After writing such a praising blog post about Edinburgh I felt it would be unfair to move on before sharing my positive impressions about Glasgow too. After all, it’s at least as magnificent in its own way but sometimes overlooked by some potential visitors, maybe because of its old reputation as a rough, industrial city.
Whereas Edinburgh has the appeal of a soft, lively, beautiful place you can immediately fall in love with, Glasgow is edgy and dynamic, growing on you slowly. It’s grand, it’s gritty, it’s proud, not worried about how it might be seen by others; a city that feels real with real people living real lives. I love that! It’s definitely ‘more me’ than pretty picture-postcard villages and towns. I think I’m just restless and enjoy bustling places! As for its being rough, I’m sure it has its more unsavoury areas but as a casual visitor I have never felt unsafe wandering the streets from one part of town to another.
Glasgow’s prosperous past as ‘the second city of the empire’ due to trade and shipbuilding shows in the impressive Victorian and art nouveau architecture. Everything looks handsome, rather than pretty, and the vast squares and beautiful urban parks give a feeling of space. One of my favourites is Kelvingrove Park with its riverside walks, full of Victorian grandeur but also peace and quiet if you are after a relaxing amble. The city is also very hilly, which I soon realised walking up steep hills for a view or heading towards the West End from the railway station. I took it as a free work-out before a pub lunch!
Glasgow is definitely a hub of culture. Galleries, museums, theatres, music venues, comedy clubs, exhibitions, and a variety of festivals throughout the year ensure there is something for everyone. I haven’t taken advantage of the cultural offerings as much as I maybe should have, apart from a visit to the Gallery of Modern Art a few years ago. If you don’t know which one that is, it’s the beautiful building with a statue of the Duke of Wellington wearing a now-famous traffic cone headgear.
So, apart from the Duke above, what have I found quirky, fun or simply worth visiting:
Glasgow Necropolis, a huge old cemetery on a hill with ornate statues, memorials and monuments designed and sculpted by the experts of their trade in the, you guessed it, Victorian era. Those wealthy and important in life (or their families) wanted to make sure their status also showed after death. As there’s no formal grid layout in the cemetery, you can follow meandering paths wherever they take you.
As I love vibrant, even slightly quirky areas, the West End is definitely my kind of place! Being a university area – and the university buildings themselves are beautiful – the area is packed with funky bars, eateries, restaurants, cafes, pubs, a variety of boutiques, and a real mixture of people. Ashton Lane, a cobbled backstreet with a cinema and a good selection of bars and restaurants is worth a visit and looks particularly beautiful in the evening.
My favourite, however, must be Hillhead Bookclub, which was highly recommended by friends. Instead of a typical pub or a bar (or a book club!), I found this fantastic, positively eccentric venue enticing customers with cocktails in gramophones, music, ping-pong, retro computer games, vintage fairs, and bingo. (You can play Hungry Hippos too – who still remembers that game?) The menu, including the vegetarian selection, is great and reasonably priced. too. This has now become my regular haunt whenever I’m back in Glasgow.
(However, the West End is not just a party zone: the Botanic Gardens or Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum among other places offer a more sedate alternative.)
The Clockwork Orange, more prosaically known as the Glasgow Subway, is literally a way to go around in circles: the outer circle runs clockwise round the network and the inner circle runs anti-clockwise. I once hopped on the first train to get to the station a couple of stops away. After a while I realised I was going in the wrong direction and would have to wait quite a while to get to my destination or change. Well, I knew I would end up in the right place eventually and I was in no hurry. I continued to go around in a circle.