72 Hours in Glasgow
Former resident Lee Cobaj uncovers the best of this artsy, edgy and irrepressibly friendly city in just 72 hours.
Step off the train at Central Station and you’re right in the heart of Glasgow’s majestic city center. From here, a 10-minute uphill stroll (in the shadow of Victorian red sandstone buildings) will take you to the doorstep of the citizenM Glasgow, a funky crash pad that couldn’t be better placed for exploring the city’s cultural and entertainment offerings.
Check into one of the futuristic rooms and make tracks for the Glasgow School of Art. Built between 1897 and 1909, it is architect and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, a living, breathing work of art that melds Art Nouveau elements and a utilitarian sense of purpose. To the dismay of Scotland — and the art-loving world beyond — the building suffered a dreadful fire in early 2014. Thankfully, the main structure and an estimated 70 percent of the contents have been saved, and funds are being raised for a full restoration. However, even in its current state it’s a must-see.
Having ticked off the GSA, head five minutes down the road to buzzy Buchanan Street. This pedestrianized thoroughfare is Glasgow’s main shopping artery and brims with old-school department stores and flashy boutiques. Don’t miss a wander around Princes’ Square, a beautiful old birdcage-like arcade, for some designer buys and top people-watching.
Freshen up for a Scottish-inspired dinner at Central Market in Glasgow’s hip Merchant City area, followed by cocktails at the Corinthian, a glitzy club with an exquisite Georgian dome at its center. Want to party? Move on to the Sub Club, an after-dark Glasgow institution that still feels as edgy as when it opened nearly 30 years ago.
Start your day on Glasgow’s South Side. It’s a part of the city that’s not on most visitors’ radar, but it should be. It’s only three miles from the city center and home to some truly wonderful museums. Make your first stop the Burrell Collection. Set in pretty woodlands, this striking light-filled building is bursting with eclectic treasures, from 13th-century tapestries to Chinese ceramics and sculpture by Rodin — all of it amassed around the world by the industrialist William Burrell before being gifted to the city in 1944. From here, move on to Bellahouston Park for an alfresco lunch at the House for an Art Lover; on a sunny day its flower-ringed restaurant is hard to beat, but even if it rains, the building itself is a knockout and well worth the journey. Designed by Mackintosh but not constructed until some 90 years after his death, it features lovingly recreated parlors, dining and music rooms.
Spend the rest of the day — and night — hanging out in the leafy parks and lanes of Glasgow’s bohemian West End. Wander around the palatial Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, gawping at everything from ancient Egyptian sarcophagi to Spitfire aircraft suspended from the ceiling to suits of armour to Old Masters, Monets and, of course, more Mackintosh. Then follow with a stroll around the river in Kelvingrove Park before circling back for a succulent steak at the Butchershop Bar and Grill; book ahead for a table overlooking the fantastical spires of the aforementioned art gallery. Or make your way to Ashton Lane. This charming cobblestone alleyway is lined with energetic pubs, bouncing bars and chic little eateries — the perfect spot to while away those long, light Scottish summer nights.
Before you go, hop on the 100 bus from George Square to Finnieston, to check out Glasgow’s most up-and-coming neighborhood. The last few years have seen this riverside stretch transformed from an industrial black hole to a vibrant locale full of cool cafés, hip bars and cultural attractions, as well as the fancy new SSE Hydro Arena, a key venue for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Start by exploring the banks of the River Clyde, where you’ll find the Zaha Hadid–designed Riverside Museum: Scotland’s Museum of Transport and Travel. Venture inside its jagged exterior to wander along a life-size recreation of a 1930s Glasgow street, complete with pawnbrokers, a funeral parlor and even an old tartan-clad subway car. Back outside, there’s more to explore in the form of an expansive riverside walk and a tall ship permanently moored by the back of the building.
Stick with the seafaring theme for lunch by tucking into a traditional fish “supper” at Old Salty’s, a retro-style restaurant with a chest-high counter and classic condiments on the wooden tables. Order a hefty portion of golden-battered cod and big fat chips, and plant yourself by the window, where you can watch the world drift by. Like the city itself, you’ll want to linger longer.
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