“Glasgow’s miles better” – with a beaming Mr Happy as its mascot, the campaign launched in 1983 to revamp the Scottish city’s image after decades of industrial decline has gone down in history as one of Britain’s most successful city promotions.
More than 20 years later the optimistic mood has paid off, with Glasgow’s recognition as a stylish, dynamic but still resolutely down-to-earth metropolis that knows how to party better than most. No longer Edinburgh’s poor cousin, it’s her cool older brother. There’s more to this city than deep-fried Mars bars these days, y’know (though you shouldn’t knock ’em ’til you’ve tried one).
From Jesus and Mary Chain and Orange Juice in the ’80s, Teenage Fanclub and Primal Scream in the ’90s and Franz Ferdinand and Belle & Sebastian in the Noughties, Glasgow’s reputation for breeding great music doesn’t just rival that of Liverpool and Manchester, it damn well eclipses them. All that rain makes good stay-indoors-and-practise-your-chords weather, though local musos made good claim that it’s a supportive scene and a healthy distance from London’s hype machine that allows creativity to flourish. For a crash course on the city itself and its rock ‘n’ roll landmarks, download a free ‘Sounds of the City’ podcast and map from www.itoors.com, get your headphones on and get walking.
There are sights to see, of course, and see them you should. But in terms of cultural absorption, getting to know the locals should be as high on your agenda as any museum or gallery. The accents may be a challenge to comprehend, even when sober, but as long as the conversation steers clear of the inflammatory topics of religion or football (or worse, a mix of the two), the Glaswegians are a fantastic lot – gregarious, honest and armed with a notorious sense of humour. This is the kind of place where you’ll sit in a pub and, by the end of the night, be surrounded by new mates (and be way more drunk than you ever thought medically possible).
Pack your Mackintosh
The architect who inspired a thousand tasteful silver earrings, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s elegant style and signature rose motif are something you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid, so proud is Glasgow of its famous son. If you don’t have time to do the whole Mackintosh trail, at least check out the Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street and the Glasgow School of Art.
Way out west
Cut off from the city centre by the M8 motorway, the West End is worth hopping aboard the ‘Clockwork Orange’ underground line for a few stops to check out. Along and around the Byres Road is where the hipsters hang out, and where a good deal of the cool bars, cafés, restaurants and quirky boutiques are located.
Worth a look
Gallery of Modern Art
Themed into Earth, Air and Water, both the art on show and the space itself are striking – but a snap of the Duke of Wellington statue out front, perennially sporting an orange traffic cone for a hat, is also essential.
Tall tenement buildings may make up the city’s typical streetscape, but did you know Glasgow has more green space per capita than any other European city? Thought not. When you’re tired of pounding the pavement -you’ve more than 70 parks to choose from – Kelvingrove, out west, has a good atmosphere. Sunny days are tragically rare, but when they do happen it’s the only excuse needed for people to grab a guitar, their mates, a bottle of wine from the offie and head out for an afternoon’s lolling about on the grass.
Don’t leave without: A drink with the locals. They’re loons.
Could do without: The near-permanent grey skies
Check out: See Glasgow