Glasgow is the perfect venue for a long weekend of culture.
Scotland’s largest city may not be synonymous with high art and culture in most people’s minds but the reality would surprise you.
Glasgow has amassed an enormous collection of fine art, costumes, vehicles and sculpture over it history and can boast paintings by Dali, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Matisse, Manet, Monet and many others. The city has an excellent selection of works by Scottish colourists otherwise known as ‘The Glasgow Boys‘.
The city has eight main museums open to the public and all are free of charge. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art and the Riverside Museum (Transport Museum) offer a broad spectrum of cultural experiences for visitors.
The city also benefits from the benevolence of patrons like Sir William Burrell, who gifted his entire collection of objet d’art, architecture, Egyptian artifacts, medieval tapestries and other assorted antiquarian ephemera to the city after his death. Sir William also provided £250,000 to construct a museum suited to show his collection. The museum was finally completed in 1983 and is situated in Pollok Estate to the south of the city centre. The museum is an architectural coup as it physically embodies castle gates and stained glass that are part of the collection itself.
A visit to the Burrell Collection can be combined with a peaceful walk through the Pollok Estate’s splendid gardens and woodlands. The National Trust curate the Stirling-Maxwell family home, Pollok House and a visit will give you a feel for the bygone days of ‘upstairs-downstairs’ or Downton Abbey.
Glasgow is also home to the fourth oldest university in the English speaking world. The University of Glasgow has its own share of collections and museums for the cultural visitor. The University’s Hunterian Museum was founded in 1783. The museum incorporates The Hunterian Museum, The Hunterian Art Gallery, The Mackintosh House, The Zoology Musuem and The Anatomy Museum. These attractions are to be found within walking distance of each other on the main campus in the west end of the city. Aside from William Hunter’s collection the Glasgow University has an extensive collection of works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and James McNeill Whistler.
The Mackintosh House is a reconstruction of two terraced houses which were finished in the MacKintosh style. Indeed one of the properties (No 78) was once home to the great man himself.
The city also boasts a very lively contemporary arts scene and this can be sampled at The Tramway (arts centre) which is primarily a contemporary visual and performing arts venue.
Formerly the original site of Glasgow’s extensive Transport Museum, the venue has subsequently hosted many artists both local and international since 1988. Turner Prize winner Douglas Gordon and fellow YBA Christine Borland have been exhibited in the past. Since 2003 the site has also been home to Scottish Ballet. The Tramway also benefits form its “Peace Garden”. The Tramway has been selected to host the Turner Prize in 2015.
More recently, the Wasps Artists’ Studios complex in Glasgow’s ‘culture quarter’ has been named as the Scottish nation’s “Building of the Year”. The studio is home to around 100 artists who now occupy the once dilapidated tenement in the Merchant City and have helped bring it back to life. The Merchant City is a vibrant area of galleries, bars, restaurants and shops. It is also home to both the Tron Theatre and the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. A visit to the The Panoptican is like travelling back in time to the Vaudeville days of old. It played host to vaudevillians, Harry Lauder and Harry Champion and is the venue where a certain Stan Laurel made his comedy debut in 1906.
Also of note in the area is the public art trail which wends its way from Ingram Street down to Clyde Street. You could begin at the Gallery of Modern Art and finish at the statue of La Pasionaria commemorating the British Volunteers and 65 Glaswegians lost in the Spanish Civil War.
More traditional entertainment can be sought at The Kings and The Pavilion theatres; musicals, comedy shows and touring revues can be seen here. Both theatres also stage traditional pantomines from November into January.
For those of a more musical bent Glasgow has a great history of popular music going back to the 1960′s. Donovan ( Mellow Yellow) and Lulu (Shout) both hail from the city. More recently Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Deacon Blue , Wet Wet Wet, Primal Scream, Belle and Sebastian , The Fratellis, Franz Ferdinand and Glasvegas have all hailed from Glasgow. The city caters for most musical tastes from opera to country.
In 2008 Glasgow was named UNESCO City of Music in recognition of the city’s musical riches. This acknowledges the wealth and number of musical performances in the city and the range of genres represented. Glasgow is also home to some of the most famous music venues in the UK (King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut).
The city is host to the Celtic Connections musical festival in January and February. The festival celebrates Scotland’s influence on music around the world and hosts an eclectic array of artists and orchestras. Acts as diverse as Africa’s Amidou and Mariam, the National Jazz Trio of Scotland and violinist Nicola Benedetti will be featuring on the bill for 2014.
More information: Glasgow Attractions