Travel review: Glasgow - a festive city break

Glasgow at Christmas
Glasgow at Christmas
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Crisp, cold air, bustling streets filled with festive shoppers and the soft twinkle of golden lights lining the city’s Style Mile. Glasgow, a city transformed, is an ideal spot for a Christmas break.

Known for its distinct architecture, museums and galleries, it’s seen a significant regeneration in recent years.

Glasgow Christmas markets

Glasgow Christmas markets

There’s the shopping, the setting and the adventure of being a bit further afield.

Accompanied as it is by a the hum of a soft Glaswegian burr, a smattering of snowflakes on our way and hints of Harry Potter, there’s certainly something magical about a family escape.

We visited at the start of the season, as Christmas markets are setting into full swing and shoppers make the most of festive deals.

The city’s shopping streets, centred around Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall and Argyle Street, are lit up with the sparkle of thousands of glittering bulbs casting a golden glow below.

Glasgow's Village Hotel

Glasgow's Village Hotel

Dubbed Scotland’s shopping capital, there is a lot on offer. Major department stores, independent boutiques and stylish malls, it’s a treasure house for treats.

We visited Hamleys, the oldest and largest toy shop in the world ( A world of joy for two young children, aged six and two, their excitement at hearing they were to have lunch with Santa was palpable.

Escorted by cheery elves, there were stories and games before an appearance from Father Christmas himself.

My youngest, overwhelmed, promptly burst into tears and hid, but as he’s all she’s talked about since I’m certain it will be an experience to remember.

Darcy's Glasgow

Darcy's Glasgow

No festive city break is complete without a trip to a Christmas market, and Glasgow, befitting a city its size, has two, on St Enoch’s Square and George Square, right in the shopping district.

Charming wooden chalets, housing handcrafted goodies, mulled wine and Dutch pancakes, carved dolls and hot glüwhein, accompanied by Bratwurst sausage.

There are rides and balloons, and cheery stallholders, in a picture perfect wintry setting.

Visiting with children, as an adult, is a world away from my memories of Glasgow as a touring student well over a decade ago.

Cup Tea Rooms Glasgow

Cup Tea Rooms Glasgow

The city, having hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and investing many millions in regeneration, is almost unrecognisable.

Gone are the shipyards, its traditional industries replaced by stylish theatres, grand arenas and a thriving financial district. Most impressive of all are the museums - and they’re free.

The dynamic Riverside, named European Museum of the Year in 2013, is set on the waterfront along the banks of the River Clyde.

Detailing Glasgow’s rich industrial and shipbuilding heritage, there are thousands of objects on display from miniature trams to a living museum, featuring ancient cobbled streets, sweet shops and bars.

Berthed outside is the Tall Ship Glenlee, the UK’s only floating Clyde-built sailing ship and also free to enter, with play areas inside.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, ranked in the top 15 most visited museums globally, was an absolute must see.

Housing major galleries of word-wide significance, there were displays on natural history, art, arms and armour, and for the children - and us - was an absolute inspiration.

There were dinosaurs, mummies, a Spitfire, and works by Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh, as well as its prize jewel, Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross.

And finally, the Glasgow Science Centre, an extraordinary adventure space.

There were gravity-defying tilting rooms, water wheels, even a machine where you could make satisfyingly giant oil bubbles, and workshops on digging up dinosaur fossils.

Best of all was the Space Explorers Show, our first time in a Planetarium and enough to leave us all agog as we were taken on a tour of the night skies. Well worth a visit.

We stayed at the Village Hotel, part of Urban Resorts. Polished and modern, it was the ideal base for exploring the city’s cultural delights within the River Clyde corridor.

Dubbed the ‘hippest place’ to be, it sits alongside the city’s media city and is minutes away from the Science Centre and gigs at the Hydro.

It also has its own Starbucks, spa and gym, while the in-house bar and grill are a great spot for relaxing and are child-friendly with a special menu and cheerful staff.

For a family meal out, try Darcy’s in a corner of Princes Square ( It’s a rarity to find somewhere that actively welcomes children - but still serves fabulous food.

Skinny cocktails, liquid desserts crafted to taste like pudding, and a buzzing, lively atmosphere, it was easy to enjoy a little bit of glamour while the children were entertained.

And for a real treat, try a festive afternoon tea at Cup Tea Rooms, in the grandeur of a listed building on Renfield Street or in Virginia Court.

This was indulgent, delicious savouries such as cucumber with elderflower cream cheese sandwiches, Brie and grape chutney, plum panna cotta and warm apple and cinnamon scones.

It was particularly good for children, with a special menu featuring pancakes with chocolate sauce, cupcakes they could decorate themselves and the option for herbal teas. The kids loved it.

Glasgow, it seems, is a city transformed. Blown away are my old impressions, replaced with an image of a stylish, modern metropolis. Shopping, culture, and a sense of something magical. For a festive city break for families, it has it all.

Getting there: We stayed at Village Hotels ( where prices start from £39 for a double room based on two sharing and £99 for a family of four, from January. Visit the Glasgow Science Centre ( Tickets from £9.70 for adults, £7.90 for children, with £3 add on for planetarium. Try afternoon tea at Cup Tea Rooms (, from £24 or £8.50 for children. For further information on booking your trip to Glasgow visit

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