Once famed for football, its heady music scene and hip but hedonistic nightlife, these days Glasgow has a great deal more depth to it. Yet even with the likes of the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and Zaha Hadid's Riverside Museum adding a previously unseen layer of culture to the city, it has still somehow retained the charm and vigour that saw it win European City of Culture in 1990.

And with the impending Comedy Festival (14-31 March, which this year features Al Murray, Jimmy Carr and Paul Merton), not to mention the much anticipated 2014 Commonwealth Games, which is helping to transform the city's East End, there's never been a better time to start planning a trip to Scotland's largest and most happening city. Gone are the days of the disparaging comments: Glasgow is cultural and cool and looks set to stay that way.

Culture capital

Art fans can while away the hours in some of the city's myriad museums, from the grand Kelvingrove - which houses 22 state of the art galleries displaying an astonishing 8,000 objects - to St Mungo's Museum of Religious Life and Art and the Gallery of Modern Art. Serious art buffs should take the time to head slightly outside the city to pay their respects at House for an Art Lover, a unique building in Bellahouston Park based on a design produced in 1901 by designer and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh with his wife, Margaret Macdonald. It's a true testament to their talents, and a fascinating place to explore.

 

Fill your boots

Has all this culture left you ravenous? If so you're in safe hands: this is a city fit to burst with exceptional eateries whatever your chosen cuisine. The Indian food in Glasgow is sublime and is often described as the best in the UK. Don't miss Mother India, or Mother India's Café if you prefer your portions smaller. But if it's traditional fare that you're after, try the Black Sheep Bistro, The Sisters Restaurant or the wonderfully named Fanny Trollopes Bistro. And whatever you do, don't leave without trying some haggis - maybe even a spicy haggis pakora if you're feeling brave enough. You won't regret it.

 

A wee dram

Now that your tummy has been tamed, spend some time uncovering some of the traditional pubs that Glasgow has to offer. The Horse Shoe Bar, just off shopping haunt Buchanan Street, is about as authentic as they come and its grand Victorian bar is apparently the longest in Europe. Nearby Sloans is one of the oldest pubs in the city - check out one of the famous Friday Ceilidhs in the Grand Ballroom if you get the chance, or simply grab a pint and relax in the Snug Bar. Elsewhere, Dram! on Woodlands Road is one of the city's best bars if you're after 'fire water', where friendly staff serve up your choice of 75 malt whiskies (or anything else that takes your fancy) in a cosy environment.

 

And so to bed…

Time to rest your weary, whisky-filled head? Live the high life and book a room at Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens in the city's easily accessible West End, where George Clooney, Gwyneth Paltrow and Justin Timberlake have all stayed (and Gordon Ramsay was the head chef until 2004). If you're looking for a slightly more central location, perhaps check out the newly opened and highly lauded Blythswood Square, a luxury five-star spa hotel, smack bang in the heart of the city. But if your budget is a tad tighter, try the quirky citizenM Glasgow, which won't leave your bank manager aghast.

 

Historic wonders

Once you're feeling fully refreshed, it's time to start exploring again. Start with the Glasgow Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery dating back to 1830, before taking a student-led tour of the stunning Glasgow University and its Gothic Revival architecture, designed by George Gilbert Scott in 1870. Then visit Tenement House, a National Trust for Scotland property dating back to 1911 that
has retained its original fittings and contents. See some of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh at the Glasgow School of Art and learn why he is considered the UK's main representative of Art Nouveau, before paying a visit to Riverside Museum, the relatively new home of the Museum of Travel and Transport, designed by Zaha Hadid - the Iraqi-British architect responsible for that eye-catching aquatics centre at the 2012 London Olympics. The museum boasts a whopping 3,000 transport-related objects including steam trains, Glasgow trams, vintage cars and motorcycles.

By this time next year, Glasgow will be abuzz with preparations for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which are sure to bring further fame and fortune to the city. But if you're after culture, class and cuisine to die for, then head north now: Glasgow's already scooped the gold where they are concerned.

 

Visit now

seeglasgow.com

glasgow2014.com

glasgowlife.org.uk

glasgowcomedyfestival.com

hotelduvin.com/locations/glasgow

citizenm.com/Glasgow

 

For sports fans…

Scotland's sporting status has been bolstered in recent years thanks to the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Katherine Grainger. Explorer checks out Glasgow's venues ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games...

The Emirates Arena is a £113 million multi-sport venue that contains a 200m state of the art indoor running track and will host the badminton matches taking place at the Games.

Adjacent to the arena is the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, named of course to celebrate the success of the legendary Olympian. With a 250m track and a permanent viewing capacity of 2,500 (plus 2,000 temporary seats for 2014), this venue will attract some of the world's top cycling events to Glasgow.

Described as one of the UK's best football stadiums, Celtic Park will host the Glasgow 2014 Opening Ceremony. Meanwhile, Hampden Park will host the track and field events and the Closing Ceremony.

 

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