Glasgow named one of world’s top tourist spots

The SSE Hydro arena boosts Glasgow's status as a must-visit city. Picture: Robert Perry
The SSE Hydro arena boosts Glasgow's status as a must-visit city. Picture: Robert Perry
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IT IS gearing up to host one of the world’s biggest sporting celebrations and one of the most high-profile events in the global music industry.

Now Glasgow’s profile has been given a fresh boost after it was named one of the top tourism destinations on the planet in 2014. Experts at Rough Guides, one of the world’s leading travel publishers, have rated Glasgow alongside carnival capital Rio, which will help stage football’s World Cup extravaganza this summer, as a must-visit destination.

The travel industry bible’s new cities guide also features culture capitals in Sweden, the Netherlands, Bosnia and France, as well as Liverpool, which was previously crowned European capital of culture in 2008.

Glasgow’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games this summer and the advent of the £125 million SSE Hydro arena, were both cited by Rough Guides as evidence of the city’s growing status as a “cultural powerhouse”.

Glasgow was also praised for its efforts to shrug off its “post-industrial malaise” over several decades and the radical transformation of the River Clyde through attractions such as the Riverside Museum, which showcases the city’s vast transport 

The Rough Guides website states: “The city has some of the best-financed and most imaginative museums and galleries in Britain – among them the showcase Burrell Collection and the palatial Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – nearly all of which are free.

“Glasgow’s architecture is some of the most striking in the UK, from the restored eighteenth-century warehouses of the Merchant City to the hulking Victorian prosperity of George Square.”

Other hotly tipped locations featured by Rough Guides include Lviv, in the Ukraine, Marseille, in France, which was the most recent European capital of culture, the Swedish city of Umea, which will jointly have the honour this year, Almaty, in Kazakhstan, and Portland, in the United States.

Glasgow is expected to take centre-stage in efforts to boost the Scottish tourism industry, in part due to the influx of visitors who are expected to attend the Commonwealth Games. The sporting event will be accompanied by a nine-month programme of cultural events around the country.

Among the major events at the SSE Hydro, which opened its doors in November, are a lavish opening gala for the Ryder Cup golf tournament in September, and the MTV Europe music awards.

The 21st Celtic Connections music festival will be launched next week with a gala concert headlined by violinist Nicola Benedetti, while Scarlett Johansson’s new film Under the Skin is believed to be among the star attractions at the 10th Glasgow Film Festival in February. The latest praise from Rough Guides has emerged shortly after Glasgow won plaudits from another leading travel publication, Wanderlust magazine, which rated Glasgow among its top ten destinations for 2014.

Gordon Matheson, chair of the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, said: “The world’s leading publications and renowned travel guides have consistently ranked Glasgow as a must-visit destination in recent years – reinforcing our position as Scotland’s creative, cultural and sporting capital – but 2014 will be a year unlike any other for Glasgow.

“Our shopping is the best in the UK outside of London’s West End and our world-class museums and galleries are free. We have the best civic arts collection in Europe, outstanding architecture, a cutting edge literary scene, and we’re home to some of the best festivals in the world.”

VisitScotland’s chairman Mike Cantlay added: “Glasgow, as quite rightly pointed out by Rough Guides, has become a ‘cultural powerhouse’, boasting a dazzling array of venues, events and attractions.

“I am sure Rough Guides’ endorsement will attract even more people to this city in the year that Scotland welcomes the world.”

Rough Guides’ top ten tourism destinations

1 RIO: Brazil’s carnival capital is wedged between emerald mountains and a sapphire sea. Away from the samba and the soccer, Rio’s parks, beaches and gardens are being frantically spruced up for the 2016 Olympics.

2 SARAJEVO: Theatres and coffee houses are the main creative breeding grounds, but among the bullet-scarred buildings and swirling coils of shisha smoke you’ll find riotous nightclubs, sweet-smelling bakeries and independent bookshops.

3 LIVERPOOL: What began with the gradual redevelopment of the Albert Dock area has evolved into a full-blown cultural renaissance. Liverpool, once named the world’s pop music capital, has rediscovered its mojo.

4 UMEA: The Swedish city’s 36,000-odd students, many of them artists, keep things looking fresh. Umea is this year’s European Capital of Culture (along with Riga).

5 LVIV: Hemmed in by farms and forests in the far west of Ukraine, Lviv is a small city with worldly aspirations.

6 MARSEILLE: With Roman ruins to explore, aniseed liqueurs to quaff and perfumed lavender gardens to laze in, you may find a weekend is not enough.

7 ALMATY: Almaty remains Kazakhstan’s most alluring city. Its setting, with rippling mountains all around, is as exotic as they come. Add this to the recent economic boom, and Borat-style stereotypes disintegrate completely.

8 ROTTERDAM: The Netherlands’ biggest building, a new “vertical city” called De Rotterdam, will soon be alive with cafés and restaurants, heralding a new dawn for the high-rise area locals have dubbed Manhattan on the Maas.

9 GLASGOW: The River Clyde, which once ferried tobacco traders towards the city, now flows past smoking-hot artists’ studios and museums.

10 PORTLAND: Breezy gardens stud Downtown’s grid of tree-lined streets, home to the laidback bars that support one of America’s best craft beer scenes. There are also more than four hundred food carts dotted across the city.