Glasgow is a huge, sprawling city with a river running through it. Given a comfortable pair of shoes, it's possible to walk from the west end, through the center, north-east to the medieval area, down through the east end and over one of the many bridges to the south side in only a few hours. Luckily, there's an efficient and simple underground system with 15 stops, lots of buses and a comprehensive low-level train network, which services the whole Strathclyde area, so nobody has to work up a sweat unless they actually want to. The city is sensibly laid out on a grid system so navigating your way around is a piece of cake.
The Medieval City
Glasgow Cathedral , the easterly focal point from which the city developed, dominates the Medieval City. In fact, there is actually a mixture of Medieval, Georgian and Victorian architecture here. The cathedral precinct is also the site of Provand's Lordship , Glasgow's oldest house, built in 1471. Climb up to the top of the hill in The Necropolis cemetery where many local dignitaries are buried and be rewarded by an excellent panoramic view of the city below.
The Merchant City
East of George Square is a grid-plan of streets known as Merchant City. This area used to be a center of trade and many of the Tobacco Lords built elaborate mansions here. This section of the city is an example of 18th Century town planning. Georgian and Victorian buildings provide the area with an elegant sophistication, which is less evident elsewhere in the city. In recent years, Merchant City has again become a center of trade and it is now a fashionable residential and business address. It still looks a little shabby in places which are yet to undergo redevelopment, but stylish bars, hotels and restaurants abound and there are plenty of exclusive shops to flex platinum credit cards in, not to mention the prestigious Italian Centre .
Trongate and the East End
South of the Merchant City, Argyle Street, which runs through the city center, extends into Trongate. There are a lot of independent art galleries around here as well as some good bars and restaurants, such as Cafe Cossachok . The jewel in its crown has to be the Tron Theatre , a former church whose 17th Century steeple, all that remains of the original structure, makes an excellent landmark. Further along, Trongate meets High Street at Glasgow Cross, marked by the Tolbooth Steeple . Keep going east and head to the Barras market which is one of the best places to experience some Glasgow color. Glasgow Green and the People's Palace and Winter Gardens are also great attractions.
The City Centre
Glasgow may seem to have many centers but the main area for shopping and nightlife is bordered by motorways to the north and west, the River Clyde to the south, and Merchant City and Trongate to the east. The main streets are pedestrianized here; Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street. Look up and you'll discover many of the shops, however modern their fronts, are actually housed in beautiful Victorian buildings with ornate detailing. There are plenty of good shopping centers for a bit of retail therapy; the St Enoch Shopping Centre and Buchanan Galleries are worth a visit for high street stores, while Argyll Arcade houses lots of independent jewelers. However, the showpiece for shopping has got to be Princes Square , where you'll find the only Scottish branches of many upmarket and trendy stores. By day, the city center population tends to be comprised of suits, shoppers and students. By night, people head to the city for the theaters and cinemas, and the large selection of clubs, restaurants and bars.
The West End
Just as the cathedral dominates the Medieval district, so Glasgow University dominates the west end of the city; it's the fourth oldest in the UK. Its parkland setting and cosmopolitan vibe mix seamlessly with the fashionable, affluent feel of the surrounding area. The west end is like a separate little town, it even has its own river, the Kelvin. Apparently there are more millionaires living in the Kelvinside area than anywhere else in Glasgow. There are also several museums here, including Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Museum of Transport . Wander down the lanes off Byres Road and you'll find quirky little second-hand shops and independent boutiques. This district even has its own shopping center, De Courcey's Arcade . Restaurants are of a variety and quality to rival anything the city center has to offer and there's no shortage of hotels and bars either.
The South Side
The area just south of the Clyde is characterized by housing estates, attractive residential streets and lush parkland, Bellahouston Park and Pollok Country Park to be precise. Both house fine collections of art, the Mackintosh House for an Art Lover in the former and The Burrell Collection in the latter. Theater-goers will love the Citizens Theatre here while those of a less cultural bent may enjoy a visit to Hampden Park at Mount Florida to watch American football or plain old soccer.
Beyond the boundaries of Central Glasgow are new towns, which developed to meet the housing needs of the city's many immigrants over the past two centuries. Further out, there are market towns and pretty rural villages, striking coastal scenery, lochs and rivers.
It used to be known primarily for its Indian food, but Glasgow now has a great variety of places to eat, drink and make merry. Contemporary cuisine, Euro-food and organic menus are all on offer for the hungry client. There's no shortage of pubs and bars either, so dining and drinking in this Scottish city are a real pleasure, whatever your tastes.
