Glasgow, Scotland | Free city guide

David Whitley October 25, 2012 Comments Off

kelvingrove art gallery 300x225 photo travel

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Scotland’s largest city doesn’t have the immediate appeal of Edinburgh, but the bars, attractions and cultural scene make it well worth visiting.

GLASGOW SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS

Glasgow icons

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (Argyle Street, 00 44 141 276 9599) is one of the best in the UK, and it’s the completely scattergun approach that makes it so loveable. One minute you’re on record breaking animals, the next you’re on domestic violence or Ancient Egypt. The transformation of the River Clyde is also worth seeing. Once the world’s most important shipyard, the Clyde’s Banks are now lined with futuristic buildings such as the Armadillo (officially the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre) and the fun-packed Glasgow Science Centre (50 Pacific Quay, 00 44 871 540 1005).

Cultural attractions in Glasgow

In 2009, a number of Glasgow’s arts organisations joined together at the new purpose-built Trongate 103 (00 44 141 276 8380). Many of the galleries and studios are worth a look, but the stand-out is the truly incredible Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre (00 44 141 552 7080). The shows – mechanical sculptures moving to lights and music – are spellbinding. For challenging theatre of a more human kind, the Tramway (25 Albert Drive, 00 44 141 276 0950) has a long-standing reputation for ground-breaking fresh productions.  Glasgow is a seriously funny city too, and The Stand (333 Woodlands Road, 00 44 844 335 8879) is regarded by many of Britain’s top funnymen as the best comedy club in the country.

Glasgow walks

In terms of city walking routes, the Kelvingrove Park is a really pretty place to stretch the legs – it seems a world away from the Glasgow grit. For considerably more than a stretch, the Clyde Walkway goes for 65km from Glasgow’s West End to the World Heritage site at New Lanark. The first 17km section takes you as far as Cambuslang Bridge and covers many of the Clyde River’s highlights. Full guides can be downloaded at www.visitlanarkshire.com. For those interested in the architect that defined ‘The Glasgow Style’, the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society has info-packed walking routes around his buildings available online.

Glasgow tours

Mackintosh’s masterpiece is the Glasgow School of Art – the buildings are an architectural and design wonderland, and tours (167 Renfrew Street, 00 44 141 353 4526) of the premises are available for £8.75. Other interesting city tour options are thin on the ground, but Glasgow’s key selling point is its proximity to Loch Lomond and the Highlands. Scottish Tours (00 44 141 237 4294) offers a one day coach trip to Glencoe, Loch Ness and the Spey Valley. Alternatively, try taking a 40 minute seaplane tour (00 44 1436 675 030) out over the islands, landing on Loch Lomond.

GLASGOW HOTELS

Find the best deals on Glasgow hotels using the search box on the right, but the accommodation options below have been inspected and come recommended.

Budget accommodation in Glasgow

Renfrew Street in the north-east of the city centre has a whole string of near-interchangeable B&Bs clustered along it – single rooms in particular, are generally dirt cheap. Of these, the Charing Cross Guest House (310 Renfrew Street, 00 44 141 332 2503) and the Victorian House Hotel (212 Renfrew Street, 00 44 141 332 0129) offer the best value. Both have ensuite doubles for from £39 a night – try getting one of the refurbished rooms at the latter as first choice. The best steal, however, is one of the £29 advance online booking rooms at the standardized but well located Premier Inn George Square (187 George Street, 00 44 871 527 8440).

Mid-range hotels in Glasgow

The new Citizen M (60 Renfrew Street, 00 44 141 404 9485, from £59) is an eye-popper, with pod-like bedrooms, bizarre furniture all over the lobby and bright red Google map carpets in the corridors. Mark’s Hotel (110 Bath Street, 00 44 141 353 0800, from £79) isn’t quite as out there, but the bold magentas in the wallpaper and bedding are very much a love or hate affair. Love it, and the rooms have character to go with free wifi and all the expected amenities.

