Like any trendy quarter, Glasgow’s West End might have increased in price thanks to an influx of fashion-conscious settlers, but it’s still home to some of the city’s finest attractions, writes Harris Brine
Its districts include the beautiful, sprawling terrain of Kelvingrove Park, and the skyline is dominated by its world-renowned (and free admission) Art Gallery and the University of Glasgow, which also happens to be the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world.
There’s an abundance of things to do in the quarter, and even though the West End can be expensive, many of these won’t leave your wallet looking like an empty crypt.
[Piece – picture: Yelp Inc. / Flickr / CC]
With newspaper column inches to rival Justin Bieber’s exploits, there are few places in Scotland, never mind Glasgow, which rival Piece‘s ability to craft sandwiches as glorious as these. Evidence of the God Particle’s existence may have been found at CERN in Geneva, but it surely also hides between two thick cuts of Bloomer bread in each helping of Piece’s Pastrami Special.
1056 Argyle St, G3 8LY (0141 221 7975, website)
Jogging along the Great Western Road? Where better to smash your initial intent than to stop in at the often-overlooked Café Haze, where you can gorge on sumptuous kebabs and fill your lungs with flavoured tobacco drawn from Shisha pipes. While we don’t advocate smoking, we will promote a dip into the chilled atmosphere of Haze. Your fitness plan will disappear in a haze of smoke. Literally.
625 Great Western Road, G12 8RE (0141 387 1292, Facebook page)
Like renowned wood-care products, some places do exactly what they say on the tin. The Hidden Lane Tea Room is not one of them. Yes, it’s tucked behind a discrete alleyway in Finnieston and provides about 300 million types of tea, but the café also hosts craft fairs and exhibitions, and serves outrageously layered cakes and decadent high-teas replete with enough scones, cream and jam to keep you fed for the next three years.
Unit 8 Argyle Court, 1103 Argyle Street, G3 8ND (0141 237 4391, website)
Pubs and Bars
At The Belle there’s a collection of ex-stags on the walls, and there are enough beards, chequered shirts and Doc Martens around to think lumberjacks have relocated from Alaska to Clydeside. They serve San Francisco’s Anchor Steam on draft, and there’s a decent… Oh heck, they serve Anchor Steam, you shouldn’t need any more enticing.
617 Great Western Rd, G12 8HX (0141 339 2299)
Dismayed and bored, BrewDog started off by standing up to local brewers with their maverick ideas and inventions. Now they’ve grown so brazen they’ve even set their sights on Vladimir Putin with their latest brew. Bold, daring and refreshing, (and that’s just their beers), BrewDog’s Glasgow haunt also serves food and guest tipples from across the world, as well as overlooking the stunning Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
1397-1403 Argyle St, G3 8AN (0141 334 7175, website)
If you’ve noticed unusually-named beers cropping up in supermarkets all across Scotland, it’s largely thanks to the Williams Brothers. ‘Birds and the Bees’, ‘New Beginnings’ and ‘Good Times’ may sound like the titles for weird self-help videos, but they’re tipples housed in their droves, along with a gantry teeming with foreign offerings, inside the river-straddling Inn Deep, which is one flood short of becoming a rowdy swimming pool. A beer garden and some of the best burgers in Glasgow await you.
445 Great Western Rd, Kelvinbridge (0141 357 1075, website)
The full soundtrack to the no-nonsense, multi-layered haunt that is The Doublet is selected by its punters via jukebox, and the warped mix of clientele (seasoned, elder veterans soldered with beatnik upstarts) means that come night’s end, with the cheap drink fully soaking into the bloodstream, there’s a chaotic, coin-filled clamour to stick on either Frankie Valli or the Foals. But never both… Oh no, never both.
74 Park Rd, Port Dundas, G4 9JF (0141 334 1982)
An interior replete with more dismantled bicycles than Lance Armstrong’s garage and a stream of miniature hot-air balloons (officially known as lampshades?), this relatively new, award-winning Hanoi Bike Shop is a quirky and unconventional delight. The traditional set-up of starter and main course has rode off into the sunset, leaving a handful of unique and affordable dishes like battered okra, rich broths, and homemade tofu. Jellyfish spend their lives being avoided by humans: make one’s day by not shunning the salad it sits in… Don’t worry, it won’t sting your wallet.
