has been awarded “City of Culture”, “City of Architecture and Design”, and “City of Sport”.
Top attractions: things to see and do
Arts, museums and nightlife
There are so many things to see and do in Glasgow, especially the “fantastic” art galleries and “amazing” street art, said Jessica Norah on the Independent Travel Cats blog.
All the major museums and art galleries in Glasgow are free to visit. Must-visit attractions include the Gallery Of Modern Art, the centre for Glasgow’s extensive modern and contemporary art collection, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which features 22 themed, state-of-the-art galleries displaying 8,000 objects. Described by Gabrielle Schwarz in The Daily Telegraph as a “remarkable museum”, The Burrell Collection in Pollok Country Park has reopened to the public after a six-year, £68m refurbishment.
As well as the galleries and museums, you can also find “one of most vibrant music scenes in the UK”, said Lafferty in The Times. It’s also “incontestably” the best night out anywhere in Scotland.
Buildings and architecture
With its “rare timelessness” and “dark, imposing interior”, Glasgow Cathedral is a “shining example of Gothic architecture”, said Lonely Planet. And unlike nearly all of Scotland’s cathedrals, it “survived the turmoil of the Reformation mobs almost intact” because the Protestants decided to repurpose it for their own worship. “Most of the current building dates from the 15th century.”
Glasgow showcases a number of impressive buildings that should be on every traveller’s bucket list, said Trip101.com. Once home to the Glasgow Herald newspaper, The Lighthouse is today known as Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture. The Beaux Arts-style Glasgow City Chambers building in George Square is “so impressive both inside and out” that it has been used as a film set for various movies such as An Englishman Abroad and The House of Mirth.
Parks and open spaces
Its Gaelic name, literally the “Dear Green Place”, is apt given its 70 parks and open spaces, said Barbara Radcliffe Rogers on PlanetWare.com. Located in the heart of the historic Victorian city centre, the “flower-bedecked” George Square is home to 12 statues of famous people associated with the city, including Robbie Burns, Walter Scott, and Queen Victoria. And next to Glasgow Cathedral is the Necropolis, a 37-acre Victorian Gothic garden cemetery that has been famously described as a “city of the dead”.
One of the best things to do in Glasgow is to escape to Pollok Country Park, said TimeOut. This slice of “gorgeous countryside” is just a rather scenic ten minutes away from Glasgow Central and once there, get the “blood pumping with a stroll through serene surroundings, followed by some cooing over the Highland cows and Clydesdale horses”.
One of the “prettiest green spaces” you’ll spy in Glasgow is the Botanic Gardens, which is “filled to the brim” with history, botany and fine architecture.
Hotels and accommodation: where to stay
From smart Georgian mansions to country house retreats, Glasgow “has it all”, said MacEacheran in The Independent. Kimpton Blythswood Square offers “best for glamour”; Native Glasgow “best for art deco”; CitizenM “best for Generation Z”; and ABode Glasgow is “best for shopaholics”.
If a luxury boutique is what you’re after then the Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens offers a “country house vibe, opulent rooms and an award-winning restaurant”, said The Telegraph. It’s also the “connoisseur’s choice”, and that of “a galaxy of A-list celebrities”.
For the “best in affordable luxury” and “top quality cuisine”, head for Dakota Glasgow, said The Luxury Editor. Just steps from Sauchiehall Street, “you couldn’t be closer” to the city centre pubs, restaurants, clubs and theatres.
Restaurants, bars, pubs and whisky: where to eat and drink
Two restaurants in Glasgow city – Unalome by Graeme Cheevers, and Cail Bruich – have one star awarded by the Michelin Guide. Unalome by Graeme Cheevers on Kelvingrove Street has a “boldness and a sophistication to the cooking” and it’s well worth going for the full tasting menu and the thoughtfully considered wine pairings. At Cail Bruich on Great Western Road, guests are drawn by Lorna McNee’s “refined, confident cooking”. To see her skills in action, book the kitchen counter and choose the Chef’s Tasting Menu. Four restaurants – Celentano’s (Italian), Ox and Finch (Mediterranean), Ka Pao (Asian), and Monadh Kitchen (Modern British) – have been awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin.
Fancy a pint or three? Thankfully, Glasgow has plenty of pubs to pick from, said TimeOut. The Belle is one of the West End’s “cosiest wee pubs” while “modern Scottish” The Gate is one of Glasgow’s newer pubs and has “already become the talk around town”. It has everything from high-quality craft beers and an expanding selection of gin to more 160 whiskies and “unbelievably good toasties”.
It might not be Scotland’s whisky capital, but Glasgow’s got a “whisky scene all its own, featuring some of the country’s finest institutes”, said Stewart Craigon on the World Whisky Day website. Some of the best places to enjoy a dram include The Ben Nevis Bar in Finnieston and The Lismore Bar in Partick, which have a great selection of whisky. For Craigon, the “Holy Grail of whisky bars” is The Pot Still, which is “one of the finest whisky bars I have ever visited”.
Transport: how to get there
Glasgow Airport is Scotland’s busiest airport and serves more than 30 airlines and 120 destinations worldwide. Located around 20 minutes from the city, the Glasgow Airport Express service 500 goes to and from Buchanan Bus Station in the centre.
As well as flights visitors can also take direct trains from a number of different towns and cities across the UK, including the Caledonian Sleeper service between Glasgow Central and London Euston. The city has two main stations: Glasgow Central Station, which links Glasgow to the south; and Glasgow Queen Street Station, which operates routes mainly to Edinburgh and the north.
What the locals say…
Artist Annie Hutchinson has “fallen in love” with Glasgow since moving there to live and work. In her local’s guide on The Guardian, she picked out the iconic Barras market as somewhere you can buy “literally anything”. It’s such a “magical, motley collection” of things for sale and there’s “something special” about this whole area.
In his TV show Parts Unknown, the late American chef Anthony Bourdain controversially characterised Glasgow as somewhere to go “for a beer and a beating”, said Claire Boyle on Rough Guides. Bourdain poked “good-natured fun” at the city’s notoriety, where the “drinking culture looms large and the language is colourful”. However, he also represented Glasgow’s lesser-known highlights: its charms and culinary delights. “This is the side of the city you need to discover,” Boyle said.