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The nearly 1.7 million people who live here play their part in creating a unique brew of earthiness, elegance, edginess and effervescence.
One person’s architectural delights are another’s football-mad neighbourhoods. Glasgow is synonymous with all manner of threads from life’s rich tapestry, from its musical heritage (it’s the home of Primal Scream, Chvrches, Simple Minds and Mogwai, among countless others) and its sporting rivalries (are your colours green or blue?) to its importance in the worlds of art, science and design. But above all else, perhaps, it’s somewhere which has stepped away from industrial decline to become a place where anything’s possible.
The real Stone of Destiny may be sitting in a Glasgow pub. After being stolen from Westminster Abbey by four Glasgow University students in 1950, the historic artefact was hidden in the Arlington Bar. A replica was made and one of the two stones now sits in Edinburgh Castle but nobody can be sure which is the genuine article.
Archaeological evidence suggests that our prehistoric forebears were familiar with the lands now occupied by Glasgow. However, the city’s story begins in earnest with St Kentigern, better known as St Mungo, a sixth-century Christian missionary renowned for his energetic preaching style. Sometime around the year 543, he built a simple church on the banks of the Clyde (Glasgow Cathedral now stands on the same site). From these humble religious beginnings, the settlement grew incrementally over the next few centuries. In around 1285 the first bridge was built across the Clyde, and 1451 saw the founding of the University of Glasgow. As the local population grew, the burgeoning city became not just an academic and ecclesiastical hub but a key base for industry, international trade, and shipbuilding.
Buoyed by demand for everything from coal to cotton, Glasgow became one of the richest cities in Europe, its population outstripping that of Edinburgh by 1821. It played a vital shipbuilding role in the World Wars, but by the 1960s its yards and wharves were in steady decline. These fortunes were reversed when Glasgow was named European City of Culture in 1990, helping to transform some of its run-down areas, and a further boon came in 2014, when it hosted the Commonwealth Games.
For cyclists, Glasgow has 800 bikes in circulation that you can rent. Simply pick up and drop off at one of 79 locations with the pink People Make Glasgow sticker. If you’re getting around the West End and City Centre, the subway is the best choice – it has fifteen stops that travels in a loop all day. Or, for the easiest option city-wide, look no further than the First Bus for general Glasgow service, or the hop-on, hop-off City Sightseeing buses.
Getting to Glasgow
Glasgow is easily accessible by plane, train and car. For fliers, the city is serviced by Glasgow International airport, just nine miles from the centre. Access by train is primarily via Glasgow Queen Street and Glasgow Central Station in Merchant City, which operate UK-wide National Rail services.
If you’re driving from England, follow the M6 motorway north before changing to the M74 at the Scottish Borders for the direct route to Glasgow. From Southern Scotland, use the same M74 motorway and from Northern Scotland, use the M9 and M80 roads.
When to go
If you prefer sunny weather and long days, go in July or August – though we can’t promise it won’t rain at all. Autumn (Sept-Nov) is crisp and cooler, while spring (April-June) has its fair share of grey days with some sun. December to March is the off-season, because of the UK’s propensity for rain, but it’ll make your visit plenty cosy.
Where to stay
Chain hotels and landmarks are best found in the City Centre, with options for every budget. Culture-seekers should go for the West End, which is lively but with its quieter spots. Kelvinbridge and Kelvingrove are neighbours to the West End, but a more family-friendly areas to stay in. Merchant City, the beating heart of Glasgow, is full of atmosphere and is where all of the cities best nightclubs can be found. Hillhead might be on the pricier side, but it’s access to the West End means it’s still full of energy. And finally, while South Side doesn’t have as much choice when it comes to hotels, it’s a great place to experience the city away from the tourists.
Eating & drinking
Glasgow has a huge variety of restaurants – including two with Michelin Stars, Cail Bruich and Unalome by Graeme Cheevers. Look out for places serving great seafood caught locally, a growing collection of vegan restaurants and Indian and Asian fusion spots.
Regional produce is king in Scotland, so when it comes to drinking look out for whisky, gin and beer distilled or brewed in the city, as well as locally roasted coffee – Glasgow’s coffee culture is steadily become a Scottish landmark all on its own.
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