36 hours in Glasgow, Scotland

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36 hours in Glasgow, Scotland
The domed Kibble Palace, a spectacular glass house where you can explore a jungle of orchids, begonias and ferns, at the botanic gardens in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 11, 2023. The country’s largest city, which crackles with character and cultural hotspots that have sprung up in outlying neighborhoods, is a hub of grass-roots energy where art shows, plant sales and film screenings pop up in tenement flats, railway waiting rooms and disused buildings. (Robert Ormerod/The New York Times)

by Natalie Whittle



NEW YORK, NY.- Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, crackles with character. It’s a hub of grassroots energy where art shows, plant sales and film screenings pop up in tenement flats, railway waiting rooms and disused buildings. Once known as the second city of the British Empire, Glasgow struggled to reinvent itself after the closure of its shipyards. Now, cultural hot spots have sprung up in outlying neighborhoods — like pockets of the Southside, for example, or Dennistoun in the East End — and plans are underway to revive the city center. Glasgow has a full global banquet (yes, so much more than deep-fried Mars bars, the battered-chocolate invention of Scottish fish-and-chip shops) and a love of live music (check the roster at classic venues such as Barrowland Ballroom). Another thing you’ll get to know in Glasgow is its infinite variations of rain. Be waterproof top to bottom, and you’re off to a good start.

ITINERARY

Friday

3 p.m. | Visit a top museum


Start your weekend at the Burrell Collection, a glass-roofed art museum that rises out of a meadow in the city’s southern Pollok Country Park like a vast, gleaming greenhouse. The 9,000-piece collection was donated to the city at the close of World War II by William Burrell, a Glasgow shipping merchant, and opened in this specially commissioned building in 1983. The museum (free admission) reopened in 2022 after a six-year refurbishment of its red sandstone, glass and wood interiors. Although it is busy, the Burrell offers a peaceful immersion in an unmistakably personal collection, drifting from Degas and Rembrandt to tabernacles, tulip-motif textiles and ancient Chinese roof tiles. The tapestries are especially wonderful, including the palatially sized “Wagner Garden Carpet” made by master weavers in 17th-century Iran.

4:30 p.m. | Try a zingy gelato

Pollok Park belongs to the Southside — a catchall nickname for the city’s more suburban half below the River Clyde. Rent an Ovo bike share from the dock outside the Burrell and cycle by Edwardian villas on Springkell Avenue and Dalziel Drive, and tenements built during the late-19th-century industrial boom. Entering the Strathbungo area, see the Grecian-influenced houses at 1-10 Moray Place by Scottish architect Alexander Thomson, whose nickname was Greek. (Farther south is Thomson’s Holmwood House, now a museum.) Dock the bike and check out the peach-pink La Gelatessa on Nithsdale Road, which draws crowds for its seasonal gelato (from 3 pounds, or about $3.70, per scoop) and chocolate fountain. (Glasgow, despite its rain, has excellent ice cream, partly because of post-World War I Italian immigration. Also visit the old-school University Café, in Partickhill.)

7:30 p.m. | Enjoy Chinese cooking

A steamed-up restaurant window strung with Chinese lanterns promises a satisfying meal on a cold Glasgow night, and the Real Wan does not disappoint. In the Cathcart area of the Southside, this tiny gem, modeled on a street-food cafe, draws customers from across the city. The unfussy décor and great, affordable food in a shoe box space is typical of Glasgow’s do-it-yourself spirit. Its young head chef Lea Wu Hassan sends out smoky-flavored southern Guizhou dishes, hand-pulled noodles, and housemade chile oils and sauces from an elbow-to-elbow kitchen. Try the chunky geda noodles (12 pounds) with aromatic, garlicky beef ragout or the fabulous caramel-coated pork ribs, flash fried in aged dark vinegar (6 pounds), whose recipe is credited to Hassan’s aunt. Reserve ahead; there are just four tables.

