This is not designed as a definitive guide to Glasgow. The city has many and varied attractions – art, shopping, music, sport, architecture, history, to name but a few – and this points a few guidelines towards some of them. Use it to dip into some, or all, of your own particular interests, or to whet your appetite for a more detailed tour.
But whatever, enjoy your visit to the city. Glaswegians are noted for their friendly hospitality and most love to show off their knowledge of the city to visitors. So, if you do get lost, or need any information, ask bar or shop staff, or even someone in the street – although they might well be a fellow tourist too!
BASE: GLASGOW GUEST HOUSE, 56 DUMBRECK ROAD, SOUTHSIDE
Southside Tour: the House for an Art Lover, the Burrell, Pollok House and the Scotland Street School
Staying here in the Southside also enables you to combine four of Glasgow’s key attractions in one day. The guest house is virtually next door to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park www.houseforanartlover.co.uk Don’t be put off by the approach as the interior is fantastic. The house was created in the early 1990s from Mackintosh’s original, but unused, plans and it makes an interesting comparison with the Hill House in Helensburgh.
In addition, the guesthouse is only a 20 minute walk (10 minute drive, the traffic is bad!) from the world famous Burrell Collection in Pollok Park
Also in the park is the 18th mansion Pollok House http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/48 now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and home to more art treasures (Goya, Blake), an extensive library and beautiful gardens.
Not far away, also in the Southside, is another key Mackintosh building: the Scotland Street School http://www.scotcities.com/ mackintosh/scotlandst.htm This is a stunning example of Mackintosh’s architecture and also has some great reconstructions of classrooms through the 20th century. It’s free and just across the road from Shields Road subway station. (Glasgow has a cheap and efficient underground system, known as the subway, or underground, but never the tube!)
Charles Rennie Mackintosh Legacy:
There are numerous other examples of CRM’s legacy in and around the city- have a look at: www.crmsociety.com You can buy an all-in-one ticket to cover entry to the main Mackintosh attractions in and around Glasgow and the bus travel between them: https://kiosk.iristickets.co.uk/k?spt&MACKINTOSH But you may not have time to visit them all, so if you are at all interested in Mackintosh, start with The School of Art; this is his masterpiece.
The School of Art www.gsa.ac.uk is right in the city centre, just off Sauchiehall Street. You will be shown round by a Mackintosh expert and provided with a wonderful introduction to CRM’s work.
As you are in the Garnethill area, try to fit in a visit to the Tenement House http://www.gnws.co.uk/glasgow/galleries It’s just round the corner from the Art School, in Buccleuch Street. Now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, this wonderfully preserved interior of a typical Glasgow tenement provides an unforgettable social history of the city and is well worth a visit.
NB: although it’s tempting to spend all the time on the Mackintosh Trail, he was only one, if the most famous, of the adherents of the so-called Glasgow Style. This emerged in the late 19th/early 20th centuries when crafts and tradespeople were given grants to study design to ensure that Glasgow retained its cutting edge in manufacture and production. At that time, Glasgow was known as the Second City of the Empire and was the world’s leading centre for shipbuilding, as well as locomotive and other engineering.
It had grown prosperous as a trading city and the influence of other parts of the world can be seen in design all over the city. The exhibitions in Kelvingrove http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/our-museums/kelvingrove/Pages/home.aspx on Glasgow and the World and Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style explain this really well (as does a general look at buildings in the city) and are important in appreciating the wider context of Mackintosh and his work.
Start with the Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Glasgow Style Gallery at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This is the largest collection of the Glasgow Style’s media and techniques; eg, stained glass, textiles etc.
Any visit to Glasgow has to include a trip to Kelvingrove – the most visited museum outside London has everything from a Spitfire to a Dali, housed in a marvellous Victorian building and it’s free – so take some time to look around the rest of the museum while you’re here.
