05 Sep Kimchi Cult featured in the New York Times
This historic city, known for its Art Nouveau flourishes, also has a blossoming modern side, with daring new buildings, bars, restaurants and galleries.
It’s easy to appreciate the historic beauty of Glasgow, from the grand Art Nouveau constructions of the celebrated architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh to the intricately carved gravestones left behind by the Vikings in the ninth century. But the modern side of the largest city in Scotland is blossoming, with dozens of formerly disused buildings reopening as galleries, bars, shops and restaurants, creating a bustling atmosphere that combines well with the enthusiastic vibe of the city’s university life. The remote setting is also part of the appeal. Located four and a half hours north of London by train, or an hour’s travel west from Edinburgh, this city on the River Clyde makes it easy to really escape for a few days. Happily, it’s also easy to acquire a local’s sense of place. Start out in the historic City Center and Merchant City districts north of the river, then hop the subway to the burgeoning West End, Partick and Finnieston districts to the west, or continue along the subway’s 15-station loop to explore the diverse neighborhoods of the oft-overlooked Southside.
1) 4 P.M. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
Get a sense of the city’s modern aesthetic at the Lighthouse, designed by Mackintosh in 1895 as the former offices of the Glasgow Herald, and now home to Scotland’s Center for Design and Architecture. Multiple levels of galleries offer exhibitions and portfolio overviews from contemporary designers. Find inspiring views atop the Mackintosh Tower, with a corkscrew staircase that starts on the center’s third floor. Even the guides here lose track of the exact number of steps it takes to get to the top (134? 135?), but everyone agrees that the Instagram-ready, 360-degree views are worth the trouble.
2) 6 P.M. HAGGIS, OR NOT?
It’s not mandatory to eat haggis, the infamous national dish, while in Scotland, as cosmopolitan Glasgow offers an array of cuisines, including the Neapolitan-style pizzas at Paesano Pizza in the Merchant City. Housed in a former haberdashery, Paesano serves outstanding pies baked in wood-fired ovens from Naples, topping them with ingredients like chorizo and burrata (pizzas start at £5, about $6). Afterward, walk a few blocks north and west to Shilling, one of the city’s newest brewpubs, where you can try excellent house craft brews, as well as guest beers, like William Brothers’ crisp and hoppy Caesar Augustus, inside a spacious building that once housed the Commercial Bank of Scotland. If you’re still hungry, pick a second course from Shilling’s own wood-fired pizzas, which include the Great Scot, a delicious pie topped with spicy-sweet chili jam and, yes, spoonfuls of hearty haggis (£9).
3) 7:30 P.M. THEATER OF LIFE
The favorite form of entertainment in Glasgow is probably an evening in a pub, though theater is also popular. Hop the subway across the River Clyde for a play at the Citizens Theater, which shows cutting-edge contemporary dramas in an 1878 Victorian theater building. Afterward, check out theater of a different kind at the Laurieston Bar, a cheerful neighborhood pub that hasn’t changed much — certainly not in terms of décor — since the 1960s.
4) 10 A.M. CRYPTS AND GRAVESTONES
Find a counterpoint to ultramodern Glasgow at the city’s cathedral, a dark, Gothic structure that was originally dedicated in 1136, and whose lower crypt contains the tomb of the city’s patron saint, St. Mungo, who went to his reward in the early seventh century. The church retains several unusual features, including one of its original oak doors, said to have been scarred by bullets during one of the city’s numerous historical conflicts. Nearby, the ornate tombs and gravestones of the city’s 19th-century elite can make the hilltop Necropolis cemetery seem like a surprisingly uplifting place, at least on sunny mornings.
5) 11 A.M. YARN BOMBS
Pick up a local souvenir for your favorite knitter at the Queen of Purls, which stocks colorful yarns from the Scottish maker Jamieson’s of Shetland, as well as English, Icelandic and Finnish yarns, to say nothing of plain wool for those who spin their own. Not too far away, the Bargain Wool Shop stocks even more skeins in a small shop just across from the Barras Market, a love-it-or-hate-it weekend destination for fans of antiques, bric-a-brac and vintage clothing.
