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20 Things You Need to Know about Glasgow

Updated on April 13, 2014

Glasgow, a city in southwest-central Scotland, is situated on both banks of the River Clyde about 20 miles (30 km) east of the Clyde's mouth on the Firth of Clyde. Glasgow is Scotland's largest city and principal seaport with a population of 598,830 (2011).

Here are 20 things you need to know about Glasgow:

1. The name Glasgow is probably derived from the Celtic, gleschu, meaning "dear green spot." Glasgow clearly became a part of history in the mid-6th century with the foundation of St. Mungo's church. It remained primarily an ecclesiastical town until the 17th century, not becoming a royal burgh until 1636.

2. After London, Birmingham, and Leeds, it is the fourth largest city in Britain. While it has long been the principal British shipbuilding center, it is now thriving with diversified industries. Glasgow is the center of an urbanized area that stretches from Greenock on the Firth of Clyde to Airdrie, east of Glasgow. The city is a royal burgh and has the status of a district in the Strathclyde region.


3. The center of Glasgow is north of the Clyde. On high ground in the eastern section is ancient Glasgow Cathedral. In the northwest, at Gilmorehill in Kelvingrove Park, is Glasgow University, the second oldest in Scotland. Between these two institutions lies the commercial and administrative center of the city.

4. Possessing few ancient buildings, Glasgow has long been known as an outstanding example of a Victorian city. It has revealed an intermixture of civic planning and social neglect. At the beginning of the 1970s, its transformation into one of Europe's most modern cities began, and by the 1990s it had shaken off its image as a run-down, soot-filled city and become a lively, if in places gritty, metropolis with a rich center of art and culture.

5. Glasgow's oldest building is the cathedral, the best preserved on the Scottish mainland, which was once the heart of the city. It was built in the years between about 1197 and 1457 and is rather small by European standards. It possesses an imposing but severe dignity that is enhanced by its sloping site. The terrain permits the lower church, or crypt, to be aboveground—an unusual feature. The crypt houses the shrine of St. Mungo, or St. Kentigern, a 6th-century saint, and is subtly designed with ambitious fan vaulting.


6. Provand's Lordship, now a museum, is the oldest house in Glasgow. It was built in 1470 as part of the hospital of St. Nicholas. The Tron Steeple; the Cross, or Tolbooth Steeple; and the Briggate, or Merchants' Steeple, are stylish relics dating from the 17th century. The facade of the Trades House (1794) is all that is left in the city of the main work of the architect Robert Adam. Glasgow's most interesting architectural features belong to the years 1850–1914, when Alexander "Greek" Thomson and Charles Rennie Mackintosh completed their principal work. Caledonia Road Church (1856), St. Vincent Street Church (1859), and the monumental Great Western Terrace (1869) are some of the best examples of Thomson's use of classical styles. The Glasgow School of Art (1897–1909), a fusion of Scottish tradition with modern functionalism, is the most acclaimed work of the Glaswegian Mackintosh, an exponent of Scottish art nouveau whose work continues to influence architects and designers in the late 20th century.

7. Buchanan Street, one of the principal shopping centers, is a handsome product of the early 19th century. More typical of the bustling city are Sauchiehall (with Mackintosh's 1902–1904 Willow Tea Rooms) and Argyle streets, the main axes of its extension westward. George Square is dominated by the 80-foot (25-meter) column (1837) to Sir Walter Scott and is lined by several buildings of Italian Renaissance design -the Bank of Scotland (1869), the Merchants' House (1877), and the City Chambers (1889).

Buchanan Street
Buchanan Street | Source

8. Glasgow is a city rich in educational and cultural institutions. In the late 20th century it has become a mecca for enthusiasts of architecture, design, and both the visual and performing arts, in part because of the resurgence of interest in the work of native son Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Also contributing to Glasgow's higher profile was its being named the 1990 European City of Culture, an imprimatur of the European Community.

9. The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451. Among the famous names associated with it in the 18th century were the economist Adam Smith, the chemist Joseph Black, and the inventor James Watt. Its medical school was internationally famous in Victorian times, with outstanding faculty members such as Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery. Its main buildings date from 1870.

10. The University of Strathclyde originated as Anderson's Institution in 1796, the year its founder, Professor John Anderson, died. The Institution inspired many advances in technical education at home and abroad. It became the Royal College of Science and Technology in 1956 and a university in 1964.

