In Glasgow’s chapter of our famous things across the globe series, we have invited our fellow blogger Graham Grieve of “My Voyage Scotland” What is Glasgow famous for? This is his interesting response!
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, often overlooked by tourists in favor of the country’s capital, Edinburgh. It is arguably the more authentic and welcoming city of the two. It is a city brimming with history, charm, and its very own kind of vibrant, unique culture.
From its humble beginnings as a small rural settlement on the River Clyde, it rapidly expanded into an industrial hub of international trade and shipbuilding before maturing into the creative and diverse city it is today. Glasgow has a lot to be proud of.
Let’s take a closer look at what Glasgow is most famous for!
17 Things Glasgow is famous for
Glasgow’s architectural scene is diverse, to say the least, offering a varied backdrop that draws tourists to the city. You will find an eclectic mix of modern and historic architecture side by side, offering character and dramatic photo opportunities.
While tenement buildings are famous throughout the UK, they are particularly popular in Scotland. Built in the 18th and 19th centuries to provide accommodation in the rapidly growing city during the industrial era, these flats are still the go-to style of choice with many buyers where these striking red sandstone victorian make up the majority of buildings in some of Glasgow’s most vibrant locations such as the West End and Shawlands.
The south side’s Pollokshields is still made up of dramatic mansions, and a variety of grand Victorian buildings are sprawled across the city center, including the Central Station, Glasgow University, Glasgow City Chambres, Victoria Infirmary, and Kelvingrove Museum.
The most infamous of Glasgow’s historic buildings are those designed by the world-famous architect, artist, and interior designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. After qualifying from the Glasgow School of Art, he quickly became a man who forever changed the art world.
As one of the world’s most celebrated 20th-century architects, his legacy lives on throughout the city, where he is still known as Glasgow’s ‘father of style’. His art nouveau and art deco style can be clearly identified in the exteriors and interiors of some of Glasgow’s most loved buildings, including The Glasgow School of Art, Scotland Street Museum, The Lighthouse, House of an Art Lover and The Willow Tea Rooms.
Traces of Mackintosh can also be found in the famous Glasgow Necropolis, a large Victorian garden cemetery in the city’s hillside. Mackintosh is known to have designed a Celtic Cross for the grave of Andrew McCall, a high-ranking member of the Glasgow Police Force and a family friend.
In stark contrast to its historic buildings, the International Financial Services District in Glasgow, developed in the 2000s, is an area of imposing buildings made from eye-catching glass and metal.
Slightly outside the confines of the city walls, several of Glasgow’s biggest tourist attractions can be found on the edge of the River Clyde. The Riverside Museum, Glasgow Science Centre, SEC Armadillo, and SSE Hydro are all standalone attention-grabbing futuristic buildings within close walking proximity of each other.
Whatever your preferred architectural style, Glasgow will not disappoint you.
#2 The World’s Friendliest City
‘One of the attributes Glasgow is best known all over the world is the friendliness of her people.’ Nicole Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland.
Regularly voted the friendliest city to visit, Glaswegians have a solid reputation for making everyone who visits feel welcome. In fact, the city’s slogan is ‘People Make Glasgow,’ and it’s true, they do. Generally speaking, Glasgow’s people are confident, open, and friendly, with a unique, dry sense of humor and a thirst for life. The ‘Glasgow patter‘ is sure to make any visit a memorable experience full of character and fun.
Like all of Scotland, Glasgow is known for its national drink, Whisky. ‘Whisky’ translates the Gaelic word ‘uisge,’ meaning ‘water of life.’ Many believe a riot in Glasgow during the early 18th century brought Whisky’s popularity to the world.
In June of 1725, residents of Scotland took to the streets to oppose a malt tax introduced by the government. They were upset by the tax as malt was the main ingredient in their beer. The unrest followed a period of unease as the Scottish people opposed the union of Scotland and England in 1707, and friction has been growing ever since.
During the riots, Glaswegians attacked the property of Daniel Campbell, he was targeted as a local MP who had voted in favor of the tax and was also a very wealthy man. Following the riots, he was paid a large sum of compensation for the damage to his property, which he used to buy (with help from a loan) the Scottish Islands of Islay and Jura.
On the islands, he began to grow barley, which meant farmers now had a grain surplus, which they used to produce Whisky. From this moment, Whisky production across Scotland grew rapidly in popularity and started its journey to fame.
Glasgow itself used to be a hub for Whisky production, however, all but one of the distilleries closed down by the beginning of the 21st century. In recent years, two have reopened with a modern twist. Glasgow also offers a variety of traditional pubs and bars from which you can sample a selection of the nation’s favorites with a range of Whisky tours available to choose from.
There are over 100 distilleries in Scotland and five main whiskey regions where production is centered; Lowland, Highland, Islay, Campbeltown, and Speyside. All of these are easily accessible from Glasgow.
The term ‘Clydebuilt’ is a term used worldwide to describe the ships built in Glasgow with precision marine engineering. Over 30,000 ships have been made on the Glasgow River Clyde since 1812. As the city prospered during the industrial revolution, it became famed for its shipbuilding abilities. While shipbuilding in Glasgow declined rapidly following world war two, the tradition lives on, and some ships are still built along the River Clyde today, primarily for the Royal Navy.
#5 Historic Second City of The British Empire
From the 1830s to approximately 1914, Glasgow was famed as the Second City of the British Empire. During the 19th century, Glasgow’s population rose rapidly in response to the need for labor in manufacturing; it became a city of opportunity.
At the beginning of the century, its main trades were soap, glass, textiles, and cotton. Much of the city’s historic wealth comes from the cotton industry, which provided over a third of the city’s jobs. From the 1840s onwards, the cities’ industrial trades shifted towards coal mining, iron, engineering, and of course, shipbuilding.