6) 1 P.M. UNEXPECTED EATS
Most people come to the Center for Contemporary Arts to check out the quirky artistic exhibitions, though the food at the in-house Saramago Café — rich beet and portobello bourguignon (£9.75); a salad of roasted butternut squash with cucumber, pomegranate and mint, covered with a lemony harissa dressing (£7.50) — is often just as unorthodox. (Only later, you might realize that everything on the inventive menu is vegan). Take in one of the oft-changing exhibits, peek in the print studio or simply enjoy the spacious 1868 building designed by Glasgow’s greatest neoclassical architect, Alexander “Greek” Thomson, before shopping for illustration and arts-focused titles at the ground floor’s Aye-Aye Books on your way out.
7) 2 P.M. SMALL PRODUCERS
Head to the Kelvinbridge subway station and walk west along Great Western Road to discover some of the city’s most interesting shops. Start off among the rare whiskies, wines and craft beers at Valhalla’s Goat before going through the racks of rather glamorous used clothing at the nearby Glasgow Vintage Company. Farther down the street you’ll find used collectibles and rare first editions, often on local subjects, at family-owned Caledonia Books, as well as unusual British- and Scandinavian-made design and lifestyle products at trendy Hoos.
8) 4 P.M. RIPPLING WAVES
It’s not just the classic architecture that makes Glasgow beautiful. Several large modern buildings also brighten the skyline, including the SEC Armadillo amphitheater and the UFO-like SSE Hydro Arena, both designed by Foster and Partners. Even more remarkable is the Riverside Museum, a Zaha Hadid construction from 2011 with a roof that resembles waves of water, a fitting motif considering the waterside location. Inside, the museum’s collection of more than 3,000 historic cars, trams and motorcycles almost feels like a bonus. (As with most Glasgow museums, entry is free.) A free shuttle bus service operates in summer months, though it’s a relatively easy walk from either the Partick or Kelvinhall subway stations the rest of the year, as the building’s rippling rooftop — and the soaring masts of the Glasgow-built tall ship Glenlee moored just behind it — create a perfect landmark to aid your journey.
9) 6:30 P.M. MYSTERIOUS FLAVORS
There are enough great restaurants in town to keep you from having to go anywhere twice. One worth several revisits is Kimchi Cult, a hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant on a small street in the West End. Korean classics like bibimbap rice bowls (£7) and fluffy Taiwanese bao steamed buns (£4) compete with new-style kimchi-bacon cheeseburgers (£8) and French fries topped with bulgogi barbecue beef (£7), all served with pickled vegetables. If you don’t have the chance to taste the incomprehensibly crispy fried chicken (£7), available either slathered with sweet and tangy soy-garlic glaze or dressed with tart and piquant gochujang hot sauce, you now have your reason to return. Dinner for two is about £30, including soft drinks.)
10) 9 P.M. CHURCH-GOING
Stroll past the shops, bars and restaurants of bustling Byres Road until you hit Great Western Road and your next destination: the former Kelvinside Parish Church, built in 1862, which is enjoying new life as Oran Mor, a combination pub, restaurant, dance club and concert venue. Start at the Whisky Bar, where the patient staff will ask your preferences and offer a fitting dram from one of the hundreds of available bottles, including many rarities. Later, you can stay up late in the Club Room in the former church crypt, where house and R&B D.J.s keep the dance floor moving until 3 a.m.
11) 11 A.M. DIVERSE INTERESTS
There’s plenty of interest in the diverse Southside neighborhood, especially near the Pollokshields East station of the Cathcart Circle suburban railway line. Get your morning fix at Buchta, a tiny, Czech-owned coffeehouse and bakery serving excellent coffee from locally roasted beans, and then stop by the remarkable Tramway, an avant-garde art space located in a former tram shed, originally founded as a venue for performances of Peter Brook’s “Mahabharata.” A few minutes away by foot, you can stock up on delicious South Asian mithai desserts at the Shandar Sweets & Pan House, where a small box of “mixed sweets” (£2.70) should fuel the rest of your morning.
12) 1 P.M. BETTER HOMES (AND GARDENS)
Grab a taxi or stretch your legs on a 45-minute walk west along Albert Drive, then farther west up Nithsdale Road, whose stately homes become more and more luxurious as you approach Bellahouston Park. There you’ll find the stunning House for an Art Lover, built in 1996, based on an unrealized Mackintosh design from 1901, with an excellent audio tour that provides insight into the villa’s rich details (entry, £5.50). Outside, you can finish your gulab jamun and jalybi sweets inside the beautiful Bellahouston Walled Garden, a formal arrangement of plants with comfortable benches and plenty of solitude. Life is sweet.