Glasgow Surprises

In recent years, I’ve really been enjoying what I consider the “second cities” of Europe. The Chicagos of Europe don’t get a free ride, and they lack the blockbuster attractions and charming sights that bring everyone to the big-league cultural capitals. These “second cities” often have a rough, Industrial Age heritage that dug them deep into a rust-belt hole with the coming of the Information Age, but enabled them to be honest,  unvarnished, and nonconformist. My list of European “second cities” includes Porto in Portugal, Naples in Italy, Marseilles in France, Hamburg in Germany, Antwerp in Belgium, and Glasgow in Scotland. I find all of these much-improved lately — underrated and great to visit. (Yes, Glasgow’s population is bigger than Edinburgh’s. But given that Edinburgh is the capital and dwarfs its rival from a tourism perspective, this travel writer considers Glasgow an honorary “second city.”)

In part because of my love of Edinburgh and in part because I don’t get to Scotland much, I’ve never seriously considered Glasgow. I thought I’d like it because I liked the Andy Capp cartoon, which I thought was set here. But when I got to Glasgow, I found out that Andy actually “lived” in Newcastle (south of the border, in gritty North England).

But with or without Andy Capp, Glasgow has a wonderful energy. And, being less an hour from Edinburgh by train (with four trains per hour), it’s an easy day trip. I’d say your best “day three” in Edinburgh is to side-trip here for “day one” in Glasgow.

Midway through a very full morning with my guide, Colin, I stopped for a coffee. The busker across the street had charisma, and the people-watching was endearing. Just as I was thinking, “This is so great…where are the Americans?”, two women burst into my video to tell me they’re taking one of our tours.

Enjoy two minutes with an extra-hot latte on what I think of as “the Ramblas of Glasgow”: Buchanan Street.

If you can’t see the video below, watch it on YouTube.


6 Replies to “Glasgow Surprises”

  1. We had a great time in Glasgow. Nice walking about; the Arts and Crafts museum a la William Morris was interesting to those who like that decor/architecture. Plus you get a good view from the roof top.

  2. Glasgow is a great city. I can’t wait to the see the old transportation museum its beautiful new digs on the Clyde. For one visit I stayed out in the West End and really liked the dining and music there.

  3. I agree about world class cities. We just booked a trip to Philadelphia in the Fall and of all the World Class cities we have been to US or Europe, this trip is a bargain. I am shocked at the prices that we are booking all through the state of Pennsylvania. And the history is so rich in this state.

  4. Not quite a second-city, maybe a third, is Trieste Italy. Some Roman ruins, lovely piazzas, decent restaurants, lots of bars/cafes, and a great harbor view. Have you been there Steve? If so, what are your thoughts?

  5. Chicago is termed “second city” NOT because it is second to NYC, but because it rebuilt itself after the great fire and is in its second life. The misuse of this nickname makes me sad. I appreciate what you’re trying to say in the article though.

    -slightly-peeved native of the BEST city

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