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Why Glasgow, the COP26 host city, is Scotland's most exciting city right now

From hotels to restaurants, the Scottish city is abuzz with new openings as it hosts November's COP26 summit.

For the past couple of decades, Glasgow has seen the development of restaurants and hotels, with neighbourhoods formerly best avoided evolving rapidly, thrillingly into something new.

Photograph by Alamy
By Jamie Lafferty
Published 11 Oct 2021, 09:00 BST, Updated 29 Oct 2021, 10:55 BST

As attendees of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference hopefully won’t find out, it’s incredibly challenging to be green in certain parts of Glasgow. The city’s 130-year-long football rivalry between Celtic and Rangers means there are entire neighbourhoods where simply wearing anything green would be met with howls of derision. 

Thankfully, the city and its residents are open to change in other areas. For the past couple of decades, Glasgow — whose Gaelic name, Glaschu, fittingly means ‘dear green place’ — has seen the development of restaurants and hotels, with neighbourhoods formerly best avoided evolving rapidly, thrillingly into something new.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Finnieston. The area has gone from better-to-take-a-taxi-through-it to one of Scotland’s most dynamic gourmet corners, and it continues to excite with new openings. The latest additions include the Hidden Lane Organic Brewery and shop, which has popped up in a former laundry off Argyle Street, and Unalome By Graeme Cheevers, which has opened at the unapologetically high end of the food scene.  

Read more: The eight best restaurants for outdoor dining in Glasgow

Cheevers may well be looking to emulate the Michelin-starred success of Cail Bruich, on the other side of beautiful Kelvingrove Park. For 17 years, Glasgow may not have been in Michelin’s bad books, but it certainly wasn’t in any of its guidebooks, either. That changed in early 2021, when Cail Bruich’s clever take on modern Scottish cuisine was finally recognised.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, of course, slowed Glasgow’s regeneration, but in certain areas, it’s provided an opportunity. In the Merchant City quarter, a series of bars and restaurants operating under the Festival Village umbrella was given a permanent al fresco home. Further east, Barras Art and Design — a collection of food, drink and entertainment spaces — is breathing new life into the century-old Barrowlands Market. At the back of Glasgow Green, with e-bike racks nearby, and a healthy presence of IPAs, street art, hipsters and all, it almost feels as though you could be Brooklyn.  

Read more: A neighbourhood guide to the city of Glasgow

Published in the November issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

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