Edinburgh vs. Glasgow: Scotland’s two major cities are constantly competing. But the first is as genteel as the second is surreal. And here’s a brief itinerary of ten sites to prove it: bars, museums, gardens, shops, and more.
1. Go to church for a drink
As the locals say, “Glaswegians have more fun at a funeral than people in Edinburgh have at a wedding.” In any case, the Glaswegians are unsurpassed in turning their churches into theaters, libraries, bars, and restaurants. Since 2004, Oran Mor has served a lunch deal of “A play, a pie, a pint.” For an unbeatable price, you can enjoy a show, a slice of savory pie, and a pint of beer. Miraculous!
2. Let a museum drive you wild
Glasgow has more than 20 world-class museums and art galleries – and most of them are free. The Riverside Museum is one such institution. Let your inner child run free in this colossal transportation museum with more than 7000m2 of exhibition halls, cars suspended everywhere from floor to ceiling, locomotives, buses. The exterior architecture by Zaha Hadid is eye-popping!
3. Take tea in an architectural wonder
In 2018, the city has been celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a hometown child prodigy. This celebrity Art-Nouveau architect designed every detail of the Mackintosh at the Willow tea room, which first opened in 1903. After a four-year closure for restoration, it reopened last June. And it’s enchanting, be it for breakfast, lunch, or (naturally) tea time. The tea house offers set menu of homemade finger sandwiches and pastries. Unless you would prefer a “whiskey afternoon tea.”
4. Get high
Imagine a sea of trampolines, lined up side-by-side in a late-18th-century hangar, all brick walls and tall, arched windows. You are at Ryze. Here, the ground is soft and you can bounce to your heart’s content, testing your balance and endurance across more than 5,000 m2. Teens love it, and grown-ups can jump for joy to music and strobe lights every Friday and Saturday night.
5. Vintage vogue
The West End is Glasgow’s young, bohemian neighborhood. So it’s no surprise it’s home to a beautiful university (used as a set for Harry Potter shoots), the most inspired murals, and the best vintage shops. Our favorite? The Glasgow Vintage Company. Two floors of second-hand clothes for her and him. Articles date back to the Fifties and prices are easy on the budget. A great selection, too, like Aran cable-knit sweaters in ecru wool for very affordable prices.
6. Have an organic experience
Get fresh! For nearly 40 years, the Roots, Fruits and Flowers store has been on the ground floor of a listed building (dating back to 1897) and offered the best organics in Glasgow. As the name implies, along with your in-season flowers, you can stock up on the best fruits and vegetables. Mini Munchkin pumpkins, Golden Wonder or Savoy cabbage can be bought as is or eaten on the spot in the form of the soup of the day.
7. Take a botanical break
Glaschu (“my dear green place”) is Glasgow’s Gaelic name. And one that is well-deserved when you learn that the city has 90 parks and gardens for a population density seven times less than that of Paris, a city of similar size. Our pick? The Botanic Gardens. No fewer than 12 Victorian greenhouses sheltering orchids, cacti, palm trees, and marble statues. Free admission and, when the weather’s nice, a great place for a picnic on the grass.
8. Try the best pizza in town
It’s packed, it’s noisy, and they don’t take reservations. But people talk about it because it’s simply exquisite: Paesano is an institution. Their olive oil comes from Abruzzo, their tomatoes and mozzarella from Campania, and their wood-burning ovens were made on site by Neapolitans. Nine pizzas on the menu : crispy-crusted, loaded with toppings, and served with side salads. We love it.
9. Treat yourself to a concert
It swings, it rocks, it rolls. Be it rock, pop, folk, or classical, Glasgow has earned the title of UNESCO City of Music, putting on an average of 130 concerts a week. We recommend the Barrowland Ballroom: a 2,000-seat venue where Bowie, Oasis, and U2 have taken to the stage. The place is east of the city, but can be seen from afar: the façade’s star-spangled neon sign is the biggest in the UK.
10. Have a cocktail in court
Doric pilasters, moldings and sculptures galore, an elaborate glass dome overhead: The Corinthian Club is dripping with style. That’s to be expected for this now-listed building built in 1842 that was first a bank and then a court, before becoming home to a chic brasserie, three bars, and even a casino. Our favorite spot? Teller’s Bar on the first floor, with a long mirror counter and a menu of more than twenty cocktails.