Glasgow, named the 1991 European Capital of Culture, has been on a steady upswing in recent decades and today is a thrilling metropolis chock-full of exciting goings-on— a far cry from its history as an industrial city. Home to world-class art and architecture, restaurants and nightlife galore, and steeped in historical value, Glasgow is well worth a visit. Here are the top ten things to do and see in the UK’s second city.
The Kelvingrove is world-famous, and for good reason. From the stunning architecture of Glasgow’s own Charles Rennie Mackintosh, to the myriad galleries featuring top artists like the Dutch Old Masters and French Impressionists, to the treasures of Sottish history (the Kelvingrove organ, a medieval Scottish satchel, a scroll-butt pistol, and more), to the famed beehive in the Environmental Discovery Centre, there is something for everyone.
This beautiful church, now a part of the Church of Scotland, owes its honorary title of cathedral to its history as the Roman Catholic mother church of the Archdioceses of Glasgow prior to the Scottish Reformation. The history goes further back than that though: the cathedral was originally built on the spot where St Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow, had built his church— and St Mungo’s tomb, in the cathedral’s crypt, is viewable by visitors.
This cobblestone backstreet in the hip West End is a hotbed of eating and drinking establishments. Have a bite at the ‘Chip’ (the Ubiquitous Chip, a restaurant which has been an Ashton Lane mainstay since 1971), and then make a bar crawl out of the myriad watering holes in proximity— from Jinty McGuinty’s, a cozy pub, to The Lane Bar, a fun-loving cocktail bar at the Grosvenor Café and Cinema.
Appreciate architecture at Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum
The purpose-built museum on Pointhouse Quay, built to create an environmentally stable home for Glasgow’s transport technology collections and an office space for the Clyde Maritime Trust, opened in 2011 to spectacular public reaction. Designed by British-Iraqi ‘starchitect’ Zaha Hadid, the building itself is a force to be reckoned with, and its status as the winner of the 2013 European Museum of the Year Award means that this renovated powerhouse is not to be overlooked.
This tearoom, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, has been open since 1903 and is by far the most famous of all of Glasgow’s tearooms. Today, the tearoom has been restored to its former glory and refurbished to recreate its original look. Come by for afternoon tea, or for breakfast, lunch, or morning coffee, or celebrate an occasion with the champagne afternoon tea.
A Glasgow institution, this pub boasts over 100 varieties of malt whisky, as well as a dedicated and friendly staff who are happy to talk visitors through their choices. With its prime location near the Theatre Royal, the Royal Concert Hall, and the King’s Theatre, The Pot Still makes the perfect spot for a pre or post-theatre tipple.
The University of Glasgow has a rich history, claiming status as the fourth oldest university in the anglophone world, one of Scotland’s four ancient universities— and it counts historic economist Adam Smith, two British Prime Ministers, and seven Nobel laureates among its alumni and former staff. Stop by for a stroll around the gorgeous Gilmorehill campus in Hillhead and admire the view of the city from the hilltop.
Far from morbid, this Victorian cemetery on a hill east of the Cathedral is the resting place for fifty thousand people and is a fascinating peek into Glaswegian history. Keep an eye out for some of the monuments, including a statue of John Knox on a memorial column which dates back to 1825, as well as assorted war graves and memorials. To quote Scottish actor/comedian Billy Connolly, ‘Glasgow’s a bit like Nashville, Tennessee: it doesn’t care much for the living, but it really looks after the dead.’
Learn about your pint at Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery
Tennent’s Lager is Scotland’s most popular brand of pale lager, and has been produced in Glasgow since 1885. Its current home on Duke Street, Wellpark Brewery, has been in existence since 1740. Stop by the brewery for a tour (only £5 for students) of the brewing and bottling process of this Scottish classic— and of course, finish off with several sample tastings and a free pint at the end of the tour.
This 146-hectare park in Pollok, south Glasgow, is an oasis of nature in the bustling city. In 2006 it was named the best park in Britain, and until 1994 was the largest urban green space in all of Europe. Formerly part of the Old Pollok Estate, owned by the Maxwell family for 700 years, it was gifted in 1966 to Glasgow Corporation under the condition that the land remain a public park. Today it houses delightful walking trails, three mountain biking routes, a fold of Highland cows, a bowling club, a cricket club, and the Burrell Collection, a museum containing the antique and art collection of William Burrell.