Discover Glasgow: a Scottish city full of vibrancy and culture

Glasgow is an exciting contemporary playground for art, architecture and collaborative culture

Showsec Support SWG3 in Restart After Lockdown - Showsec in Glasgow
(Image credit: SWG3)

At first glance, Glasgow may fool you. This Scottish city may not have Edinburgh's castle and medieval picture-perfect views, or its official status as a country capital; yet a significant history in commerce and industry, as well as its vibrant creative heart, ensure this urban hub is a real heavyweight. From its Charles Rennie Mackintosh heritage to its rich contemporary cultural offerings (options include the Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum) and dynamic community vibes, this is a city with a soul; and a bustling nightlife to go with it. It is also ever-transforming, both visibly, as chunks of the city centre undergo redevelopment, and beneath its surface, with lots of community activity giving it a creative edge. Meanwhile, the green Scottish countryside and its idyllic views are just a stone's throw away. Welcome to Glasgow, where past meets future, via a fast-evolving, full-of-surprises present. 




(Image credit: Richard Gaston)

A solid breakfast is a great way to start the day – and a city tour. Set in Glasgow's trendy East End, Outlier offers not only great coffee, pastries, and a savoury meal that leaves you wanting for nothing – it does so in an environment that blends craft and architectural flair to boot. The interior, designed by owner Steven Turner who is working with local architecture practice New Practice on a new wine bar and restaurant extension, features Formantasma tiles as well as vintage and contemporary furniture in an open-plan space that allows guests hints of the culinary goings-on at the back – where specialist bakers prepare the daily bread and other bakery goods on offer. 

Kinning Park Complex

Kinning Park Complex

Kinning Park Complex

(Image credit: Courtesy of New Practice)

After a successful bid for a £1.2m grant from the National Lottery Community Fund in 2017, local architecture studio New Practice built on an important history of education and activism to revitalise this early 20th-century local asset in the Southside of Glasgow – welcome to the refreshed Kinning Park Complex. Originally built as an extension to the former Lambhill Street school in 1916, the building had undergone several changes in use and ownership since the school’s closure in 1976, including as a neighbourhood centre run by Strathclyde Regional Council, which in turn closed in 1996. Now, the reborn Kinning Park Complex serves as an important hub for creativity and community support in the area – check out its activities and events. 

Mackintosh at the Willow

Willow Tearooms

(Image credit: Courtesy of Simpson & Brown)

No Glasgow tour would be complete without a mention of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Mackintosh at the Willow is one way of experiencing the Scottish master's work. The only surviving tea room by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret MacDonald, the space, which won the prestigious 2019 Project of the Year: RICS Awards, Scotland following its restoration, is now open for all to visit. The original interior opened 1903 and was brought back to its former glory by conservation specialists Simpson & Brown Architects, before it reopened to the public in 2018. 

The Alchemist

pina colada cokctail in tall glass at alchemist bar in Glasgow

(Image credit: Alchemist)

If you're after a decadent, expertly made cocktail, head for the Alchemist. The recently opened Alchemist outpost in Glasgow, set in a prime location on George Square, combines a cosmopolitan bar and restaurant space by Blacksheep. Beyond the luxurious interior, a wide range of drink options ensures good times through quality offerings, and immersive mixology experiences that are an intrinsic part of the Alchemist brand. The Glasgow venue has its own special twist too – it comes with a cocktail activation: The Dispensary in partnership with Naked Malt, where guests can enjoy three specially made whisky-based cocktails. 

The Barras

design objects on wall shelves at many studios in glasgow

Many Studios

(Image credit: Many Studios)

The Barras market in the East End of Glasgow has long been the place to go for a good deal. Now, it's not only a vibrant hub for its local community, but also fosters a sense of creativity that reaches far beyond its geographical borders. Among the various community activations, and food, retail and creative arts happenings taking place there, it also houses Many Studios, an independent organisation dedicated to supporting local creative business within its warehouse-style space – also the home of the architecture studio that designed it, New Practice


Galviniser's Yard at SWG3

(Image credit: Courtesy of SWG3)

To get a full sense of a city's vibe, a night out is a must; and in Glasgow, the night might often lead you to SWG3. An independent venue in the Kelvinhaugh neighourhood, where art, culture and music come together, this is a place that in a single stroke celebrates the city's heritage (it’s set in an old galvaniser’s yard); offers a variety of gigs and hospitality venues; and provides space for creative work and temporary art shows. Serving the local community as well as visiting artists, SWG3 contains new and restored historic spaces of different scopes and sizes, as well as an outdoor area and gardens where visitors can meet and relax, from daytime until late. 

Hill House Box

Hill house

(Image credit: Johan Dehlin)

The world-renowned Hill House in Helensburgh, a short train ride from Glasgow centre, is not only Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s domestic masterpiece, a rare living monument embodying the architect’s ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ approach where every element of the house from the building to the furniture and interiors was designed by the architect (with wife Margaret Macdonald). In its bold formal abstraction – a distillation of Scottish vernacular Baronial architecture with Japanese minimalism and European Arts and Craft leitmotifs – the building is an important modernism precursor too. It’s also on its last legs. ‘It’s only got two or three serious winters left in it,’ says architect Andy Groarke of Carmody Groarke, who has been tasked with creating an architectural intervention to allow a reprieve for this hilltop landmark, designed and built in 1904 for enlightened Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie and his family. Now, protected in the Hill House Box designed by Carmody Groarke, the monument is open for visitors, while fundraising and works can take place to save it.  


This newly opened boutique hotel occupies an enviable spot in the historic Virginia House in the central Merchant City district. Its 40 rooms are designed with colour and contemporary furniture accents, while its public spaces include culinary offerings with an emphasis on street food and healthy eating. A gym, wellness facilities and rooftop bar, alongside its late-night gig programme bring vibrant city life to every corner of the building, whose interiors were designed by Robbie Croker of Glasgow's Crocker Smith Design. The lively decor includes pieces by up-and-coming Glasgow-based artist Lewis Quinn. 

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).