Glasgow has undergone many transformations, and evidence of past incarnations is everywhere. The medieval cathedral to the east of the city is the only one on the Scottish mainland to survive the Reformation. A short walk down the High Street the original site of Glasgow University in 1451 takes you to the 18th century Merchant City, site of Glasgow's first boom. It came when the so-called Tobacco Lords made a huge profit running tobacco between U.S. plantations and Europe. The merchant's townhouses and warehouses today hold designer shops, trendy bars, world-class restaurants (forget the fried Mars bars) and the loft apartments and studios of the merchants' modern-day equivalents.
Piano and cocktail bars, restaurant, members-only bar, nightclub and glass-domed main bar, all housed in the Victorian grandeur of a former bank headquarters and High Court. Corinthian (Tel. 0141 552 1101).
HIGHLANDS IN THE CITY
Taking its name from the Gaelic for whisky, or "water of life," the West End pub Uisge Beatha (Tel. 0141 564 1596) has a log fire, stuffed animal heads, kilted staff and, of course, a grand range of whiskies to wash down the haggis.
For fresh Scottish seafood in an untouched Art Deco interior dating back to the fitting of the Queen Mary, Rogano (Tel. 0141 248 4055) is a Glasgow institution. At Nairns (Tel. 0141 353 0707), Nick Nairn creates modern fusion dishes using local seasonal produce, from grass-fed Highland beef to shellfish caught nearby.
The five-star One Devonshire Gardens (Tel. 0141 339 2001) also houses Gordon Ramsay's Amaryllis restaurant. All rooms at the stylish Langs (Tel. 0141 333 1500) are individually designed, with Sony PlayStation and body-jet shower.
Loch Lomond, the Trossachs and the Ayrshire coast are all within an hour's drive. And there are trains to Edinburgh every 15 minutes. Luckily, they return just as frequently.
George Square and the opulent City Chambers lie in the heart of the city, a short step away from the retail heart: Buchanan Street. A testament to the fashion-conscious locals Glasgow is the biggest shopping center in the U.K. outside London Versace chose Glasgow for its first British outlet.
If you raise your gaze above the shop fronts you'll see an impressive mix of architectural styles from neo-classical to Scottish baronial Glasgow was named U.K. City of Architecture in 1999. Up from Sauchiehall Street is Glasgow School of Art, one of the finest examples of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who helped shape the Art Nouveau movement and whose buildings and designs are to Glasgow what Gaudí's are to Barcelona.
A few stops on the "clockwork orange" (the city's subway) take you to the West End. Dominated by Glasgow University and Kelvingrove Park, this is the bohemian end of town. Bookshops, restaurants and bars predominate around Byers Road and Ashton Lane. Licensing laws in Scotland are more relaxed than in England, and at the weekend Glaswegians pack the multitude of trendy minimalist bars and old-style pubs before heading for the nightclubs. Literally a stroll in the park from Byers Road is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Scotland's most popular free attraction.
Don't miss the Finnieston Crane on the banks of the River Clyde. It stands as a reminder of the city's past, when the river rang to the sounds of its shipyards John Brown's yard alone built the famous liners Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and QE2. The shipyards have all but gone, but the derelict docks have since been reclaimed and the crane now stands amid concert halls, hotels and the titanium-clad Science Centre.
After years as a hard-working but dowdy cousin of that other city, Glasgow is glorying in its rebirth. The locals may tell you this tale. A lady from Edinburgh, upon meeting a lady from Glasgow proclaims: "In the capital we think it's fun too, but we try to have a few outside interests as well."