Tuesday, 20 December 2016

CITY GUIDE: Glasgow, Scotland

I fell in love with Glasgow before I had ever visited. The city has such a rich heritage of music prestige I knew it would steal my heart the minute I arrived. In all honesty, I thought the city was going to be a dump, a charming dump, but a dump nonetheless. I don’t know where this notion came from. I heard stories over the years about high levels of poverty and crime so I just expected it to be a bit ‘dirty’. This didn’t bother me. Growing up in London I’m used to a bit of grime and I’m not particularly bothered about surrounding myself in luxuries. My first visit to Glasgow in May 2015 was purely for music. I was going to see my favourite band play a special homecoming show and I was going to enjoy the city and everything it had to offer.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not about loving Glasgow, it’s amazing. But about it being a dump. Glasgow is one of the most charming cities I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. The city centre is arranged in a grid system and is rife with 18th Century architectural delights. Everywhere you look is an impressive building and that’s before you even mention Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Despite Glasgow being the largest city in Scotland it doesn't feel vast, size wise. The city is easy to navigate on foot and you can see an awful lot in a weekend alone. The West End i.e. the University area is separated from the city centre thanks to the monstrous looking M8. It’s about a 30 minute walk from the city centre to the University; alternatively you can hop on a bus for a couple of stops. There’s a one line subway affectionately named ‘clockwork orange’ thanks to the colour of the carriages and the circular route it takes. The stations are on the outskirts of the city centre so unless you’re adventuring a little further afield there’s not much use for it.

I love Glasgow, so much in fact that I hope to move there one day. I’ve only been twice but it’s a city I want to visit every year. Not only is it packed full of cultural curiosities, it has an impressive dining and nightlife scene. Most sights are free, or cost very little, and visitors from the south will be thrilled by how cheap food, drink, travel and accommodation is. You can eat and drink like royalty without wreaking havoc on your bank account. All this and including one of the UK’s most exciting music scenes means Glasgow has it all and you’d be a fool not to visit at least once. Edinburgh is nice with its castle and cobbled lanes but Scotland really comes to life in Glasgow. I cannot wait for my next visit.

Where to sleep:


Alamo Guesthouse

I’ve been to Glasgow twice, the first time I stayed in the city centre and the second time was in the West End. My preferred choice would definitely be the Wet End. This area is rich in restaurants and bars which means it’s the perfect place to be, come night fall. However, if you're in the city for a short time and you want to get a lot of sightseeing done then the city centre is probably a preferable choice.

This bnb is situation in the West End and with it only being a couple minutes walk from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the University of Glasgow, and the incredible bars and restaurants of Argyle Street, its location is hard to beat. Decorated in a traditional style, the rooms are large and comfortable. Breakfast is included and with rooms starting at £69 a night so you cannot beat this for value. We stayed in the small double which I believe is the cheapest room available. The room was far from small but you did have to share a bathroom which was never an issue. The shared bathroom(s) have showers and baths available. The breakfast is excellent with a choice of hot and cold options. Next time I'm in Glasgow I will most likely stay here again.

CitizenM is based in the heart of the city centre making it a great location for sightseeing and dining out. It's a great value, boutique hotel with room rates starting at £69 a night. Whilst the rooms are on the cosy side, the huge XL sized bed with storage underneath and powerful shower make your stay extremely comfortable. The rooms come with an iPad control which allows you to control the lighting and change the 'ambience' of the room to whatever shade your heart desires, as well as controlling the blinds, TV and alarm settings. The charm of the hotel doesn't stop at the rooms, there's a 24 hour bar and plenty of space to kick back and relax.

Where to eat:

 Ox and Finch

Porter and Rye

When it comes to dining you’d be hard pressed to find a city more exciting than Glasgow. There are so many incredible options and the best thing, everything is incredibly affordable.

For breakfast or brunch I can’t recommend Trans Europe Cafe enough. Think greasy spoon meets trainspotter café. I wasn't too impressed with the food at Willow's Tea Room but if you're a fan of Mackintosh then it's definitely worth checking out from a design point of view.

For hearty lunches and dinners there is an abundance of choice. In the West End I absolutely adore the sharing plates at Ox and Finch; the Sunday roasts at Porter and Rye; all things meaty at The Butchershop Bar and Grill; modern, Scottish cooking at The Gannet; and the Ubiquitous Chip for a special occasion. If you like Indian food then you must absolutely check out Mother India which has a casual tapas style location (Mother India Cafe) as well as a more formal a la carte restaurant. I prefer the cafe but the food at both is delicious. Whilst I've only popped in for a drink, the food served at the Kelvingrove Cafe and the Finnieston Bar looks wonderful too. A few places I'd like to check out next time I visit include Crabshakk and Two Fat Ladies for seafood, For Fika Sake for Scandi vibes, The 78 for vegan fare, Hanoi Bike Shop for Vietnamese, and Number 16 for modern Scottish food.

In the city centre you can find Cafe Gandolfi, a lovely casual restaurant that puts a modern spin on Scottish classics. Bread Meats Bread does burgers (there's now one in the West End) and Alston Bar and Beef does steak. There's also a huge selection of vegetarian and vegan cafes such as Mono, The Old Hairdressers, StereoSaramago Café Bar, The Flying Duck and The 13th Note. If you like beer you can also check out BrewDog's restaurant called DogHouse.

I'd definitely recommend making dinner reservations, especially if you're visiting on the weekend.

