glasgow guide


[image above by alan knox at panoramio]

today’s first city guide (stay tuned for another city at 2!) belongs to glasgow, scotland and was written by d*s reader sarah johnson. i have always wanted to spend more time in scotland (my father’s side of the family is originally from scotland) and this is a great way to get my travel train back on track. sarah has included a great list of shops, museums, restaurants, and bars but as always, if you have a favorite spot that’s missing please feel free to leave it in the comment section below (i’ve added some great shops i’ve heard of at the bottom of the list). thanks again to sarah for all of her hard work! (also, if you’re looking for great scottish artists, papa stour always carries incredible work from local designers, and craft scotland has a great guide for local artwork. the skinny is devoted to scottish arts and culture)

CLICK HERE for the full glasgow guide or just click “read more” below.

When most people hear Glasgow, they think rough, industrial, rundown and dangerous, but in the past ten years, Glasgow has undergone a huge transformation. The city center was revamped into the seventh best shopping street in the world (and the second best in the UK next to London), the eastern edge of the center – the Merchant City – transformed from a warehouse and factory base into some of the best nightlife for young professionals, and the West End boasts international eateries, unique boutiques and a vibrant atmosphere, thanks mostly to the University of Glasgow, the fourth-oldest university in the United Kingdom. I lived here for about 15 months while doing a graduate degree, but I also came over during my undergrad years as an exchange student. Many of the younger people are not Scottish, as the University draws an enormous number of international students.

The city is a great place to be a student, but also a great place to visit because of its cultural scene. Enjoy!

Museums:

Probably Glasgow’s most famous inhabitant has been Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow hosts the world’s largest collection of Mackintosh work and Glasgow is full of his architecture as well. Worth a visit is the School of Art, located on Renfrew Street in the City Centre. The School is still a working art school and can only be visited by guided tour, unless you know a student, but you get to see parts of the School that even students rarely enter.

About a fifteen minute walk from the School of Art is the Lighthouse, another Rennie Mackintosh work. Originally it was the Herald newspaper headquarters and is now the Scotland Centre for Architecture, Design and the City. There are always new and exciting exhibits there, from Marimekko fabrics to Glaswegian architectural competitions.

Just off Buchanan Street, in Royal Exchange Square, is the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). Most exhibitions are temporary but always thought provoking and illuminating.

On the south side of the Kelvingrove Park is the Kelvingrove Museum, a large Victorian sandstone structure along the intersection of Argyle and Sauchiehall Streets. The permanent contents of the museum vary widely – from skeletal remains of animals large and small to an internationally acclaimed art collection, which includes Impressionist, Italian Renaissance and Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross.

Shopping:

The city centre’s shopping definitely rivals London. The main street is Buchanan Street, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare with Topshop, House of Fraser, Coast, Urban Outfitters and many others. At the top of the street is Buchanan Galleries – a modern 3-storey shopping mall with GAP, a John Lewis department store, and other high street stores like Accessorize, Cult, Mango, H&M and Next, among others. Halfway between Sauchiehall Street and Argyle Street, on Buchanan, is the Princes Square, a five level interior shopping centre set in a renovated 1841 square with shops like Calvin Klein, Lacoste, Vivienne Westwood and unique “retail experiences” like Fifi and Ally, a trendy restaurant and boutique with a couple locations in town.

On weekends, the Barras market opens up in the eastern end between Gallowgate and London Road. It’s mostly a mish-mash of stuff for sale but sometimes you can spot a bargain.

I lived in the West End, and I’m much more familiar with the shopping on that end. Byres Road is a mile-long stretch (if that) with tons of great food, drink and retail therapy. Just beyond Byres Road are Ashton Lane and Cresswell Lane; Ashton has more of the bar scene while Cresswell is home to some great shops.

Demijohn (top of Byres Road, west end): a great place to buy homemade alcohols, like sloe gin, lemon vodka, cranberry-infused whisky, etc. They put them in a decorative glass bottle and seal with wax.

Nancy Smillie’s (Cresswell Lane, west end): this is a shop full of furniture from around the world, jewelry, hand-blown glass, ceramics, and much more! I think it’s a good place to go for gifts.

Felix and Oscar (Great Western Road, west end): another funky shop that I loved! Again, trendy stuff, but they sell knitting books, cookbooks, bartending guides.. things like that. They also have a selection of cute dresses and products like Burt’s Bees and, in the back, adorable children’s clothes.

