“Let Glasgow Flourish” declares the motto on Glasgow’s 1866 coat of arms—and for a century, it did.
Located on the banks of the deep River Clyde, and with an almost-clear path to America, Glasgow was the perfect venue for shipbuilding during the Industrial Revolution. This led Glasgow to be dubbed the "Second City of the British Empire" for much of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. However, by the mid-1960s, shipbuilding on the Clyde was becoming increasingly uneconomic, and Glasgow entered a period of decline and high unemployment. But by the late 1980s, the city had rallied, and in 1990 Glasgow was crowned the sixth European City of Culture.
This award generated a renewed interest in the city and kick-started its present reputation as a tourist destination. In 2007, it was selected as the host city for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and in 2008—the same year that the travel guide Lonely Planet placed Glasgow in the world’s top ten cities—the city was named a UNESCO City of Music. Today, Glasgow is a proud, vibrant, and welcoming city that is flourishing once more.
With more parkland per head of population than any other city in Europe, Glasgow is a surprisingly green city. Visitors can enjoy a breath of fresh air in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, 20 hectares of immaculate gardens and Victorian glasshouses at Kelvinside. The recently restored Kibble Palace glasshouse is particularly worth a visit.
Many of Glasgow’s sights can be found closer to the city center on the north bank of the River Clyde, and the city’s street grid makes it easy to find your way around. Walk south of Queen Street Train Station, and you’ll find Merchant City, the historic heart of Glasgow’s growing cultural quarter. Bounded by the western shopping thoroughfare of Buchanan Street and Glasgow Cross’s Tolbooth Steeple on the eastern reaches of High Street, Merchant City is home to George Square’s ornate Glasgow City Chambers and the Gallery of Modern Art in Royal Exchange Square. Visit the colossal Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum on nearby Argyle Street; it houses one of Europe’s greatest civic art collections and is the most visited museum in the UK outside London.
The area also features two of the remaining four 1930s Tardis-style police boxes, recognizable to Doctor Who fans worldwide.
Historically, Scottish cuisine has not been much of a tourist attraction. Attention south of the border has focused on urban myths such as the deep-fried Mars Bar or the traditional but still popular haggis. There is far more to Scottish cuisine than this, and today Glasgow is renowned as a superb city for dining out. Excellent restaurants are dotted throughout the city, but the West End’s Ashton Lane in particular is a charming cobbled street lined with eateries.
Glaswegian nightlife is extremely diverse; the city’s 700 venues include 100-foot-long bars, basement clubs, converted churches, and river boats. The liveliest clubs are clustered around the West End and the city center, while more laidback nightspots can be found in Merchant City.
Glasgow is also one of the premier cities for music in the UK and was named a UNESCO City of Music in 2008. With a host of venues of all shapes and sizes, there is no wonder it boasts such an established music scene. Hundreds of unsigned bands play at basement venues near central Glasgow, while bigger names can be found at the larger venues such as the SECC, Barrowlands, and Hampden Park.
Drive just 40 minutes north of Glasgow, and you’ll find Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Part of the Scottish Highlands, the country’s first national park offers a chance to explore the towering mountains and glassy lochs that make up so much of the Scottish countryside.
Loch Lomond is Britain’s largest expanse of fresh water and draws watersport enthusiasts from all over the country to enjoy its 24-mile stretch of water. Enjoy a cruise along the scenic shoreline, or hike and mountain bike up the Trossachs for a breathtaking view of the loch and its 38 islands.