48 hours in Glasgow
Scotland's largest city, Glasgow is renowned for its vibrant arts, music and culture scene, rich architectural heritage and a wealth of friendly locals.
The city has the greatest concentration of creative industries in Britain outside London. Its architectural assets include the Victorian splendour of Glasgow City Chambers, the neo-classical surroundings of the Gallery of Modern Art, and the ultra-modern spikes of Zaha Hadid's Riverside Transport Museum. And with more than 1,500 shops, this fashionable city is recognised as Britain's second largest retail centre.
A UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow stages an average of 130 music events in the city every week. It's also considered a place to discover new talent: bands hailing from, or starting their careers here include famous names like Franz Ferdinand, the Fratellis, Belle & Sebastian, Snow Patrol, Travis, Texas and Paolo Nutini.
Discover an incredible collection of contemporary art right in the centre of Glasgow at the Gallery of Modern Art. Thought-provoking displays and temporary exhibitions pack the gallery, and building tours take place at weekends that can introduce the history of the building and the exhibitions within it.
The historic campus of the University of Glasgow is another edifying tourist attraction. Take a self-guided tour of Britain's fourth oldest university, and follow in the footsteps of renowned visionaries such as the pioneer of television John Logie Baird. Not to be missed are the Cloisters - these impressive archways have featured in several films, including Outlander, Outlaw King and Cloud Atlas.
A cobbled backstreet close to the university, Ashton Lane is a treasure trove of bohemian bars and restaurants. With its rustic chic interior and a beer garden for al fresco drinking and dining, Belgian-style bar and restaurant Brel is a popular choice. Or try renowned Glasgow bar and eatery the Ubiquitous Chip.
The neighbourhood that includes the University of Glasgow and Ashton Lane is known as Glasgow's West End. This bohemian quarter of ornate sandstone tenements and cobbled streets is well worth exploring. A fantastic range of vintage and design stores, cafés, bars and specialist delicatessens can be found here. It's also home to the picturesque Botanic Gardens and Kelvingrove Park, as well as Charles Rennie Mackintosh's distinctive and stylish Mackintosh House.
Also located within Glasgow's West End is Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Built in 1901, this grand red sandstone building displays one of Europe's greatest and most eclectic art collections, and is one of Scotland's most popular free-to-enter visitor attractions. Highlights include Salvador Dali's iconic painting Christ Of St John Of The Cross, plus Scottish history and archaeology, dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, arms and armour, and Dutch Old Masters. Several stunning exhibitions run throughout the year, while visitors can take the Natural History Trail to explore Scotland’s natural world.
Once an industrial area frequented by dockworkers, Finnieston is now a neighbourhood with a cool new vibe. Anchored by The SSE Hydro arena, initially built for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and now a renowned live entertainment venue, the area has witnessed a change in fortune. Known as the city’s foodie quarter, a stretch of Argyle Street is now lined with bars and eclectic restaurants, with top picks including industrial eatery The Gannet, tapas-style Indian food at Mother India's Café, or fish and shellfish at Crabshakk.
Voted 2013 European Museum of the Year, the spiky Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum is Scotland's museum of transport. Its collection includes a historic Tall Ship, an icon of Glasgow's shipbuilding heritage now moored at Riverside, while inside the vast free-flowing gallery space are trams, trolley buses, vintage cars, bicycles and motorbikes - each object telling a unique story. Discover the story of Glasgow’s telegram messengers throughout 2019 and keep an eye out for numerous one and two-day specialist exhibitions that are held across the year.
Enjoy a delicious Scottish brunch at Cup, Glasgow's award-winning tea rooms. The tiled Victorian interior of Cup Tea Lounge is truly stunning. There's also Cup Tea Room in Glasgow's West End, and the Cup Tea Garden in stylish Merchant City. Cup's big breakfast includes Scottish cured bacon, sausages and homemade beans. Other choices include Eggs Benedict, Florentine, Royal or Stornoway - the latter two coming with either Scottish smoked salmon or Stornoway Black Pudding. Cup is also a great choice for afternoon tea.
With more than 1,500 shops, Glasgow is recognised as Britain's second largest retail centre, providing one of the best shopping experiences outside London. Glasgow's Style Mile is the city's central shopping district, with all the big high street brands. Tucked away behind the city centre is the Merchant City, one of Glasgow's oldest quarters and an area of huge architectural interest. Dating back to the 1750s, it was home to the warehouses of wealthy merchants. Those old warehouses have since become quirky designer boutiques, bars, restaurants and stylish loft apartments.
In easy reach of Glasgow city centre, Pollok House is a grand country property built in 1752. Now part of the National Trust for Scotland, its lavish family rooms are packed full of period furniture and fine art, while downstairs are vast servants' quarters. Afterwards, hire a bike to explore the surrounding Pollok Country Park - look out for the Highland Cattle and Clydesdale Horses.
Britain's first experiential craft brewery, Drygate produce a range of ales and IPAs, and features 26 rotating taps and a carefully curated bottle selection. Their Glasgow brewhouse is also home to Drygate's Craft Beer Bar & Kitchen serving seasonal Scottish produce, burgers and charcuterie-grazing boards.
Glasgow is designated UNESCO City of Music thanks to its thriving music scene and multitude of live music venues. King Tut's Wah Wah Hut is consistently named Britain's best small live music venue, or there's the legendary Barrowland Ballroom in the east end of Glasgow, plus Saint Luke's, an exciting music and arts venue in a restored former parish church.
Glasgow is in Scotland, five hours by train north of London and one hour from Edinburgh. Glasgow International Airport is just shy of nine miles from Glasgow city centre with a bus connection taking 15 minutes.