Voltaire and Rousseau (Otago Lane, woodlands): a charming second-hand bookshop near Tchai Ovna. Full of everything under the sun, books stacked to the ceiling, good for browsing and antique-book hunting.

A few from Grace:

Timorous Beasties: incredible local wallpaper designers (384 Great Western Road, Glasgow)

All Saints: some funky home and personal accessories. I like their knit sweater style pillows online.

Che Camille: independent home, personal and accessory design.

Katy West Ceramics: beautiful modern ceramics and glassware

Glasgow School of Art Shop: home and personal accessories

Showpony: I love her tote bags on etsy, and she’s based in Glasgow!

One Foot Taller: modern interior, furniture and product design

Hanna Zakari: carries independent designers in the areas of home, product and jewelry design (as well as art prints).

Felix and Oscar: Orla Kiely Bags, Kath Kidston and more…

Compass Gallery: I’ve heard great things about their collection of up-and-coming artists

Transmission: contemporary art gallery focusing on 4 local artists.

Sorcha Dallas: contemporary art gallery

Eating and Drinking:

Glasgow has an eclectic mixture of dining places. With the recent interest in eating healthy and locally, places with a focus on Scottish ingredients are becoming more and more popular. On the flip side, there are also the traditional pubs, serving up great burgers and a variety of beers and wines.

Stravaigin (Gibson Street and Ruthven Lane, both west end): a “think global, eat local” restaurant with international-inspired dishes made with local produce and meat. At Ruthven Lane, the burgers are top-notch. This west end staple is always on the best food lists.

The Ubiquitous Chip: (Ashton Lane, west end): another award-winning local restaurant, dedicated to showcasing the best Scottish ingredients.

The Wee Curry Shop (Buccleuch Street, city centre, Ashton Lane and Byres Road, both west end): Indian food is a huge part of the Glaswegian diet and the Wee Curry Shop delivers some fantastic Indian food. All three outlets are truly “wee” and hold at maximum twenty – thirty people.

Cafe Andaluz: (Cresswell Lane, west end and St Vincent Square, city centre): a fantastic place for tapas, paella and sangria. My dad loves this place, so we go when he’s in town. We generally mix and match tapas for whatever we’re in the mood for, or you can order paella (which are huge!) to split. The sangria is delicious.

Rogano: (Royal Exchange Place, city centre): best oysters in town, hands down. Located right off Exchange Square in the heart of the city, this is the oldest restaurant in Glasgow and decorated Art Deco style. They pride themselves on serving the best Scottish seafood.

Heart Buchanan (top of Byres Road, west end): this little gem is both an organic and Fair Trade food shop and a great place to get sandwiches or a light lunch. Fi Buchanan is a great chef!

Tchai Ovna (Otago Lane, woodlands): a tiny tea and shisha house tucked above the River Kelvin off Gibson Street; Tchai Ovna is a cozy place to while away a lazy afternoon playing Scrabble, cards or listening to music on weeknights. They import tea from around the world, and give your the origin of each. They also serve up Mediterranean style food (think hummus and pita, babaganoush, etc) and great desserts.

Lupe Pintos: (Great Western Road, kelvinbridge): it’s hard to make authentic Mexican and American food over in the UK, but Lupe Pintos makes it easier. They sell anything from Mexican spices (chili, fajita, taco), real tortilla chips, salsa and fresh guacamole to Betty Crocker cake mixes, marshmallow fluff, Reeses Pieces and Tootsie Pops. They also carry a limited amount of canned pumpkin for those adamant about a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.. they do sell out quickly though! In addition, they sell a cookbook packed with Mexican recipes and a wide selection of American and Mexican beers and spirits.

Delizique (Hyndland Street, Hyndland): a very cute deli just a few blocks off Byres Road. They have a sister cafe – Cafezique – next door with a good selection of wines.

Peckhams (various locations): I’m adding this because you can get a variety of things in here – it’s a specialty shop kind of like Dean and Deluca (not as extensive or pretentious though) – from food to take away, a wide selection of wines and spirits, breads, cheeses and spices.