The Merchant City has a healthy collection of bars and restaurants, which are all conveniently located near to each other. Feeling spicy? If you fancy fajitas or chili, Pancho Villas' lively atmosphere and tasty menu will add sizzle to your evening, or try Khublai Khan for a taste of Mongolian magic. If this sounds too hot, pop into the Candleriggs branch of Oblomov and cool down with some icy cold vodka and a big plate of goulash. Mao , an export from Dublin, offers delicious yet healthy Oriental fusion, dished up in huge bowls. Local food is also well represented in this area. In the heart of Merchant City, Schottische and Rab Ha's serve excellent Scottish fare, while the City Merchant specializes in seafood and local cuisine. On the same street as the latter, try Granny Black's for a traditional pub atmosphere. Merchant City is a popular night-time haunt for Glasgow's beautiful people so there's no shortage of fashionable bars to be seen in. Try Bargo if you think you're cool enough, while Bacchus and Bar 91 have a more relaxed atmosphere. Corinthian and Arta attract a civilized and slightly older clientèle who feel at home in the equally palatial settings.
The city center, unsurprisingly, has a greater selection of eateries than any of the other districts. All the popular menus are on offer here, from Chinese to Indian, French to Italian. Curry with good music is the dish of the day at Bombay Blues and Kama Sutra puts the spice into Baltis. Malmaison Brasserie and 78 St Vincent offer fine French fare in opulent surroundings. If you're a fan of pasta and pizza, you'll love the enormous amount of Italian restaurants in the city center. Fratelli Sarti has a lively, vibrant atmosphere and Rico's is a top place to eat before a film at the Odeon. La Tasca, just around the corner, is popular for munching on tasty tapas, no matter what the hour. When it comes to seafood, you can't beat Rogano for quality or luxury, although this is a restaurant best visited when somebody else is paying. Bars to check out include Strata, Spy Bar , Budda and the Bier Halle Republic . The latter is representative of an East European trend amongst Glasgow's newer drinking holes. For a more traditional atmosphere, admire the interiors in The Counting House or The Drum and Monkey , both of which are housed in former bank buildings, or call into The Horseshoe to discover why it merits an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
Most of the options for a late drink or meal are to be found around Charing Cross on either side of the motorway, which separates the city center from the west end. Canton Express , Glasgow Noodle Bar and Pattaya all serve food until the early hours of the morning while Insomnia never closes. For an alcoholic beverage when it's past normal closing time, try the Baby Grand .
The west end itself has a flourishing dining scene, with treats to tickle most taste buds. Try some Greek cuisine at Parthenon or Antoniou's Tavern , or chow down on a curry feast at Mother India or the Killermont Polo Club . Margaritas a la Mexicana are great, if a little dangerous at Salsa ; go easy or it could get messy! Diet-conscious diners might be put off by Two Fat Ladies , but rest assured, the Scottish seafood here is really good. If juice is your thing, don't miss the chrome charms of Tinderbox and Naked Soup , who both whip up delicious fruity crushes and smoothies. For a taste of the Orient, there's Chinese at Amber and Japanese at Fusion , or see what Thai Fountain has to offer. The best in contemporary local cooking can be enjoyed at One Devonshire Gardens or Nairns , while Sixteen Byres Road is a tiny but perfect gem. The Puppet Theatre is great for romantic dinners a deux and The Ubiquitous Chip is upmarket with a lively atmosphere to be savored as much as the excellent contemporary cuisine. At Kelvinbridge, La Parmigiana serves Italian food so good that the ex-pats flock, and The Big Blue a few doors down dishes up riverside al fresco pizzas. The Bay Tree is a self-service cafe offering vegetarian fare with a Middle Eastern theme, while Grassroots is a meat-free zone with a globally influenced menu. Stravaigin has one of the best bar menus in the city, but if you just want to fill up on beer, check out Ashton Lane's pubs; Cul de Sac, Brel , Jinty McGuinty's and The Attic ; they stay open a little later than most and are always packed as a result. Air Organic and the Living Room are trendy places to down a pint or two, while Curlers is a student favorite and claims to be the oldest pub in Glasgow. To overdose on traditional fittings and atmosphere, drop into Uisge Beatha and start sampling some of their huge collection of malt whiskies.
