Some say that it is Glasgow - not Edinburgh - that is the center of contemporary culture in Scotland. It is an arguable, not to say locally controversial, point of view. But there is no doubt that Glasgow has seen the most progress since the middle of the 20th century, when the shipping boom went bust, giving way to an image of profound decline that began to reverse in the 1980s. Its local arts scene was always alive, however.
Although the Scottish capital to the east hosts a world-famous festival and is home to the country's national art galleries and museums, Glasgow is where the respected and accomplished Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet companies - as well as the Scottish National Orchestra - are based. It is also the city where young talent is nurtured at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama. There are several theaters, including two that rank highly in the U.K. for staging ground-breaking drama: The Citizens and the Tron. Even more experimental performances can be seen at the Arches.
But for all this "high art," Glasgow has the reputation for being an unsurpassed spawning ground in Scotland for diverse pop and rock groups, such as Primal Scream, Paolo Nutini, Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, and Belle and Sebastian. Barrowland, a former ballroom, has to be one of the best venues (that is, sweaty and vibrating) in all of Britain for seeing live contemporary music. Additionally, there is the Academy on the city's Southside and in the city center, ABC, a former cinema that was redeveloped into an excellent mid-size music venue in 2005. There are also at least four bars - King Tut's Wah Wah Hut (where the band Oasis was apparently "discovered"), Nice 'n' Sleazy, the 13th Note, and Stereo - that provide Glasgow with smaller dedicated performance spaces. They attract rising bands and acts preferring cozy confines.
Then, of course, there are the city's many other pubs and bars. They are friendly places, and don't be surprised if the locals strike up a conversation. Remember, all indoor public places, including bars, are completely nonsmoking. For a complete rundown of what is happening in Glasgow, pick up a copy of The List, a biweekly magazine available at all major newsstands and bookshops, or go online to www.list.co.uk.
Although hardly competition for a drama giant such as London, Glasgow's theater scene is equal to, if not a step ahead of, Edinburgh's. Young Scottish playwrights often make their debuts here, and from the established dramatic repertoire you're likely to see anything from Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath to Beckett's Crapp's Last Tape.
Finding Out What's On
For a complete rundown of what is happening in the city, pick up a copy of The List, a biweekly magazine available at all major newsstands and bookshops. It reviews, previews, and gives the details of the arts and events in Glasgow and Edinburgh. For the online version, go to www.list.co.uk.
Glasgow has one of the most active dance club scenes in Great Britain. Listed below are just a few selected venues. In local parlance, "venues" are distinct from the actual "clubs" - such as Optimo (techno/post-punk) or Pressure (house and techno) - which are associated with a specific style, DJ, or team of DJs. They can move around to different venues. It all makes perfect sense to those in the know.
Famished at 4 minutes past midnight? Several Indian restaurants are open until 1am, but a couple trump the lot by staying open until 4am. Charcoals is in the city center (26 Renfield St.; tel. 0141/221-9251), while Spice Gardens is on the southern bank of the River Clyde (Clyde Place near Bridge St.; tel. 0141/429-4422).
Gay & Lesbian
Glasgow and its environs are said to have the largest concentration of gays and lesbians in the U.K. outside of London. The Merchant City is the only identifiable district in the city where the gay and lesbian community is particularly concentrated, dubbed the "gay triangle."
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.