11. Other educational institutions in Glasgow include the Central College of Commerce, the Glasgow College of Building and Printing, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the Glasgow School of Art, and Trinity College -the theological college of the Church of Scotland. Glasgow High School was founded in about 1450 and Hutcheson Boys Grammar School in about 1643.

12. The Mitchell Library has important collections of Scottish music and poetry as well as a patent depository. Also in the city are the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Library, which publishes the Scottish Medical Journal, and over 40 district libraries, many of which possess special collections concerning local history.

13. Glasgow is home to many important museums, the largest of which is the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum (built 1891–1901) in Kelvingrove Park, with a fine collection of Dutch and Italian old masters, 19th-century French works, and notable examples of English and Scottish painters. The museum also owns the James Abbott McNeill Whistler collection (given by the artist's nephew), which contains the contents of Whistler's studio. The ethnography collections include artifacts from Africa and Oceania, as well as from the North American continent. There are extensive exhibits of natural history, antiquities, arms and armor, engineering, and shipbuilding, and the decorative-arts section contains works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and others associated with the late-19th to early-20th-century Glasgow Style, many of the exponents of which had attended the Glasgow School of Art.

Pollok House
Pollok House | Source

14. Pollok House, given to the city in 1966, contains the finest collection of Spanish paintings in Britain, including works by El Greco, Murillo, and Goya. The nearby Burrell Collection has become Scotland's single most popular tourist attraction since opening its new building (designed by Barry Gasson) in 1983. Bequeathed to the city in 1944 by the wealthy shipowner Sir William Burrell, the vast collection includes ancient and Asian art, silver, stained glass, ceramics, textiles, and European paintings, with a particularly fine group of works by 19th-century French artists.

15. Glasgow University's Hunterian Museum, the city's oldest museum (opened 1807), has notable collections of dinosaur fossils, coins, and relics of the Roman occupation. The Hunterian Art Gallery is known for, among other works, its fine holdings in European paintings and prints, some 60 paintings by Whistler, and the Charles Rennie Mackintosh collection, which includes a re-creation of the Southpark Avenue home, where he and his wife, designer Margaret Macdonald, resided in the early 20th century.

16. Other Glasgow museums include Tollcross Park, a children's museum; the Museum of Transport; the People's Palace, which traces the history of Glasgow; and the 40-acre (15-ha) Botanic Garden. The Gallery of Modern Art, located in the old Royal Exchange building, opened in 1996.

17. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, formed in 1891, is based in Glasgow. Royal was added to its name in 1990, the year its new home, the Royal International Hall, opened. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra also regularly performs in the city. In 1975 the Theatre Royal, a beautiful 1895 structure, was converted into the permanent home of the Scottish Opera, known for its ambitious repertoire. The Scottish Ballet, formerly the Western Theatre Ballet and Scottish Theatre Ballet, has been based in Glasgow since 1972. The official school associated with the company is the Dance School of Scotland.

18. Glasgow's recreational facilities include more than 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) of parks and ornamental open spaces. Glasgow Green is in the east, and in the northwest are Kelvingrove and the Royal Botanic Gardens with their exotic Kibble Palace. The Hampden Park football stadium, the largest in Britain, can accommodate up to 150,000 spectators.

19. The city's leading industries include the manufacture of commercial vehicles, tractors, tires, high-quality textiles, thread, precision instruments, machine tools, and electrical equipment. There are also tobacco and printing industries. Glasgow is the commercial capital of Scotland, with the largest provincial stock exchange in Britain. The Scottish Industrial Design Centre is located in Glasgow.

20. The dredging of the River Clyde, begun in the late 18th century, slowly turned Glasgow into a deepwater port. The city's docks were later amalgamated under one authority to form Clydeport. In addition to its port facilities, the city possesses two railway stations and two airports, Prestwick and Abbotsinch. Steamer service to Ireland is also available, and the city is the hub of west-central Scotland's highway system.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Awesome! I studied in Scotland for a year I spent a lot of time walking up and down buchanan street lol. Ive been all over the world and Glasgow is still my favorite city. Great hub!

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      3 years ago from India

      Quite informative...thanks for sharing!


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