Saturday

10 a.m. | Grab a brekkie roll


If it’s not raining, take advantage of clear skies with a botanic stroll in Glasgow’s affluent West End. Grab breakfast at Papercup, a small and friendly cafe that has original period details, including egg-and-dart molding and an ornate ceiling rose. Try the brekkie roll with a sausage patty (5 pounds) or eggs on toast with a side of vegan haggis (8.50 pounds). From the cafe, wander to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, either directly, along Great Western Road, or take the more meandering Kelvin Walkway down by the River Kelvin, crossing the blue, steel Botanic Gardens Footbridge to emerge into the scented gardens on the other bank. Enter the domed Kibble Palace, a spectacular glasshouse in which to explore a jungle of orchids, begonias and ferns, among other leafy treasures.

Noon | Browse home goods

Glaswegians have an appetite for sustainable shopping and for secondhand goods of all stripes. Hoos, next to the Botanic Gardens, stocks chic Scandinavian home goods, while the Glasgow Vintage Co., farther along Great Western Road from Papercup, has a thoughtful selection of secondhand Scottish knitwear alongside showstopping coats and dresses from the 1970s. Up the hill on Otago Street, above Perch & Rest Coffee, Kelvin Apothecary sells gifts including handmade Scottish soaps and wooden laundry and cleaning tools. In the cobbled Otago Lane is the chaotic Voltaire and Rousseau secondhand bookshop, with teetering, vertical book piles. Unlike many Glasgow shops, this store isn’t the most dog-friendly, because of the resident cat, BB, who supervises from his perch at the till.

1 p.m. | Sip natural wine

The best seat at Brett is at its long zinc counter, where you can watch chef Colin Anderson and his brigade grill fine Scottish produce, although outdoor tables facing Great Western Road have blankets ready for chilly Glasgow days. The menu has good-size dishes that include squid à la plancha with diced chorizo in a creamy potato-and-lemongrass sauce (16 pounds) and Aberdeenshire lamb rump (28 pounds) carved into juicy rounds with a side of extra-buttery dauphine potatoes (7 pounds). Even the bread impresses: An excellent sourdough comes with chicken fat or smoked olive oil. Much of the list favors natural wine, and the house white, a Venetian chardonnay-garganega blend, is a good value at 5 pounds.

3 p.m. | Trace medical history

Crammed to the rafters with historical curios, the Hunterian Museum (free admission) is Scotland’s oldest public museum, opened in 1807. The cloisters at its entrance are as atmospheric as the gallery itself, which is housed inside a grand hall with exposed beams in the Gilbert Scott building, part of the University of Glasgow. The collection, begun in the 18th century by the wealthy obstetrician Dr. William Hunter, who went on to be Queen Charlotte’s personal physician, leans toward the early pursuit of medicine with gruesome tools and pickled human parts. Across the road, the Hunterian Art Gallery shows the recreated living quarters of Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (and his artist wife, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh). Mackintosh designed the Glasgow School of Art, in the city’s center, which is currently sheathed in scaffolding after a devastating fire in 2018. Entry to the recreated Mackintosh house, 10 pounds.

7 p.m. | Take a viaggio in Italia

Celentano’s, a cozy, wood-paneled restaurant with a long bar, is cocooned inside Cathedral House, a former Victorian hostel across the street from Glasgow Cathedral’s Gothic spires. Today, the building is the Cathedral House hotel, which has eight boutique rooms above the restaurant. Run by a Scottish couple who fell in love with Italy, Celentano’s serves clever dishes such as lasagne fritti, tiny deep-fried lasagne parcels (3.75 pounds), and cod doughnuts, creamy whipped fish in a fine breadcrumb crust (4 pounds), as well as housemade pastas (from 12 pounds). The cocktails (from 10.50 pounds) are seasonal, like the food — a rum daiquiri could feature pickled blackcurrant — and dessert includes a very rich espresso tiramisu. In the summer, there are lovely outdoor tables with a view across to the hillside Necropolis, a Victorian garden cemetery.

10 p.m. | Have a dram

The Pot Still pub near Glasgow Central railway station brings around 950 whiskies, mostly single malts, into one easygoing bar. There has been a pub in this spot for more than 100 years; this iteration has simple décor of bare wood floors and spartan tables. Take your pick from the library of whisky, which ranges from 1.50 pounds for a dram of Grant’s blended whisky to 263 pounds for a pour of 32-year-old Macallan. Scottish licensing means that most pubs close at the bell of midnight, which can speed up the pace of nightcaps accordingly. For other traditional Scottish drinking dens, try the Doublet off Great Western Road or, on the Southside, the perfectly preserved, thick-carpeted parlors of the Laurieston or the ornate Irish bar Heraghty’s.

