Destination of the Year 2016: Glasgow
January 1, 1970
by Sarah Watters
National Geographic recently named Glasgow as one of the best destinations in the world for 2016. Now this Glaswegian can’t pass up telling you why.
We really have pulled our socks up, and it makes me proud to know we can shake off all the bad imagery we had. Not so long ago Glasgow was known as the most dangerous city in the UK. Our street gangs – or young teams – terrorised neighbourhoods and made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. In a documentary series that visited Columbia, Miami and South Africa, Glasgow was also featured in an hour long special. It was plastered over newspapers and depicted on TV in horror. I still meet people who think Glasgow is like that. It did more damage to us than any of us thought at the time. However, Glasgow is now the fourth city in the UK with the worst crime rate, with Liverpool, London and Manchester overtaking us. Our violent crime rate has fallen by over 80% and Cork, Ireland is now known as the murder capital of Europe, taking that particular name from us back in 2013.
It might not sound like much, but our violence and gang warfare is at the lowest point since the 1920s and the whole city is moving forward.
In 2014 we shone so bright we put ourselves on the world stage. As the Commonwealth Games finally came around, we invited the whole world in for “a wee cup of tea,” we had a summer like you wouldn’t believe and we were voted the friendliest city in the world along with European City of the Year. Honestly, because while we had a bad name, we’ve always been an incredible city, we just needed the chance to show you.
So while two million more visitors than usual landed on our shores, summer decided to be good to us and the Commonwealth’s best athletes performed on world class stages, we Glaswegians celebrated in the good times. Good times that just keep on coming.
In 2009 Lonely Planet printed: “Forget about castles, kilts, bagpipes and tartan – you come to Glasgow for the cocktails, cuisine and designer chic (plus the legendary native wit).”
Also known as ‘The Dear Green Place‘ – Glasgow boasts over 90 public park areas; more than any other city in the world of the same size. Bringing a green leafy hue all year round, these open spaces are utilised for concerts, festivals and contain many of the city’s main art galleries and attractions. The very first green space in the city, Glasgow Green, is home to the People’s Palace, Winter Gardens and the largest terracotta fountain in the world. The World Pipe Band Championships, our biggest fireworks displays and our marathon all have Glasgow Green to thank for it’s abundance of space. Other worthwhile mentions are Kelvingrove Park (home to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery,) the Botanic Gardens, Queen’s Park, Bellahouston (home to some of Scotland’s biggest summer concerts,) and Pollok Country Park (the biggest in the city and home to the private Burrell Collection.)
Glasgow is beautiful. There’s no denying it. In 1999 we were awarded UK City of Architecture and Design and while that’s 17 years ago, believe it or not, all those buildings are still standing. From top left: The Mitchell Library, Glasgow Cathedral, The City Chambers and the Gallery of Modern Art. Throughout the city you can find the work of Charles Rennie Macintosh including the School of Art, Scotland Street School, The Lighthouse and House for an Art Lover.
Back in 2008 Glasgow was named UNESCO City of Music and became the second Scottish city to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. TIME Magazine also recently hailed us as “Europe’s Secret Capital of Music” but of course it won’t be secret for long. Outside of London and Manchester, Glasgow has the biggest music scene in the UK with an average of 130 music events every week. From rock to celtic to classic to opera; in The Old Fruitmarket, The Royal Concert Hall, The City Halls, Maggie Mays, King Tuts all the way through to the Hydro, our newest addition that now brings the biggest stars in the world to Scotland for the first time. Oasis might be the biggest thing to reign out of Manchester, but did you know they were discovered by Alan McGee in King Tuts here in Glasgow? Reports say our live music events bring around £75million to the UK economy each year.
While it is one of the “Four Ancients” in that it’s one of the oldest universities in the western world, it also looks like Hogwarts. Enough said. Also, if you are a Glasgow University alumni you can get married ‘neath these cloisters.
Did you know that Glasgay! is Scotlands only professional LGBT arts festival? Now in it’s twenty second year, it features a diverse programme of theatre, comedy, film, live music and club nights every October to November.
In 1988, the Scots took to the streets of Glasgow to protest the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and speak out against a world who still considered him to be a war criminal for his stance against Apartheid in South Africa. Glasgow’s movement was televised around the world and brought about one of the biggest changes in decades. 2500 Mayors in 56 countries went on to sign a mandate for the U.N demanding his freedom. In 1993, Mandela appeared in the city’s George Square to thank the people of Glasgow for their courage.
In a recent poll, our counterparts across the pond voted the Glaswegian accent as the sexiest in the UK. Robert Carlyle, Gerard Butler, Sean Connery, James McAvoy…America, you have a point.
Glasgow’s strength of character has been put to the test too often in recent years, but it never wavers. This touching tribute was left by students when the Charles Rennie McIntosh building of Glasgow’s school of art went up in flames. One of the most beautiful buildings in the city was saved after fire figters battled a rampaging fire for almost an entire night.
In a city that’s seen heartache and horrific disasters for the last three Christmases running, the people of our city know how to come together. Our service men and women have seen more destruction than they deserve, but they never fail us in times of need, and the civilian population are always there to hold them up. When the Clutha helicopter disaster, and the following year the bin lorry crash, took multiple lives, Glasgow stood head bowed together in silence and strength as families and loved ones mourned.
But let us not be sad. Glasgow is a city of laughter, music, beauty and life. We’ll welcome you in and then ask you to never leave. We’ll accept you want to see the capital, but we know you’ll be back for more of us. It’s home to more than 600,000 Glaswegians, strong in spirit and loud in voice. Come on in and join us!