Top value is to be found at the Fraser Suites (1 Albion Street, 00 44 141 553 4288) with spacious studio apartments available for from £65 a night.

Luxury hotels in Glasgow

The stylish-but-fun Malmaison (278 West George Street, 00 44 141 572 1000, doubles from £105) is in a converted church, but plays up a sinful vibe with massage oil in the bathrooms and plush furnishings. Abode (129 Bath Street, 00 44 141 572 6000, doubles from £130) is more impressive for the grand building it’s in – the former home of British PM Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman – than the rooms themselves, but it’s still a good upscale option beyond the vintage lifts. Saint Jude’s (190 Bath Street, 00 44 141 352 8800, from £115) has distinctive, instantly likeable rooms with all the requisite high tech gadgetry and nice freebies such as sweets, crayons and herbal teas.

Top end hotels in Glasgow

Best in town is the Hotel Du Vin (1 Devonshire Gardens, 00 44 141 339 2001, from £175) in the West End. It feels like a high class country retreat, each room has an individual character but is sumptuously decorated, and little extras like the in-suite golf putting set are great. Dalmeny Park (Lochlibo Road, 00 44 141 881 9211, from £175) is the country house real deal, but feels far more staid and is right on the outskirts. Blythswood Square (11 Blythswood Square, 00 44 141 208 2458, deluxe rooms from £285) is the new, city centre pretender to the throne with an in-house spa – the Italian marble bathrooms and Harris tweed sofas are very impressive, as are the ultra-comfy beds.

GLASGOW RESTAURANTS

Cafés in Glasgow

Glasgow is a great city for Indian food, but the Mother India Café (1355 Argyle Street, 00 44 141 339 9145) opposite Kelvingrove Park serves up exemplary subcontinental dishes in tapas-style small portions. Café Gandolfi (64 Albion Street, 00 44 141 552 6813) has a timeless feel and attracts an arty crowd for top quality breakfasts and good pasta dishes plus a bare wood and stained glass window décor combo. For something rather different, the Cossachok Café-Gallery (10 King Street, 00 44 141 553 0733) serves up Russian recipes in a dazzling setting with carpeting ceilings, a giant balalaika in the window and mural-covered pillars. Live jazz or Russian violinists often accompany the meals.

Snacks in Glasgow

Cafe Hula (321 Hope Street, 00 44 141 353 1660) is a quirky favourite with a Bohemian vibe and a bizarre robe-clad skeleton amongst the unvarnished wooden furniture. The deli-style take out sandwiches and salad bowls are a good option for those in a hurry too.

Where the Monkey Sleeps (182 West Regent Street, 00 44 141 226 3406) offers filled bagels, stews, fruit salads and the like “all served with free wireless, a dose of rock brutality and a smile”. The music policy should keep you awake as much as the coffee…

For a good burger, try Ketchup (44 Ashton Lane, 00 44 845 166 6011) in the West End – options range from Thai Green Chicken to ‘Who Killed Bambi?’.

Best restaurants in Glasgow

The Michael Caines Restaurant (00 44 141 221 6789) at the Abode Hotel is hotly rated beyond the celebrity chef factor. Local produce for dishes like Saddle of Highland Venison and Glazed Wild Mallard is seemingly paramount. Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or (176 West Regent Street, 00 44 141 248 3801), however, is regarded as being Glasgow’s best contender for a Michelin star. It’s French-style cuisine with largely local ingredients.

The Grill Room at the Square (29 Royal Exchange Square, 00 44 141 225 5615), meanwhile, does high quality steaks for from £26.95 and has a luxurious private members’ club vibe. It’s the place for impressing a business client.

