Scotland’s largest metropolis is going through a revolution. It also wins big on stylish restaurants, diverse architecture and a thriving creative scene, says Mark Sansom
Why go? Welcome to Glasgow, Scotland’s renaissance city. Its light-speed transformation from economic decline to boom in all aspects of city life has been meteoric. As shipyards rust into antiquity, the city has given birth to futuristic architecture, a thriving cultural scene, chefs who make the most of fine Scottish produce and a people that are (officially) among the friendliest in Europe. Monday 7 August marks the return of Piping Live, a huge bagpipe convention. Either join in the parade at Yorkhill, or pop in the earplugs and steer clear of the tartan-clad West End.
What to do Glasgow’s original name, Glaschu, roughly translates as ‘green place’ in Gaelic and as such, means you’re never too far from a park. Start a late summer morning in Kelvingrove Park, also home to Kelvingrove Art Gallery glasgowlife.org.uk. It’s the first hint at the city’s varied architecture, with its profligate Spanish renaissance frontage and fantastical spires. Inside, there’s a bumper 8,000 exhibits on display in over 22 themed galleries. The rest of the city’s buildings reveal Italian palazzo-style facades, Gaudi-esque twists and classical Greek and Roman tropes. For striking contemporary design by Zaha Hadid Architects, head to the Riverside Museum, rising like alpine peaks over Pointhouse Quay in the Glasgow Harbour regeneration district. For lunch, George Square is your best bet; a 19th-century beauty with the City Chambers at its eastern end. There are always performers in the main piazza and the tributary roads are packed with independent shops and restaurants. If it’s shopping you’re after, Glasgow’s Style Mile has you covered. It’s the largest retail destination in the UK outside of London, with everything from vintage clothing to antiques and big brand flagship stores. Start on Buchanan Street and amble your way through, with a pit stop at Cafe Wander cafewander.com for coffee. As night falls, catch a concert at SSE Hydro thessehydro.com – the world’s eighth busiest arena. Where to stay In tune with the city’s architecture, Glasgow’s hotels have enough variety to suit all tastes and budgets. Blythswood
Getting there easyJet operates daily flights from Stansted, Luton, Gatwick and Bristol airports to Glasgow International. The journey time is around 1hour 20minutes. easyjet.com
Virgin Trains run a number of direct rail services from London Euston to Glasgow Central station throughout the day.
Travel time is around 4.5 hours and tickets start from £30pp one-way. virgintrains.co.uk
AVERAGE DAILY TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL
Square blythswoodsquare.com is one of its gems, set in a quiet Georgian square with 100 rooms decked out in Harris tweed and marble. It’s five star and comes with personal touches from staff and a continental-leaning breakfast. The city has no shortage of classy B&Bs, with our favourite 15Glasgow 15glasgow.com set a stone’s throw from the West End. All five rooms have original fireplaces, intricate cornicing and modern bathrooms. Hotel du Vin’s property One Devonshire Gardens hotelduvin.com is set on a Victorian terrace with 49 rooms and all the idiosyncratic touches you expect from the wine-focussed brand, with a bistro serving solid French classics. CitizenM citizenm.com is another good bet, with some of the best-looking, best-value rooms in the city. Where to eat and drink With fantastic seafood, famous local dishes and, of course, access to the world’s best whisky, there’s a good reason why Glasgow is great for gourmands. The Ubiquitous Chip ubiquitouschip.co.uk has been the city’s leading restaurant since it opened in 1971. The name is a humorous nod at the city’s penchant for fast food, though expect nothing of the sort: it serves traditional Scots dishes with a European twist. Think ox cheek with dauphinoise and sautéed cabbage, or Shetland cod fillet, gnocchi, lemongrass and langoustine bisque. Ox and Finch oxandfinch. com does a fine job of modernising local favourites too, serving ‘Scottish tapas’ by chef Jonathan MacDonald from £4. Sea trout, apple, lime and green chilli, and slow-roast pork belly with sambal are stand out. Craft beer culture is also strong here. The Butcher Shop Bar & Grill butchershopglasgow.com serves well-sourced hunks of meat from a charcoal grill paired with local brews.
Time running out As a Unesco city of music, Glasgow never misses a beat. Barrowlands Ballroom has been providing a stage to nurture local talent since 1934. glasgow-barrowland.com
Trip tip It just wouldn’t be right to come to Glasgow and not sample a few drams. Head for an educational whisky tasting at Glasgow Wine School (£27.50pp). glasgowwineschool.com Resources
People make Glasgow is the tourist board’s website. It’s packed with handy information for your trip. peoplemakeglasgow.com
Night Song of the Last Tram by Robert Douglas (Hodder, £9.99) is a wonderful memoir of growing up in Glasgow after the Second World War and gives a great view of the city.