This year, Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games, and if you haven’t gotten to know this amazing city already, now’s the time to start. Ramy Salameh visited the on a weekend break at the Euro Hostel Glasgow and filled us in on what to look out for.
Getting to grips with the lingo
“Walk past the wee cheese-grater, beside the squinty and under the big dipper and you will see it on your left” was the response I received when asking directions for Glasgow city centre. As if the Glaswegian accent is not tricky enough for Sassenachs to decipher, locals like to give a nickname to everything, which not only raises a smile to one’s face but gives an insight into their character. The 'cheese-grater' refers to the external cladding of a brand new multi-story car park, the ‘Squinty’ is the arching and attractive Finnieston Bridge and the ‘Big-dipper’ is one of the feeder roads that sweeps round, roller-coaster style, and connects with the motorway heading out of the city.
The Party Scene
Try and get a ticket for your favourite band at the new ‘Hydro’ concert venue (you can’t miss it as it’s next to the ‘armadillo-shaped’ Scottish Exhibition & Convention Centre SECC). Arriving in the evening and with only two nights to get a taste of one of Europe’s trendiest cities, I loitered outside the ‘Hydro’ concert venue as Rod Stewart was the headline act, in the vain hope of getting a ticket until one of the stewards told me ‘you would have to sell your mammy to find a ticket for Rod’, so I wandered back into the centre to enjoy another type of musical reverie in the form of party goers on a Friday night.
Glaswegians know how to party and they do it at maximum decibels, whether it be groups of revellers moving from bar to bar in Sauchiehall Street or buskers in the many thoroughfares strumming, drumming and singing to their hearts content, mobbed by eager listeners. The centre of Glasgow is also compact and many places offer live music which seems to emanate from doorways, enticing visitors to join the general euphoria of the weekend. Not that Glaswegians need an excuse to enjoy a wee drink.
The ‘Rennie’ effect: an absolute must-see
I woke up to the sound of dust carts tipping their haul of empty bottles collected from the evening before – not a great sound when you’re hung-over – and decided to take in the very elegant and cultured side of Glasgow. The city is a cultural hot bed of museums, galleries, sporting rivalries and magnificent buildings. The 'Gallery of Modern Art’ should definitely be part of any visit to Glasgow. Housed in the iconic 18th century building with a colonnaded façade, the acropolis-style venue is home to contemporary art collections.
For most people, Glasgow is synonymous with one man more than any other, “Charles Rennie Mackintosh”; his mastery as an architect and designer in the arts and crafts movement is visible across the city. 'Scotland Street School' museum built between 1903 and 1906 is a shrine to the art nouveau movement and one attraction not to be missed. Nor are the ‘Willow Tearooms’, which are a haven of turn of the century splendour, draped in the beauty of art deco, the perfect place to enjoy the surroundings over tea and cake.
Take a stroll at night
Couples take note; Glasgow can be romantic if you do your homework. Walk beneath the Merchant Arch to find some fine restaurants, an area where history is all in the name; as one of the oldest quarters of the city it has been home to both monks and traders. Apart from the wall of noise, the other nocturnal aspect of the city to strike a weekender is how beautifully illuminated it becomes as dark falls. Most of the bridges spanning the Clyde shimmer in the water in hues of red or blue, whilst a walk along the city’s main artery ‘Buchanan Street’ will showcase a master class of bringing modern and old buildings to life through light.
More than anything, it is the architecture that tells the historical story of Glasgow, especially through the opulence of the 19th and early 20th century. The wealth generated from the shipyards, marine engineering, steel making and heavy industry contributed to the growth of the city.
If you tilt your head upwards, the Victorian edifices of yesteryear come into focus. None more so than the sandstone clock tower that greets visitors on their arrival to the city, as it is part of ‘Glasgow Central Station and hotel’. A few steps away is ‘St Enoch’s Square’, the centre piece of which is the ‘Subway station’ dating from 1896 that combines Scots baronial and art nouveau styles. Today, the ground floor is home to ‘Café Nero’ with al-fresco seating areas that allowed me to admire James Miller’s unique design and to rest awhile having battled past eager shoppers in St. Enoch’s centre.
What to do on your last day
Ascend the 150 foot observation deck of the Titan Clydebank, a 100 year old crane that forms part of the city’s shipbuilding heritage and take in the modernist cluster of buildings which have spearheaded the regeneration along the banks of the Clyde and is the unmistakable reflection of Glasgow’s transformation from industrial city to one of the cultural capitals of Europe. Also, stop by the Tall Ship Maritime Museum, home to the famous Glenlee ship. Launched in 1896, she sailed the world for over 80 years and is one of only five Clyde built ships still afloat in the world, the only one of her kind in the UK. Ship building shaped much of Glasgow and made it the city it is today.
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