All eyes are on Glasgow as it plays host to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Susie Henderson discovers a cool, creative city riding high on a wave of innovation.
0700-0900. A Victorian cemetery may seem a macabre place to kick-start your day, but the Glasgow Necropolis (Castle Street, 0141 287 5064), located near the city’s medieval cathedral, is well worth exploring. Peppered with monuments designed by some of Glasgow’s greatest architects, including Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, it’s a reflection of Glasgow at the height of its powers when it was considered the second city in the empire. Allow a couple of hours to meander along the heritage trail, which takes in 35 highlights along with stunning views and Glasgow’s own Bridge of Sighs.
0900-1100. Fill your belly at nearby McCune Smith (3-5 Duke Street, 0141 548 1114) with a bowlful of Scottish porridge topped with banana, Montezuma chocolate flakes and honey, and a warming pork and leek sausage breakfast roll. Fast becoming a go-to East End eatery, this café opened in spring 2013 and is named after abolitionist Dr James McCune Smith, who studied in Glasgow after being refused admission to US universities owing to his race; he went on to become the first African American to hold a medical degree. After breakfast, wander down to Glasgow Green, the city’s oldest public park and home to new 2014 venue, the Glasgow National Hockey Centre. Of particular note is the painstakingly restored Doulton Fountain, the world’s largest terracotta fountain, gifted to the city by Sir Henry Doulton in 1888. Directly behind, the People’s Palace (Glasgow Green, 0141 276 0788) recounts Glasgow’s social history from 1750 to the end of the 20th century. Don’t miss Billy Connolly’s banana boots and the reconstructed single-room 1930s tenement house.
1100-1300. From George Square, hop on the Riversider 100 bus and travel to the Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum (100 Pointhouse Place, 0141 287 2720), winner of European Museum of the Year 2013. Once inside the glistening museum, gaze at (and climb aboard) over 3,000 transport-related objects and wander along a Glasgow street, which guides you from the 1890s to the 1980s. Outside, hop onto the Tall Ship Glenlee (150 Pointhouse Place, 0141 357 3699), one of just five remaining Clyde-built sailing ships afloat in the world.
1300-1500. Stroll into the West End where you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to midday munchies. Siempre Bicycle Café (162 Dumbarton Road, 0141 334 2385) by Kelvinhall subway station is a hip hangout for urban cyclists, melding a bike shop and café. You don’t need to arrive on two wheels however to tuck into a crayfish po’boy sandwich or slurp on ‘The Mexican’ hot chocolate, spiked with a sprinkling of chilli. The shop stocks classic, urban and sportive racing bikes and stylish cycling clothing you’d actually want to be seen wearing. If this sounds a bit too sporty, along the road is dinky tearoom and craft gallery Cushion & Cake (35 Old Dumbarton Road, 0141 339 4114). Expect pastel colours, cool UK-designed crafts, upcycled furniture and loose leaf tea served in vintage teacups. Lunch might be a chunky brie and chutney sandwich with fresh soup, or you can treat yourself to a great-value afternoon tea of mini sandwiches, scones and sweet treats.
1500-1700. When it comes to shopping, terrific indie gems vie for your attention in the West End. Glasgow’s first speciality beer shop, Hippo Beers (128 Queen Margaret Drive, 0141 946 3020) sells a regularly rotating range of around 350 ales. Take a peek too into The Shop of Interest (1058 Argyle Street, 0141 221 7316) and rummage for original art, limited edition prints, jewellery and quirky pressies. Back in the city centre, the streets are lined with every big name imaginable. The newly branded Buchanan Quarter’s latest opening is 185-221 Buchanan Street, home to Scotland’s first Forever 21, Vans and a flagship Paperchase store. As an alternative to retail therapy, how about testing your mettle on the new Sir Chris Hoy velodrome? Sign up to an introductory session at the Siberian pine cycling track, built for the Commonwealth Games and part of the Emirates Arena (1000 London Road, 0141 287 7000), which opened in 2012. Not extreme enough? Take the plunge off Glasgow’s century-old Titan Crane via the Highland Fling Bungee (1 Aurora Avenue, Queens Quay, 0845 366 5844, April to October).
1700-1900. Start the evening as you mean to go on. Drop into the classy cocktail lounge at Blythswood Square hotel (11 Blythswood Square, 0141 248 8888) or indulge in a dram (or three) from over 250 malts at the Whisky Bar in Òran Mór (Top of Byres Road, 0141 357 6200). Order blinis and cranberry vodka at Russian café-gallery Cossachok (10 King Street, 0141 553 0733), located in Trongate 103, a collection of creative organisations staging cutting-edge exhibitions.
1900-2100. Glasgow’s dining scene is constantly reinventing itself, with plenty of new places keeping foodies’ taste buds happy. Bright and modern with an open-plan kitchen, Central Market (51 Bell Street, 0141 552 0902) serves hearty British favourites (think lamb shoulder, steak tartare and pork chops). Burger Meats Bun (48A West Regent Street, 0141 353 6712) has been seriously impressing Glaswegians with its Smokin’ Bacon and Hot Chic burgers since 2013 – its owners previously worked at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Fife. Also new on the culinary map is Merchant City café-bistro The Plum Tree (6 Wilson Street, 0141 552 6980), which hosts weekend steak nights.
After 2100. Join the hipsters and watch the up-and-coming alternatives to local bands Glasvegas or Franz Ferdinand at cool hangout King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (272A St Vincent Street, 0141 221 5279). Or take a look at the gig list for The SSE Hydro (SECC, Exhibition Way, 0141 248 3000); designed by Foster and Partners, the 12,000-seater waterside venue is set to become one of Glasgow’s iconic buildings with its eye-catching curving wall of pneumatic translucent cushions. If you want to hit the tiles, then slide your dancing shoes over to The Sub Club (22 Jamaica Street, 0141 248 4600), a late-night staple since 1987.
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Written by World Travel Guide.