Now make the short walk up Kelvin Way to the Mackintosh House at the University’s Hunterian Art Gallery http://www.hunterian.gla.ac.uk/collections/art_gallery/mac_house/machouse_index.shtml Here the interior of 6 Florentine Terrace, Charles and Margaret Mackintosh’s home between 1906-14, has been recreated. (The gallery is free, but there is a small entrance charge for the Mackintosh House.)
This area was designed during Glasgow’s period of prosperity in the nineteenth century. So while you are in the West End, take a look round the Victorian spires of Glasgow University http://www.gla.ac.uk/about/history (designed by George Gilbert Scott of Albert Memorial, St Pancras Station fame) or if it’s not raining, walk through Kelvingrove Park (designed by Joseph Paxton, best known for the original Crystal Palace); the Stewart Memorial Fountain, commemorating the establishment of the Loch Katrine water system is well worth a look, as is the statue to the renowned physicist, William Thomson, Lord Kelvin.
A short walk from Kelvingrove will take you to the city’s most recent must-see attraction,’ the new Riverside Transport Museum, at Pointhouse Place on the banks of the Clyde. Designed by the award-winning architect, Zaha Hadid, this stunning building shares its waterfront location with the iconic Tall Ship, the “Greenlee”.
Both building and ship testify to the city’s world-renowned industrial heritage and the museum contains over 3,000 exhibits, including locomotives, trams and models of famous ships built in Glasgow.
Byres Road/Ashton Lane, the student hub of the West End, is nearby, with some of the city’s best bars, restaurants and cafes and the independent Grosvenor cinema. You’ll find the Ubiquitous Chip and the Wee Curry House here, as well as some less crowded and less expensive places to eat and drink (see below, Eating, Drinking, Shopping).
Centre (East) and Merchant City,
There’s much more to Glasgow than Mackintosh, so before you go, check out the other end of the city, to the east of the centre.
Glasgow Cathedral http://www.glasgowcathedral.org.uk/ is built on the site where St Kentigern, or Mungo, the first bishop within the ancient British kingdom of Strathclyde, was thought to have been buried in AD 612. The present cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries and is the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland to have survived the 1560 Reformation virtually intact.
Just across from the Cathedral is Provand’s Lordship, http://www.glasgowguide.co.uk/ta_provands.html the oldest house in Glasgow (1471) and the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life http://www.glasgowguide.co.uk/ta_st_mungos.html
Try to make time to visit the Necropolis, Glasgow’s unique hilltop cemetery, just south of the Cathedral. Here an array of monuments, many designed by leading architects, mark the graves of Glaswegians from a past age.
From here, head down High Street, past Glasgow Cross and the Tolbooth Steeple to Glasgow Green. This is the city’s oldest park; the green space where the original teams from both Celtic and Rangers played their first matches in the late 19th century. Look for the needle-shaped Nelson’s Monument and you will see the Winter Gardens, a huge Victorian conservatory at the back of the People’s Palace, Glasgow’s social history museum http://www.glasgowguide.co.uk/ta_peoples
Here you will see the story of the people and city of Glasgow through words, music, pictures and film and the tropical plants in the Winter Garden make an ideal backdrop for a relaxing refreshment after your tour. As you step outside you’ll see the wonderfully-restored Doulton Fountain, while to the side is the amazing architecture of the former Templeton’s Carpet Factory.
Head towards the river and walk back along the Clyde Walkway, under St Andrew’s suspension bridge towards the city centre. This brings you into the Merchant City. This is the historic heart of Glasgow, now transformed by a massive regeneration over recent years. The grandiose townhouses of the merchants who built up the wealth of the city in the 18th century have now metamorphosed into luxurious shops and trendy bars, restaurants and.cafes. Read more about Merchant City at http://www.glasgowmerchantcity.net/merchant_city.html
GLASGOW: Eating, Drinking, Shopping:
Bars, Restaurants, Cafes:
Believe it or not, Glasgow has always been known for its cafe society – even if the pavement umbrellas are mostly used to deflect the rain, not the sun – and there is a strong Italian tradition of providing good coffee, cafes and ice cream. One of Mackintosh’s most famous commissions was for Miss Cranston’s tea rooms.
