Glasgow's layout is hard to read at a single glance. The River Clyde, around which Glasgow grew up as a trading city, runs through the center of the city—literally cutting it in two. To the north, the oldest part of Glasgow, the Merchant City, stretches from High Street (the heart of the medieval city) as far as Queen Street, bounded by George Square and Argyle Street to the north and south. The Victorian city, which grew with the shipbuilding boom, reaches as far as what is now the M8 motorway and the River Clyde to the south. Crossing the M8 takes you to the West End, originally the quite wealthy area around Glasgow University. It now embraces the lovely Kelvingrove Park and the new bars and restaurants of Argyle Street, which has expanded and changed as shipbuilding gave way to riverside concerts and exhibition venues. The opposite bank of the river was the city's poorer quarter, where the workers lived, though beyond it are the park and museum around Pollok Park.
City Centre. If you're interested in how the city blossomed in the 19th century, this is where to start. Look up to see wonderful Victorian buildings expressing the confidence of a burgeoning industrial capital. George Square’s City Chambers are well worth a visit before you trawl the shops along Buchanan Street, duck into one of the trendy eateries, or explore the wide variety of bars and music venues on offer.
Merchant City. In the Middle Ages, the city grew up around Glasgow Cathedral. The oldest house, Provand’s Lordship, was originally the home of a bishop. As the city expanded along with the growing transatlantic trade, wealthy tobacco and cotton traders built their palatial houses here. They were laid to rest in the glorious tombs of the Necropolis, which overlooks the city. Today the area is busy with restaurants, clubs, and shops.
West End. In this quieter, slightly hillier western part of the city is Glasgow University and the more bohemian side of Glasgow. The West End's treasures include the Botanic Gardens, Kelvingrove Park, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. There are also plenty of well-priced restaurants and lively bars. Byres Road is at its heart, especially when it fills with weekend revelers at its bars and clubs.
The Clyde. Once a hardworking river lined with shipyards, the Clyde has been reborn as a relaxing destination that entrances visitors and locals alike. The Glasgow Science Centre and the Museum of Transport face each other across the water, while the Scottish Exhibition Centre and the new SSE Hydro are major venues for all sorts of events.
East End. What was once a neglected corner of Glasgow is being treated to a major face-lift. Glasgow Green’s wonderful People’s Palace draws visitors throughout the year, and on weekends the nearby Barras market is a reminder of the area’s past.
South Side. Often overlooked, this less visited side of the city includes beautiful Pollok Park as well as Pollok House, with its art collection and its elegant gardens. A couple of architectural gems are here, too.