Just a four-and-a-half hour train ride from Euston, Glasgow is a spread out kinda place. You can end up pounding the streets a fair bit: on our brief visit we clocked up 11 miles’ walking on the second day, from a trek down to the river Clyde and over Finnieston and Kelvingrove in the West End, then back to Merchant City and on to the East End. (Read our recommendations on where to eat, drink and soak up some culture in the box below.)
The surprise, at least for us, was it’s so very hilly, too; so the trick seems to be to stay in a pivotal location. That was why – after much googling – we settled on Grasshoppers, a red-brick penthouse of thirty bedrooms right in the city centre. It squats on top of the main Central Station – hence the name, geddit? – with sweeping views over the ululating sea of roofs, apparently the largest of its kind in Europe.
The rooms may be on the petite side, but showers are powerful, and simple touches – comfortable mattresses, good linen, a decent flatscreen, Scandinavian interiors – lift this a touch above its price bracket. There are also oak floors and furniture that has been exclusively designed and made by specialist joiners. The attention to detail is tangible.
Breakfast is served in a modern, brightly lit kitchen (cruelly so if you’ve had a big night out) with a full Scottish cooked breakfast, baked bread, and continental options – all self service, and included in the room price. Little things make an extra difference, too: complimentary sparkling water bottles, replenished each day of our stay, playful tubes of Smarties.
Best of all, however, are the additional touches beyond this: a Scandi-style living room (pictured) boasts bookshelves to rummage about in, especially good for Glaswegian and Scottish travel guides. And dozens of spoilt-for-choice home-cooked treats are dotted about halls and corridors: on our visit piles of cupcakes were topped with fresh, buttery cream, macaroon biscuits, and a ginger cake perched in old-fashioned cake stand.
It’s sweet-toothed heaven, in fact: in an adjoining corridor a freezer bears a sign inviting residents to try the home-made churned vanilla ice cream in an assortment of tubs and pots. We dutifully got stuck in. Well, it’d be rude not to.
As we hoped upon booking, the location is indeed perfect: once you’ve checked out, you can leave luggage and hang out in the communal areas (eating ice cream, of course) while you await your train home. From £75 a night for a midweek double this really is top value.
Rooms range from £68 a single to about £100 a double at weekends. We paid £152 for two nights midweek. More info here. Address: 87 Union Street G1.
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7 Things to do in Glasgow
Dinner: Ox & Finch
This acclaimed restaurant in Finnieston in the West End is perfect if you enjoy sharing plates with interesting combinations. The only dish that didn’t quite make the grade was squid with morcilla, but otherwise we gobbled hit after hit: game sausage and polenta, hogget shoulder with pomegranate and harissa, and sea trout ceviche with apple, pickled shallots and tiger milk. But the corker? Dry aged beef carpaccio, pine nuts, pecorino and truffle dwarf peaches. More info. 920 Sauchiehall St G3
Coffee: Steamie Roasters
Cute wee place packed with chattering locals, nice cakes such as the lemon and blueberry loaf, and rich espresso. They roast their own beans – naturally. Bohemian in the best sense of the word. More info.1024 Argyle St G3
This contemporary art gallery opened in 1996 in a striking neoclassical building in Royal Exchange Square built in 1778 as a townhouse. On our visit, John Samson’s provocative Dressing Up For Pleasure was on, with its mind-blowing film about rubber and latex in the home counties. Watching visitors’ reactions is half the fun. More info. Royal Exchange Square G1
Cinema: Glasgow Film Theatre
Exquisitely restored independent picturehouse dating back to 1939 with three screens. On our visit, which coincided with the impressively curated Glasgow Film Festival, the largest screen was packed out for a mid-morning showing of the acclaimed documentary Benny, about Glaswegian boxing legend Benny Lynch. More info.12 Rose St G3
LGBT bar: Underground
It goes without saying there are hundreds of excellent bars and pubs in Glasgow: at the Finnieston end of Argyle St there’s a particular concentration (we enjoyed a craft beer or two at Distil). But we had a real hoot with with a bunch of up-for-it locals watching karaoke at the Underground Bar on a Tuesday night, witnessing an almighty rendition of the Titanic theme tune. Try the nearby Waterloo, too, allegedly the oldest gay bar in Scotland. 6a John St G1
Arts Centre: CCA
The cavernous Centre for Contemporary Arts has a gallery, bookshop, theatre, cinema and two lively cafe-bars. Plus their annual programme includes cutting-edge exhibitions, spoken word and festivals. The upstairs terrace is the more boozy, and hosts DJs in the evening, while the atrium is a high-ceilinged space with lunch and dinner service. More info. 350 Sauchiehall St G2
Glasgow is consistently voted the top place to shop in the UK outside the West End in London, with Buchanan Street the city’s main pedestrianised shopping strip. We were more drawn, however, to this East End institution: pin-drop quiet on a Wednesday (alas we missed its weekend opening hours), shuttered and closed down, it’s still eerily atmospheric, like a film set, with great old signage, and unique architecture. Afterwards, take a walk up to the Necropolis for a panoramic city view over the cathedral nestling below and beyond. Barras market is open for bric-a-brac and vintage every Sat and Sun till 5pm. Gallowgate G1
This short list is only a starting point and in no way meant to be comprehensive so please leave your own tips on where to eat, drink and hang out below. Thanks!