Wednesday 21 March 2018

Disover the trendy side of an (old) firm favourite

There's way more to Glasgow than football. Mark Evans reckons he's found the perfect weekend break destination

royal exchange square
royal exchange square

At first glance, it seems an odd name for a city's tourist board. But once you've visited Scotland's biggest city, you realise why the tourism authority is called People Make Glasgow.

Every city's got its own unique selling point - be it history, culture or architecture. Glasgow's got all three in abundance, but its greatest natural resource is its citizens.

Memories are made abroad by local people - and Glasgow's are a cut above the rest.

If you like your own company, and love solitary walks, look elsewhere. If you want to walk into a pub or restaurant and endlessly chat, there is no better place.

I visited alone, but wasn't alone for long. People here love to know about you, and share their city with you. Sitting by yourself seems to be illegal in these parts - you'll arrive as a stranger, and leave as a friend.

Best known here as a football breaks destination, most Irish fans see the match and miss out on the city's historic Georgian core.

That's a shame, and the equivalent of going to Lansdowne Road for a game, and studiously avoiding leafy Ballsbridge on the way out.

My base was in the heart of the city - at the boutique Z Hotel, just off George Square. The rooms are on the small side, but so is the price, with an overnight stay from £40 (€54) a night. For that you get a stylish room (think Radisson Blu standard), an unbeatable location and a feeling of designer posh without the designer outlay.

The city centre is small enough for strolling, but get an overview of the exciting suburbs and River Clyde docklands on the tourist bus, with the terminus around the corner from the hotel on George Square.

One of the first stops en route is one of the most interesting: in a town once known for its hard drinking, the Tennent's Brewery - Glasgow's version of the Guinness Brewery - is a must-visit. Along with a witty exploration of the brewing process, there's the chance to sample a few brews afterwards. Check out

If that's whetted your appetite for a few more drinks, next door is Tennent's little brother, Drygate Brewery ( If hipsters go to heaven (something I very much doubt), it would look something like Drygate.

One of its main men, Colin Johnston, showed me around the centre, which is much more than a craft brewery alone. Restaurant, culture centre, off-sales site with dozens of craft beers, it's the perfect spot for a lazy weekend afternoon.

Even better, it's a friendly introduction to the dizzying (sometimes literally) range of craft beers on the market, and as well as hipsters, it was packed with families young and old, sampling the good value menu and chilling in an atmosphere that was buzzing but laidback too. I was there for the coffee festival, and in a city with a huge Italian (as well as Irish) heritage, the locals take their coffee very seriously. To the outsider, Drygate might seem like a better fit for well-heeled Edinburgh. Not so, says Colin who believes that Glasgow - a city that's always eager to embrace change - is where the cutting-edge crowd goes first.

But there's history in abundance too. The Georgian squares and grand old commerical buildings of the city centre have a feel of Dublin meets Toronto. In the likes of the Merchant City quarter, the imposing old warehouses and offices of the tobacco barons of days gone by have been transformed into shops, cultural and dining spots.

Who would have guessed it - Glasgow is the UK's second biggest shopping city after London, and the range of stores is impressive.

I'm more of a Buchanan Street type (a very long Grafton-cum-Henry Street), with its endless store fronts of major international brands. The area is part of the Style Mile (check out, while vintage and eclectic clothing and individual designers are also a key part of the scene.

And I dare even the most ardent bargain-hunter to visit even a tiny portion of its more than 1,500 shops.

Nightlife is hopping here too. I had dinner at The Gannet (, recently awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand. It's also conveniently located in one of the trendiest areas of the city, on Argyle Street (Dublin's Wexford Street-style buzziness).

The locally-sourced food (think Highland seafood, Borders lamb) is all seasonal and succulent, and easy on the pocket. Like much of Glasgow, there's a feeling of being in America - high quality without the fussiness, and it's brilliantly placed for a bar-hopping session afterwards. Back in town, the gals are drawn to The Corinthian Club ( Built in 1842 as a bank, the sumptuous listed building is part restaurant, part bar, part trendy club.

It's as if The Shelbourne Hotel plonked Renards on its top floor, and it's easy to see why Glasgow has such a thriving clothes scene, as the latest girly styles are very much in evidence in a blizzard of high heels and high fashion.

And if you want a gentler pace (or somewhere to blow away those Saturday night cobwebs), the university quarter is simply stunning. A rival to Oxbridge in the looks stakes, it's more than a match for what (whisper it quietly) big rival Edinburgh can offer. I haven't even touched on the outstanding Riverside Museum or Gallery of Modern Art. But that's for another time - I can't wait to weekend on the banks of the Clyde again.


Getting there couldn't be easier: you'll be rushing to finish your coffee onboard your half-hour flight with Ryanair. The Z Hotel - definitely recommended - can be booked on For more info on what Glasgow has to offer, see


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