Free Glasgow: A One-Day Stand
No cash? Don't worry. Follow David Pollock's advice for an all-day race through Glasgow on the cheap.
Although not generally looked upon as matching Edinburgh in terms of scenery or the finer arts, Glasgow is a youthful and vibrant city whose local music, clubs and pubbing scene is as vibrant as any outside London – if not more so, when you take into account the locals’ famed predilection for a party. It helps if you have a bit of cash in your pocket to start with, but you won’t need much to soak up the best the city has to offer at all hours of the day.
Early morning walk
Even if you’re right in the centre of the city, you’ll never be too far from a bit of open space. At the junction of Great Western and Byres Roads, you’ll find Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens, which is great for a laze in the sun when it’s sunny or a stroll through the plants and glasshouses in the winter. Kelvingrove Park, meanwhile, is a West End institution for all walks of life; a 156-year-old Victorian park which was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, who also created London’s Crystal Palace. The less-appointed, although still fondly looked-upon, Glasgow Green offers similar repose in the East End and along the banks of the River Clyde. Certain parts of this famous river – which runs right through the heart of the city – are also worth a stroll, although much of its shores are still in the process of regeneration.
Morning visitors to Kelvingrove Park could do worse than hang about and see Kelvingrove itself when it opens. Touted as ‘Glasgow’s favourite building,’ the 107-year-old, Spanish Baroque-styled establishment houses an impressive collection of period art and regular temporary displays of modern art. The Gallery of Modern Art, meanwhile, is the second most visited contemporary art gallery outside London, housing Glasgow’s collection of modern art and boasting a library and free internet terminals downstairs. The People’s Palace and Winter Gardens on Glasgow Green and St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art are also popular sites, while the Lighthouse – Glasgow’s centre for Architecture, Design and the City – boasts the Mackintosh Tower, a small viewing platform which affords an uninterrupted view of Glasgow’s city centre skyline.
Hitting the shops
You might not have money to buy, but window-shopping shouldn’t be sniffed at as a way of passing the time. Glasgow is blessed with an array of shopping centres, arcades and precincts, and different areas specialise in different things. For example, high-end designer clothes stores are most predominantly found on Buchanan Street and the streets just off it, particularly the covered Princes Square. More affordable high street shopping is to be found at the St Enoch Centre, at the foot of Buchanan Street, or Sauchiehall and Argyle Street, which run perpendicular to Buchanan Street from the top and bottom, respectively. For those with a more generous budget or leftfield sensibility, the West End – in particular Byres and Great Western Roads – are home to many boutiques, independent retailers and highly rated cafes and delis, while King’s Court in the Merchant City holds the excellent Monorail record shop and Mr Ben’s, a vintage clothing retailer.
Into the night
Many of the clubs and bars along Bath Street and Sauchiehall Street offer cheap drink and late opening hours on most days of the week, although the general meat-market atmosphere can be off-putting to some. As a rule of thumb, if you’ve read a newspaper report of a member of the Celtic or Rangers football team getting drunk or meeting a young lady in an establishment, it will be on this strip. Perhaps more cultured sorts might want to avoid it. Instead, there are a number of indie-focused music bars springing up around the city which offer a typical pub atmosphere on the top floor and a range of gigs and clubs – many of them free – in their basement room, often until 3am. In this case, the key players are Nice‘n’Sleazy, the Admiral and the Captain’s Rest. Younger readers might also want to be aware of the more credible student nights in the city, where budget is a byword. Look out for the Arches’ Octopussy on Wednesday nights, or any night of the week at the Garage.