A lot of people will tell you to head to Edinburgh if you’re off to Scotland. They’ll talk about the architecture and the festivals, the UNESCO world heritage sites and the galleries. And all of those things are indeed wonderful. But for me the real beating heart of Scotland is Glasgow and it should be the first stop on any visitor’s itinerary. That’s because the people of Glasgow are some of the funniest and most interesting people in the world and the city has been reborn over the last few years into one of the most cosmopolitan and lively destinations in Europe. For a slice of the real Scotland there is nowhere else but Glasgow.
Glasgow is a city with an incredible centuries old industrial heritage, built as it was on the back of tobacco and shipbuilding; indeed touring around the old mills, factories and dockyards could take up days of your holiday. But the city has also moved on from its dour and industrial past to become a city with exciting and vibrant nightlife, a burgeoning restaurant scene, and a real energy about it. Indeed so much has it changed that it has done nothing but win awards over the last few years, from being named UK City of Architecture to picking up the European City of Culture award and even being named in the top ten cities of the world by Lonely Planet Guidebooks who saw ‘cocktails, cuisine and designer chic’ as epitomizing life in the new Glasgow.
Take time to wander around the old architecture though – it is some of the finest in the UK with endless houses and factories, schools and buildings designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh; from the Willow Tearooms to the Queen’s Cross Church and from the Glasgow School of Art to the Scotland Street School. But there are other incredible architectural wonders too that were not designed by Mackintosh. From the buildings of Alexander Thomson that stretch across the city (including St. Vincent Street Church and Holmwood House Villa) to the more modern and incredible Scottish Exhibition Centre and Clyde Auditorium which were designed by Norman Foster, as well as the new Museum of Transport designed by Zaha Adid.
Once you’ve overdosed on architecture you can check out the wonderful art collections all over Glasgow, from the spectacular Burrell collection and the massive Gallery of Modern Art, as well as the simply wonderful and world-famous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which is the most oft-visited museum in all of the UK outside of London.
From legendary sporting venues at Ibrox and Hampden Park to fine dining and bustling nightlife, Glasgow has it all. Try to get a hotel in the city center, either in one of the old historic hotels or some of the newer chains that are now offering amazing city breaks (do a quick search for travelodge discount codes and you’ll see some great deals for UK cities.) Spend a week there or use it as a base to head out into the nearby countryside, from the Kelvin Walkway to Pollock Country Park and over to Edinburgh or St Andrews. Glasgow genuinely is the real Scotland.