We Visit

Glasgow

With its quirky blend of urban sophistication and down-to-earth grit, Scotland's largest city also offers vibrant cultural and food scenes.

Although Glasgow is Scotland’s largest and most diverse city, for many it remains a well-kept secret. However, its quirky blend of urban sophistication and down-to-earth grit, coupled with a talent for constant reinvention, shapes its architecture, its people, and of course its vibrant cultural and food scenes.

Established by St Mungo in 6AD, the name translates from Gaelic as ‘dear green place’ and the city’s motto is ‘Let Glasgow Flourish’. Glasgow actually has the most green space per capita of any European city. Combine Glaswegians’ love of ‘snacking’ with the variety of takeaways, farmers’ markets and street food joints, and on fine days it feels almost continental.

Historically, shipping and manufacturing made Glasgow a hub of Britain's transatlantic trade – earning it the accolade ‘second city of Empire’ in the 1920s. Its consequent wealth created grand buildings on a central grid system – an apparent precursor to New York and Chicago. Ironically it is now stylish restaurants and bars that have restored many of these fine Victorian edifices to their earlier glory.

The Anchor Line Grill revitalised the former headquarters of the eponymous shipping company, while Merchant Square brings a covered grazing piazza to the 19th-century fruit market. In contrast to such newcomers, stalwarts like Rogano have served classic dishes since 1935 in spectacular art deco surroundings modelled on Cunard’s Queen Mary; while the Ubiquitous Chip in the leafy West End has blossomed over 40 years on its distinctive site in a former undertaker’s stable.

Glaswegians old and new have visceral and personalised relationships with food and drink; from the March 1848 Glasgow Food Riots with their slogan ‘bread or revolution’ to the modern self-expression of Scots-Asian and Italian populations through haggis pakora or Irn Bru gelato.

Thirsts are inevitably also well quenched. Drygate, West and BrewDog offer food-friendly micro-breweries and an evergreen cocktail scene is epitomised in specialist bars like Gin71Overall the city’s consumption culture tends to the informal. A love of experimentation and novelty brings a certain momentum, with the trendsetters seeking out the ‘next cool place’. Yes, Glasgow applauds style, but rarely at the expense of substance.