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A Weekend in Glasgow
It’s gone from rusting shipyards to a city that mixes #historic sandstone buildings and modern #architecture, award-winning museums and live music venues, quirky shops and innovative #foodanddrink. One thing you definitely won’t get is bored. So here’s my guide on how to discover #Glasgow and the #culture in 48 hours.
After weekends in Oxford, Cardiff, Bath and Cheltenham, my next weekend guide is heading a bit further north to the Scottish city of Glasgow. Despite living in the UK I’ve got a lot of Scotland still to see, so couldn’t wait to see what the Glasgow has to offer.
It’s often compared to nearby Edinburgh, but where Edinburgh is tourist central Glasgow has a grittier, creative edge. This former industrial powerhouse has transformed itself into a city of culture. European City of Culture, UNESCO City of Music – the awards keep coming in.
Glasgow has a grittier, creative edge
Check in to the Grasshoppers Hotel. Right in the centre of town, it’s extra convenient if you’re travelling by train as it’s on the top floor of a building right next to Glasgow Central Station.
Glasgow Central Station Tour
Edinburgh Gin Distillery Tour, Scotland
Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway and Museum
It’s surprisingly quiet up that high and the rooms have stylish Scandinavian-style design, with lots of pale greys, handmade wallpaper, pod bathrooms and oak floors. There’s also a communal lounge with views over the station’s glass roof and nice touches like cupcakes you can help yourself to.
nice touches like cupcakes you can help yourself to
Grasshopper Hotel Glasgow
Edinburgh Gin Distillery Tour, Scotland
Glasgow Central Station Tour
You don’t have far to go for dinner at Alston Bar and Beef, under the arches of a cellar buried deep beneath the station. As you can guess from the name they specialise in beef, with fantastic dry-aged steaks from the Borders. They also have a huge selection of gins, and if you’re a fan you can sign up for a gin tasting-come-dinner evening and taste your way through a few of the best.
a huge selection of gins
Start the day with a walk in the park to the grand red sandstone building that houses Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Part art gallery and part history museum, there are 33 different galleries and a eclectic mix of collections – you’ll find a giant elephant next to a World War II Spitfire as well as dinosaur eggs, Egyptian artefacts and a painting by Salvador Dali. With more than 8000 exhibits there’s plenty to see, and entry’s free so you can dip in and out and stop off in their café when you need to refuel.
a eclectic mix of collections
From Kelvingrove, walk across the park to the University of Glasgow. The gothic-style buildings were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, famous for creating the St Pancras hotel in London. With its turrets, vaulted ceilings and bell towers it looks like something straight out of Harry Potter. Wander the cloisters along with the students or visit Scotland’s oldest museum – the Hunterian (free entry). It was set up when 18th-century anatomist William Hunter donated his scientific collection to the university along with as a hoard of coins, minerals, books and Roman artefacts he’d collected over the years.
Carry on past the university to Byres Road, the heart of Glasgow’s West End and home to some great boutique and vintage shops. Stop for lunch at the Ubiquitous Chip, where they put a modern twist on traditional Scottish dishes, served in a lovely flower-filled courtyard (two-course set menu £16.95).
modern twist on traditional Scottish dishes
Head down to the river to the new, Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum (free entry). Opened in 2011, the ‘Glasgow Guggenheim’ has 3000 transport and travel related exhibits, from steam trains to skateboards. If you’re a car or train fan you’ll be in heaven, but even not there are other things to see like a recreated street taking you back to 1890s Glasgow. And just outside the museum you can take a tour of the Glenlee, a restored tall ship that’s one of only five sailing ships built on the Clyde that are still afloat.
If you’re a car or train fan you’ll be in heaven
Glasgow’s River Clyde was the centre of a hugely powerful shipbuilding industry until the Second World War when the area went into decline. Since then it’s been redeveloped and as you walk along the riverside you’ll see modern buildings like the Clyde Auditorium (known as the Armadillo) and the titanium-clad Glasgow Science Centre. But there’s still a glimpse of the river’s old life in the Finnieston Crane, a 175-foot high crane used to load heavy locomotives onto ships.
If you time your walk to coincide with sunset, then the crane and the curving Clyde Arc (aka the Squinty Bridge) make a great silhouette. Finish the day with dinner at The Finnieston, a seafood restaurant with yet more gin – this time there’s 60 different varieties.
yet more gin – this time there’s 60 different varieties
First thing in the morning, head downstairs to Glasgow Central Station to join the 9am building tour which reveals some of the station’s hidden secrets (£13 per person, minimum age 12 and you need to book in advance online). The tour takes you right from the top of the station’s glass roof to a forgotten Victorian village buried underground. Among the way you’ll see rooms that were used as a WWI mortuary, an old boiler house that was the site of a 1930s murder and an original Victorian platform.
9am building tour which reveals some of the station’s hidden secrets
From the station it’s only a couple of minutes’ walk to the Lighthouse. The building was one of Art Nouveau designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s first commissions and was originally the Glasgow Herald newspaper offices. Now it’s a centre for design and architecture, with a free exhibition on Mackintosh’s work.
Don’t forget to head up the spiral stairs of the old water tower for a great view across Glasgow city centre. Next up stop for lunch at Tabac, a bar and restaurant opposite the Lighthouse which does tapas-style sharing plates like smoked haddock croquettes, seared scallops and sourdough with bone marrow butter.
To find out a bit more about Charles Rennie Mackintosh, head to the Glasgow School of Art to join their 2pm Mackintosh at the GSA tour (£9.75 for adults, £8 for students/over 60s or £4.75 for under 18s). Mackintosh had strong ties to the school – he started off as a student there back in the 1880s and ended up winning a architecture competition to design a new building for them.
The tours are led by current or former students and take you around the Mackintosh building, though after a fire tore through the building last year you can’t get inside at the moment. You do get to see some of Mackintosh’s furniture though as well as getting lots of insight into his life and his relationship with Glasgow.
as well as getting lots of insight into his life
Then finish the weekend off with a stop at another famous Mackintosh-designed building, the Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street (open until 5pm). It’s been restored to its original Art Nouveau glory and you can go for a three-tier afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones and cake, or something a bit more Scottish like Cullen Skink (smoked haddock and potato soup) or Scottish Rarebit. And no deep-fried Mars bars in sight!