600,000 Glaswegians can't be wrong
Is this the greatest city on earth? You bet. Despite the demise of the Commonwealth, two World Wars, the closure of the shipyards, the birth of the deep fried Mars bar, the departure of Alex Ferguson to Manchester and Billy Connolly to Los Angeles, Glasgow is still smiling. Yes, Glasgow is smiles better and the locals won't have any problem telling you about it in great detail.
Hear it here first
As the UK’s only UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow is without a doubt the best place to catch new cutting edge music and the stars of tomorrow. While world-famous venues like King Tut’s and The Barras take the plaudits – Oasis, Muse, Snow Patrol and Coldplay started out here – the city has more than an electric guitar and drum kit on its stereo. Home to more than 100 cultural organisations including the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, opera and ballet companies, the city caters to a wide range of tastes. Check out Celtic Connections every January for the world’s finest array of Scots folk, fiddle and ceilidh music. In summer, Glasgow also hosts the world’s largest pipe band festival. Read more on my When to go to Glasgow page.
Shop ‘til you drop
From Princes Square and the Buchanan Galleries to the Italian Centre and Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow is a consumer’s paradise, boasting more than one square mile of inspirational shopping. Scotland’s style mile Buchanan Street is regularly named the biggest and best shopping experience outside London and has been named by the Academy of Urbanism as the finest shopping street in Britain. Want more? Glasgow has reinvented itself more times than Madonna so by the time you've read this, the city will have opened numerous other boutiques and outlets. There are plenty of whisky stores too. Read more on my Shopping in Glasgow page.
To laugh along with history
Once upon a time Glasgow was the original Victorian dream. As the second city of the British Empire, its forefathers helped straddle the continent in kilts and it became a centre of commerce, education and coal black humour. Following years of post-industrial decline after the Second World War, the city has generated some of the world’s most in demand comedians. From Stanley Baxter, Chic Murray, Robbie Coltrane and Billy Connolly to Frankie Boyle, Kevin Bridges, Armando Iannucci and Craig Ferguson, Glasgow’s comedians are always in demand. See them – and a host of others – at the annual Glasgow Comedy Festival, but make sure you bring a coat and some warm clothes. As “The Big Yin” Billy Connolly says, “There are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter.” Stan Laurel even made his first stage appearance at a Glasgow music hall. Read more about the Glasgow International Comedy Festival on my When to go to Glasgow page.
Glasgow is home to the most tempestuous football rivalry in Europe, bar none. Forget Manchester, Liverpool, Barcelona and Milan: the world’s most anticipated football game is the Old Firm game between Rangers and Celtic, played as if the rival teams were gladiators fighting to the death in Rome’s Colosseum. Played at either Ibrox or Celtic Park, the games are Shakespearean dramas of passion, pride and steaming hot pies and include everything bar the kitchen sink. Not a football fan? Glasgow will play host to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, so there.
Expect the unexpected…
The sights, shopping and nightlife are a given. But Glasgow has more to it than meets the eye. Did you know that seaplanes ferry passengers to Loch Lomond and regularly land in the River Clyde in the heart of the city centre? Or that beneath the streets Glasgow has the third oldest underground system in the world? Often taken for granted, Glasgow revels in the unforeseen: while the city chambers is home to a miniature Statue of Liberty, Hamilton Mausoleum, which dates from the 1850s, has the longest echo of any building in Europe. Bet you didn’t know that?
Educate yourself in the arts
Famous for its world-renowned Art Nouveau architecture from Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, the city has become a beacon for new creative art and artists. The Glasgow School of Art is rightly world famous and has a star studded list of alumni. Beyond the city centre there is the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, Rennie Mackintosh inspired House for an Art Lover, religious murals by Salvador Dali, iconic tapestries and wall hangings at The Burrell Collection and impromptu art events from multi-art factory collective SWG3. To enjoy the most artistic view of the city when the sun shines - from Gothic architecture in the West End to unparalleled Victorian façades in George Square - all you need to do is look up.
Take the High Road
With Loch Lomond and the Trossachs on Glasgow’s doorstep, the city is in easy reach of the fabled lands immortalised by the legends of Rob Roy and the stories of Walter Scott. From sailing the Highland waters of Loch Katrine to scaling the heights of the iconic Ben Lomond, the north of Glasgow is blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful glens, lochs and hills. When the “wee birdies sing and the wild flowers spring, on the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond”, I can’t think of anywhere else in the world I’d rather be.
Taste the water of life
World-famous home to all manner of single malts and blended whiskies, Glasgow is home to two of the country’s most surprising distilleries. To the west lies Auchentoshan, which is one of only three remaining distilleries in the Scottish Lowlands, and to the north sits Glengoyne Distillery, the lowest Highland malt distillery in the country. Throw in some of the best whisky bars and drinking dens on Earth – my favourite for a quick tipple is Uisge Beatha if you're buying the drinks – it won’t be long before you’ll be toasting, “Slange Var!" (good health).
Give a little something back
What has the city ever given to you? In the words of famous Glaswegian street philosopher Rab C. Nesbitt, "I'll tell you this boy!" For starters, economic theory (courtesy of the University of Glasgow and Adam Smith), the television (John Logie Baird), the raincoat (Charles Mackintosh), antiseptics (Lord Joseph Lister), the steam engine (James Watt), ultrasound (Ian Donald), football brilliance (Sir Alex Ferguson), detective agencies (Alan Pinkerton), prodigious music (AC/DC, Travis, Belle & Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand), pioneering architecture (Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson and Charles Rennie Mackintosh), the first Prime Ministers of both Canada and Australia (John MacDonald and Andrew Fisher) and – erm - Scrooge McDuck.
Ask a Glaswegian
If you need any more reason to visit, then why not ask a Glaswegian? Where else in the world can you visit Scotland's lowest Highland malt distillery, see the world's most intense football game, cruise on a river full of shipbuilding Second World War history, explore the world's best collection of Rennie Mackintosh art, eat Michelin-starred Scottish cuisine and see award-winning contemporary music, ballet and theatre all in the same 24 hours? Sounds like the perfect day to me. I'll see you in Glasgow next week then shall I?