In contrast to the traditional architecture, the south has made waves in recent years for its modern and exciting food and drink scene, bringing lots of quality dining alongside the area’s more established visitor attractions and beautiful parks. This neighbourhood is made up of smaller areas and districts including Shawlands, Strathbungo, Pollokshields and Govan so make sure you don't overlook these when you're exploring.
Stunning parks, beautiful architecture and thriving cafe culture
Start your south exploration with a visit to House for an Art Lover, located in Bellahouston Park just 4 miles from the city centre. Designed by Scotland’s most celebrated architect and designer of the 20th century, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the house was originally an unbuilt design submitted for a competition but now stands as a faithful interpretation and construction of his original design. Walk through the exquisite interiors and you’ll understand why this is one of the best places to experience Mackintosh’s iconic work, and take your time too – there’s a café and gift shop for a chance to stop and rest. Make sure to thoroughly explore Bellahouston Park. The kids will enjoy the play areas and Alice in Wonderland Maze or take a leisurely walk around the grounds to see the sculptures, walled garden, and the Palace of Art – the only surviving structure from the 1938 Empire Exhibition which took place in the park.
There is certainly a different feel for visitors who make it south of the river when visiting Glasgow, as well as the leafy suburbs and buzzing café scene they can expect to find some really great cultural gems including a few opportunities to experience the work of the city's most famous son, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Garry Sanderson, House for an Art Lover
Mackintosh also left his distinctive mark in the south with his design for Scotland Street School, which lives on as a museum telling the story of education from the Victorian era right up to the 1960s. It’s a beautiful building with lots of architectural detail that you can admire up close as you imagine what life as a pupil was like in the school.
The south is known for being a leafy area with lots of parks and gardens to relax in, so to see what it’s all about, make your way over to the nearby Pollok Country Park. As Glasgow’s largest park, there’s so much to explore here that you might want to set a few hours aside just to explore this beautiful green space. The world-renowned Burrell Collection(currently closed for refurbishment) is situated in the park, a truly diverse and extensive collection of artefacts including late medieval, Chinese and Islamic displays alongside art by Rodin, Degas and Cezanne, all under one roof. Gifted by and named after the shipping magnate Sir William Burrell, it will be a must-visit once again when it re-opens in 2021, although you might be able to still see some of the great pieces from the collection as it goes on tour during the refurbishment period. You could also get on two wheels with bicycle hire from South West Community Cycles. Conveniently located at Pollokshaws West train station, it's a great way to get around this expansive park more efficiently – there’s even a mountain bike trail if you fancy taking it a step further!
Pollok Country Park is also the location of the grand Pollok House, a stunning building which was the historic home of the Maxwell family and is now looked after by the National Trust for Scotland.
The house contains an impressive collection of Spanish paintings, many of which were acquired by the family, and the meticulous restoration of the property will let you experience what life was like inside this grand home in the 18th century. You can also stop to enjoy some delicious home baking in the award-winning Edwardian Kitchen café.
There is also a contemporary art gallery space within the House which is used for a changing programme of exhibitions.
Finish your time in the park with a walk around and say hello to the city's very own fold of Highland cattle.
From here we move into Shawlands, a bustling area that’s a very desirable place to live, and a place that many people feel is the beating heart of the south. As you make your way through this neighbourhood and take in all of the beautifully kept traditional tenements, you might get a sense of the passionate community spirit that the area is known for. And what better place to experience this than a coffee at a local café? Shawlands has lots of great independent coffee stops – check out Café Strange Brew, an intimate space that serves great food and is very popular with locals. Try The Glad Café too for something a little more bohemian in feel, again with a focus on quality food and drink but combined with a well-equipped stage for up and coming musicians and international acts alike, alongside drama, comedy, and art exhibitions.
I’ve lived in the southside for forty years now. It’s always felt like a great place to live, and even as it changes and has more to offer the short term visitor, it remains a diverse, creative and welcoming community, great for families and people of all ages.
Rachel Smillie, Director at The Glad Café
Come back in the evening to sample some of the south's top restaurants – Ranjit’s Kitchen for authentic Panjabi fare, The McMillan for top-notch chop-house dining, Julie's Kopitiam for masterful Malaysian cuisine or the iconic Battlefield Rest, an Italian bistro housed in one of the most stunning buildings in Glasgow.
Bordering Shawlands is the beautiful Queen’s Park, sixty hectares of green space encompassing everything from manicured lawns to peaceful walks next to wildlife, and one of the city’s best vantage points. There’s also plenty of sports and recreational facilities to be found, as well as a boating pond and smaller nature pond to admire. From here, take a short walk to the adjoining Strathbungo area, one of Scotland’s outstanding conservation areas and named as one of The Times’ “best places to live in the UK 2018”. The area’s most notable architecture belongs to the work of renowned Glasgow architect, Alexander “Greek” Thomson. Look out for Moray Place, a classically styled two storey terrace of ten houses. Greek Thomson himself lived in No.1, and even a cursory glance will tell you why it’s one of the south’s most desirable streets to live in. The terrace has an abundance of Thomson’s attention to detail, with decorative elements on every corner and even lotus-flower shaped chimneypots.
Strathbungo is also well served with great restaurants with local favourites, from the trendy family friendly The Bungo to the new wave of stylishly small brunch and lunch joints, such as Gnom and Potbelly; but it’s the sense of community spirit that makes this place such a desirable place to live and visit, with some describing it as “village life in the heart of the city”.
Annual summer festivals like Bungo in the Back Lanes is a local favourite with the residents setting out stalls packed with everything from jewellery to bric-a-brac, and homemade food. Also taking place once a year, the Strathbungo Window Wanderland presents a mini evening arts trail to showcase the community’s imagination through all sorts of beautiful and eccentric windows displays, again highlighting the area’s unique character.
