When arriving for the first time in any new city, it’s hard to narrow down the choices to a few key spots, especially when you’ve only got a few days to explore.
Glasgow, Scotland’s a culturally-rich, diverse city steeped in history containing fascinating styles of architecture. The population may number over 600k but the city is very walkable with a compact downtown core and many pleasant pedestrian shopping streets.
Many shops are housed in beautiful old buildings.
On my visit last month, I explored the city both on foot and with City Sightseeing Glasgow’s Hop-On, Hop-Off bus ticket. This is in my opinion one of the best ways to get your bearings, with a one- or two-day ticket good for unlimited boarding.
The red double-decker can be found in numerous countries; a set of headphones are given at the bus entrance. Plug in and listen to an ongoing narrative with fun facts and information on each stop in several languages. The entire circuit takes about an hour and 20 minutes.
From online photos of the splendid Riverside Museum, I already knew that stop #12 was my goal.
Situated along the River Clyde in the shadow of the 1896 three-masted Tall Ship Glenlee, this award-winning museum of transport and travel is a must-see when in Glasgow.
Spread out on two floors with over 3,000 objects on display, the Riverside Museum can take up to an afternoon to explore, particularly if you’re a fan of trams, bikes and ships of yesteryear.
Entry is free (donations gladly accepted) and their gift shop is one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory.
Back on the bus, I return to town to check out the Glasgow School of Art. There’s a one-hour Rennie Mackintosh tour offered at 11 am.
Glasgow born and raised Mackintosh is Scotland’s father of ornamental design and Art Deco pioneer. He began his career as a junior draftsman at 15. In 1896, at age 28, he won the School of Art’s design competition through a selection process kept anonymous to avoid bias of choosing more well established architects for the coveted project.
Mackintosh’s entry stood out due to the typographical elements he used in the submission; that font is known to this day as the Mackintosh font.
A fire in 2014 caused during preparation for a student exhibit affected the West wing of the 1845 building. Luckily, the newer wing across the street opened just one month prior to the fire!
The interior is being carefully replicated in the exact style of Mackintosh’s original design, right down to the library’s furnishings (a June 2018 reopening is anticipated).
The School of Art was constructed in two phases due to Mackintosh going way over initial budget. 14k in today’s world is one million dollars. You’ll also get to see several Mackintosh furnishings in the new building towards the end of the tour.
Find the Mackintosh School of Art at 167 Renfrew Street in Glasgow.
And proving indeed that some of the very best things in life are free, don’t forget to download the Walking Heads mobile Glasgow Music Tour (for iPhone, Android), a free app offering from GuidiGO (there are optional in-app purchases too). This highly entertaining, immersive, fact-filled tour’s hosted by Scottish radio presenter Jim Gellatly.
With over five miles of landmark venues covered, you can pick up anywhere in town (make sure your phone is juiced up beforehand) and take a listen, from iconic spots like King Tut’s and Barrowland to more intimate venues. A sprinkling of history and tunes are part of the fun.
Since its inception in 1990, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut has been at the forefront of the Scottish live music scene and continues to be one of the most celebrated venues in the world. King Tut’s is an integral part of Glasgow’s thriving grassroots music scene as well as bringing the most exciting new talent around to the city. Playing a gig at this 300 capacity venue has become a seminal point in the career of an impressive array of artists leading NME to name King Tut’s ‘Britain’s Best Small Venue’ in 2011, and ‘quite possibly the finest small venue in the world’ in 2007.
My sightseeing bus tour and Mackintosh School of Art tours were provided courtesy of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau. For further information on visiting Glasgow, visit www.peoplemakeglasgow.ca. Opinions, as always, are my own. You can find more of my Glasgow photos here.