City on a shoestring

No need to blow your budget in Scotland's biggest city: here are 15 great free things to do, writes Ute Junker.

Good news for those heading to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games: those smart Scots know plenty of ways to have fun without spending up big. You'll find a grand selection of good times that will cost you absolutely nothing.

As in nada. Zip. Nix. Here's our pick of the most fun you can have without opening your wallet.

TRAINSPOTTING (AND TRAMS, BIKES AND SHIPS, TOO)

Designed by starchitect Zaha Hadid, the Riverside Museum celebrates all types of transport. You can check out the world's oldest bicycle, a Tall Ship and a South African locomotive, along with a dizzying array of cars and motorbikes.

It's not all about spinning your wheels: there's also a recreated street from 1895 (yes, you can pop into the shops).

See glasgowlife.org.uk.

GET YOUR GALLUS ON

They love a bit of gallus - or glamour - in Glasgow. To see just how much they can fancy it up, drop in to the City Chambers: think vaulted ceilings, carved arches, marble staircases, mosaics, tiling, and other blinging bits. There are free tours twice a day (10.30am and 2.30pm), or you can just pop in for a quick look-see.

Advertisement

See glasgow.gov.uk.

GET ON THE CUTTING EDGE

Glasgow is known as a hotbed for contemporary art; ironically, the best place to get your fix is on one of Glasgow's oldest streets. Trongate is home to Trongate 103, an art centre that includes galleries such as Street Level Photoworks, the Glasgow Print Studio and Transmission Gallery. In addition to rotating exhibitions, Trongate 103 stages regular events such as screening nights for up-and-coming filmmakers.

See www.trongate103.com.

HANG WITH THE DEAD

You can't help thinking the Victorians had something of a death wish, what with all those melodramatic mourning outfits and ornate tombs. All that extravagance has made cemeteries such as Paris' Pere Lachaise into unlikely tourist destinations; Glasgow's own Necropolis is another magnificently moody destination.

Fifty thousand people lie buried in these hilltop tombs, many of their graves marked with tombs and sepulchral sculptures, including some designed by Glasgow's favourite son, architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

See glasgownecropolis.org.

WORK A MEDIAEVAL MOOD

There's not a whole lot of mediaeval Scotland still standing, but one building that has withstood the centuries is Glasgow's magnificent cathedral, consecrated in 1197. The fact it survived the Scottish Reformation - when many cathedrals attacked by Puritans - is almost miraculous; the fact services have been held here for more than 800 years is also pretty impressive. The rather cheeky stained-glass windows are impressive and feature a full-frontal nude Adam and Eve.

See glasgowcathedral.org.

CHECK OUT THE PEOPLE'S PALACE

There are plenty of museums celebrating the world's movers and shakers, but the People's Palace has a different focus: it looks at how Glasgow's poorest survived (often just barely) over the centuries. Exhibitions recreating life in the city's cramped tenements are horrifying, but counterbalanced with displays showing how workers spent their holidays. The lovely Winter Garden behind the museum is also worth a visit.

See glasgowlife.org.uk.

ENJOY A MODERN/NEOCLASSICAL MASH-UP

One of the city's most centrally located museums, the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) is also one of the most enjoyable. The elegant neo-classical interiors are worth a visit in their own right; however, GOMA also showcases the work of local artists, as well as staging themed exhibitions dealing with issues such as war and art.

While you're there, check out the statue of the Duke of Wellington outside - it's usually sporting a traffic cone as a hat, courtesy of local pranksters.

See glasgowlife.org.uk.

SAY HELLO TO AN ELEPHANT

It's one of Glasgow's magnificent buildings, dating back to the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition, but although it's ornate, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a quirky kind of place.

Eight thousand eclectic objects are displayed in its galleries, ranging from a Spitfire airplane to a stuffed giraffe, ancient Egyptian artefacts and an Elvis statue. Not knowing what you'll stumble across next makes this one of the city's most entertaining days out.

See glasgowlife.org.uk.

TO MARKET, TO MARKET

The Barras is a Glasgow institution, a weekend market that's been going strong for more than a century. Many locals still start their browsing with a solid breakfast of a sausage and a beer, and old-school fruit and veg vendors ply their wares alongside the usual market mix of trash and treasure. Keep an eye out for fashion label Che Camille and the craft collective Made in the Shade.

See glasgow-barrowland.com.

TAKE A TRIP AROUND THE WORLD

You have to hand it to Sir William Burrell: he knew how to put a collection together. The shipping magnate amassed a collection of 8000 objects, which includes beautiful artefacts and works by Degas, Cezanne and Rodin.

See glasgowlife.org.uk.

PLAY HOUSE

How comfy was life in the 15th century? Probably more than you think, as Provand's Lordship demonstrates. The oldest house in Glasgow dates back to 1451, and at various times housed senior church officials. The spacious rooms are filled with period furniture and historic portraits, including those of Mary Queen of Scots and Henry VIII.

See glasgowlife.org.uk.

HEAD SOUTH

Few tourists make it to Glasgow's south side, despite the fact it's an easy trip on the city's compact subway system. Well worth the journey is the Tramway, Glasgow's most cutting-edge space for visual and performance arts and the venue of choice for international artists such as sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, performer Robert LePage and director Peter Brooks.

See tramway.org.

GO BACK TO SCHOOL

Why has a disused school become a tourist attraction? Because it was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Like many Mackintosh projects, it was mired in controversy - Mackintosh sneakily submitted one set of plans to the school board for approval, then gave the contractor a second, more elaborately decorated set of plans.

The school also houses an exhibit showing the changing nature of education from Victorian times to World War II and on to the 1960s.

See glasgowlife.org.uk.

SEE THE LIGHT

There's always something worth seeing at The Lighthouse, Scotland's Centre for Design and Architecture, which specialises in themed exhibitions. It's housed in another Mackintosh building, originally the home of the Glasgow Herald newspaper, and its exhibitions often showcase Mackintosh's work. Take the lift to the top floor for a superb view across Glasgow.

See thelighthouse.co.uk.

MAKE LIKE A STUDENT

The oldest of the city's three universities, the University of Glasgow, has an excellent museum. For the scientifically inclined, there are instruments used by James Watt and Joseph Lister; ancient history buffs will prefer the Roman artefacts. Then there's a vast coin collection, objects from Captain Cook's Pacific voyages and the world's largest permanent display of James McNeill Whistler's works.

See gla.ac.uk/hunterian.

The writer was a guest of Qantas and Visit Britain.

FIVE MORE (ALMOST) FREE OPTIONS

In a city of pretty parks, the Botanic Gardens stand out, thanks to the spectacular Kibble Palace, a 19th-century glasshouse.

See the best of local and international sculpture at the Glasgow Sculpture Studios.

Did you know Glasgow had the Britain's first police force? Learn more at Glasgow Police Museum.

At the Willow Tea Rooms, you can enjoy the Charles Rennie Mackintosh interiors for the price of a cuppa.

In Queen's Park, the tree stumps in the Fossil Grove are the remnants of an ancient tropical forest.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

GETTING THERE

Qantas offers eight daily services from Australia to Glasgow, with four departing Melbourne and four departing Sydney. With its codeshare partner Emirates, Qantas flies to Glasgow via Dubai.

STAYING THERE

The luxurious Hotel du Vin, located in a Victorian terrace in Glasgow's trendy West End, has retained many original features including stained glass windows and deep baths. Rates start at £145 ($260) a night. See hotelduvin.com.

Comments