Glasgow smiles better

by Louise Hodgson

Scotland’s largest city bursts with personality – so pack your mac, and a sense of humour, and you won’t go far wrong in Glasgow, one of the UK’s friendliest places

Glasgow is a vibrant city that has something for everyone, whatever you reason for visiting or your budget. Often said to mean ‘dear green place’, it is is a fitting name for a city with more than 90 parks and open spaces. With so many areas offering respite, once you’ve admired the Victorian architecture and visited the various museums, there’s an abundance of tranquil spots in which to relax.

Devote some time to the much-celebrated architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose influence on Glasgow is hard to miss. Or indulge in some serious retail therapy, as the city rivals London when it comes to shopping. There’s a lot on offer for families too, and a trip to the science centre is not to be missed.

What to do: paid for

Mackintosh Trail ticket
Mackintosh plays a big part in the city’s history and there are plenty of spots displaying his work.
The Mackintosh Trail ticket (£12) allows you entrance to 12 sights and free transport for a day. A tour at the Glasgow School of Art is a good starting point where you will see the magnificent Mackintosh library.

Shop ’til you drop
Have credit cards at the ready and treat yourself to a splurge. For jewellery, head to the pretty Argyll Arcade located between two of Glasgow’s most popular shopping streets – Argyle Street and Buchanan Street. Byres Road in the West End is a good bet for more quirky, independent shops, ideal for picking up a gift or two.

Glasgow Science Centre
Packed with more than 250 hands-on exhibits, children can balance a beach ball on jet air, make giant bubbles, play a tune on an invisible harp or dress up as a pirate at the Glasgow Science Centre. Adults £8.25, children £6.25. TIP Catch at least one of the live, interactive science shows.

What to do for free

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
The UK’s largest civic museum is nothing less than breathtaking - the grand interior itself makes the visit worthwhile. Its three floors are filled with fine exhibits - too many to single out. TIP: Enjoy a half-hour organ recital held in the centre hall (1pm Mon-Sat, 3pm Sun).

Botanic Gardens
The tranquil Botanic Gardens are a great place to relax after a busy day. Benches scattered throughout Kibble Palace provide relief for weary legs in a sanctuary of tree-fern calm. Take your time to wander through the 11 glasshouses and discover enormous banana plants, water lilies, cacti and begonias from around the globe.

Gallery of Modern Art
This amazing building in the hub of the Merchant City showcases art from around the world and exhibitions change regularly. TIP: Families should visit the Saturday Art Club between 10.30am and 1pm to get involved in drawing, sculpture making and collage. Open to children aged three to 11.

Where to stay

Blow the budget: Rooms at Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens exude character – be sure to make time for a visit to the Whisky Snug, or arrange for a tour of the wine cellar, depending on your preferred tipple. This luxurious retreat located on a peaceful, tree-lined terrace occupies five Victorian townhouses. .

Personal preference: Malmaison has converted a former Greek Orthodox Church into a haven for holidaymakers. Character oozes from this hotel, with its original vaulted ceiling and iron-sculpted staircase, and it doesn’t stop there. Images depicting Glaswegian life are scattered throughout. Bathrooms offer lush toiletries and sleek, sumptuous rooms are both cosy and welcoming.

On a budget: Jurys Inn offers everything needed for a city centre base that won’t break the bank. Rooms are spacious. TIP Request a room at the back of the hotel for great views overlooking the River Clyde.

Family choice: Board games, colouring books and free meals for children under 11 make the Hilton Grosvenor Glasgow a great choice for families. Other benefits include adjoining rooms and a babysitting service.

Eating out

Glasgow boasts so much choice when it comes to eating out. Here are just two options...

The Chippy Doon the Lane (0141 225 5615, is not your average chippy. Tuck in to large portions of fresh battered fish and chunky hand-cut chips cooked to order and served in swish, candlelit surroundings. A two-course special, consisting of soup of the day with bread and butter and fish dinner costs £8.95.

Housed in the top of the Grosvenor cinema, The Loft (0845 166 6028) opens its doors to people old and young daily. Families should visit on a Sunday though, when children can enjoy driving around in toy cars or watching cartoons on the big screens. Any meal on the Italian menu can be ordered as a half portion. Adult mains from £7.95

Despite the greenery, shops and culture, it’s the people who make Glasgow special. Never daunted by the weather, Glaswegian’s are high-spirited and a warm welcome awaits.