Guides and Tutorials

Things to do in Glasgow

Kelvin River Walkway

Yay, Glasgow. Considering I did not grow up here, nor do I have any family here, you know I really love Glasgow. Seriously, I would not really be interested in living anywhere else (well, I would but not for too long). I came here in 2000 so it has been a while and I’ve lived in 5 different areas so I know most of the good places. I would like to apologise to the Southside though – I know there are tons of awesome places there but I just never go.

Anyway, Ann-Marie (hi!) asked for some tips of places to go so I promised a blog post and here it is! It encompasses all my favourite places in Glasgow so that’s parks, shops, restaurants, hangouts and crafty haunts. Obviously, this is not all the best places in Glasgow, but my favourites. I’ve split them into areas as that seemed to work best, and how I do my own trip planning. Everything here is on a special Google Map I made so I haven’t included addresses or websites, and there are a few extra places on the map I haven’t written about because they’re really obvious or not my style, but still worth a visit. And let me know if you are visiting – maybe I can show you around (if you buy me cake).

These areas all overlap a little so you can easily do 2 or 3 in a day. Good ones would be City Centre (South) and East End, both West Ends, both City Centres or use the bus, trains or subway to skip around. I’ve put some travel tips at the end.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t plug 5pm here (I work for them but they are ace anyway) – they have great restaurant deals for Glasgow/Edinburgh and also The Big Deal, a Groupon style sub-site where you can get massive discounts on hotels and attractions.

Anyway, onwards!

BUY THE ZINE!

Since writing this post, I’ve published Miles Better – A Guide To Glasgow, a printed zine with even more shops and tips – you can get a copy from my shop, and a PDF version is also available from pushpin. The below may be a little out of date so check before visiting!

WEST END / GREAT WESTERN ROAD

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

Botanic Gardens
One of my favouritest places in Glasgow. It’s nice and small so you can pretty much see everything in one go, but it also has walks along the River Kelvin (top photo) which are fun to explore. I used to walk bits multiple times a week when I lived nearby and never got bored. The main attraction is Kibble Palace (above), a big glasshouse, which was recently renovated to marvellous effect, so that’s good for rainy days. Plus there are regular events including book fairs, open air plays, orchid exhibitions and astronomy evenings.

DeCourcey’s Arcade
If you like quirky shopping then this is the place for you! Tucked in a back lane behind busy Byres Road, you’ll find tiny shops run by creative folks. The highlight is Auntie M’s Cake Lounge, where you can enjoy awesome homemade cakes in retro surroundings, as well as pick up some crazy American and Japanese candy. On the same floor you’ll find The Maisonette (indie and vintage gift shop) and a host of vintage clothing shops. And don’t miss La La Land, run by the folks behind The Coveted Magazine, for the best local and independent fashion.

Cup
If you don’t have time for Auntie M’s, then try a cupcake from Cup. Their cupcakes are extra fancy with clever flavours and great decorations – last time I was in they had Gingerbread, Lemon Meringue, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Orange and more. They also do Afternoon Tea, which looked amazing.

The Life Craft
Pretty much heaven for knitters and crafty types, The Life Craft is a new venture which combines crafty supplies, creative classes and of course cake! Take a look at their class schedule and you’re sure to be inspired.

Tinderbox
A great stop for lunch or coffee, as it’s very relaxed – you can stay here for hours and no-one will bat an eyelid. The cake is great and the sandwiches are amazing. Good place for Glasgow indie celeb spotting too. The City Centre branch is a little out of the way but much bigger.

Otago Lane
Another good place for a wander as it hosts Tchai Ovna (a laidback tea house with a huge menu of weird and wonderful teas) and Voltaire & Rousseau (an amazing bookshop I am scared to visit for fear of my purse – see here for why). There are also lots of other interesting shops, cafes and charity shops around this part of Great Western Road and heading into town.

Fopp
See City Centre entry.

GETTING THERE
Take the subway to Kelvingrove for Otago Lane and walk up Great Western Road. The Botanic Gardens is on the corner of Gt Western Road and Byres Road. Or get off at Hillhead on Byres Road. For buses, the 20 and 66 will take you up Gt Western Road from the city centre.

WEST END / PARTICK / FINNIESTON


Photo by Welcome Home

Welcome Home
At the other end of Byres Road, you’ll find a real haven of art, design and crafts at Welcome Home. It’s got a lovely selection of prints, accessories, jewellery, stationery, zines, homeware and more and you’ll have a hard time deciding what to buy! They also have a little gallery space and regular classes including sewing and life drawing.

Ichiban
Well-loved Japanese restaurant (there’s also a smaller branch in the city centre) with the best gyoza in Glasgow. The menu hasn’t changed in all the years I’ve been going but everything is great, especially the bento boxes and side dishes. Pop in at lunchtime for their good value lunch deal.

Partick
If you walk along Dumbarton Road towards the West, from Byres Road, you’ll find a plethora of charity shops, which range from the shiny and overpriced to good old rummagers. Walk along the other direction to get to Finnieston with lots of cafes and Kelvingrove Park.

