Getting Oriented

Glasgow's layout is hard to read at a single glance. The River Clyde, around which Glasgow grew up as a trading city, runs through the center of the city—literally cutting it in two. To the north, the oldest part of Glasgow, the Merchant City, stretches from High Street (the heart of the medieval city) as far as Queen Street, bounded by George Square and Argyle Street to the north and south. The Victorian city, which grew with the shipbuilding boom, stretches from there as far as what is now the M8 motorway and the River Clyde to the south. Beyond the M8 is the West End, originally the wealthy area around Glasgow University. Its main street is Byres Road. Past that are the new bars and restaurants of Finnieston, which has expanded and changed as shipbuilding has given way to riverside concerts and exhibition venues. The opposite bank of the river was the city's poorer quarter, where the workers lived, though beyond it are the park and museum around Pollok Park.

City Centre. If you're interested in how the city blossomed in the 19th century, this is where to start. From Buchanan Street west to Hope Street and beyond, look up to see wonderful Victorian buildings expressing the confidence of an industrial capital. George Square’s City Chambers are worth a visit before you trawl the shops, duck into one of the trendy eateries, or explore the bars and music venues.

Merchant City. In the Middle Ages, the city grew up around Glasgow Cathedral. As the city expanded along with the growing transatlantic trade, wealthy tobacco and cotton traders built palatial houses here. They were laid to rest in the glorious tombs of the Necropolis, which overlooks the city. Today the area is busy with high-end restaurants, clubs, and shops, many of them occupying converted mansions.

West End. In the quieter, slightly hillier western part of the city is Glasgow University and the more bohemian side of Glasgow. The West End's treasures include the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Kelvingrove Park, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Its social life focuses around the university, where there are well-priced restaurants and lively bars. Byres Road is at its heart, especially when it fills with weekend revelers.

Finnieston. Once lined with shipyards, the River Clyde has been reborn as a relaxing destination that entrances visitors and locals. The Glasgow Science Centre and the Museum of Transport face each other across the water, while the Scottish Exhibition Centre and the new SSE Hydro are major event venues. Argyle Street, once a slightly faded area near Kelvingrove Park, has been transformed into a fashionable strip of restaurants and bars now almost as crowded as the West End.

East End. What was once a neglected corner of Glasgow is being treated to a major face-lift. Glasgow Green’s wonderful People’s Palace draws visitors throughout the year, and on weekends the nearby Barras market is a reminder of the area’s past.

South Side. Often overlooked, this less-visited side of the city includes beautiful Pollok Park as well as Pollok House, with its art collection and its elegant gardens. A couple of architectural gems are here, too.

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