On the rooftop bar of Radisson Red with a glass of gin and tonic in hand, I squint my eyes against a sunset that had inked the horizon in hues of purple, yellow and pink. I am looking outwards away from Glasgow city centre and I liked what I see.
Ten years ago, you wouldn’t consider wandering over this side of town for fun, derelict with abandoned warehouses and litter filled wasteland, a sight common to all areas experiencing their post-industrial decline. However, today’s Finnieston and the Clyde quays area is the place to go.
So hip, so trendy and so popular that Finnieston was voted as one of the “hippest places to live” in the country and one of the “top ten coolest neighbourhoods” in Europe by readers of two national papers in the UK.
There is an edge to Finnieston, as I found out on my stroll to explore my surrounds. Right outside the hotel is the Stobcross Crane (below), a disused crane that symbolises this area’s industrial past and the city’s engineering heritage.
This is the site of Queens Dock, a 61 acres dockland used for exporting goods from Glasgow. Trading from tobacco and cotton to coal, iron and chemicals during the Industrial Revolution, were all part of the export cargos in and out of the city that made Glasgow prosperous. Shipbuilding too, was big business here, before it all collapsed after WWI.
Nowadays, people come for concerts and sporting events at the SECC and the SSE Hydro, but for landmark sightings, it is also an attractive side of Glasgow. The Hydro, with its silhouette resembling a miniature Sydney Opera House, was built for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Across the river is the futuristic Science Centre and the Glasgow Tower, which holds the Guinness World Record as the tallest fully rotating freestanding structure in the world.
Continue along the river you’ll find The Clydeside Distillery (above), Glasgow’s first dedicated single malt distillery in over 100 years. Further on, the curves of the Riverside Museum of Transport and Technology is unmissable, together with the Tall Ship docked by its side, it has fun and interactive exhibitions on the history of industry in Glasgow, as well as a vast collection of vintage motor transport.
On this glorious sunny day – very un-Scottish I have been told – I could linger by the river all day, but it was to the heart of Finnieston I wanted to discover. So turning inland, I find my way to Argyle Street, also known as ‘the strip’, where Finnieston comes alive.
Here, I find chic barbers with vintage leather chairs, grocers whose produce ooze immediate freshness, and two of Glasgow’s culinary institutions – The Finnieston serving locally sourced seafood and Porter & Rye with great steaks and cocktails. In need of a coffee break, I step into the Kelvingrove Café (below). A bit of a local institution, it first opened its doors in 1896 and while it has changed hands many times since then, current business owners have restored it into its original Victorian décor and I enjoy a shot of espresso in the ambience of an old European Grand Café.
Caffeinated, I follow the creative trail and tuck into The Hidden Land through a somewhat dark and shabby entrance, which opens up to a world of colour at the end of the tunnel. This is a corner where Glasgow’s creatives are gathering, and inside each of the brightly painted space are galleries of arts and crafts, services of magic and tarot cards, bespoke interior and jewellery workshops and a lovely Hidden Lane Tearoom, which claims to serve the best scones in town.
A strong sense of community can be felt all around Finnieston. Back on Argyle, I pass more artisan cafes, florists, bakers and hairdressers. Posters advertising neighbourhood meetings and school plays are stuck proudly on their windows and patrons stopping to discuss the local events as they linger outside the shops. Yet, I don’t feel the pretentiousness that often comes with gentrification – instead, I found a sense of belonging and even for me, as the visitor, to be part of the coolest place to live in the UK.
Emirates has flights to Glasgow via Dubai from major Australian airports.
On the ground, Glasgow has a network of subway and buses to get around the city centre. Alternatively, try the nextBike, the local bike sharing scheme and explore this cycle-friendly city on two wheels.
Where to stay
Located on the riverfront, Radisson RED sits on the junction of the old town and Finnieston, making it a great base to explore all corners of Glasgow.