Located on the River Clyde, Glasgow has been transformed from an industrial city to the country’s cultural center and is home to excellent museums, art galleries and festivals. Its Gaelic name meaning “lovely green place” is apt name given its 70 parks and open spaces. Theatregoers, too, are spoilt for choice, with venues such as the King’s Theatre and the Theatre Royal (home of the Scottish Opera) and the Concert Hall (home of the Royal Scottish Orchestra). Important cultural events include the Celtic Connections Music Festival and the Gourock Highland Games, and it’s also a busy sports town – home to two major league football (soccer) clubs and a rugby club.
1. Glasgow Cathedral: St Mungo
The city’s most significant historic building is 12th century Glasgow Cathedral, also known as St Mungo Cathedral or the High Kirk of Glasgow. Seen from both inside and out, it looks as if it dropped out of a giant mold: the lines are clear, and there’s no superfluous ornamentation. Projecting from the south transept is the Blacader Aisle named after the first bishop of Glasgow. The grandest room in the cathedral, however, is the crypt housing the tomb of St Mungo, founder of the bishopric and who was buried here in 603 AD.
Also of interest is the nearby St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, which examines the world religions, their rites and how their doctrines deal with the issues of life and death. Exhibits range from Egyptian mummies and Hindu statues to Salvador Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross (1951), as well as a Zen Buddhist garden in the courtyard.
2. George Square: The Heart of Glasgow
At the heart of Glasgow’s historic Victorian city center stands the flower-bedecked George Square with its 12 statues of famous people associated with the city, including Robbie Burns, Walter Scott and Queen Victoria. The east end of the square is dominated by the Town Hall and its 230 ft tower completed in 1890, while the Merchants’ House is the headquarters of Britain’s oldest Chamber of Commerce founded in 1605. A group of mid-19th century warehouses are part of the city’s trendy Merchant City district that, along with The Italian Centre, offer unique cafés, restaurants and designer boutiques. Also of interest is the huge Barras Street Market which every week attracts as many as 1,000 traders selling food, antiques, bric-à-brac and clothing.
3. Glasgow School of Art and Mackintosh’s Art Academy
Mackintosh’s Art Academy is essential viewing for lovers of fine architecture. Completed in 1909, this Art Nouveau building confirmed the reputation of 28-year-old designer Charles Mackintosh, not just as a master of the exterior (the grand west facade is dominated by three 65-foot-high oriel windows, and the smaller windows on the east front are reminiscent of Scottish castles) but also as a superb interior designer. Of special interest are the Principal’s Room, one of the first of Mackintosh’s “White Rooms;” the Mackintosh Room, where meetings of the Academy of Art are held; and the unique Library and Gallery. A fire in 2014 caused extensive damage to the building, and it is currently undergoing restoration.
4. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
The bustling entertainment and shopping mecca of Sauchiehall Street, now almost entirely given over to pedestrians, is over 1.5 mi long and offers the largest range of shops in the city. Sauchiehall Street ends at Argyle Street in the city’s West End, a trendy area of cafés, restaurants, high-end shops, posh hotels and, perhaps most importantly, the wonderful Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Opened in 1901, the museum boasts a fine collection of British and continental paintings, including such gems as Van Gogh’s Portrait of Alexander Reid (Reid was a well-known Glaswegian art collector). Scottish archaeological finds include Bronze Age tools and jewelry from Arran, Kintyre and Glenluce. Other exhibits of interest include weapons and armor, such as helmets, crossbows and swords from the 15th and 16th centuries as well as Flemish tapestries, Glasgow-made jewelry, silverware, glassware and pottery from various periods.
5. The University of Glasgow: The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery
The University of Glasgow dates from 1451 and is the second-oldest school of higher education in Scotland. The University boasts many illustrious teachers including James Watt, Adam Smith and the “father of antiseptic surgery”, Joseph Lister. A permanent exhibition at the Visitor Centre in University Avenue goes into more detail about the important discoveries made by these and other scientists who taught here. Another famous scientist with connections to the university was William Hunter, an 18th century Glaswegian doctor who bequeathed his collection of anatomical parts, coins and objets d’art to form the basis of the Hunterian Museum. The museum now includes collections from the departments of ethnography, zoology, geology and archaeology, including many finds from Roman sites. Artwork on display includes works by Rubens, Rembrandt and Reynolds. The gallery also houses the reassembled principal interiors from architect Charles Mackintosh’s Glasgow home.