Glasgow travel tips: Where to go and what to see in 48 hours
The Commonwealth Games host city is limbering up for the big event. Lucy Gillmore sees what's in store
Saturday 19 July 2014
Why go now?
The Commonwealth Games start on Wednesday (until 3 August), so Glasgow is gearing up to take its place in the sporting spotlight. The excitement is palpable, the bunting's up and the city is already teeming with people. For the latest updates and last-minute ticket availability see glasgow2014.com. If you haven't got tickets yet you can also watch the Games on giant screens throughout the city. And along with live sport, Festival 2014 will feature free entertainment with music, comedy and dance and food and drink stalls at four key venues around the city: Glasgow Green (1), Merchant City (2), Kelvingrove Bandstand (3) and BBC at the Quay (4) (glasgow2014.com).
Glasgow Central station (5) is served by Virgin Trains (0871 977 4222; virgintrains.co.uk) from London Euston, Preston and Carlisle, by East Coast (03457 225 111; eastcoast.co.uk), from London King's Cross via York and Newcastle and Edinburgh, from Manchester by First TransPennine Express (0345 600 1671; tpexpress.co.uk) and by ScotRail sleepers (0330 303 0111; scotrail.co.uk) from London Euston.
The Glasgow Shuttle bus (0141 423 6600; firstgroup.com) runs every 10 minutes between the airport and the city centre, stopping at Buchanan Street bus station (6) and Central (5); £6 single, £8.50 return.
Get your bearings
Glasgow's relatively compact centre, hemmed in by the M8 and the Clyde, is laid out in a grid pattern. In George Square (7), you'll find The Big G, a giant 3D installation based on the Games' logo. The tourist office is at 170-174 Buchanan Street (8), open daily 9am-5pm (0141 204 4400; visitscotland.com).
Many attractions are outside the centre; to the west you have the leafy West End, Kelvingrove Park (3) and the main museums, involving a heart-in-mouth negotiation of flyovers. Luckily, along with a good bus network there's a handy circular Subway (spt.co.uk; single £1.40, all-day pass £4).
There is still a smattering of availability – although you'll pay a premium as hotel prices have soared during the Games. For advice on booking and travelling to the Games, Visit Scotland's call centre can help (0845 148 6040; visitscotland.com).
The Malmaison (9) at 278 West George Street (0844 693 0653; malmaison.com) is housed in a 19th-century church. It has a buzzing bar and brasserie, along with 72 rooms and suites in soothing coffee and chocolate tones, with doubles from £350 on some nights during the Games, room only.
At 87 Union Street, above Central station (5), the budget designer penthouse, Grasshoppers (0141 222 2666; grasshoppersglasgow.com) has 30 oak-floored rooms decked out with bespoke beds and free Wi-Fi (5). It has very limited availability during the Games at £275 per double including breakfast.
On the other side of town, Blythswood Square (10) (0141 248 8888; bit.ly/BlySq) is a sumptuous five-star Georgian townhouse hotel, boasting red velvet alcoves, bathrooms in smoky grey marble and tweed headboards. There's a breathtaking breakfast buffet: check out the haunch of Parma ham. It has no availability for the Games but has a waiting list.
Willow Tea Rooms, Sauchiehall Street Day One
A walk in the park
Or a jog. For those veering less towards spectator sports, Parkrun is a growing phenomenon across Glasgow; the free, weekly, timed 5km runs on Saturday morning at 9.30am in Pollok Country Park (11) will take place as normal during the Games. It started with 44 runners in 2008; today – including Springburn, Tollcross and Victoria park runs – more than 750 runners take part each week. Register to run at parkrun.org.uk. Pollok Country Park is in Glasgow's Southside: catch a train from Central (5) to Pollokshaws West.
Lunch on the run
After working up an appetite, head to the award-winning Burrell Collection in the park (0141 287 2550; glasgowlife.org.uk; entry free, open daily 10am-5pm, from 11am Friday and Sunday) to enjoy fish and chips, home-made sandwiches or cakes in the airy café. Sir William Burrell gave the 8,000 exhibits – from paintings by Degas and Cezanne to tapestries – to the city.
Take a hike
Everyone watched in horror as the Glasgow School of Art (12) went up in flames this year. While restoration work is under way, get your Charles Rennie Mackintosh fix by visiting the Willow Tea Rooms (13) at 217 Sauchiehall Street (0141 332 0521; willowtearooms.co.uk), remodelled by Mackintosh inside and out and just bought by a charitable trust and gifted to the city. From here, cut down Hope Street to West George Street to George Square (7). Turn right along Queen Street to the Museum of Modern Art (14). From here turn down Ingram Street towards the revamped Merchant City area and Café Gandolfi (15) at 64 Albion Street (0141 552 6813; cafegandolfi.com). The wooden interiors were carved by late artist Tim Stead, whose work can be seen in the Museum of Modern Art.
Glasgow loves to shop and the city's square, not linear, Style Mile (glasgowstylemile.com) is a retail zone with more than 200 independent boutiques, flagship stores and malls around Buchanan Street (8) – it has the UK's biggest footfall after London's West End.
Alston Bar & Beef at 79 Gordon Street (5) beneath Central station (0141 221 7627; alstonglasgow.co.uk) is a new gin joint and steak restaurant with a fine line in bespoke cocktails. Try a Gin and Gingerbread (Caorrun gin, lime juice, orange bitters served over ice with homemade ginger beer, £7).
Dining with locals
An old-school favourite is Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery (16) 652-654 Argyle Street (0141 221 8188; twofatladiesrestaurant.com). This Glasgow institution is all wood-panelling, tartan carpets and knick-knacks, with starters such as mignons of Scotch beef fillet, Stornoway black pudding crush, au poivre sauce (£25.95).
Another prime spot for carnivores is the new Meat Bar (17) at 142 West Regent Street (0141 204 3605; themeatbar.co.uk). Sink your teeth into a crispy beef brisket then Kansas-style pork ribs from the smoker; £7 for a half-rack, £12 full rack.
Sunday morning: go to church
Sit silently in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (18) on Argyle Street (0141 276 9599; glasgowlife.org.uk; free; daily 10am-5pm, Friday and Sunday 11am-5pm) in a chapel-like space and contemplate Salvador Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross.
Afterwards, watch the short documentary about Dr Tom Honeyman, former director of Glasgow Art Gallery, whose controversial purchase of the painting in 1952 resulted in student protests and hear how it was vandalised in 1961.
Out to brunch
For a healthy energy boost, head to the Siempre Bicycle Café (19) at 162 Dumbarton Road (0141 334 2385; siemprebicyclecafe.com), Glasgow's first bicycle café. You can park your bike inside or out and even have it serviced while you tuck into ethically sourced, largely organic food. Scrambled egg and smoked salmon on a bagel costs £5.95.
Take a ride
The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome (20) at 1000 London Road (0141 287 4350; emiratesarena.co.uk) was named after the great Scottish track cyclist. During the Games this impressive arena is where the badminton and cycling will be held but after the Games are over you can sign up for a taster session on the vertiginous track (£10.40, excluding equipment hire). There are also one-hour family sessions (£10.20, with bike).
Icing on the cake
During the Games, 29 Glasgow (21) at 29 Royal Exchange Square (0141 225 5615; 29glasgow.co.uk), a private members' club, will be open to the public and turned into Jamaica House. There will be Jamaican-themed food and drinks menu in the restaurant, plus a Jamaican Sporting Museum displaying the kits and memorabilia from the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica. If all that inspires you to plan a holiday, there'll be a pop-up travel agency in collaboration with the Jamaican tourist board.
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