Fiona Richards

The Compass Gallery is my favourite in Glasgow for commercial galleries – I am so glad you included it in your list. I grew up in Scotland – just north of Glasgow in a wee town called Dollar. Moved to Canada when I was 19. We go back often. We have a number of paintings that we have bought in the Compass Gallery. And of course a trip to the Barras is always an adventure. Love it. So glad we have this city guide to Glasgow on design*sponge now – thanks Grace and Sarah!

Daniella

The Willow Tea Room is a must-go! They’re famous for their tea and scones…. they’re soooo good. Musn’t be missed! There is one located by Buchanan Street.

carrie

*eeep!!* This is SO great. Scotland is my fave place in the world but i’ve not explored Glasgow as much as other areas and it’s on my list for next trip over. This will definitely be saved for then! Thank you Sarah!

Rose

The Burrell Collection, just outside the city, is one of my favorite museums and has a great collection of decorative arts.

Stephanie

I visited Glasgow a couple of years ago on the suggestion of some people from Glasgow that I met while traveling. I loved it and I bet I would have loved it even more if I would have had this guide.

Katherine

Thanks for a great guide, I’m through in Edinburgh but you’ve included lots of my favourites. Such a shame the wonderful Hitherto is no more.

Some of my suggestions would be Entrading on West Regent Street for eco-clothes, house stuff and a cafe. My favourite places to eat are Grassroots in the West End, fabulous vegetarian food. The Stereo pub on Renfield Lane does good vegan food.

I love Fifi and Ally, must go and eat there properly some time!

Allison

When I visited Glasgow VERY briefly several years ago (we were mostly visiting the tiny island of Eilan Shona), my husband and I ate at Cafe Gandolfi. We absolutely loved it! Great food and great atmosphere. http://www.cafegandolfi.com

Fiona

Great to see Glasgow on the Design Sponge City guide! I live and work in Glasgow and have to say I love it. For a couple of places to eat I would suggest Roastit Bubbly Jocks (yes really!) on Dumbarton Rd in Partick – great Scottish food, reasonably priced served in a bustling unpretentious atmosphere. Also I’d add in Kember & Jones on Byres Rd, a deli/cafe that sells wonderful fresh food and AMAZING home baking (always difficult to get a table). The Left Bank in Gibson St, a bar/bistro with stylish decor (wall coverings by Timorous Beasties) a relaxed vibe and great food. Finally for the best coffee in town (and I’m fussy!) I’d recommend either of the 2 Tinderbox branches, the one in Byres Rd or the one in the city centre in Ingram St. Oh and a final PS I’d also recommend Fifi &Ali for – if you happen to be in Glasgow on a wet grey day there is no better place to while away a couple of hours and enjoy an afternoon tea with a glass of champagne! I will have to come back and post my favourite places to shop..!?

Sophie S

I second Rose – I visited the Burrell collection about fifteen years ago and I’ve never forgotten it – a beautiful building set in woodland containing some truly wondrous objects collected by an idiosyncratic collector with an amazing eye. In my book museums don’t get much better than that.

Susan

Ahhh, Glasgow! My home city!!
What pride runs through my veins when I see the rooftops of Glasgae. If you manage to get to Glasgow, take a wee train “doon the watter” to Helensburgh (where I grew up) fantastic wee town, rich in architecture, and home to the Hill House (also by CR Mac).

Maureen

What a great surprise this post is! I have had a special place for Glasgow ever since I studied there. Cheers!

Rachel May

I love this guide, but I also love reading everyone’s comments! It’s great to hear about everyone’s experiences in Glasgow, either growing up or visiting…thank you all for sharing!

Jojo

Thank you thank you! I’m English but I grew up in Scotland before moving to Canada, and now London, and I just LOVE it! Anyone who has never been, GO Go! But, do spend equal time in Glasgow and Edinburgh – they are soooo different and equally beautiful but in very different ways.

Skye

I second a visit to Mono! I visited Glasgow a few years ago and it was one of the best spots I found. The atmosphere can’t be beat. Also, the Buchanan Tea Room has fantastic scones and a wonderful Welsh Rarebit.

Trish

I did a study abroad in Glasgow and I would love to go back! The Wee Curry Shop was where we used to go for great cheap eats. Your guide made me swoon for Glasgow again, Thanks!