Glasgow was once one of the most powerful industrial cities in the world.
#6 Scotland’s Only Women’s Only Library
Glasgow is home to Scotland’s Women’s Only Library. It is the only library in the UK entirely dedicated to women’s lives, histories, and achievements. It doesn’t only focus on the history of women, but their future, one of their key aims is to empower the women of today.
Created by broad-based arts organization ‘Women in Profile’ almost 30 years ago, the library is a multi-award-winning hub of cutting edge activity and an accredited museum.
#7 Europe’s Worst Subway – The Clockwork Orange
The Clockwork Orange – for when you want to go around in circles. Glasgow is home to the third oldest subway system in the world, the oldest being London Underground, followed by Budapest’s.
The nickname The Clockwork Orange is not related to the book or film but because it only goes around in one small circle, and the seats are orange. Although it’s notably unsophisticated in design for a large city, the transport network does serve its purpose stopping at 15 stations spread over 10.4 kilometers of the city within 25 minutes time frame. Each stop will take you to almost everywhere you want to go.
#8 One Of Europe’s First Cities To Reach Over One Million People
As we mentioned earlier, Glasgow’s population rose rapidly during the 19th century, as it became a city of opportunity. In fact, it was one of the first cities in Europe to reach a population of over one million people. The city population peaked at 1.089 million in 1950, at which point it was one of the most densely populated cities in the entire world.
#9 Oldest Swimming Club In The World
Glasgow is home to the private Swimming club, the Arlington Baths, the oldest swimming club in the world. Situated in Charing Cross, towards the west end of the city, the baths are housed in a purpose-built Category A Listed Building and opened on 1st August 1871.
They have been renovated four times to date. Inside you will find a 21-meter skylit swimming pool, a unique Turkish suite, saunas, a steam room, free-standing slipper baths, and hot tubs.
#10 Hosting The World’s First International Football Match
On the 30th of November 1872, Scotland and England’s national football teams came face to face in the West of Scotland Cricket Club’s ground in Partick, Glasgow, in front of a crowd of 4000 people. FIFA recognizes this football match as the sport’s first-ever international match.
Unfortunately, neither team could declare themselves the winner as the score was 0-0.
#11 Kelvin Scale Temperature Measurement
The Kelvin Scale was invented by Belfast-born born mathematician and physicist William Thomson. After moving to Glasgow as a child, he attended the university from age 10. Later in life, he was dubbed the Baron of Kelvin in honor of his achievements. The name ‘Kelvin’ was after the River Kelvin, which runs past the first university he attended in Glasgow before studying at Cambridge and Paris Universities.
#12 UK’s Only Tenement Conservation Area in Hyndland
As we mentioned under architecture, Glasgow is home to many tenement buildings that the locals are very fond of. In fact, in 1975, the Hyndland Conservation Area was established to protect a large area in Hyndland, in Glasgow’s West End.
This unique project means that the area’s flats are protected and cannot be demolished to make way for modern buildings. Planning authorities are obliged to “protect and enhance the character and appearance,” allowing the area of Hyndland to retain a vast amount of original architectural features.
#13 Most Gaelic Speakers Out With The Highlands
Gaelic is a Celtic language native to Scotland. Glasgow is home to the most Gaelic speakers out with the Highlands, and the city has put in place measures to continue to nurture and promote the use of the ancient Scots dialect as an integral part of Scots History. Glasgow City Council currently operates three Gaelic nurseries, two primary schools, and one secondary school. There are hopes to increase these facilities over the next few years and keep the language alive.
#14 Europe’s Busiest Bridge – The Kingston Bridge
The Kingston Bridge, which crosses Glasgow Rivers Clyde, is often surprisingly reported as Europe’s busiest bridge carrying an estimated 150,000 vehicles every single day.
#15 European Record For Football Match Attendance
On Saturday, 17th April 1937, Scotland played England at Hampden Park football stadium in Glasgow. It was the first all-ticket international football match. The official attendance figure was given after the game as 149,407, making it the record for football game attendance in both British and European history.
Following the game, it was widely reported by newspapers that the attendance was actually over 150,000 people when you considered stewards, police present, and non-ticket guests. The game was reportedly tense, with England playing best in the first half and Scotland scoring first.
The final result was 3 – 1 for Scotland. The game remained the World record until being beaten in the 1950 world cup. The record in Britain and Europe is unlikely to be broken, football stadium capacities are much lower these days, with Hampden’s being a little over 52,000.
#16 The Old Firm
‘The Old Firm’ is the term given to Scotland’s most popular and successful football clubs Celtic and Rangers. The rivalry between these two teams is deeply embedded in Glaswegian and Scottish culture.
Not only is this rivalry is well known in the UK (and the world) but it has also been described as one of the most passionate football club rivalries in the world. The term ‘old firm’ is believed to have originated as far back as 1904 when the two teams faced each other at the Scottish Cup final.
#17 Inventing The Television
Scotland may be small, however, the world has been revolutionized time and time again by its great inventors, and their creations changed the world. Mr. John Logie Baird, an electrical engineering student at the Royal Technical College in Glasgow and the University of Glasgow, invented the first television. In 1927 he transmitted the world’s first long-distance television signal all the way from London to the Central Hotel in Glasgow Central Train Station. If it wasn’t for Glasgow, we might not have television today!
About the Author
Graham Grieve runs the Scottish travel blog My Voyage Scotland. Graham has a wealth of experience traveling up and down Scotland on camping trips, hiking holidays, and random last-minute getaways. His favorite place in Scotland is Ullapool.
* Cover photo by Leonid_Andronov via Depositphotos
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