Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand, Simple Minds and folky rock-pop legends Belle and Sebastian all hail from Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city and the third largest city in the UK. Its musical prowess has led to comparisons with Detroit during its Motown heyday. Combine that with its architecture, parks, nightlife and thriving cultural quarter and you have one cool city…
And it’s a handsome city, with grandiose Victorian buildings – many of which provide thriving homes to stylish bars, top restaurants and fantastic live-music – and the early 20th century ‘Glasgow style’ developed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who championed the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau (check out the Glasgow School of Art, Willow Tearooms, Scotland Street School and the Queen’s Cross Church for notable examples of his work).
All of this makes Glasgow a great city break destination. If you’re headed there for a weekend, start with a trip to The People’s Palace & Winter Gardens on the historic Glasgow Green. This free museum tells the story of Glasgow’s famously friendly people from 1750 to the present day. At the adjacent Winter Gardens you can wander among the exotic palms and plants before stopping to take in the restored Doulton Fountain. Then, if you’re in need of refreshments, head for the WEST Brewery bar, set in the beautiful Templeton Building on the edge of the Green.
Alternatively, GoMA, the Gallery of Modern Art, closer to the city centre, is another free-to-enter must-visit. Housed in a neoclassical building in the city centre’s Royal Exchange Square, it showcases Glasgow’s extensive modern art collection alongside a programme of temporary exhibitions and events.
As evening closes in, head to Ashton Lane, a pretty cobbled pedestrian street near Byres Road in the West End, which has a great mix of bars and pubs, while the Finneston area has is home to some of the city’s best new restaurants. But if you really want to be at the heart of the action, explore the Merchant City area, known as the ‘cultural quarter’, which is chock full of cocktail bars, wine bars and clubs.
To make the most of the city’s legendary live music scene (Glasgow has UNESCO City of Music status), head for King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut to discover up-and-coming indie artists, find classical and world sounds at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, or head for SSE Hydro for the big-names.
If you really want to be at the heart of the action, explore the Merchant City area, known as the ‘cultural quarter’, which is chock full of cocktail bars, wine bars and clubs
On Sunday, take it easy and head for a lazy brunch at Stravaigin in the West End eatery, sister restaurant to the Ubiquitous Chip, considered one of the best restaurants in Glasgow for it contemporary Scottish cuisine. The weekend brunch menu has a fantastic full Scottish breakfast, as well as French toast with lashings of maple syrup.
Afterwards stretch your legs and take a stroll through the nearby Kelvingrove Park to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. One of Scotland’s most popular free attractions, the magnificent red sandstone structure is free to get in and features 22 themed, state-of-the-art galleries displaying some 8,000 objects including the Salvador Dali masterpiece Christ of St John of the Cross, Sir Roger the Asian elephant and a Spitfire hanging from the ceiling.
Alternatively, follow the River Kelvin in the opposite direction to Glasgow Botanic Gardens and check out the famous Kibble Palace, a magnificent glasshouse designed by John Kibble housing the national collection of tree ferns.
And where to stay to take all of this in? You’re spoilt for choice. Check out our gallery of some of the top hotels in Glasgow: