[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!
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.
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.