Sunday

9:30 a.m. | See the mountaintops


Gather a breakfast picnic to enjoy in the Southside’s Queen’s Park from one of the many great local bakeries or cafes nearby. Two Eight Seven (check ahead for seasonal closures) is a bakery that uses stone-ground flours for its sourdoughs and baked treats, which include fruit-custard brioches, Nordic cream buns and cheese-Marmite scones. It also has a thoughtful selection of ceramics, art and provisions for sale, and outside benches and tables for morning coffee. From there, head up to Queen’s Park’s flagpole viewpoint to see the whole city spread at the foot of the Campsie Fells, a range of low volcanic hills. Also look for the peaks around Loch Lomond. On a clear day, the sightline stretches to the gnarled profile of Stob Binnein mountain in the southern Highlands.

11 a.m. | View a dimly lit past

To understand Glasgow, step inside its sandstone tenements. Although some of these apartment blocks were perceived as slums and demolished in the 1950s and ’60s, they may have been a more successful model for high-density living than the New Towns, the postwar planned communities. The Tenement House, in the Garnethill district, is a museum run by the National Trust for Scotland within a former tenement flat. Comprising just four small rooms, the museum preserves the middle-class home of shorthand typist Agnes Toward, who lived there from 1911 to 1965. Her modest possessions are poignantly arranged — a piano waiting to be played and a bathtub with carbolic soap ready for a “dook,” or what the Scots call a soak. There are surprises, too — a cupboard door in the formal parlor reveals “hole in the wall” sleeping quarters for guests in a concealed and recessed bed.

Noon | Finish with a lobster

Finnieston, the popular neighborhood just below Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, has a long run of drinking and dining spots on Argyle Street and toward Kelvingrove Park. Finish your weekend with a seafood blowout at Crabshakk, a galley-shaped bistro with a relaxed bar. Creative menu specials might feature Scottish Barra Island cockles with ginger and pork broth, or Loch Fyne oysters with chorizo butter, alongside the classics of langoustines, lobster and dressed crab at market prices. There is a short list of items that are not fish, including steak frites (23 pounds) and vegetable risotto (15 pounds). The owners recently branched out with Crabshakk Botanics, a restaurant farther into the West End, which has a slightly more corporate feel inside, but good people-watching from the dining benches outside.



KEY STOPS

Pollok Country Park, on the Southside, is Glasgow’s largest green space, home to the impressive Burrell Collection.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens, an oasis at the heart of the West End, features a spectacular glasshouse.

Hunterian Museum is a wonderfully eclectic collection of antiquities inside the splendor of the University of Glasgow campus.

Queen’s Park, on the Southside, offers views of Glasgow and, on a clear day, the mountains beyond.

WHERE TO EAT

La Gelatessa is a peach-pink gelato parlor that scoops gorgeous, seasonal flavors.

The Real Wan is an unassuming neighborhood gem where the Chinese street food is the star.

Papercup has great coffee and a simple but creative all-day breakfast menu.

Brett celebrates grilled Scottish produce and natural wines.

Celentano’s offers standout cocktails and classy Italian fare in a relaxed and cozy setting.

The Pot Still is all about a wee dram, offering hundreds of whiskies in a modest pub with a good sense of humor.

Two Eight Seven is a well-loved, modern bakery that also showcases the work of local ceramicists and artists.

Crabshakk is a celebration of Scotland’s freshest catches.

WHERE TO STAY

Kimpton Blythswood Square offers five-star luxury, with amenities that include a spa, in an excellent but secluded central location. Rooms from about 186 pounds (about $226).

Cathedral House is a comfortable and cozy option with the brilliant Celentano’s restaurant downstairs. Rooms from around 125 pounds.

Motel One stacks simple, clean and well-appointed rooms in a budget tower next to Glasgow Central railway station. Rooms from 69 pounds.

For short-term rentals, look to the easily accessible Southside, Dennistoun, Partick, Finnieston and Hyndland neighborhoods. Consider Holmwood Coach House, the former stables of the gorgeous Holmwood House (now a museum), on the city’s southern edges.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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