The Willow Tearooms in Sauchiehall and Buchanan Streets attempt to recreate this with copies of original furniture and fittings. But although understandably popular with visitors, they are not among the best cafes in the city.
Rogano www.roganoglasgow.com in Royal Exchange Square is a Glasgow institution. Opened in the 1930s, it was fitted in the same Art Deco style as the most famous Clyde-built ship of the age, the Queen Mary. Popular with all sorts of Glaswegians, you are quite likely to run into well-known faces from stage, screen and media amongst the clientele.
The West End, particularly around Byres Road and Ashton Lane has a wealth of acclaimed cafes, bars and restaurants, including the Wee Curry House and Ubiquitous Chip. And you don’t have to pay the earth to find good food and coffee, even in the West End. The Left Bank http://www.theleftbank.co.uk/ 33-35 Gibson Street and its sister cafe/bar, The Two Figs http://www.thetwofigs.co.uk 5&9 Byres Road (the Kelvinhall end) are renowned for their good value food (and cocktails) and are both pleasant places to hang out.
But don’t overlook the less fashionable areas of the city.Tucked away just off the Paisley Road West in Ibrox, is Cherry and Heatherhttp://www.cherryandheather.co.uk 7 North Gower Street, Ibrox +44 0141 427 0272, a tiny gem of a deli/cafe, right across the road from the Glasgow Climbing Centre.
Merchant City is the place in the city centre to sample the best in food and drink that Glasgow has to offer. Several Indian restaurants in Candleriggs are particularly well regarded and do visit the Corinthian Club in Ingram Street, www.thecorinthianclub.co.uk even if just for a coffee and the opportunity to gaze at the ceilings and chandeliers of this beautifully revamped 18th century tobacco merchant’s townhouse.
Many consider the Tapa Bakehouse in Dennistoun and its outlet in the Southside www.tapabakehouse.co.uk serve the city’s best coffee. Cranberry’s is a cute little cafe in Merchant City, seen occasionally as a backdrop in episodes of Taggart, that sells good homemade soup and delicious cakes. And there are many more cafes across the city: but beware, the west of Scotland is traditionally renowned for its sweet tooth and favourites like millionaire’s shortbread and empire biscuits.
Shop Till You Drop:
Glaswegians love to shop and the city centre is generally considered to offer the UK’s best shopping, outside London.
The central shopping area takes the form of a large Z, with Buchanan Street in the middle and Argyle and Sauchiehall Streets running off at right angles at either end.
Buchanan Street has the flagship House of Fraser (including the original Wylie and Lochhead store, one of Glasgow’s landmark buildings) at one end and John Lewis, in the Buchanan Galleries, at the other. Princes Square, Royal Exchange Square, the Italian Centre and Merchant City, off Buchanan Street to the east, offer more upmarket options.
In general, the further away from the Buchanan Street apex on both Argyle and Sauchiehall, Streets, the more tacky the shops.
One real highlight of shopping in the city is to sit back and enjoy afternoon tea in the aforementioned Corinthian Club, after your retail expedition.
GLASGOW: Theatres, Cinemas, Music
Glasgow enjoys more theatres than anywhere else outside London’s West End. They include:
The city claims to have the tallest cinema in the world, Cineworld at the top of Renfield street; you can’t miss it!
There are two good independents, the Grosvenor and the Glasgow Film Theatre.
You’ll find every type of live music from small bands playing in pubs, to top stars at the SECC, Royal Concert Halls and Theatre Royal. Oasis were reputedly discovered at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and there are numerous other musical venues.
Karaoke abounds, particularly a Glaswegian version known as Curry Karaoke. If you fancy a tikka masala while you listen to the next SuBo, the most scenic venue (can’t vouch for its tunefulness) is by the Tall Ship at Glasgow Harbour.
For all entertainment, check out: www.seeglasgow.co.uk