A creative’s guide to Glasgow: A place for design lovers, fine architecture and the latest startups
The largest city in Scotland, and the third-largest in the UK, Glasgow is a beautiful melting pot of culture and creativity, located on the banks of the River Clyde, and its people offer the kind of warmth and charm that make it one of the friendliest places in the world.
Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, when Glasgow expanded rapidly, and its status as the "Second City of the British Empire" for much of the Victorian and Edwardian periods, the architecture and fine heritage will, not surprisingly, take your breath away.
Whether you’re interested in its history, fine art, boutique shopping or gourmet dining, you’ll find a fun-filled creative weekend in the bustling Scottish city. Here, we share our top travel tips if you're heading to Glasgow soon.
Places to stay for design lovers
When visiting Glasgow, you won’t have trouble finding somewhere to lay your hat. For something that’s stylish, and fairly cheap and cheerful, try the Apex City of Glasgow Hotel. Located in the city’s heart, this is within staggering distance of the main nighttime hang-out spots.
Similarly, for something upmarket with a design twist check out ABode Glasgow. It boasts a unique heritage setting with original features such as antique tiles and stained glass.
If you’re seeking more luxury still and don’t mind a slight commute into town, the iconic Hotel Du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens comprises a highly plush destination that holds many of its original Victorian features.
Sherbrooke Castle, which is a little out of the city centre, is a difficult one to beat in the grandeur stakes. Again featuring stained glass alongside sweeping staircases, this is perfect for a romantic retreat or special occasion.
You can also choose from an abundance of rental apartments online. Use AirBnB or HouseTrip. Prices start from £23 per night.
Five touristy things to do in Glasgow
Even if you’ve never visited Glasgow, you’ve probably heard the names Sauchiehall and Buchanan Street being thrown around. They should be the first places on your list to explore, as they are slap bang central and host the main shopping and dining thoroughfare.
From here you can head across to the Gallery of Modern Art, where you’ll be immersed in the city’s thriving creative scene. Current exhibitions include Polygraphs and TASTE!
When I first visited Glasgow, there was one thing at the top of my list, and that was the Barrowland Ballroom, or the Barras, as it’s affectionately known by Glaswegians. A kitsch masterpiece from the outside, the venue has hosted hundreds of bands and is a key destination, having been granted Unesco recognition in 2008.
Not far from here is the Tennent Caledonian Breweries. One of Scotland’s oldest ongoing businesses, the brewery makes some of the country’s most loved beer. If you’ve been to Scotland before, you’ll surely have spotted the red ‘T’ that hangs in every pub window. That’s the Tennent’s logo. You know what they say, ‘when in Rome’, so it’s a must-order while you’re on Glasgow soil. If you’re feeling really brave, try a Tartan Special while you’re at it.
If you want to extend your brewery visit to a full-blown crawl then check out Drygate Brewery and WEST microbrewery too.
Wonderful watering holes
We’ve advised you of what to drink, now to recommend where you drink it. Glasgow has very much embraced the high-end cocktail and craft ale culture, with many quirky establishments popping up all over town.
Shilling Brewing Co. is the city’s very first brewpub, offering freshly made beers and ales to its visitors to enjoy in industrial-inspired interiors.
Following the trend of speakeasy-style bars that’s dominated London’s drinking scene for quite some time, Panther Milk Bar lies beneath the iconic Tabac. Sporting neon signage and tasty drinks, including the signature Leche de Pantera, it’s something slightly different to your average public house.
No drinks round-up would be complete without a mention for the humble G&T. Head to beGin and choose from 68 cocktail options that utilise the popular spirit. They also offer a ‘perfect serve’ menu, which matches your gin to the ideal tonic and garnish. Mine’s a Hendricks, Fever-Tree and cucumber – if you were wondering.
Taking the tempo up a notch, Flat 0/1 is where the cool kids hang out. With interiors reminiscent of a bedsit from the 1970s, the peeling wallpaper, stained sofas and bright orange bar all add to the retro fun. Grab yourself a Lambrini and head to the dance floor.
After sampling all those drinks you’ll need something to soak it up, and if one thing’s for sure, you certainly won’t go hungry in Glasgow.
Step back in time and visit one of the jewels in the city’s culinary crown. Rogano is steeped in vintage glamour with interiors that hark back to more elegant times. The menu includes a range of dishes championing Scottish fish, for which the recommendations come in their droves.
Boasting a beer hall-style bar and restaurant, West Beer – mentioned previously – is pitched as having a ‘Glaswegian heart and a German head’. It offers lo-fi interiors and a no-fuss menu. A good place to grab a snack while out on the town.
For something slightly spicier, The Hanoi Bike Shop serves Vietnamese food in small plate portions, making it a great place to visit with friends. Continuing with the exotic theme, Ubiquitous Chip is a rainforest-themed restaurant. Set over several floors, it’s a pretty cool place to get lost in.
The agency scene
Over the past couple of years, Glasgow has seen an influx of creative agencies choosing the city as their home. From marketing to graphic design, you’ll find plenty of imaginative folks here.
You may recognise Jamhot from our recent Studio Tour, and as champions of Glasgow’s digital scene, we thought the team was certainly deserved of a place in our guide. Located in the Finnieston district, the agency shares its turf with many other studios and freelancers.
MadeBrave is a company made up of “amigos without egos”, producing great work for their international roster of clients.
D8. and Equator are also making waves on the creative agency scene, both being stellar communications agencies.
Cool co-working spaces
When a city’s creative scene is thriving, it normally means you’ll find lots of cool co-working spaces popping up too.
For creative types, it doesn’t get much better than The Whisky Bond. Home to the Glasgow Sculpture Studios, the building hosts world-class production facilities in wood, metal, plaster and ceramics. For coworking, hot-desking starts from £20 per day and £175 per month.
Specifically aimed at Glasgow’s tech community, RookieOven is a hub of ‘engineering excellence’. Located in the shipyard drawing offices, the space is light, airy and welcoming. Desks start from £120 per month.
Centrally located, flexible and affordable, Collabor8te offers a range of desks, meeting rooms and a café area. Prices start from £40 per month for up to 16 hours.
Just recently established, Glasgow Collective is based at the iconic Barrowlands – the perfect destination for creatives. Find out what they’re all about here.
So, if you’re already familiar with Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, then branch out and pay its feisty little sister, Glasgow, a visit. You won’t regret it.