Once known as the "Second City of the British Empire,” Glasgow is a vibrant metropolis brimming with history, charm and character. Europe’s first designated City of Culture, Glasgow also has deep rooted ties to Ireland. With Flybe now flying from Shannon to Glasgow, now is the time to start planning your visit to the “dear green place.”
A good way to get an overall sense of the city is to take an open top bus ride. Taking passengers around all of Glasgow’s main sites, the open top tour is ideal on a sunny day; but even if it rains, you can seek shelter downstairs. Around £12 grants you two days hop-on, hop-off access.
For a nice day out, take a trip to the West End – a quieter, leafier part of the city filled with cosmopolitan bars and cafés. The area is also home to some of Glasgow’s best museums, the University of Glasgow and the Botanic Gardens. When day turns to night Glasgow’s 700 pubs and clubs should keep you entertained. The Merchant City district, where you can find hip bars serving fine wines, craft beers, real ales and cocktails, should be your first port of call. By day, Merchant City is also a fine place to grab a bite to eat.
Glasgow’s thriving football scene is dominated by two titans of the game – fierce rivals Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers. Both teams have trophy cabinets bursting at the seams so many tourists make the trip to Glasgow just to see them play or to take tours of the famous stadiums, Parkhead (Celtic, £8.50) and Ibrox (Rangers, £8). For a more rounded history of Scotland’s love affair with football, enthusiasts should take the stadium tour at Hampden Park, the national team’s home stadium. For an entrance fee of £6, you can see more than 2,500 exhibits in 14 galleries and walk amongst Scottish football legends in the Hall of Fame.
Considered the best shopping city in the UK outside of London, Glasgow’s main retail destinations are found on the “style mile” consisting of Sauchiehall Street to the north, Argyle Street to the south, and Buchanan Street in the middle. In particular, shopaholics should look out for the beautiful glass facades of the Buchanan Galleries and the St. Enoch Centre.
Off the Beaten Track
For something a bit different, spend an evening at the West End’s Oran Mor pub, a historic converted church and host of the cult “Play Pint and Pie” event. For a paltry £10 you’ll be treated to a short play, a typical scotch meat pie and a local beer. Another slightly leftfield attraction is the Sharmanka Theatre (£5). Packed wall to wall with kinetic animatronic sculptures from St. Petersburg in Russia, the theatre stages daily performances that the Sunday Times describes as “bizarre, hilarious, ghoulish and unmissable.”
The 500 Glasgow Shuttle (£4.50) runs every 10 minutes and gets you from the airport to the city centre in 25 minutes. The centre of Glasgow is very pedestrian-friendly with major shopping streets given over to foot traffic and most sites within walking distance. The city is also served by a comprehensive bus service and a subway (£3.80 for an unlimited day pass) that runs in a double circle around the city centre and inner suburbs.