With Christmas less than three weeks away, the present shopping is well underway and a visit to Glasgow is highly recommended.
I was very much looking forward to a trip to the city. While I have visited Edinburgh previously I had never been to Glasgow and I have always heard great things about it and with Christmas on the horizon it was a great time to visit.
I wasn’t to be disappointed either. A two-hour train journey from Preston took us through some terrific scenery and reaching Glasgow’s Central railway station my friend and I were greeted with a beautiful Light Pavilion installation on the station’s main concourse.
The display is part of the Mackintosh150 celebrations, which marks 150 years since the birth of the city’s famous Art Nouveau architect, artist and designer, Charles Rennie
The theme continued as our first stop of the day was at the ‘Mackintosh at the Willow’ tea rooms on Sauchiehall Street, the only surviving one designed by the artist.
The tea rooms were designed for local tea entrepreneur Miss Kate Cranston and this is the original Willow Tea Rooms Building which first opened in 1903. The stunning building reopened in July after a four-year restoration to return them to their former glory.
While stopping for lunch at the tea rooms we also had a look around the interactive exhibition centre which details the history of the tea rooms and Mackintosh’s work.
We checked into our hotel for the night, the Ibis Styles on Waterloo Street, which is a four minute walk from the train station. The hotel opened in August and pays tribute to Glasgow’s musical connections and history. It even has live bands perform at the ‘rehearsal studio’ bar.
Once we were settled we took a ride on one of the City Sightseeing tour buses which make their way around the city every 30 minutes.
The tour takes in all of the famous sights – Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, the Glasgow Science Centre, the city’s universities and the stunning cathedral to the east.
The tour takes just over an hour and is a great way to learn about Glasgow while making your way around the city.
It is a hop-on, hop-off bus and can be bought with 24-hour or 48-hour tickets.
We got off at George’s Square and experienced our first taste of the Christmas markets. A 15 metre Christmas tree takes pride of place in the market alongside a carousel and helter skelter.
A great variety of Christmas stalls are on offer with many selling artisan products and high quality crafts.
It was busy but not to the point where you want to escape. Another great thing (about both the market and the city) was away from the Christmas markets, Glasgow’s shops do not disappoint.
As well as the large St Enoch shopping centre there are enough designer shops to give even London a run for its money with the city being recognised as the second largest retail centre in the UK after the capital.
The centrepiece of all these shops must certainly be the flagship House of Fraser department store. The listed five-storey building was an anchor store where the brand began and it has been covered in lights for Christmas.
Opposite the Frasers building is the distinctive Princes Square shopping centre, which house a collection of impressive boutiques and is worth a visit even just to see the architecture and design work.
With all the retail opportunities available we had built up an appetite and headed to the Locarno Restaurant, where the food and experience was highly impressive. Situated on Candleriggs, the area has an abundance of fine restaurants with cuisines to suit everyone.
We had planned to attend a gig at Mono Café Bar but we worn out from all of the retail and food delights.
It’s worth noting that Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music and hosts a staggering 130 music events each week from smalls scale jamming sessions at local pubs right through to large scale gigs at the 13,000 seater SSE Hydro Arena.
The festive period has seen a rise in the number of people crossing the border to experience Glasgow’s Christmas attractions and shopping with many opting to use the train.
Virgin Trains have also cut the cost of their ‘Shopper’ tickets which start at£27.50 for a return from Preston. First Class returns are also available from £56 until the promotion ends on January 6.
Before catching the train back, we visited the Argyle Street Arches. Sitting underneath Glasgow’s Central Train Station, The Arches was formerly a popular nightclub which has been transformed into a social space for people to meet and eat.
The Platform at the Arches offers nine different food carts as well as its own brewery and coffee shop. It was a brilliant end to a superb city break.
- A return Virgin Shopper train tickets from Preston to Glasgow start from £27.50 with First Class from £56.
- Ibis Styles Glasgow Centre West - Prices vary 0141 428 4477 www.accorhotels.com
- For a full guide go to www.glasgowloveschristmas.com