GLASGOW ENTERTAINMENT AND NIGHTLIFE

Bars in Glasgow

The Horseshoe (19 Drury Street, 00 44 141 248 6368) is a Glasgow classic that seems firmly rooted in the 19th century. It has people from all walks of life sat on stools around the gigantic bar at any hour of the day and successfully manages to provide atmosphere without the fights. More New Glasgow is Pivo Pivo (15 Waterloo Place, 00 44 141 564 8100), a vaulted underground cellar bar with a big selection of bottled beers from around the world and an admirable dedication to hosting live bands. New wine bar Boudoir (Merchant Square, 00 44 141 552 4774), meanwhile, takes a trip upmarket with gorgeous booths, barrels as tables and an impressive wine list.

Live music in Glasgow

Glasgow has a massive rock music heritage – the likes of Simple Minds, Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand, Belle and Sebastian and Travis all hail from the city. The Barrowland (244 Gallowgate, 00 44 141 552 4601) is the major touring venue, with a reputation for passionate crowds, but the O2 Academy (121 Eglinton Street, 00 44 141 418 3000) gives it a run for its money. King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (272 St Vincent Street, 00 44 141 221 5279) is the place to spot the up-and-coming bands – Oasis were legendarily discovered at here and NME-clutching music fans eagerly survey the stage for the next big thing.

Nightclubs in Glasgow

Sauchiehall Street is Glasgow’s kebab grease-streaked street of shame come the witching hour. The surprisingly cavernous Garage (490 Sauchiehall Street, 00 44 141 332 1120) – with a faux truck jutting from the outer wall – is the best bet here, although the emphasis is firmly on fight-free fun rather than credibility. The various-venue club nights from run by the Glasgow School of Art Students Association (00 44 141 353 4410) offer the latter, often leaning towards specialist indie, but with a few detours. Soundhaus (47 Hyde Park Street, 00 44 141 221 4659) is a members only affair – try buddying up to get signed in outside – with a dedication to pushing boundaries with an eclectic range of DJs.

GLASGOW SHOPPING

Markets in Glasgow

The weekend Barras market (244 Gallowgate, 00 44 141 552 4601) is enormous, and sees traders toting thoroughly impenetrable accents whilst they sell everything from dishcloths to DVDs. It’s about the experience rather than any high quality crafts. The Merchant City Market (Candleriggs, 00 44 141 552 3038) is the artsier option. Taking place between 10am and 6pm on Saturdays and noon and 6pm on Sundays, this is all about craftspeople selling their handiwork direct to the public. It’s closer in feel to the Rocks Market in Sydney than the Barras cattle auction vibe.

Shops in Glasgow

Glasgow likes to bill itself as ‘Scotland With Style’. Malls and shopping streets dominate the centre of Britain’s second biggest shopping city. Buchanan Street is the main retail artery, with the Buchanan Galleries (220 Buchanan Street) and the St Enoch Centre (55 St Enoch Square) offering giant but mainstream opportunities at either end. The West End has a slightly more indie ethic, with the best bets being found on the side streets near Byres Road. Cresswell Lane is the best of the bunch – all the shops are independent design, crafts, book and music outlets that make for perfect gift and souvenir shopping.

GLASGOW TRAVEL INFORMATION

Glasgow travel tip

Glasgow is the sort of city that gives you back what you put in. It doesn’t have the good looks or immediacy of nearby Edinburgh, but is arguably more vibrant once you dig beneath the surface. The music, comedy and arts scenes are phenomenally strong, while the big-drinking reputation is hardly a myth. Prepare to hang out rather than tick boxes, strike up a conversation with the usually happy-to-chat locals and soak it up rather than rush through.

Currency

The pound is used in the UK.

Calling the UK

It’s +44 for the UK, and the Glasgow code is 0141 (of which the 0 gets dropped when calling from abroad). For most numbers above, add 00 11 44 141, but anything with an asterisk is not a Glasgow number, so just add 00 11 44).

Further information: See Glasgow

Details correct as of December 2010, when this guide was researched by David Whitley. It was originally published by the Sun-Herald in Australia.

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