The Scottish city of Glasgow offers the visitor far more than its usual image suggests. A city awarded European city of culture status is well worth a visit
Glasgow has far more to offer the visitor than most people imagine, as I found out by working for a company just to the east of the city and visiting on a regular basis.
Heritage and History
The city was once a centre of the tobacco trade and its former glory and wealth can be seen in many of the buildings in the centre. Head for Merchant City; an area that has been enhanced by the addition of many restaurants, shops and bars, to see the impressive relics of a bygone era. Equally, a free guided tour of the City Chambers on George Square reveals a magnificent government building that was completed in 1888, with Victorian double glazing and a marble staircase claimed to be bigger and better than the one in the Vatican (http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/YourCouncil/Council_Committees/CityChambers/guidedtours.htm). The interior of the popular Counting House pub, also on George Square, reveals some statues and architectural details that date back to its days as a bank - but remember that despite its impressive size it can be difficult to get in on a Friday evening, so weekdays are best to see the details - oh, the beer and food are good as well. The People’s Palace, a short taxi ride from the centre, is an interesting building that holds a museum devoted to life in Glasgow from 1750 to the present, plus a large Victorian glasshouse at the rear that is very popular with wedding groups for their photo opportunities. While the building alone is impressive, the exhibits (including examples of tenement accommodation) and some large gardens surrounding it were a chance to see a different side of Glasgow to the built-up centre. A tour of the Glasgow School of Art building, designed by Rennie Mackintosh, at167 Renfrew St, Tel: 141 3534 500 (http://www.gsa.ac.uk/gsa.cfm?pid=60&version=flash&detect=done), is another worthwhile detour whilst in the city. A look in the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMa), within easy walking distance of George Square is also worthwhile. Tel: 141 287 3050 for information.
Glasgow is blessed with some excellent restaurants, the best of which I found to be The Buttery (http://www.glasgowguide.co.uk/restaurant-glasgow-buttery-belfry.html), one of Glasgow’s oldest restaurants at 652 Argyle Street that dates from 1856, though its prices reflect the quality of the food, even if the area is not too prepossessing at first sight (I was first taken there by my CEO, who told me it was for taking customers to - I dipped deep into my own credit card and took Trish there on one visit because I wasso impressed with the meal) Tel: 141 221 8188. The restaurant oozes class, with oak panelling and a mahogany and marble bar, and serves quality Scottish fare, mostly using organic produce. The haggis as a starter was a light introduction to an often substantial national dish, with fine beef, venison and lamb dishes on offer, as well as a good selection of fish options. The Buttery Below is a smaller, cosier option if you can get a table - it’s worth taking the short taxi ride from the city centre to make sure of finding the building easily (it’s very well known to the drivers). A later discovery, after finding on a holiday trip that my regular Indian restaurant had closed down, was the excellent KoolBa Persian/Indian restaurant, just by Merchant City on Candleriggs (http://www.koolba.com/), Tel: 141 552 2777, a place that provided some of the tastiest curry we had ever had in Glasgow, a city famous for its Indian cuisine. Also in Merchant City is the hospitable Café Gandolfi (http://www.cafegandolfi.com/), which offers some delicious Scottish dishes at prices that won’t break the bank (they even let us in for breakfast before the official opening time one Saturday). Try their haggis, neeps and tatties for a substantial meal that is far tastier than you might imagine. Another good venue in Merchant City is Blackfriars, a pub popular with students that offers a tremendous range of well-kept real ale and live music.
My tip for a base is the Carlton George Hotel, a hotel I tried on a work trip and found to be suitable for our American aerospace customers to stay at when visiting the factory; this choice was made for its location on George Square, within easy walking distance of the main attractions, rail stations and shops, plus its comfort and high standards that personal experience showed would be in keeping with the impression we were trying to make.
Glasgow has a very good train system, though it is compact enough to make taxis quite economical. A good tip for the visitor is to take the cost-effective bus from the airport to George Square. The only (slight) problem with Glasgow is the amount of rain its western location creates; though we have had hot, sunny days at Loch Lomond a little outside the city, particularly at the picturesque historic village of Luss, - so pretty it featured in a soap opera on Scottish Television. We were pleased to have a hire car to explore the countryside around the city. The city centre is conveniently close to the M8, allowing easy access and quick day trips to see the area.
As mentioned earlier, Merchant City has its fair share of quality retail outlets; if these are not enough to satisfy you, the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre is not far from George Square and a stroll along Sauchiehall St is always interesting.
As an introduction to Scotland, Glasgow far exceeds its somewhat unruly reputation and we have enjoyed many visits there. Why not wrap up warm (and dry) and head north to find out for yourself? The airport is small enough to be almost a pleasure to use (there are not many I say that about). I guess my best recommendation for the city is that I chose to take Trish there for holidays after many work trips there.