The Paradox of Glasgow: Sacred & Contemporary

Andrea SzyperSubmitted by
There is so much to see and do in Scotland, we need two Untours to contain and cover it all!
For a healthy jolt of urban life, shake off the castle cobwebs and head to Glasgow in Central Scotland. With its busy modern center, office buildings and traffic, it is a perfect foil to lovely, archaic Edinburgh. 
Glasgow is unapologetically contemporary, a city bustling with commerce and art and student life. Accept this, and you will warm to Glasgow quickly and let it round out your experience of Scotland. 
Of course you can choose your path when you arrive at the rail station. Head west for modern and contemporary art, or head east for sacred art and history. If you have time, you’ll do well to give the city two days, with east and west getting their proper due.

West End and Central Glasgow

Get your contemporary art fix on the West End. It is softened with the Art Nouveau designs of  Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Glasgow’s native son and a designer of some of its loveliest buildings. 
The Glasgow School of Art is a hallmark of the West End. Mackintosh designed the main building, and the gallery and gift shop there make a nice stop. The school offers a brilliant walking tour of the area’s architecture and art, helping you appreciate Mackintosh’s many masterpieces.
The Willow Tea Rooms are a civilized way to rest after a lot of walking. Modeled after Mackintosh’s original period design, their interiors are lavish. It is a perfect, civilized respite, a design dream down to every little detail.
The Lighthouse rises above a lively pedestrian shopping zone. Step inside Mackintosh’s beautiful tower and climb up into an array of contemporary art and design, with exhibits that run the gamut but always entertain and inspire or challenge viewers.
If you enjoy this, head over to the Gallery of Modern Art, with more modern and contemporary art exhibits. Mind the statue out front, a noble horse rider with a safety cone ceremoniously placed on its head. You might assume it is a clever act of vandalism until you see the image on T- shirts in the museum’s gift shop. This captures Glasgow’s sensibility perfectly!

The East End

Head east for the more historic Glasgow, with reverent churches to contradict the avant garde buzz of the West End.
The Glasgow Cathedral is a marvel of Gothic architecture, one of the most beautiful churches in Scotland. It was built mostly in the 15th century and survived the uprisings of the Reformation. Its cool interior includes notable stained glass windows and a choir screen that depicts the seven deadly sins. 
Be sure to visit the lower church, where St. Mungo’s tomb is a vision. It has been a popular pilgrimage site for centuries, after St. Mungo founded his monastic community here in the 5th century.
The Museum of Religious Life & Art will help fill you in on this and other pilgrimages. This museum captures pieces from various times but also, from a wide range of religious traditions. Spend a little time exploring the sacred art collection here, an inverse of what you may have seen on the West End.
The People’s Palace highlights the city’s social history from the mid 18th century. Its exhibits capture personal experiences, and its setting is downright lovely. The palace is set in Glasgow Green, one of the city’s prettiest and oldest parks. The palace greenhouse holds a winter garden, a nice place to warm up on a chilly afternoon.
From historic back to modern, be sure to visit the Riverside Museum. Designed by Zaha Hadid, the structure is a brilliant vision on the Glasgow Harbor. It houses a transportation museum that will appeal to adults and kids alike. And it offers access to the Glenlee tall ship, another family favorite.
Glasgow is an easy day trip from our Central Scotland Untour and will add much to your experience and understanding of Scotland and the Scots.

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