I've stayed in Edinburgh and Glasgow many times over the years and I always prefer the latter. Scotland's capital is an attractive confection of honey-coloured heritage, but Glasgow – the bigger city – feels more authentic: It's where you meet the locals rather than endless tour groups.
But while Edinburgh has a well-worn visitor trail, you have to dig deeper for Glasgow's highlights. And with WestJet launching a new seasonal route to the city at the end of May, many Canadians will be doing exactly that this summer.
First-timers should start with Glasgow's free-entry must-sees: the art-hugging Burrell Collection; transport-themed Riverside Museum; and stately Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, where the gratis tours (and daily organ recitals) are particularly recommended. See glasgowlife.org.uk/museums for info on these and other city-run attractions.
You can reach these hot spots via transit, but the handy hop-on-hop-off tour buses (citysightseeingglasgow.co.uk) are easier for newbies. Fares are £13 ($24) for one day (£15 for two days) and the 28-stop route hits most main attractions.
But there's also a sporran-full of lesser-known sights worth hunting down. Time-capsule Tenement House museum (nts.org.uk/property/tenement-house) illuminates yesteryear Glaswegian life; quirky Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre (sharmanka.com) houses a rattling symphony of musical sculptures; and the Britannia Panopticon (britanniapanopticon.org) is a fascinating antique music hall and heritage preservation project.
Then there's Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Glasgow's most famous son designed its most alluring art-nouveau buildings. A £16 Mackintosh Trail ticket from Buchanan Street's Tourist Information Centre covers one-day access (and transit) to pertinent sights, including Mackintosh House with its achingly attractive interiors. Need a Mackintosh primer? Start with the Lighthouse centre's introductory gallery (thelighthouse.co.uk).
Mackintosh's masterpiece was the Glasgow School of Art, which was badly damaged by fire last year. Restoration is under way but the school's students still lead excellent walking tours (www.gsa.ac.uk/visit-gsa/tours) illuminating the designer and the wider city.
An even hotter ticket is Glasgow Central train station's new behind-the-scenes tour (glasgowcentraltours.co.uk) – book far ahead via its website. Need more history? Guided tours at the hilltop Necropolis cemetery (glasgownecropolis.org/tours-events) reveal the grand mausoleums and juicy stories of the city's great and good (and not so good) – the nearby St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art is a worthy add-on.
You don't need a guide in the city centre, though. Among its handsome Victorian façades, spend time ducking between the shops, cafés and buskers of Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall Street or the Merchant City area. Alternatively, go gritty at the Barras Market (theglasgowbarras.com), a ramshackle sprawl of weekend junk stalls in the East End.
The market isn't far from West Brewery. A top gastro brewpub in a landmark Victorian factory building, it underlines just how far Glasgow dining has moved beyond its deep-fried-Mars-bar reputation. Consider the Scullery, Ubiquitous Chip and the city's celebrated Indian restaurant scene – especially KoolBa and the two Wee Curry Shops (with their great-value lunch specials).
Alongside West's own-made brews, there's also good craft beer at Blackfriars bar, perfect cocktails at shabby-chic Kelvingrove Café and a kaleidoscopic array of single malts at the ever-popular Pot Still.
But a Glasgow night out isn't all about drinking (honest). One of Britain's best live-music cities, check what's on via the website of weekly magazine The List (list.co.uk). Big acts play the SSE Hydro arena or the Barrowland Ballroom, but there are dozens of smaller venues with sweat-slathered mosh pits – including the tiny but legendary King Tut's Wah Wah Hut (kingtuts.co.uk). Visit walkingheads.net/glasgowmusictour for an intro to the scene.
Wherever your big night takes you, though, don't forget where your hotel is. My favourite Glasgow sleepovers include the mid-range Z Hotel and posh Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens. But the student rooms at the University of Glasgow (book.accom.gla.ac.uk) are handy for stretching your weak Canadian dollars further than a pliable haggis in a well-contested tug of war.
OUR READERS WRITE
Take a trip on the paddle steamer Waverley, the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. A full day trip from Glasgow covers some beautiful scenery down the Clyde. Herb Saravanamuttoo
The People's Palace. Wendi van Exan
Make sure you try a decent haggis – complete with neeps and tatties and gravy. It's so good! @elisabetheats
If you like bagpipes, be sure to visit during the second week of August for the Piping Live! festival and the World Pipe Band Championships. @nsmith
I like to spend my weekends wandering the West End along Ashton Lane. Perhaps catch a movie at the Grosvenor Cinema or head to Love Salvage, Relics and Glasgow Architectural Salvage yard for a rummage of some vintage finds.
Tired of shopping on Sauchiehall Street? Take the subway to Kelvin Bridge and walk west along Great Western Road, taking in the shops and former mansions at Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Lunch at Little Italy on Byres Road, or dine at Stravaigin or Two Fat Ladies. Eileen May
Charles Rennie Mackintosh is everywhere. Also, walk around the university, go to Kelvingrove and enjoy the great curries. @margymaclibrary
Don't miss Tramway [tramway.org]. It's a neat contemporary art space and it's free. It's especially cool when university degree shows are being staged. @chibeba
Kelvingrove museum (and its pipe organ) plus Glasgow Botanic Gardens. @advcardio
The Horse Shoe Bar for karaoke; Glasgow School of Art for guided tours; and cocktails in Blythswood Square hotel. Also, Loch Lomond isn't far away. @kevin2kane
I would suggest reading some fiction that's set in Glasgow for a unique feel of the city and a different insight to the guidebooks. @TripFiction
The Pot Still on Hope Street! There's a massive Scotch selection and it's a great place to get in on the local and international banter. @thorntonosity
Do the Mackintosh Trail; go to Rogano's restaurant; and don't take a car. @AntiProfessor
Years ago, I loved my stay in Glasgow University residences in July – including a full Scottish breakfast. @Carpecookie
Oran Mor for live music; Byres Road for charity shops; and nearby Ashton Lane with the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant. The Clockie Orange subway has to be done, too! The Tenement House museum is quite interesting – and Kelvingrove rivals the British Museum in my book. @RailwayStays
Kelvingrove; King Tut's Wah Wah Hut; Boudoir Wine Bar; and the West End for Byers Road and Ashton Lane. Also, the subway is supereasy and you can walk up Buchanan Street to listen to the street musicians. For a taste of the Highlands, head to Loch Lomond and Glengoyne Distillery. @kimberleylovato
Visit my relatives! @anngibbon
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