Ruthven Ln, G12 9BG (0141 334 7165, website)
You don’t need an awards ceremony to know that Mother India’s Café is the best place in Glasgow for a curry; one quick glance at the massive outside queue on a Saturday night is all that’s needed (although they did bag a trophy saying exactly that at the 2013 Scottish Curry Awards).The traditional setup is replaced by a dose of tapas, with Chicken Saag, Chilli King Prawns and Aubergine Fritters served in an thrifty-and-nifty compact size. And because they’re half the size, you can order two of them…. Right?
1355 Argyle Street, G3 8AD (0141 339 9145, website)
With more gongs than ten Chinese temples, the Stravaigin‘s impressive and expansive setting takes some beating. Here you can dip your toes into fine dining without ever feeling the need to apologise for wearing those scruffy Converse. With delicious, immaculately-presented dishes on set menus from £25 and £30, it’s the perfect place if you want to feel like a jet-setter instead of mere jetsam.
28 Gibson St, Kelvinbridge, G12 8NX (0141 334 2665, website)
There’s been snobbery at the emergence of Old Salty’s in Finnieston, it being cited as a glorified chippy tailored for the trendies of Glasgow’s West End. However, throw £7 into the deep fat frier and five minutes later you’ll be sitting in front of a plate of delicious haddock and chips that’s larger than your house (not really).
1126 Argyle Street, G3 8TD, (0141 357 5677, website)
We wonder what the very first intoxicated human’s hangover was like. Did they wake up on the floor of a stranger’s cave, sabre-tooth tiger’s hide strewn all over the place, head pounding like a herd of mammoths? Whatever it was like, they’d still probably return, like us, to the devil’s brew, and where better than Valhalla’s Goat, purveyors of “liquid treasures”. They boast the most eclectic and exclusive choice in Glasgow (though Hippo and Cave also deserve mentions). Owned by the aforementioned Williams Brothers, there’s a stunning range of ales, IPAs, craft gins and and nearly more wines than the world has grapes.
449 Great Western Road, G12 8HH (0141 3373441, Twitter)
Thistle Books is effectively the obsessively neat-and-tidy version of Voltaire and Rousseau, which sits nearby. It’s truly a hidden gem, with rows and rows of carefully categorised sections covering all genres. Often tucked away are rare first editions, and Alba Music, which contains scores and scores of sheet music (no pun intended) is also homed inside. After leaving with a fresh, first edition wrapped in your hands for only £5, you could kick every Kindle that passes into outer space if it weren’t for the distraction of sheer delight.
Thistle Books, 55 Otago St Glasgow G12 8PQ (0141 334 8777)
You’ve spent the last three months finally ridding your flat of junk. You’ve found things you never even knew you had. You’ve even found the cat, who’s survived by supping the wrappers of a multitude of melted ice poles. How will you celebrate this incredible achievement? By sifting through the towering aisles of bric-a-brac at Relics in Ruthven Lane, of course. You’ve even bought a trolley to take it all home. Although by the time you sit down with an ice pole after loading it all in, the cat will have disappeared again.
Ruthven Mews, Dowanside Lane, Glasgow, G12 9BZ (0141 341 0007)
Other things to do
We could go on forever about the West End, as the place is a metropolis within a metropolis. If you’re looking for some new threads, there’s more thrift shops than you can shake a pair of second-hand Levi’s at, most notably the £10 Thrift Store on Argyle Street or The Glasgow Vintage Co. on Great Western Road.
For tea and poetry, there’s the Tchai Ovna on Otago Lane, The Poetry Club at SWG3 or the Rio Café in Partick, after which you can meander through the Botanic Gardens or Kelvingrove Park and write sonnets to the nearby kestrels. Little Italy on Byres Road also serves wonderful coffee and delicious food authentic to the Azurri.
For ocean-dwelling lovers, there’s Fantoon Fish. For those of a dairy persuasion, there’s George Mewes Cheese on Byres Road. Although Lupe Pintos may sound like a South American rapper, it is actually one of the best places to go to satisfy scorched taste-buds.
If you’re tired from a day of careering around the mesmerizing Kelvingrove Art Gallery or the Transport Museum, you can always head over to Ashton Lane, a miniature haunt akin to a continental village high street. You can eat a burger or two (Ketchup), catch a film on a sofa (Grovesnor Cinema), sup super-strength Vodka cocktails (Vodka Wodka) or listen to vinyl in a loft (The Loft).
Lastly, there’s the Hillhead Bookclub, Oran Mor and Black Rabbit to hit up at night, to embalm yourself in alcohol until the wee small hours.
Find these places on our Glasgow map:
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Got your own Glasgow West End tips?