The Shop of Interest
A new shop in Finnieston specialising in quirky gifts and art. Whether your style is kawaii, retro, vintage or street you’re bound to find something interesting here. They also stock my stuff :)

GETTING THERE
Take the subway to Hillhead on Byres Road and work your way downhill to Dumbarton Road. Or Kelvinhall is at the bottom of Byres Rd. You can walk from there along to Partick which has a subway and train station. Trains go from Partick, past Exhibition Centre (for Finnieston), into town and along to Bridgeton (for West, Glasgow Green). For buses, the 62 is your best bet, as it goes from the city centre past Finnieston and over to Partick.

CITY CENTRE (NORTH)

Nice'n'Sleazy
Photo by by TGKW, on Flickr

Nice & Sleazy
Sleazys is legendary. It was THE place to go when I started coming to Glasgow in the late 90s and it’s still the place to go now for a whole new generation of indie kids. It’s got a great tiny venue downstairs (above) where I have seen some amazing shows (and played myself, twice!) while upstairs is a general hangout – if you’re part of, or a fan of, the Glasgow indie scene then you are guaranteed to bump into someone you know any time you go there, quite possibly serving you, so that’s part of the attraction. They also do good pub food and have the best jukebox ever. It can be super-busy at weekends due to its proximity to bigger venues like The Garage and the ABC, but always fun.

Paperchase
Since the demise of Borders (sob) Glasgow no longer has a decent sized Paperchase but we do have a mini one in Waterstones bookshop. It’s got a decent enough range but it’s all quite cramped and they annoyingly display some stuff in random places around the floor (like in the main shop queue) so you miss stuff. Better than nothing though. Waterstones itself is pretty generic for a bookshop, though they’re quite happy for you to sit around reading the books in the cafe so that’s a bonus if you have time to kill by yourself.

Chinatown
Our Chinatown is almost an insult to any other known Chinatown as it’s really just a small indoor shopping centre. Still, it has a pretty good supermarket (with lots of Japanese snacks and ingredients too), a bakery, restaurant etc. There used to be a kawaii store but no more. Also nearby is Lim’s, a smaller but still well-stocked Chinese supermarket and Matthews, a huge cash and carry.

Mandors
Really the only place to go in Glasgow if you want fabric and sewing supplies (John Lewis also has a small but quality haberdashery). It has huge amounts of craft, dressmaking and interior fabrics in all kinds of colours and patterns, plus thread, buttons, zips etc. The remnant bins are good for a rummage too.

GFT
Just across the road from Mandors (and round the corner from my old flat) is the Glasgow Film Theatre, an independent cinema where you can catch all kinds of interesting films from home and abroad. They have regular film festivals for countries and themes and lots of events with talks and Q&As. Well worth supporting – pick up a brochure if you’re passing.

The Flying Duck
Another part of the Mono/Stereo axis of amazing, The Flying Duck mainly hosts club nights and small gigs. It’s got a super quirky layout with areas designed as the kitchen and the living room, and the stage is a pit in the middle. They even serve toast!

CCA
The Centre for Contemporary Arts has lots going for it – exhibitions, film screenings, a bookshop, a cafe/restaurant and a bar. They also host quite a few experimental music events so always worth keeping an eye on their schedule.

Nanakusa
A Japanese restaurant that’s a bit more high class than Ichiban, but still accessible with an extensive menu and good descriptions. Also the staff are hilarious. Avoid the desserts though – they’re unimpressive. Right next door to Sleazys too.

Forbidden Planet
Comic shop with lots of geekery and a small dose of kawaii too.

Maia
A bit more mainstream but you can still pick up stuff by small brands like Noodoll. Plus they also have a mini cafe selling milkshakes and cupcakes.

Avalanche (Now Love Music)
I haven’t been in much since the name change but hopefully it’s still a great record shop crammed full of new and secondhand CDs and vinyl.

GETTING THERE
For the Sleazys end you can take the subway to Cowcaddens beside Chinatown and walk to Sauchiehall Street. Or get off at Buchanan Street which is right in the centre of town. Almost all buses go through the city centre so it just depends where you’re coming from.

CITY CENTRE (SOUTH)

September 8 - Glasgow
Photo by by String Bean Jen, on Flickr

Mono
Back in the day there was an amazing cafe/bar/venue in Glasgow called the 13th Note. All the great local bands played there, all the coolest US indie bands played there and everyone hung out there seemingly all day every day drinking Irn Bru. Sadly the 13th Note went bust but the same folks set up Mono across the road, which is airy and comfy and hosts both a vegan restaurant/cafe/bar and the greatest record store known to man – Monorail, run by Stephen Pastel. That’s right, you can drink beer, eat cake and browse records all in the same place! They also host events here and there, usually acoustic or solo gigs, book readings etc. and have some great DJ nights. We also ran some craft fairs here. The food may be vegan but it’s fantastic – the burgers and spicy chips are legendary – and they do a great line in homemade drinks, especially the lemonades. There’s always lots of room to just hang out and it’s classic on a Sunday lunchtime. Make sure you visit Monorail for an amazing selection of hand-picked records.