The area south of the River Clyde has less eating establishments than the rest of the city, but there are a few gems worth seeking out. Not far from The Burrell Collection , the Stoat and Ferret offers good pub grub and nicely pulled pints, while you can sit outside The Church on the Hill and admire its stunning architecture. Battlefield Rest is a great Italian joint and, for good Greek cuisine, Cafe Serghei's menu is impressive.
Tour 1: City of Architecture And Design
Around a decade ago Glasgow was awarded the title of European City of Culture, and everyone was thrilled. However, its most recent accolade is that of City of Architecture and Design 1999. Although the reign has now ended, the award not only drew attention to innovative work by contemporary architects and designers, it also reminded us to appreciate the legacy of those who created the city.
Our tour starts on Sauchiehall Street at Charing Cross, just over the M8 motorway from St George's Cross Underground. Once the traffic is safely negotiated, glance upwards at the Baroque Charing Cross Mansions on each corner, designed by local architect John Burnet in 1891, and a stunning sight at sunset.
Walk along Sauchiehall Street until you reach Baird Hall , an example of Art Deco architecture that has been beautifully preserved. Although this is now a Strathclyde University Hall of Residence, it was originally created by William Beresford Inglis and James Weddell as "The Beresford Hotel", a plush place to stay whose roof garden offered an excellent view of the city. With its unusual sweeping curves and mustard coloured earthenware exterior, this is one of the most memorable buildings in Glasgow and best seen from across the street.
Take the next turn left and walk up an unpleasantly steep but mercifully short hill to Renfrew Street, where you turn right as the next stop is the Glasgow School of Art . Designed by the city's most famous and original architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, this building was completed in 1907 and attracts visitors from all over the world as well as budding artists. If you've planned ahead then a guided tour (advance bookings and the only way for non-art-students to see inside) will take you through the remarkable Mackintosh Library and the Hen Run, an aptly named glass corridor that offers a great view. If you didn't book, never mind. Common consensus says the west exterior of the School is Mackintosh's finest work as a designer and you don't need a guide to look at that.
Back down to Sauchiehall Street now and turn left, passing the McLellan Galleries, dating from 1854, which currently houses the . Ignore the many shops which line the street until you come to Henderson Jewellers , recognizable by the distinctive Mackintosh typeface. A well-earned break from walking can be enjoyed without stopping the tour, as The Willow Tearooms are just upstairs. Mackintosh designed this building in 1903 for local genteel restaurateur Miss Kate Cranston, and the interior has been restored to its 1905 glory, complete with plaster friezes and trademark decorative leaded glass. Miss Cranston's memoirs are available from Henderson's if you fancy reading up on social background.
After a cup of tea and maybe a cake, walk down Campbell Street until you reach St Vincent Street. Turn right and walk along to the St Vincent Street Free Church on the corner of Pitt Street. Glasgow is a Victorian city and the greatest architect of this era is undoubtedly Alexander "Greek" Thomson, who is commonly regarded as an "unknown genius". Thomson was strongly influenced by Greek, Indian, Egyptian and even Assyrian decorative architecture, but combined elements of each to create a style easily recognizable as his own. Many of the buildings he designed are privately owned or have unfortunately been destroyed, but the St Vincent Street Free Church has survived virtually intact since it opened in 1859.
Now walk back along St Vincent Street towards the city centre. It shouldn't be long before you reach number 142, an unusual building designed by James Salmon Junior, completed in 1902, and generally known as The Hatrack. The reason for this nickname soon becomes clear when you look up at the lead covered roof, whose dramatic spiky spires and shiny curves closely resemble a hat-stand. Aside from the roof, interesting features include Art Nouveau detailing, a stained glass window above the door and over forty windows in a very narrow façade.
From here, continue along St Vincent Street until you reach George Square . On the east side of the Square you will see a fine example of Victorian Glasgow architecture, the City Chambers . This Italian Renaissance style building was designed by William Young and completed in 1888. If you have time, a guided tour of the interior will show you amongst other things, a series of beautiful panels in the Banqueting Hall which depict episodes in the city's history. On the west side of the Square is The Merchants' House, designed in 1874 by John Burnet. You'll need good eyesight or a pair of binoculars to see the fully rigged model merchant ship which rests upon a globe at the top of the corner tower.
If you've had enough by now, note that many of the impressive edifices around George Square are now operating as pubs, so a rest in The Counting House, a former bank, allows an excellent view of its restored interior as well as refreshments.
