After our brief visit to Glasgow for the International Visual Arts Festival, we decided we needed to dedicate it at least one more day and do some sightseeing on our own. Considered the cultural capital of Scotland, Glasgow has a singular charm that sets it apart from Edinburgh in a good way.
We left from Edinburgh Waverley early in the morning, taking the 1 hour train to Glasgow Central. We had quite a few ideas as of what we wanted to see and the Cathedral and the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery were top of the list.
Glasgow Cathedral is a magnificent example of 15th century Gothic architecture and the only Scottish mainland cathedral to have survived the Reformation intact. Walter Scott mentioned this kirk in his novel Rob Roy, and St Mungo, the patron saint of the city, is buried in the lower crypt. Just across the street, the St Mungo's Museum of Religious Art and Life is to be found, and though we didn't have the time to visit it, it sounds quite promising, for boasting Britain's first Zen Garden and presenting the cultural and artistic history of all the world's major faiths.
We wandered and wondered around the cathedral for well over an hour, admiring its architectonic marvels and gorgeous stained glass windows. However, overwhelmed by all the beauty surrounding us, we decided to go for a walk up the nearby hill where the Necropolis is and from where the best views of the cathedral can be appreciated.
Ever since we visited Milan's Monumental Cemetery a few years ago, we made a habit out of visiting graveyards. And it's not because we are on the lookout for spooky stuff, but because we love the serenity they are shrouded in and the fact that many of them are open air museums in their own right. Oftentimes there are untold love stories written on each stone and Glasgow's Necropolis is no exception.
Glasgow might be a modern and stylish city now, but it is steeped in the working class history of yesteryear and the shipbuilding industry that once made it one of the richest and largest cities in the world. This is clearly seen in the myriad of grandiose old building that dot the city with their sky reaching towers, columns and richly decorated facades.
We were quite impressed by this guy. More than a street performer, he was also offering guitar lessons. How cool is that!
We spotted the new city slogan, 'People make Glasgow', time and time again. Putting the people at the heart of the city is such an admirable idea!
After walking around and taking in the architecture, we took the bus to the West End, to visit the imposing, late-Victorian Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. The building is just as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside and it houses one of Europe's great civic art collections in 22 state-of-the-art galleries.
Kelvingrove is one of the best museums we've seen in a long time, and as an added bonus, it is free of charge, just like the majority of attractions in Glasgow. It is well worth to dedicate it a few hours, even if only to join the free guided tour they have twice a day. We did just that and found it very enlightening.
The tour encompassed an introduction and pointed out the highlights of the museum, including Salvador Dali’s ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’, a giant stuffed elephant posed beneath a Spitfire fighter plane in mid-flight, Rennie Mackintosh Art Nouveau furniture, a massive collection of medieval weapons and armor, natural history displays of fauna and flora and paintings and sculpture ranging from modern Scottish to French Impressionist and Renaissance Italy, including a couple of paintings by Rachel Ruysch, my favorite Dutch female painter.
The red-sandstone building of the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery is adjacent to the beautiful Kelvingrove Park and the main campus of the University of Glasgow.
Back in the vicinity of Queen's Street Station, while waiting for the next train to Edinburgh, we decided to explore Glasgow just a little bit more. George St is amazing, from both architectural and shopping point of view. Old houses reflected in modern glass buildings, a quirky edifice decorated with steel leaves, and even a blue police box. The police boxes that preceded the mobile era in the UK were blue excect in Glasgow, where they were red until the 1960s. Not in service anymore, they are just great photo opportunities for Doctor Who's fans.
However, in the nearby Royal Exchange Square, right in from of GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art), is the most bizarre sight you will find in Glasgow. A tradition started by students in the 1980s, the traffic cone placed on the head of the Duke of Wellington stands for the local's sense of humor. What's even funnier is that the police keeps taking down the cone, just to mysteriously be placed back.
In spite of the fact that the statue (cone included) became the symbol of the city, the City Council decided that due to minor damages to the statue, something must be done (hence, in 2013 they came up with a restoration plan that included doubling the height of the plinth). The proposal received opposition in the form of an online petition that received over 10,000 signatures and a Facebook campaign called 'Keep the Cone' that accumulated over 72,000 likes in the first 24 hours. Eventually, the plans were withdrawn and the cone is here to stay.
By now we were ready to call it a day and take the train back to Edinburgh. However, we have to mention Rogano's the oldest restaurant in Glasgow. Nestled on a small alley in between George St and the Royal Exchange Square, we had dinner here on our first day and loved it so much that we almost ended up having dinner here a second time.
Rogano's is a Glasgow institution. Gorgeously decorated in the Art Deco style of the 1930s, it serves delicious Scottish fish and seafood dishes. We had the freshest oysters here and most delicious roast salmon. But they are more than just fish and seafood and their 'Haggis, Neeps & Tatties' is a definite must try.
Haggis is the national dish of Scotland as a result of Robert Burns' 1787 poem 'Address to a Haggis'. At Rogano's they serve it the traditional way with 'neeps and tatties' (turnip and potatoes in Scottish) and a glass of Scotch whiskey. The traditional ingredients might be a bit weird, but the modern way of doing it, using a sausage casing rather than a actual sheep stomach, it's much more appealing. They say you either love it or hate it, however, we both loved it.
We left so many things unchecked in Glasgow... And during as well as after our trip we found out about so many other attractions we would love to see. We must admit we kind of underestimated Glasgow's size and we thought we would manage to also see the Burrell Collection or the Huntarian Museum. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our day in Glasgow tremendously and we are looking forward to visiting again.
We took the ScotRail back to Edinburgh and from the rush of the train, we witnessed the soft, warm light of the sunset bathing the beautiful Scottish scenery. This is one of the most romantic parts of train travel, this and the relaxed freedom we feel every time. We loved discovering UK with ACPRail and their BritRail Pass and we are sure any train enthusiast would too. If you want to learn more about the BritRail Passes, you can read our comprehensive guide packed with train travel tips.
For a comprehensive list of Glasgow's attractions, a good resource is Visit Scotland.com
What are your favorite places in Glasgow? Please let us know what we've missed in the comments.