PS. The 13th Note is still open but under new management, who have kind of trashed its original spirit (the food is vegetarian, not vegan and the quality of bands playing has nosedived). Still, if you’re not old and bitter you might enjoy it :)

Stereo
Mono’s younger sister is a little more hip and happening with gigs and club nights in the venue below (which is always mega loud) and a cool relaxed bar/cafe upstairs. As with Mono, the food is vegan but amazing and great for lunch. It’s a bit tricky to find, and intimidating too, but if you manage to brave the dark alley full of puddles and work out which is the front door you’ll be well rewarded.

Fopp
We take it a bit for granted but there are very few Fopps left in the UK and we have two of them! You can pick up new and classic CDs, DVDs and books for great prices here, plus there’s usually a small selection of local band releases too. The City Centre branch is the biggest.

Artstore / Millers
The places to go for art supplies! Both have a great selection of proper art supplies like lino and paintbrushes and coloured pencils by the shelfload, plus a selection of craft supplies. The Artstore branches out into novelty gifts, wrapping and kits, while Millers has a huge cardmaking/scrapbooking etc. section.

Missing
Once the biggest independent record store in Glasgow, with a string of shops throughout the city, it’s now diminished into one tiny shop under Glasgow Central station. It sells mostly secondhand stuff so good for a browse.

Tinderbox
See West End entry

Ichiban
See West End entry

GETTING THERE
Again, you can take the subway to Buchanan Street which is right in the centre of town, or St Enoch at the bottom end of town. Almost all buses go through the city centre so it just depends where you’re coming from.

EAST END

Templetons

West
A mere stroll from my current flat, this is quite literally the only decent place to eat in the East End. And what a good one! It’s a German restaurant and brewery, which means an entire blackboard’s worth of intriguing beer choices and a menu that includes both traditional German dishes (like amazing sausages with sauerkraut and mash) and more generic, but still great, stuff like burgers and pies. Despite being a little way out of town, it’s always popular but has so much space you’re unlikely to ever be turned away. West is also right on Glasgow Green so has a lovely beer garden for the nicer weather. Plus it’s inside an old carpet factory (above), which is beautiful.

Barras
It may be Glasgow’s oldest and most famous market but it hasn’t quite stepped into the 21st Century yet. To find the interesting antique stalls and vintage clothing shops, you’ll have to sidestep the bootleg DVDs, men selling tobacco and the unbelievably unhygienic meat auction. It’s all very entertaining though and you might pick up a bargain (tip! go on a Sunday as the antique dealers will be trying to get rid of stuff). At the very least, you can try some Scottish delicacies like square sausage in a roll and tablet at knockdown prices. It’s open Saturdays and Sundays until about 4pm.

Glasgow Green
Definitely worth a wander (and you might spot me on my Ikea bike) – you can walk from town to the Barras and West without much effort. It’s mainly a park but it has some nice historical areas and the river with some nice bridges over to the Southside. The main attraction is the People’s Palace, which has a people’s history of Glasgow and a winter garden. There are quite often big outdoor events here in the Summer too.

GETTING THERE
Buses (or walking) are the easiest ways to get here. You can walk easily from the Trongate / Mono area, or get a 16, 18, 40, 43, 61, 62, 64 (and many more) from town to the Barras. You can also get a train to Bridgeton from Glasgow Central and then walk along London Road to the Barras and Glasgow Green.

GETTING AROUND

Watching the life pass by...
Photo by by innoxiuss, on Flickr

Glasgow is pretty easy to get around – we have a buses, a subway and lots of trains, plus you can walk between most places, it’s not that big. The city centre is also built on a grid so it’s pretty hard to get lost.

Buses
Run by my nemesis First Glasgow. They are expensive, late, grubby, full of mental cases and frequently break down. But they’re often your only option – the FirstDay ticket is pricey at £3.75 but will get you all over Glasgow til 1am. Exact fare only, so don’t stick £10 in the box or you’ll get nothing back. Bus drivers range from helpful to surly but you can look up routes and timetables online.

Subway
The underground is the best bet for visitors as you really cannot go wrong. However, you may die laughing at our tiny orange 1970s styled trains! We have one line and it goes in a circle so even if you get on the wrong train it will just take you back where you started. Ticket prices are the same whether you go one stop or the whole way round so get a Day ticket if you plan to make a few stops. What’s the catch? It doesn’t go far – it’s great for the city centre and West End and into the Southside but that’s about it.

Local Trains
My favourite mode of transport, because there is a station right beside my house (and West), which goes into town and along to Finnieston and Partick. You can also get local trains from Central and Queen Street stations to most areas in Glasgow. The best thing about trains is they actually turn up when they’re supposed to (mostly) but they can get expensive so check out day tickets if you’re staying near a station.

GOOGLE MAP


View Glasgow Guide by Asking For Trouble in a larger map

Hope that helps! If you have any questions, please ask, and if I missed out your favourite place in Glasgow, feel free to add it in the comments.

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