While visitors often head immediately to Edinburgh, Scotland’s second city, Glasgow is where travelers can immerse themselves in the authentic Scottish experience.
The largest city in Scotland and the third largest in the UK (greater Glasgow makes up 41 percent of Scotland’s population), this bustling port city has evolved into a metropolitan center that maintains its Old World charm.
The city boasts plenty of distinctive personality: local citizens bear the nickname “Weegies” with pride and even speak their own dialect, “Glaswegian,” characterized by fast speech and local slang.
But, don’t fear getting lost in translation: locals remain friendly and are willing to help outsiders understand their lingo.
So don’t be afraid to approach a Weegie to discover some off-the-brochure experiences.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
On top of the thick accent, it can be difficult understanding some of the local slang, which is even used in local media and TV shows. Here are some words to help to keep you from having that blank look on your face:
- Fitba – Football or as Americans know it, soccer
- Mental – Tough in character
- Wee – Small
- Pure dead brilliant – Used to describe something that is really amazing
- Ginger – A carbonated soft drink, particularly the Scottish brewed “Irn-Bru”; Can also signify a red-haired person
- Canne be bothered – I can’t be bothered or I couldn’t make an effort/ didn’t have time to do that
- Pished, Steamin, Sozzled – Drunk
- Awa an bile yer heid – Just know this one is an insult, and you should probably back away as fast as possible
Don’t miss the Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Edinburgh, Scotland.
Several monuments have been erected in and around Glasgow to honor the sailors and workers who helped build this seafaring capital. With Glasgow’s small Underground (subway system) it is quite easy to get around and see all the sights.
One of the most iconic symbols of Glasgow is the Finnieston Crane, built in 1931 as a monument to the city’s engineering heritage. At one point, it was the largest crane in Europe; today, it remains a prime example of maritime construction. Other, less-familiar structures include Nelson’s Monument in Glasgow Green—a tribute to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died in the Battle of Trafalgar—and a tall obelisk dedicated to Henry Bell, designer of the first paddle-steamer that serviced the River Clyde.
While the name might be inspired from Glasgow’s past, The Lighthouse is actually Scotland’s Center for Architecture, Design, and the City. Designed by celebrated 20th-century architect and artist and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the center features immersive activities such as drawing workshops, lectures and architecture and design exhibits. www.thelighthouse.co.uk
Of course Scotland is known for its historic castles, but skip the long lines and head to one of its lesser-known structures that offer a more intimate experience.
A remnant from the medieval days of Scotland, the 13th-century Bothwell Castle sits about 10 miles southeast of Glasgow, high up on a bank overlooking the River Clyde. The crumbling pink-hued structure boasts both prison chambers and a dungeon, which conjure up eerie images of how criminals were punished back in the day. Getting to Bothwell from Glasgow requires a car or taxi service, but entrance costs only £3.70 per adult (about $5.)
A little closer to the city center is the compact Crookston Castle. With four square pillar towers, the 15th century ruins are worth admiring, and its position overlooking southwest Glasgow provides a perfect photo opportunity. Legend has it that this is where Queen Mary spent her honeymoon with Lord Henry Danley.
GLASGOW FOR NIGHT OWLS
If you are into music, Glasgow is a definite stop for alternative music fans. With big-name bands playing small hole-in-the-wall venues and electronic clubs that don’t close until 5 .am., there is a little something for every night owl.
ABC Glasgow might be a popular concert venue now, but in its former life, it was Glasgow’s first cinema. The Art Deco-style club features four bars and two spaces for live concerts or events. Hands down, the best part about ABC is the acoustics—unlike other older venues, it was literally built to give optimal sound quality. www.abcglasgow.com
Huge names in contemporary American and European rock and pop music, from the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl to Metallica, have named Barrowlands Ballroom their favorite venue in the UK.
If concert-going isn’t your thing, the area also features a busy market that’s open every weekend from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. www.glasgow-barrowland.com
A play on the Hard Rock Café, the Solid Rock Café is a laid-back pub with a rock theme. With plenty of arcade games and seating areas, it’s a fun evening for all. Try to stop by on Wednesday’s Pub Quiz night, in which teams compete over random trivia for the prize of—you guessed it—pints of lager. Make sure to order the steak pie with your pint(s). It’s delicious. www.solidrockglasgow.com
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With all that sightseeing and walking around town, chances are you’ll be so hungry that even haggis might start looking good. Luckily Glasgow features a multitude of international cuisine that is sure to tickle the palate of any curious foodie.
Get some fresh air and stroll the Broomielaw Quay harbor, located right next to the River Clyde. You won’t find the old wooden docks that used to line this path; they’ve been replaced by sleek modern buildings. Take a break by visiting “chippy”—small corner shop that sells various snack food such as deep-fried haggis, deep-fried pizza, and my personal favorite, deep-fried Mars Bars. Just grab the food to go and enjoy a day by the river. Just remember to bring an umbrella to combat Glasgow’s infamously temperamental weather. www.glasgow.gov.uk
When it comes to great Turkish food, Scotland probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind. However, Alla Turca – The Magnificent, brings the Turkish flavor to the north of the United Kingdom. Featuring authentic Turkish music and fine dining, it’s a festive experience without turning into a theme park. It’s also a great option for large gatherings, with group menus and private rooms available. www.allaturca.co.uk
If you are looking for something a bit more modern, try Michael Caines at the hotel ABode Glasgow, touted as one of the top eating spots in Glasgow. It features a trendy wine room, and an affordable “amazing grazing” lunch menu that includes three courses for £12. Housed in a historic Edwardian building on Bath Street, this is the spot for fans of upscale modern cuisine or visitors who want to lounge around in the hip local scene. www.michaelcaines.com
Those with an artistic eye need not look further than the cobblestone streets of Glasgow. With 13 museums scattered around the city, it’s not hard to find an art gallery to ramble through or a new exhibit that you and your travel buddies buzzing about for days. For those of you who enjoy a good bargain, Glasgow’s museums are free, with a small nominal fee for some special exhibits.
Looking for a romantic adventure in Glasgow? Don’t miss our Sexy Hotel Getaways and Romance Advice for the Road.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum may be Scotland’s most-visited museum, but you won’t find yourself fighting throngs of crowds to see tiny paintings or delicate statues. The museum transcends what most of think of traditional art. With featured demonstrations on Scottish Country Dancing and hands on experiences on items from swords to fossils in the “Object handling” collection, it’s a great way to spend a day. Make sure not to miss out on one of the organ recitals, featuring the Kelvingrove’s beautiful organ which was built in the early 1900s and has been played since the opening of the museum. www.glasgowmuseums.com
If you want to see what life was like in Glasgow from the mid-18th century until present day, stroll through the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens. You’ll see how a one-room Glasgow tenement family lived or look at the political banners that colored past elections. The Winter Gardens is a Victorian glasshouse that features tropical plants, a wonderful café and a great way to stay warm when the weather gets soggy. www.glasgowmuseums.com
By Michelle Castillo for PeterGreenberg.com.
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