Site of MPMI and Plant Membrane meetings, July 2019
In July, plant scientists from around the world will come to Glasgow for the Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions Congress (at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Center, SECC) and the International Workshop on Plant Membrane Biology (at Glasgow University). Glasgow is an exciting and vibrant city and I’d like to encourage you to come to these meetings and spend some time in Glasgow.
To truly enjoy Glasgow, it helps to put aside your ideas of ancient, TV Scotland and realize that Glasgow is a big, modern city, although many of its beautiful and distinctive sandstone buildings date from the Victorian era. Time Out lists Glasgow as the 8th greatest city in the world, for good reason. Here are some of my favorite things about Glasgow.
People make Glasgow
It’s not just a motto, it’s also a Twitter stream @PeopleMakeGLA. Glasgwegians are notoriously friendly and they laugh a lot; at themselves, at each other, and even at tourists. If you bring your sense of humor and fun you’ll get on fine. Unlike most big cities, in Glasgow it’s normal to make eye contact, smile, and even say “Hiya” to strangers. Glasgwegians love a night out, and the restaurants, pubs, and music venues make the night life vibrant.
Glasgow is divided into a few distinct regions; check out this interactive map to explore. The first three are where tourists and conference attendees will spend their time: The West End (red in the map below) is where the University is, as well as the Botanic Garden, Kelvingrove Park and Kelvingrove Gallery. The City Center (purple) is where you’ll find the two main rail stations (Queen Street and Central), as well as theatres, the business district, shops, and hundreds of pubs and restaurants. Finneston (green) is the newly emerging hip neighborhood full of trendy cuisine and pubs. The remaining two, the East Side and the South side, are mostly residential. The West End, Finneston, and City Center are best explored on foot and have a high density of shops, pubs and restaurants.
There is a subway system (in orange on the map below) that stops near the University (Hillhead station) and takes you to Queen Street or St. Enoch in the City Center. The Exhibition Center station on the ScotRail commuter line (in green on the map below) is a short walk from the SECC and only two stops from Central Station. Of course taxis are plentiful as well. In July there is plenty of daylight (17 hours), and the climate is mild, but it is sometimes wet.
The West End
The West End is where the University is. It has upscale neighborhoods as well as several parks and museums. The main shopping and restaurant street is Byres Road, which has the Glasgow Botanic Gardens at the north end, and crosses University Avenue in the middle, and ends near Dunbarton Road. One of the easiest and quickest ways to get from the West End to the City Center is to take the subway from Hillhead Station (right next to the University) to Queen Street or St Enoch, next to Central Station. You can also walk from the West End to the City Center (about two miles) or take one of the many buses or taxis. An above ground motorway (blue in the map above) separates the West End from the City Center but there is a pedestrian bridge crossing it right at the west end of Sauchiehall Street.
Sauchiehall Street runs east-west and is one of the main entertainment areas, although it caters more to the student end of the demographic (nightclubs and chip shops). Queen Street Station is near where Sauchiehall Street meets Buchanan Street, which runs north-south. Buchanan Street has many upscale restaurants and shops, is pedestrianized, and is usually full of shoppers, browsers and diners. Heading east from Buchanan Street you’ll head into George Square and Merchant City, which is also a very nice, upscale area full of fine restaurants, pubs, cafes and music venues.
Finneston is the hot neighborhood right now, and it’s a short walk from the SECC (site of the MPMI conference; take the pedestrian bridge over the motorway) or the university. Here you’ll find live music venues, trendy pubs, pubs with live music, and excellent dining. It’s hipster heaven.
I consider Glasgow a safe city for tourists. Almost all of the violent crime occurs in poorer areas on the outer fringes of the city and most of it involves altercations between young men late at night. City Center, Finneston and West End streets are usually busy in the evenings. As anywhere, try to avoid walking down isolated streets very late at night, and in the evening try to be out as pairs or groups. In more than ten years living in Glasgow, I’ve seen several drunk people and a few shouting and shoving matches (usually outside pubs), but never any real violence.
Language, accent and slang
In Glasgow you’ll hear English, Scots, and, to a limited extent, Scots Gaelic (many train station signs are in both English and Gaelic). Although most people you meet will be speaking English, the Glasgwegian accent and slang can be a little hard to understand.
Like any big city, you can find everything from fine dining to cheap and greasy. Most pubs sell cheap pub food (burgers and chips), which ranges from very good to bad. You can also find most types of food including Japanese, Indian, Lebanese, Italian, Spanish etc.
Here are a few restaurants I particularly like:
West end (all on or near Byres Road, from north to south)
· Oran Mor (pub in a former church, with food and also a theatre)
· Café Andaluz (also in City Center)
· Curlers Rest (pub with food)
· The Bothy (fine Scottish food)
· Bar Soba
City center (there are hundreds of restaurants in the City Center and Finneston, but here are a few I like)
· Amarone near Queen Street Station
· Topolabamba near Central Station
· Kelvingrove Art Gallery is an easy walk from the SECC or the University and contains both art and natural history displays in a beautiful red sandstone building.
· The Glasgow Science Center is just a short walk across the Clyde River from the SECC and a nice place to visit with or without children.
· Riverside Museum / Museum of transport is just to the west of the SECC along the river, also a great place to visit with or without children.
· St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life, Glasgow Cathedral and the Glasgow Necropolis are about a mile east of Queen Street station and worth a visit.
Glasgow outside, and outside Glasgow
Within the city limits, try to find time to visit the Glasgow Botanic Gardens at the top of Byres Road in the West End, and Kelvingrove Park, sprawling through the West End. Both are easy to get to from the conference venues.
One of the best things about Glasgow is that it’s situated in the west of Scotland, with easy access by public transportation to some of the most striking and beautiful scenery anywhere in the world. Going northwest, you can get to Loch Lomond (Balloch station) by train from Queen Street in less than an hour, or if you keep going you can get to Oban in three hours. Oban itself is stunning, but it’s also the departure point for ferries to the Western Isles. Or, you can take the train southwest from Central Station to Ardrosson and take a ferry to Arran, less than three hours from downtown Glasgow. To the east, Edinburgh is also a popular tourist destination, with its famous castle and Royal Mile. It’s less than an hour by train from downtown Glasgow to downtown Edinburgh. Sterling is also less than an hour by train from Glasgow and its castle is also well worth a visit.
If you're undecided, I hope this convinces you to come to Glasgow this summer and spend an extra day or more to enjoy all that this beautiful city and region has to offer.
If you have any questions or other suggestions please post them below!