Museums and Galleries:

 Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

 Mackintosh House

 Gallery of Modern Art

House for an Art Lover

Glasgow has so much culture to offer and the best thing is that most of it is free. In the West End you have the impressive Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and Riverside Museum for transport lovers. Amongst the University of Glasgow grounds you'll find the slightly creepy Hunterian Museum as well as the Hunterian Art Gallery where you can go on a short guided tour of Mackintosh House. The house has been careful moved and rebuilt from it's original location (around the corner) and is the home that Mackintosh created. You can see his designs up close and get a feeling for how the artist lived at the beginning of the 20th century. His used his home to showcase his work and it really is a Glasgow highlight.

In the city centre modern art lovers will want to check out the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) for free exhibitions as well as the famous Equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington wearing a traffic cone, outside. In the city centre you'll also find the small but fascinating Police MuseumSt Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art and Provand's Lordship aka the oldest house in Glasgow. I haven't had the chance to visit yet but People's Palace and Winter Gardens is definitely on my list for next time. The museums contains artefacts relating to how people worked and lived in Glasgow during the 18th, 19th and 20th century.

South of the city you'll find House for an Art Lover, a Mackintosh designed house that was built long after his death as a tribute to his memory. He designed the house for a competition that he subsequently won. The house is now used as a venue space and whilst it's situated in a lovely leafy area of the city, it's really not worth going out of your way to visit unless you're a big fan, Mackintosh House in the University area will suffice alone. You'll also find the Burrell Collection in this area which is a lovely museum dedicated to the private collection of Sir William Burrell that was dedicated to the city of Glasgow after his death. Situated in the lovely Pollock County Park this is a great place for a stroll on a nice day. A short train ride away is Hampden Park, the home to Scottish Football and the Scottish Football Museum. This place is huge and a must visit for a fan of football. Steve absolutely loved it and whilst I'm not a big football fan myself I did find it somewhat enjoyable. Another place on my list for next time is Scotland Street School Museum which isn't too far.

Things to do and see:

 Glasgow School of Art

Botanic Gardens

In the West End you can visit the beautiful Botanic Gardens for free and take a walk inside the lovely Victorian era greenhouse. Even in the midst of winter this is a nice place for a stroll. Whilst I'm yet to visit, a 20 minute walk from the garden is Queen's Cross, the Mackintosh designed Church which is high on my list for next time.

In the city centre there's plenty more Mackintosh related culture to see. Mackintosh designed the magnificent Glasgow School of Art and just strolling around the outside of the building is a treat in itself. However, the Mackintosh themed tour offered by the College is an absolute must do and is probably the highlight of my first visit to the city. Whilst the original College building tragically suffered from a fire a few years ago, a lot of the Mackintosh artefacts were recovered and are currently on display to tour groups in the new building across the road, whilst the original is being restored. The tour take you around the exterior of the original building first, followed by a tour around the artefacts in the new building. The tours cost £7, take 45 minutes and are 100% worth it! A short walk from the College is the Mackintosh designed Lighthouse, a visitor centre, exhibition space and events venue. Entry to the building is free and you're able to climb the lighthouse for great views over the city. Look out for the famous 'People Make Glasgow' billboard when you reach the top. The Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) is also worth a visit for it's fantastic gift shop and art events calendar.

Slightly east of the city centre you can also find the impressive Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis which is a wonderful place to spend some time. The Necropolis is situated on a hill, giving you great views over the city.

Where to shop:


Unless you're talking about record shops I don't actually know that much about shopping in the city. As I mentioned earlier, CCA has a great gift shop as does the Glasgow School of Art so check them out for some locally made souvenirs.

In terms of record shops Monorail is probably the most famous. It has a small, curated section with many local rarities selling for eye watering prices but nevertheless it's still nice for a browse. Love Music is a good spot in the city centre where you can find some bargains. The Oxfam Music on Byres Road near the University has loads of treasures plus nearby FOPP and Mixed Up Records are worth visiting as well.

Where to party:

The Twilight Sad at Barrowlands Ballroom

When it comes to letting your hair down in Glasgow I really like to go all out. The nightlife scene here is one of my favourite elements of the city as there are just so many things going on. Plus, compared to London the price of alcohol is ridiculously cheap.

In the West End a lot of restaurants also offer tables around the bar for drinks without food. The Kelvingrove Cafe and Finnieston Bar are two great options to start the night with a local gin cocktail. Gin is huge in Scotland aye. In the West End you'll find BrewDog and 6 Degrees North which are nice for a craft beers. Other places I like include the pubs Brel, The Belle, Hillhead Bookclub, Oran Mor, and Lane Vinyl Bar.

In the city centre, all the vegan cafes I previously mentioned (MonoThe Old Hairdressers, StereoThe Flying Duck) are open late and are really nice places to grab a drink. Nice N Sleazy is a Glasgow institution and Broadcast next door is a cool stop too. Gin 71 is a great place for gin, obviously, and The Arches is a great underground cavern near the train station. The Barrowland Ballroom is the place to go for live music as is King Tut's Wah Wah Hut for smaller gigs and the bar.


Glasgow is a very walkable city and unless you're going south of the city centre there's isn't much need to use the local transport. The city centre and West End can easily be walked or you can hop on a bus for a couple of stops. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the city centre from Glasgow International Airport via bus, but taxis are so cheap that there isn't a huge difference in the cost. Both times we've flown to Glasgow have been with Ryan Air as we were able to pick up ridiculously cheap flights but the airport is serviced by a large range of carriers. Something I'd like to do one day is catch the overnight train from London but when a flight takes an hour it does seem like a slow option, despite the romance of it.

I do hope this guide comes in handy and if you have any tips please do let me know as I'd love to add them to my list for next time.

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