My Secret City: Glasgow
A city of industry turned city of culture, Glasgow is a thriving hub of food, music and people. Alumnus Tony Inglis (LLB 2013) shares his insider’s guide to the world’s friendliest city.
The best place in Glasgow is a graveyard. Yes, you read that correctly! I’m a goth at heart, so the idea of strolling amongst the headstones of The Glasgow Necropolis with The Cure or Phoebe Bridgers in my headphones as the rain drizzles down of an evening makes me want to skip. But really, it’s a beautiful part of the city, situated in the east end, next to the cathedral. You can learn about our history through the names and descriptions of those buried there, marvelling at the intricate stonework and, if the rain stops, enjoy a breathtaking sunset as a backdrop to the best views of the city.
"In Glasgow we always say to “look up”, as notable buildings and sculptures often appear above modern shop conversions."
Glasgow lives and breathes nightlife and, especially, music. A city that produced all-time great bands like Life Without Buildings and Belle and Sebastian obviously has too many great music venues to begin talking properly about here, so let’s just say, if there’s a gig on, go to The Hug and Pint, Stereo, Broadcast, SWG3, Mono or King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. The Barrowlands – or, as it is affectionately called, The Barras – is the most classic of the lot. It’s not much to look at inside, and it has an exceedingly sticky floor, but I’m not sure there’s ever been a bad show there.
The two main museums – Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art – offer eye-catching examples of Glasgow’s striking architecture. The city is known for the Art Nouveau work of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but there was another esteemed designer of edifices who hailed from here: Alexander “Greek” Thomson. You’ll spot his ancient-Greece-inspired works across the city, and they are well worth seeking out, especially Holmwood House in Cathcart, which is considered Thomson’s finest residential creation, and St Vincent Street Church in the city centre with its distinctive pillared frontage.
Glasgow was subject to a pretty hot summer this year which left me feeling hot and sweaty most Sundays. Passing by Celino’s Italian deli at Alexandra Parade for a focaccia, salty olives and arancini and then finding a secluded spot up in the grassy hills of Alexandra Park became the best way to ride out the heat and my favourite place to spend a Sunday afternoon. At certain points, the trees hide the church spires and stacks of tenements. If it wasn’t for the cicada-like buzz of the nearby M8, you wouldn’t feel you were in the city at all.
"My favourite gallery to venture into is Kelvingrove with its collection of Lowry, Dali and French Impressionists."
The city is teeming with small, independent businesses with a cultural or social purpose. Record stores Monorail and Mixed Up are unrivalled, and they’ve recently been joined in the city by another shop, Some Great Reward. The staff at Monorail are friendly and knowledgeable, and the stock ranges from the best new stuff to weird and wonderful hidden gems. It has been a lifesaver over the lockdowns with its mail order service, but nothing beats going in for a browse and walking out with a bag full of vinyl. Ripe, a small but extremely cool magazine store, is one of many excellent purveyors of publishing old and new across the city, including Category Is, Good Press and Voltaire & Rousseau.
It’s not for everyone, but you don’t need to look further back than this summer’s Euros to see Scotland’s passion for football. It’s not just apparent in the main rivalry of Celtic and Rangers, but smaller – though no less fervently supported – teams like Partick Thistle and Queen’s Park as well. Or just outside the city, more provincial clubs like Motherwell and Hamilton. And Scotland is small enough that other teams and games can be reached from Glasgow. If you can go to a game, do so.
Scotland is not a large place, so it’s easy to get to lochs, parks and beaches on a day out from the city. An excellent recent discovery for me is Jupiter Artland. On the road between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the grounds of a stately home have been converted into an ethereal sculpture park, with intriguing works of art dotted around the lush green landscape from artists like Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor.
My food & drink hit list
A late-night chippy
Glasgow is a city that comes to life at night, and there’s nothing like tucking into late-night fried delicacies slathered in salt and vinegar at what we call a ‘chippy’. The mainstay is a fish and chip supper, but why not go for a black pudding supper, or chips, cheese and curry sauce, or a pizza crunch – deep-fried pizza! You can even get haggis if you must. The best can be had at Jaconelli’s in Maryhill.
If you’d rather have real pizza, the city has plenty to choose from. The best Neapolitan-style pizza is in Partick, at a trendy spot called Basta. I crave their butternut squash and goat’s cheese offering with plentiful garlic and herb dip on the side. Other spots include Paesano and Mozza (both have central and west end locations) or Errol’s in the south side.
Food from all over
Glasgow is a truly modern multicultural metropolis and international cuisines are easy to find. My favourites are Dumpling Monkey (Chinese) and Kimchi Cult (Korean), both of which are in Partick, Sacred Tum Tacos (Mexican) in the south side and Banana Leaf (South Indian) in the west end. The Lebanese breakfast served at The Left Bank in Kelvinbridge is a wee gem.
Contemporary fine dining
Five March, which is down a side street between the city centre and upmarket Finnieston, provides food of fine-dining quality. Serving up beautiful dishes which look incredible, often with cooking trickery a novice like me couldn’t even imagine pulling off, and a special vibe. It doesn’t have a Michelin star yet, but it’s that good, and won’t leave you bankrupt.
The best thing to do in Glasgow is to go to a buzzing pub and drink pints long into the evening. Wanting to relax, read and stay cosy? Try The Doublet, The Belle, Stravaigin or Sparklehorse, all located in the west end. Wanting more than a few rum and cokes? The “divey-er”, but still extremely cool, Nice N Sleazy or The Old Hairdresser’s, both in the city centre, is where you want to be.
On the go
Walking around the city without a flat white in hand is pretty much unheard of for me, so finding somewhere for a bite to eat and a coffee while out and about is essential. In the west, there’s Kaf, a tiny spot with cakes and pastries and cute blue cups for their coffee. In the east, there’s Mesa, which has a nutty tasting blend and sandwiches loaded with fillings. The latter gets its bread from bakery Sweet Jane across the road, which is also fantastic.
This article was first published September 2021. All opinions expressed are the views of the author and are not endorsed by the University of Glasgow.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, located in the west end, is one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Ashton Lane, located in the west end, is home to bars, restaurants and a cinema.
Glasgow City Centre boasts a stunning collection of old and new buildings.
Glasgow Botanic Gardens is one of the city’s 90 parks and gardens. The Kibble Palace was originally erected on the shores of Loch Long before being moved to the Botanic Gardens and reopening in 1873.
Glasgow’s Mural Trail features a diverse range of art within easy walking distance of the city centre. This panda is located in Mitchell Lane in the city centre.
Glasgow Cathedral is the oldest building in the city and is home to the tomb of Saint Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow.
The Mackintosh House - at UofG's The Hunterian Museum - is a stunning reassemblage of the interiors from the Macintoshes' Glasgow home.
Stretching from Sauchiehall Street down to St Enoch Square, Buchanan Street is the city's main pedestrian boulevard lined with some of the city's best shopping opportunities.
Contemporary sculpture park, Jupiter Artland, can easily be reached on a day trip from the city.