Jo

Aw, Glasgow! I studied there from ’93 – ’97 and had a ball. It was a fabulous cultural haven then and even better now it seems. Heading there for a few days in 2 weeks. Will definitely take note of this guide before we go. So excited. Thanks all!

monica

I have adored the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh since I saw an exhibit in high school at the Art Institute of Chicago. What a treat it was to see his work all over Glasgow! While staying in Glasgow, my husband and I enjoyed the Pot Still where they carry over 300 malt whiskies. While I’m not a fan (it puts hair on my chest!), the nice bartender found a tame floral whisky for me to try. It was a cozy place with very friendly service.

Megan

I love Glasgow! I lived there while studying abroad at the University. It was the best experience of my life. The city is such a fun place to explore, and I hope to someday go back. It would be a dream to even have the chance to live there again.

Josina

Wonderful post, thanks so much for including Glasgow! Like some of the other commenters I studied in Glasgow during the nineties and haven’t been back for a while now, but it’s wonderful to see the restaurants I particularly enjoyed are thriving. I also have fond memories of the carrot cake at Peckham’s… and Hill House was definitely worth a visit.

Josina

And I don’t know if it’s still there, but VV Rouleaux on Miller Street was amazing for ribbons and tassles and beads etc.

sarah

wow, you guys are great for all of the additions to my post!! i did try to stick with places i’ve actually been to/shopped at… i feel like i can’t recommend a place if i haven’t been there firsthand. i didn’t realise “glasgae” was such a popular destination — i can come up with another list with more food and drink haunts if you want… plus, a listing of some of the clubs in town might not go unappreciated?? i’m loving reading all your comments!

die young, stay pretty.

i lived in glasgow for most of my life before moving to london last year, i miss it. nice guide.
i would also suggest nice and sleazy’s on sauchihall st they have great intimate gigs and a friendly bar upstairs, one of the last places to still sell buckfast a glasgwedgians best friend by tap!
mr. bens beside st. enoch’s center parking center for vintage clothes, the arches under central station’s bridge and subclub on union st for great clubnights, the halt bar on woodlands rd is a cosy old man’s pub, tinderbox’s shop on ingram st for random nicknacks, the farmer’s market off dumbarton rd…i could go on…

Lady Wurlitzer

I live in Glasgow and have done all my life. It’s a fabulous city! I’d like to recommend vintage-inspired sweetie shop, I Love Candy (Byres Road) and I’d also like to tell y’all about ‘Play It Again’ – the secondhand record store next door to the wonderful Relics. While you’re down Ruthven Lane looking at vinyl, don’t forget to explore the nearby vintage stores, Circa & Starry Starry Night! For night-time socialising I recommend Club Noir (02 Academy) for a glamorous night of burlesque entertainment or The Flying Duck for the perfect laid back rock’n’roll mish mash. Oh – and how can I forget! Visit seasonal boutique shopping event – Made In The Shade! I am one of the organisers so am a little biased, but do swing by. You’ll have a swell time! x

SUE GORDON

Hi. Just back from a lovely weekend in Glasgow…never go without a brolly, but weather aside the city is Fab! Shops, wine bars, people.. a great cultural experience. P.S.Frasers on Buchannan street now do drop in eye brow threading appointments.. A must for a truly shaped look!

Holly

Great blog, I’m born and bred in Glasgow and I’ve lived all over the city. If you’re visiting the city, don’t be too tempted to stay in the west end. The rest of the city has lots offer, The merchant city is vibrant and exciting. (Check out Sam Bates Graffiti), the 13th note is an excellent vegan restaurant, try their vegan cheesecake. Other vintage shops include the elusive Saratoga trunk, well worth checking out. If your shopping in the city centre, remember to look up, Glasgow has amazing architecture. Princes Square offers brands such as Vivienne Westwood and Ted Baker, whilst Buchanan Galleries offers lots of high street brands. Going out, a lot of the pubs in Glasgow used to be banks, if you look above the doorway, you’ll often see what bank it was. Glasgow has great music scene too, with live music somewhere in the city every night. Great nights out in Glasgow include Club Noir, a burlesque night, Pressure and Death Disco at the Arches, Optimo at Sub-club and various nights at the Flying Duck. Elsewhere in Glasgow, check out the Art Deco cinema’s are all over, (Glasgow was once upon a time nicknamed cinema city due to the high number cinema’s!). If you feel the urge to check out some interesting Grave stones check out the necropolis. My favourite thing in Glasgow is the Museums and Gallery’s, most of which are run by Glasgow Museums, and all of are free to enter. GoMA, city centre – Kelvinhall, Westend – St Mungo’s Religious Art Museum – Burrell Collection, South – Peoples Palace, Glasgow Green – GMRC, is the new Glasgow resource Centre, which holds Glasgow’s huge Collection not on show, tours can be booked to see this, and the new Museum of Transport which will be open in Spring 2011, designed by Zaha Hadid. (see Glasgow Museums web site for more info). Most important to visitors is that we are extremely friendly and we love to make people feel welcome!

