Glasgow wowed the world during the 2014 Commonwealth Games and now the secret’s out: this city is smoking hot. Okay, not the weather perhaps, but as Susie Henderson discovers, Glasgow sizzles with culinary creativity, artsy innovation and all things hip.
Head east of the city centre for a Scots-Italian brekkie at Coia’s Café (477 Duke Street, 0141 554 3822), an East End institution since 1928. This once-gritty neighbourhood is gentrifying steadily, with students and professionals snapping up affordable flats in handsome tenement blocks. Tuck into eggs poached in Napoli sauce or go Scottish with smoked haddock or potato scones. Fuelled up for the day? Less than a mile away, you can explore the Glasgow Necropolis (Castle Street, 0141 287 5064), a Victorian cemetery located near the city’s medieval cathedral. 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.
Grab a coffee at nearby McCune Smith (3-5 Duke Street, 0141 548 1114). In fact, why not squeeze in a small snack too? The banana cinnamon toast is irresistible, dripping with butter and honey. Fast becoming a go-to East End eatery, this café 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. From here, it’s a 10-minute walk to rock venue extraordinaire, the Barrowland Ballroom (244 Gallowgate, 0141 522 4601), which has hosted everyone from U2 to Oasis to Primal Scream. While you’ll have to come back later to catch a gig, look out for your favourite artists on the Album Pathway, a kaleidoscopic homage to over 2,000 bands who’ve performed here since 1983. Designed by Jim Lambie in 2014, the 100-metre-long trail winds through a small park and looks like the side view of a record collection. Pop into the legendary Barras Market behind the ballroom for banter and bargains.
Head west along the Clyde 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. If you’re here in summer, catch the free ferry from the museum to Govan Old Church (866 Govan Road, 0141 440 2466), across the river. Step inside to explore the 31 Govan Stones, a set of early medieval, intricately carved monuments commemorating the rulers of Strathclyde.
The Riverside Museum’s café is a lovely spot for lunch, but if you want to eat at a locals’ favourite, make your way to The Hyndland Fox (43 Clarence Drive, 0141 341 6633). Glaswegian deli group Peckham’s opened this eatery in 2014, and diners keep coming back for its inventive big bowl salads and belly-warming classics like fish pie, corn beef hash, and brambly apple and toffee crumble. Alternatively, slip into dinky tea room 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 houmous and roasted pepper sandwich with fresh soup, or you can treat yourself to a great-value afternoon tea of mini sandwiches, scones and sweet treats.
When it comes to shopping, terrific indie gems vie for your attention in the West End. Just behind Byres Road on Cresswell Lane, De Courcy’s Arcade is crammed with cutesy boutiques and cafés. On the upper floor, Janet & John (077 3176 8373) showcases some of Scotland’s coolest contemporary artists and crafters. Cut across Glasgow University’s campus and pause at hipster hangout Artisan Roast (15-17 Gibson Street, 078 6498 4253), which brews a seriously mean coffee. Wander through Kelvingrove Park and take a peek into The Shop of Interest (1058 Argyle Street, 0141 221 7316), where you can rummage for original art, Scotland-inspired limited edition prints, jewellery and quirky pressies. As an alternative to retail therapy, how about testing your mettle on the 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).
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 swig a strawberry and chilli caipirinha at Metropolitan (60 Candleriggs, 0141 553 1488) in the Merchant City. Vegan café-bar The 78 (10-14 Kelvinhaugh Street, 0141 576 5018) pours a lip-smacking selection of organic ales – try the Black Isle Organic Red Kite – to get you in the mood for open mic evening on Wednesdays or reggae night on Thursdays.
Glasgow’s dining scene is constantly reinventing itself, with plenty of new places keeping foodies’ taste buds happy. With its sleek booths, pendant lights and tapas-style creations, Ox and Finch (920 Sauchiehall Street, 0141 339 8627) is one of the hottest tables in town in neighbourhood-du-jour Finnieston. 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 Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill in Hotel Indigo (75 Waterloo Street, 0141 226 7726), whose star attraction is the 28-day-aged steak.
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 has already become one of Glasgow’s iconic buildings with its eye-catching curving wall of pneumatic translucent cushions. For a more offbeat evening, arts space SWG3 (100 Eastvale Place, 0141 337 1731) stages an eclectic mix of concerts, exhibitions and club nights.
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Written by World Travel Guide.