And if Thomson’s architectural work has piqued your interest after taking all of this in, the south is one of the best neighbourhoods in Glasgow to see even more of his work. Constructed in 1858, Holmwood House in Cathcart is the architect’s finest residential villa and the only Thomson property in the area with public access.
The hidden gem of Glasgow: the southside has much to offer from incredible architecture to amazing eateries.
Fritha Costain, National Trust For Scotland
As a historic neighbourhood in its own right, the south has plenty to offer for those in search of attractions full of heritage and history. Between spring and autumn, you could begin with the Govan Stones at Govan Old Parish Church, a set of 31 carved stones dating from the 9th to the 11th centuries (visit their website for seasonal opening times). Every sculpture in this collection is special, but the standout piece is undoubtedly the Govan Sarcophagus, a richly decorated burial monument that is one of the finest examples of its age. It’s no wonder that the Govan Stones were voted as Scotland’s top archaeological attraction in 2017!
Just a short walk away from here is the Fairfield Heritage Centre, an A-listed former shipbuilding and engineering office constructed when Govan was the centre of shipbuilding on the River Clyde, producing some of the world’s finest vessels. The Heritage Centre has been completely restored, providing visitors with fantastic exhibits and information on the history and greatness of the shipbuilding industry. It’s a must-see for those who have an interest in Glasgow’s history as one of the greatest shipbuilding locations in the world. If you’re here at the weekend, take the opportunity to make the short journey over to the Big Feed, a great indoor street food market packed with delicious food, live music, and even games to keep the kids entertained.
Over in Govanhill you’ll find another gem of a historic attraction at the Govanhill Baths, the city’s last surviving Edwardian bathhouse that’s now home to all sorts of community events and even hosts visual arts exhibitions during the biennial Glasgow International Festival.
Speaking of festivals, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the annual Southside Fringe (May) while you’re here! This independent, community-led festival brings together the best of the south’s music, comedy, burlesque, art and theatre over the majority of a month. With participation from almost every shop, cafe and arts venue in the area, it’s yet another reminder of how proud the southside is of its community and its local talent.
This also extends to the south’s shopping credentials too – browse the local traders’ stalls at the twice monthly Park Lane Market on Pollokshaws Road, or pick up a gift at Sunshine No. 1, a friendly gift shop that only stocks the best of Scottish made gifts and art. Looking for something to keep you entertained on the trip back home? Have a look inside Young’s Interesting Books for that perfect paperback – it might be small and cosy, but the emphasis is on quality for this much-loved local bookshop.
This also extends to the south’s shopping credentials too – browse the local traders’ stalls at the twice monthly Park Lane Market on Pollokshaws Road, or pick up a gift at Sunshine No. 1, a friendly giftshop that only stocks the best of Scottish made gifts and art. Looking for something to keep you entertained on the trip back home? Have a look inside Young’s Interesting Books for that perfect paperback – it might be small and cosy, but the emphasis is on quality for this much-loved local bookshop.
Sports and nightlife
Football fans have plenty to look forward to in the south with both Rangers Football Club and Hampden Stadium in the vicinity and both offering a stadium tour to immerse yourself in the grounds. And if you are touring Scotland’s national stadium, don’t miss The Hampden Experience with its great museum full of historic football memorabilia of brilliant matches of the past.
Glasgow’s reputation as a city for amazing live music also extends to the south, with the O2 Academy regularly hosting international acts in a superb venue and Bellahouston Park attracting big names for the Summer Sessions gig series.
Theatre-goers should also consider taking in a Citizens Theatre production where their performances of Scottish drama and contemporary takes on classic plays make for spectacular live theatre with a Glaswegian twist! The Gorbals’ based theatre is currently closed for a major redevelopment, however two fellow south venues, Tramway and Scotland Street Museum, will be hosting and presenting Citizens Theatre productions and classes during this time.
Coming to the city with the kids? There are plenty of family-friendly attractions in the south to keep everyone entertained. Check out the Glasgow Science Centre, one of the city’s top attractions with floors of interactive displays that are fun and educational at the same time. You might also want to experience the Planetarium while you’re there too – it’s about as immersive as you can get, with a state of the art full dome projection system and presenter-led shows to take you on journeys throughout the solar system.
One of the south’s hidden gems is the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, which is a fascinating place to explore for those who love museums. With only 2% of the Glasgow Museums collection on display at any moment, take a guided tour of this treasure trove to see the rest of the objects that are being kept safe until their time in the spotlight. You might also want to find a moment to visit the Kinning Park Complex, a community centre that regularly hosts family-friendly events and classes. Those looking for a bit more action might want to book a spot in Ryze, a popular trampoline park that has everything from extreme dodgeball to foam pits to let the kids go crazy on!
Those who enjoy the arts also have plenty to look forward to during their visit to the south with the presence of Tramway, an international art space which commissions, produces and presents contemporary art projects from visual art, dance, performance and film. It was also the host venue for the Turner Prize 2015 exhibition. Take a peek at the programme to see what’s on and don’t forget to spare a little time to explore the Hidden Gardens while you’re there, an award-winning green space with its very own programme of community-led events. There’s also the Queen’s Park Railway Club, an artist-run gallery which is actually set on the platform at Queen’s Park Railway Station inside a defunct waiting room. Hosting occasional exhibitions, it’s an intimate and unique space to experience visual arts in the south.
And there you have it – a whistle stop tour of what makes the south such a friendly and exciting place to visit. Glasgow is full of unique places to explore but this neighbourhood has plenty to keep you entertained and you’ll no doubt fall in love with its warm, community-led vibe.
Leafy avenues, distinctive architecture, beautiful parks, great food and drink
The community spirit, creativity, unique attractions