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Visiting Glasgow, Scotland and its amazing City Chambers building: impressive, focal point of the largest, Scottish city

Updated on February 17, 2016
Flag of Scotland
Flag of Scotland | Source
City Chambers, Glasgow
City Chambers, Glasgow | Source
The City Chambers' grandiose balcony and main doorway, designed by William Young and completed in 1888
The City Chambers' grandiose balcony and main doorway, designed by William Young and completed in 1888 | Source
Map location of Glasgow, Scotland
Map location of Glasgow, Scotland | Source

You are expected to believe that Glasgow is an important place...

This is an amazing building. My impression is of an enormous wedding cake with many layers, topped with sumptuous icing and crafted in the shape of a fairytale palace.

Anyway, at the centre of Scotland's biggest city — Glasgow —, the City Chambers building, on George Square, serves as the focal point of its local administration. Put another way, the term 'City Chambers' is another way of saying 'City Hall' or 'Town Hall'.

Glaswegians will hasten to add that Glasgow is a city. In the United Kingdom there is a sometimes complex series of tests and conventions, which need not detail us now, as to whether an urban area is properly a city or a town. But you would be forgiven if you thought that the way Glasgow is spoken of means that it is the capital of Scotland. Well, the city is certainly the hub of Scotland's commerce and the largest urban area, and with the airport having the most extensive links with North America. (Some years ago, the government was even considering locating the Scottish Parliament in Glasgow.) So, Glasgow is almost a capital. And certainly, City Chambers would large enough, grand enough and impressive enough for any capital city.

Be that as it may, the building was designed by the architect William Young, commenced in 1882 and completed in 1888. The style of this enormous structure is described as Renaissance Classicism with ornate Italianate designs. The interior of the building is also very grand, with the most striking room being the Banqueting Hall, where heads of state have been received and important ceremonies held. Distinguished by enormous chandeliers and various murals, these paintings depict many scenes from the city's history.

So who gets to preside at official ceremonies at such an amazing building? The answer: The Right Hon. The Lord Provost, Lord Lieutenant, and Commissioner of Northern Lighthouses. Who is he or she? Well, this title, Lord Provost for short, is roughly the equivalent of mayor of other cities, and the holder also functions as H.M. The Queen's official representative in the city. The title, or collection of titles, is thus almost as grand as the building over which he or she presides.

You know, all this sends a subliminal message. This message says, more or less, 'Glasgow is an important place'.

Be sure to go and look at this building when you visit Glasgow. It is the intention of the 19th century Glaswegians behind its conception that you should be impressed.

Also worth seeing

The other outstanding historical and cultural sites worth visiting in Glasgow are too many to mention here, but a few of these include St Mungo's Cathedral , dating from the 13th century, the University of Glasgow's Main Building (1), designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, and which may be viewed to particularly good effect from nearby Kelvingrove Park ; the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a popular visitor attraction housed in an impressive Spanish Baroque building, opened in 1901. Note (1): The University of Glasgow, dating from 1451, is only one of four universities in Glasgow, but it would certainly be regarded as the most photogenic one for the visitor.

Edinburgh (distance: 74 kilometres), Scotland's magnificent capital, with its Castle, Royal Mile, Scott Monument, John Knox's House, St. Giles Cathedral and many other sights, offers outstanding opportunties for visitors.

Stirling (distance: 43 kilometres) with its hilltop Castle where a number of Scottish monarchs, including Mary, Queen of Scots, were crowned, and its imposing Wallace Monument, offers impressive historical allusions to visitors particularly interested in Scotland's past.

Blantyre (distance: 23 kilometres), has the David Livingstone Centre, operated by the National Trust for Scotland, at the 1813 birthplace of the Scottish explorer and missionary, whose name it bears, and whose portrait has featured on some Scottish banknotes.

Dunfermline (distance: 62 kilometres), has the birthplace museum of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the first Carnegie Library, a striking City Chambers building, in Scottish Baronial, French and Gothic styles, with a prominent clock tower, a ruined, former royal palace of the Kings of Scotland, and an old abbey..


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Glasgow Airport, where car rental is available. However, travellers may prefer to use bus services or rail links into Glasgow City Centre. Please note that facilities mentioned may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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