header image: Kelvingrove Art Gallery – Entrance by Marian Craig
Being born and bred in Glasgow, I though it was about time we gave it a recommendation on this blog. I figured the best way to do this was to just give you a rundown of some things you just have to do or experience when you’re here. So we put it to a vote and here are our suggestions, it’s a democratic list so in no particular order………
Visit Kelvingrove – start your day in Glasgow with a bit of culture and pay a visit to one of our most famous landmarks. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland and we all have fond memories of it for different reasons. As a kid I used to visit in the summer holidays and vividly remember three things: the natural history section, the massive stone staircases and of course, the Dali painting on the first floor. The museum is free entry and you’ll spend hours here without even realising it.
Ice Cream at the University Cafe – It’s been there since 1918 and not for nothing. The University Cafe is an institution as much as a cafe and the decor has remained virtually the same since it opened, taking you back to the 50’s with its wood panelling and formica. The ice cream is as legendary as the cafe, keep it old school though and have a 99 or a double nougat. If you don’t know what a double nougat is, go here and find out!
People’s Palace – yes, I know it’s another museum, but for all of Kelvingrove’s lofty Dutch masters, the People’s Palace is a museum of the people, for the people. Located in Glasgow Green (which is Glasgow’s oldest park), the People’s Palace tells the story of Glasgow and its people from 1750 to the end of the 20th century. There are few places which evoke old Glasgow like this place, and like Kelvingrove, I have memories of rainy school holiday trips here and remember vividly seeing Billy Connolly’s Banana boots. They’re still there and worth a visit.
Walk with the Dead – ok, so 37 acres of gravestones might sound like a hard sell, but you really need to see the Necropolis if you get the chance. Built in a similar fashion to Paris’ more famous Pere Lachaise cemetery, the Necropolis is a stunning memorial to those who rest there, and testament to the ingenuity of the Victorian age. You may not be among the living, but you won’t find many places more peaceful amidst the bustle of the city centre, and you discover it for yourself by taking one of the guided tours. I can’t sum it up any better than John Strang, who was Chamberlain of the Merchants’ House in the 1830’s and described it as “respectful to the dead, safe and sanitary to the living, and dedicated to the Genius of Memory”.
Champagne in the afternoon – after the Victorian drama of the Necropolis, you’ll need some time to reflect and gather your thoughts. What better way to do this than with a little glass of bubbly in some luxurious surroundings, and there is nowhere more luxurious than the Hotel Du Vin Glasgow. Located in a Victorian terrace, this stunning boutique hotel in Glasgow has played host to some famous names over the years, as it’s a favourite haunt of celebrities. With an unbeatable reputation for style and impeccable service, spend an afternoon here and come back to the land of the living.
Barras are Better! – if you really want to experience a slice of Glasgow life then head to the Barras market. Started by Margaret Russell and her husband, James McIver who started a business renting out static barrows to market traders, who would then trade to the public at weekends. The market is open every weekend from 10am-5pm and sells everything from shoes to antiques to records. The Ballroom on the site has become a famous live music venue and is a great night out (be warned though, you will get sweaty!)
Take in a movie – avoid the queues and oversized buckets of popcorn which is standard fare when you go to a movie these days and head to the Glasgow Film Theatre. Opened as The Cosmo in 1939, it was the first arts cinema in Scotland, and ran until 1973, when it was sold to the Scottish Film Council, who reopened it as the GFT in 1974. The GFT is still famed for showing a wide variety of films that just wouldn’t get a showing in commercial cinemas. It’s refreshing to take a little step back in time in this Art Deco theatre, its full of atmosphere, and never mind a bucket of popcorn, you can take drinks in with you while you watch the movie – plastic cups though.
Indulge in some retail therapy – Glasgow is the top shopping destination outside of London and with the number of designer and vintage shops in the city centre, you’re bound to find something to tempt you into parting with your cash. Take a walk down the “Style Mile, which is the area around Buchanan Street, Argyle Street and the Merchant City and take advantage of the designer boutiques in the area, or head to the West End of the city if you prefer vintage, as there are some great hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered.
Go round in circles – Glasgow is home to the 3rd oldest metro system in the world behind London and Budapest, and since the twin circular lines were built in the late 1800’s they have never been expanded. The outer and inner circles run clockwise and anti-clockwise respectively and travel north and south of the River Clyde. It’s colloquially known as the “Clockwork Orange”, although the source of this nickname has never been made
clear, it’s generally thought that it is simply because the trains run in a circle and the carriages are a very 70’s shade of orange! If you think that riding round a circular subway route isn’t the best way to spend an afternoon, then indulge in the “subcrawl”, which involves buying an all-day ticket, travelling to each station on the route, getting off the train, going to the nearest pub and having a drink (or two!) and then repeating this process until you’ve completed the circuit.
Get out of town! – after experiencing the hustle of the city, take a 20 minute drive north and you’ll be surrounded by some of the most peace inducing scenery you’ll ever have the pleasure to witness on the banks of Loch Lomond. Whether you decide to just take in the scenery or go out on the Loch via one of the many boat hire companies there, it’s worth every second and you’ll definitely return.