I remember when I first came to Glasgow in 1973…being profoundly stunned at how suffocatingly dark and soot-blackened the city was. I had never seen a place so choked and grubby….. In the subsequent years Glasgow has gone through a glittering and celebrated transformation…. Never before had a city’s reputation undergone a more dramatic and sudden transformation–and none, as far as I am concerned, deserves it more.
McLellan Arch Glasgow Green, a photo by John Farnan on Flickr.

“Transformation” seems to be the perfect word for what has happened to Glasgow since the 70s. It’s proof of what can happen when a city gets a vision. According to GlasgowCityVision.com, “The city has made some significant advances in the last two decades, moving from a post-industrial economy to one predominantly focused on services including financial and business services, retail, tourism, and the creative industries….” What was once a city in decline has been revitalized, to the point of being named the European City of Culture in 1990.

Cumberland St Train Station by Bora Horza
Cumberland St Train Station, a photo by Bora Horza on Flickr.

This fantastic “180” has perhaps contributed to the immense pride which Glaswegians take in their little slice of Scotland. It’s probably enhanced their native affection with a solid belief that they are capable of anything. Today Glasgow certainly possesses a character of its own. It’s a workaday place and not a hot tourist attraction (compared to more “romantic” cities like Edinburgh); the dialect is practically incomprehensible; the architecture is incredibly varied and distinctive. Glaswegians are famously fun-loving, relaxed, and unpretentious. In his book Snapshot Scotland, Rick Steves relates a comment made by one salty Glasgow cabbie, “The people of Glasgow have a better time at a funeral than the people of Edinburgh have at a wedding.”

Go on i dare you....... by John Farnan
Go on i dare you……., a photo by John Farnan on Flickr.

With that kind of reputation, how could you not have fun in Glasgow? I’ll tell you how: stick to the main tourist attractions and don’t try to meet any of the locals. In response to my post “What is the Real Glasgow?“, an anonymous reader commented, “I love this city, it’s beautiful and proud and enterprising and even in the rough bits the grit of the people here shines through. You can come and see the beautiful museums and art galleries and universities and have a lovely time and barely skim the surface of the real Glasgow…. Or you can wander through the barras or browse the charity shops in partick and take some time to meet some glaswegians.”

Rick Steves is my personal travel guru, the guy I go to when I really want a straight answer about visiting a place. He says, “For most visitors, a few hours are plenty to sample Glasgow,” but the truth is that “most visitors” won’t browse the charity shops. Rick Steves is the kind of guy who would, and I think that’s why he can talk about  Glasgow’s “earthy charm.” You have to get to know Glasgow; it won’t come to you on its own. Still, it possesses a special character and a certain charm that you won’t find anywhere else.

Here’s a short sample of the kind of dialect you can expect in Glasgow:

Bryson, Bill. Notes from a Small Island. New York: Morrow, 1995. Print.
Steves, Rick. Rick Steves’ Snapshot Scotland. Avalon Travel Pub, 2011. Print.

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Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

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