Rowan

I live and work (for an Architects company) in the West End of Glasgow. I am from the Highlands but love Glasgow. Why?…not sure, thats why you have to come and soak it up. Places that I love that haven’t been mentioned- Tchia Ovna which does 80 kinds of tea and great vegie food, very chilled place- kind of bohemian. The Botanic Gardens,where I went for an open air meditation session last week end-as you do, with a wedding in the back ground, bagpipes the lot. Also Velvet Elvis on Dunbarton Road, was a butchers now a really great pub with excellent food and alot of original features. The second hand shops on Dunbarton road must also get a mention, amazing for furniture/clothes and bits and bobs. But hey if you require something bespoke for your home I have to mention The Craftsmen of Glasgow- essentially cabinet makers who are amazingly skilled, creative and enthusiastic. These guys can turn their hand to anything and produce truley unique , enspired pieces. A wonderful city with a lot to offer.

Rose

Hello! any recommendations about nice, little and cool hotels?
thanks!

Eamon

Rose, living in Glasgow I haven’t had the pleasure of staying in a hotel here although I hear the following are sound: For boutique you may want to look at Brunswick Hotel in the Merchant City. Also in the Merchant City check out the Fraser Suites. The Dutch crowd behind Citizen M have recently opened a spot on down from the Art School – haven’t had a chance to look at the rooms but the self service aspect is interesting and the Vitra showroom is now located there due to the demise of the Lighthouse (sob). Another new kid in town is the Blythswood Hotel although can’t vouch for this. If you would like to stay in an Architectural Statement you could do worse than stay at the Radisson on Argyle Street, designed by GMAD.

EM

Great guide – I have lived in Glasgow for a while now and it is such an interesting city. Particularly pleased you included Tchai Ovna, one of my favourite places!

Starr

WOW! Thank you for this guide and would be gratful for any up dates in the transportation dept. Like is it bike friendly…walking friendly?…where is the University in respect to the West and East sides…Again Thank you for the information…

Helen H

Starr; the university is smack bang in the West End. The East End is not really a tourist part of Glasgow (although the Necropolis and Glasgow Cathedral are sort of East End). There is a teeny tiny underground- The Subway, also known as the Clockwork Orange as its fifteen stops are all in a circle with the trains running either clockwise or anti-clockwise. It’s good for most central things, and is probably worth visiting as a Glasgow institution in its own right!. Glasgow is easy to walk or bike in. It’s not always the most cycle friendly city, but if you use cyclestreets.net it’ll show you bike tracks and cut-throughs that allow you to get away from the main car streets.

Sadly I Heart Buchanan has closed down now, but hopefully something fun will rise up in it’s place. Just next door (to IHB and Demi-John) is Boxwood, a lovely giftshop with art & a framing service with some great Scottish gifts (not a see-you-Jimmy hat in sight). I would absolutely recommend newcomer The Hanoi Bike Shop which is not a shop which sells bicycles but a great Vietnamese restaurant (from the people behind glasgow institution The Ubiquitous Chip).

If you need something to do to get away form the rain of an evening, The Grosvenor is a great wee cinema on Ashton Lane with seats which have a little space between where you can put your bottle of wine and wine glasses (from their bar, not BYOB!)….they also have sofas in the back row if you want to cosy up!

Two Figs, The Bungo and The Left Bank are great fun bars.

For arts, CCA Home on Sauchiehall Street is great- good shop with interesting homewares and jewellery and exhibitions on rotation.

Lastly, Hanah Zakari is a *great* shop, feel free to check them out online….but the bricks and mortar shop is in Edinburgh, not Glasgow! Another lovely Scottish city you should make time for.

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