Travel Guide - A Weekend in Glasgow
Updated: May 1, 2018
As a Brit I'm ashamed to say that my recent trip to Glasgow was only the second time I've visited Scotland. Tourists always seem to gravitate towards Edinburgh which on one hand really comes as no surprise given its beautifully quaint and picturesque streets. But during my 48 hours in Glasgow I felt captivated by it's rich medieval turned industrial heritage, it's grit, it's people and it's architecture. Is it deserving of a visit? Absolutely, and here's what you've got to see...
(1) The University of Glasgow...
...is the fourth oldest university in the English speaking world and led the way in educating students outside of the wealthy upper class. Its original campus in Hillhead overlooks West Glasgow in all its neo-gothic wonder and is freely open to tourists to explore. For a measly £10 I'd wholeheartedly recommend one of their student-led tours which was jam packed full of interesting facts, history and folklore.
Don't miss: The Hogwartsesque Cloisters (above), the now interfaith Chapel (right), the original Lion & Unicorn Staircase and the Hunterian Museum, Scotland's oldest public museum and a showcase of Dr William Hunter's collection of natural wonders.
Top tip: across from the entrance to the Hunterian Museum is the university's grand Bute Hall. Whilst public access is prohibited a little birdy may have told me that you might just be able to sneak in when no one's watching and it's not locked...
...is what you'd get if you mixed the collections of London's Tate Britain, Natural History Museum and British Museum together in one giant glorious baroque building...but with a wonderful Scottish twist. From vibrant Scottish fine art to dinosaurs, indigenous tribal masks to Ancient Egyptian mummies, the Kelvingrove is an easy contender for most interesting and diverse
museum I've yet visited.
Top tip: if you visit at the weekend, listen out for Centre Hall's organ recitals on the hour from lunchtime!
(3) Glasgow Cathedral...
...is allegedly where the city's Patron Saint, St Mungo, built his church in the 6th Century at a place called Glas Gu (or Green Place) and marks the founding spot of the city we know today. The cathedral is a prime example of medieval gothic architecture and is free to enter and explore!
(4) The Necropolis...
...sits on the hill behind the Cathedral and is considered one of the most significant cemeteries in Europe, containing the remains of 50,000 people and 3500 monuments. The beauty of this Victorian wonder, complete with sweeping views of the city, absolutely pulls attention from its very sombre function!
(5) Glasgow Central...
...is one of the busiest train stations in all the UK and houses one of the world's largest glass ceilings with a whopping 48,000 panes that make up 2.2 square miles of glass! Beautiful to look up from street level to blue skies!
Fun Fact: Glasgow's city crest includes a bird, a tree, a bell and a fish, all representing St Mungo's most famous miracles. According to legend:
Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam
(6) The Riverside Museum...
...is Glasgow's award winning Transport museum that occupies a very modern and reflective building on the shores of the Clyde. Home to over 3000 transport-related exhibits, from the city's oldest subway carriage to skateboards, I have no idea why they chose avocado green for the entirety of the vast interior but it's well worth a visit!
Did you know? Whilst Glasgow's subway network is tiny, it is actually the 3rd oldest in the world after London and Budapest.
(7) The Lighthouse...
...is Scotland's national centre for design and architecture. Now I must admit, this was not originally on the list so we got to spend only a brief time exploring its exhibitions, but what we did see was very good! However, the real gem of this place is the helical staircase within the Mackintosh Centre that provides free access to the tower's viewing platform for sweeping views over Glasgow from its very centre.
(8) George Square...
...is the main civic square of Glasgow and is home to a number of monuments of key historical figures. Not a huge amount of time is needed here but it's worth a quick visit for the Merchant's House if nothing else!
Top Tip: nip into the Counting House on the square, a former Bank of Scotland Italian Renaissance building now home to a Wetherspoons complete with most of the original design features!
Scotland's national animal is the magical Unicorn. Though there are many stories and theories as to why the Unicorn was chosen, a local favourite is that the Unicorn was said to not only be the sworn enemy of, but stronger than, the Lion which of course is the national animal of England.
(9) Street Art...
...is wonderfully rampant all around town and largely in the most unexpected and most surprising of places, as true street art should be! Whilst we didn't have time to hit it hard, I hear there is an official mural trail which would be well worth a gander!
(10) Street Food Markets...
...are apparently becoming more and more prevalent all over Glasgow. I made sure we visited two on our travels...
(A) Platform in the now repurposed Argyll Street Arches under Glasgow Central
(B) Best Street Food Award? Has got to go to The Rose Hip at Platform. Hailing from Edinburgh, their haggis bon bons with braised red onions and whiskey sauce were honestly to die for!
(C) The Big Feed Street Food Market nestled away in an old industrial warehouse in Govan, south of the river.
I was recommended a whole bunch before my trip but honourable mentions are deserving of:
Tantrum Doughnuts - with two locations (one Central and one near the Kelvingrove) Tantrum's mantra is to make good food, made from great ingredients, more accessible to the masses. And so this doughnuteria (you heard it here first!) was born. Sickeningly sweet and indulgent, we tried both the brulee and banoffee flavours.
The Gannet - located in West Glasgow, the team at The Gannet serve up Michelin-star quality food in a friendly and relaxed setting. Delicious!
There are of course loads of drinking holes in Glasgow but our favourites were all on or around Ashton Lane. Up by the University of Glasgow, this quaint cobbled street, reminiscent of Brighton's laynes, is home to a whole bunch of great bars including The Grosvenor Cinema, Hillhead Bookclub and the Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchen!
That's all folks! This is of course not everything the city has to offer but with limited time, it's a solid start! Let me know if you think I missed out on something awesome for next time and/or if this review came in useful! Main take home here is that Glasgow was surprisingly wonderful and you need to add it to your list if you haven't done so already!