Onwards and upwards as you turn up North Frederick Street and turn right into Cathedral Street at the peak of the hill. You will pass relatively modern campus buildings for the University of Strathclyde but try not to look at them as they may offend the eye. At the end of the street is a T-Junction. Cross over to the Cathedral Precinct directly opposite and the tour ends with one of the city's oldest buildings, Glasgow Cathedral .
Work began on the Gothic Glasgow Cathedral in the 13th century and it was completed nearly a century later. However, its origins date back to St Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow, who founded the first church on this site and is buried in the Lower Church. An excellent view of the Cathedral is from the Necropolis cemetery which overlooks it.
Tour 2: A Short Walk Round the History of Glasgow in Sculpture
There is a wealth of history in the public sculptures of the city. Glasgow grew through religion, trade and industry, all commemorated in stone. This walk will take about half an hour, depending on how long you stop to look!
Start on the banks of the Clyde, at the corner of the Broomielaw and Wellington Street. On this building there are striking statues of Poseidon, god of the sea, and his sea-horses at roof level and on the pediment, throned in majesty. An appropriate tribute to the sea, since this is the headquarters of the Clyde Port Authority. "Glasgow made the Clyde, and the Clyde made Glasgow", the saying which expresses the city's debt to her river, deepened and straightened for access to trade.
Go east up-river under the heavy railway bridge, and from the walkway you can see the massive piers left when part of the bridge was taken away. There is a concrete poem carved in the stone of these piers, part English, part Latin and Greek, which can be read from Jamaica Bridge.
On the walkway immediately to the east of the bridge is a striking statue of Dolores Ibannurri, "La Passionaria", heroine of the Spanish Civil War, commemorating the 65 men from Glasgow killed in that conflict.
Move north up Dixon Street into St Enoch Square, and at number 40 you can see above the entry the helmeted head of a woman, a lion's skin adorning her helmet. Perhaps St Tenew, whose name is the original of "St Enoch" - the ancient British warrior princess, mother of St Mungo the founder of Glasgow? Her well was sited in this square, in Medieval times.
Number 24 St Enoch Square, the Royal Bank of Scotland, has four allegorical figures, "Exchange, Security, Prudence and Adventure" adorning its facade.
On the corner of Buchanan Street and Argyle Street, the building above Foot Locker has impressive art deco carving at the top, with a 1920s-style light at the corner. Walk on up Buchanan Street.
Frasers' main entrance is surmounted by two female figures, one spinning and the other painting, flanking the Royal coat of arms, and a panel with the letters "W&L", since this was originally Wylie and Lochhead.
Opposite is the Argyll Arcade , in a building called Argyll Chambers. There are two figures in alcoves at first-floor level, one holding a serpentine rod, the other a wheel and distaff. The large bronze bird in the middle of the precinct is "Spirit of Kentigern" erected in the 1970s.
Princes Square has a giant ornamental peacock on the roof, streamers flowing down from its tail. The best way into the Square is up the escalator with its optical-illusion paintings.
Head into Exchange Place. In front of the Gallery of Modern Art is the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington, normally with a traffic cone set rakishly on his head. It perfectly complements his arrogant commanding expression. Round the base are bronze reliefs showing the career of a young Scots soldier and some of Wellington's military exploits, in India and at Waterloo.
Go along Ingram Street past a former bank building at number 191, ornamented with statues representing Scottish towns, separated by Corinthian pillars.
The Lloyds TSB, formerly the Glasgow Savings Bank, has St Mungo in gilded mitre and robes, as Glasgow's first bishop - appropriate for a city whose motto is "Let Glasgow flourish - by the preaching of the Word and the praising of His Name." The latter part of the slogan is usually forgotten.
Further on, cross over to the Hutchesons' Hospital, and see statues of two 17th century benefactors of the city, George and Thomas Hutcheson, looking swell in Van Dyjk beards and Rembrandt ruffs.
You can walk through the Italian Centre and see modern sculptures in the courtyard, a man and a dog howling at the moon, and metallic androids adorning the north facade.
Through the alley and you exit facing the heavily incised Victorian pile of the City Chambers , and then walk left into George Square , past the Cenotaph. A leaflet describing the Victorian statues of literary and political figures is available on request from the Information bureau at the south-west corner of the square.
Another exciting attraction for touring around Glasgow is the Waverley & Balmoral Steamers , which allows you to get on board either of the historical pleasure steamers, and take in some of the most stunning scenery the UK coastline has to offer.