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Given the contrasting reputations of Edinburgh and Glasgow, any travelers who haven't examined a map of Scotland might be forgiven for thinking that they are separated by hundreds of miles. In fact, Scotland's two primary cities are only about 74km (46 miles) apart, but almost everyone who visits them will be struck by their differences.
Both cities contribute mightily - and equally - to the cultural vibrancy of the nation. With this in mind, the country is improving the public transportation links between the two cities, first by increasing the frequency of trains and second by contemplating a high-speed rail link between them.
To the east, Edinburgh offers a famous and almost fairytale-like setting, with an imposing castle high on one of many hills. Built on ancient volcanoes and first established because of its secure and defensible position, the capital of Scotland has become a crossroads. Practically everyone who comes to Scotland today spends some time in Edinburgh - and its midsummer international arts festival is one of the biggest in the world. Edinburgh is the second most popular tourist destination in Great Britain after London, and it's not hard to see why. Compact and tidy, it is more of a big town than a small city.
In the west, Glasgow, on the other hand, is not a place that anyone might call precious. Glasgow was settled earlier than its cross-country rival because it was an ideal place to ford the mighty River Clyde, and later gained a reputation for shipbuilding and industry. For all its ancient origins, today Glasgow resembles nothing so much as a modern, cosmopolitan city, with a growing population. It has overcome its 20th-century associations with grime, grit, and gangsters - and now it is arguably more vibrant than Edinburgh, with a vigorous music and art scene. Without a picturesque castle or flamboyant palace, it exemplifies urban Scotland: Dynamic and attuned to the world. In 1990, it was named European Culture Capital; in 1999, U.K. City of Architecture and Design; and in 2014, it will host the Commonwealth Games.
Edinburgh and Glasgow have a lot to offer individually, and taken as a duo, they are more impressive still. Both cities are among Europe's most dynamic centers. Edinburgh is the seat of Scottish royalty and government, and Glasgow boasts lively urban culture mixed in with Victorian splendor. Whilst the latter may not have the fairy-tale setting that Edinburgh does, it compensates with a lively culture, metropolitan feel, and gregarious locals.
Glasgow's origins are ancient, making Edinburgh seem comparatively young. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of Roman settlements. In the 6th century, St. Kentigern (or St. Mungo) is believed to have begun a monastery at the site of Glasgow Cathedral, a hillside along a burn (creek) that feeds into the River Clyde. The site was logical for a settlement, as it was at an opportune point to ford the mighty Clyde before it widens on its way to the sea some 30km (20 miles) away. According to some translations, Glasgow, or glascau, means "dear green place."
Aside from the Cathedral itself, practically none of this once-important medieval ecclesiastical center (including a university) remains. That's a shame, as Glasgow was considered one of the prettiest towns in all of 17th-century Europe. And much of its historical records (kept at the Cathedral) were swept away and lost during the Reformation.
The city became an economic powerhouse in the 18th century and quickly grew to be Scotland's largest city (as well as the fourth-most populous in the U.K.). The boom began in earnest with the tobacco trade to the New World, where Glasgow outpaced rivals such as London or Bristol. The city then became famous worldwide for shipbuilding and docks that produced the Queen Mary and other fabled ocean liners. It was the Second City of the Empire. But postindustrial decline gave Glasgow a poor reputation - particularly in contrast to the enduring charms of Edinburgh.
In the 1980s, the city reversed its fortunes, becoming Scotland's contemporary cultural capital and drawing talent from across the U.K., whether in art or rock 'n' roll. Decades of grime were sandblasted away from its monumental Victorian buildings, and one of Europe's best collections of art - the Burrell - found a permanent home. In 1990, the city was named European Capital of Culture.
That said, Glasgow is not a metropolis without flaws. Pockets of poverty remain in the city's peripheral housing projects (estates or schemes). A major motorway cuts a scar through the center of town - and, not learning the lessons of its harmful effects, the city has another new freeway slashing its way through Glasgow's Southside. Although the city still appears to prefer knocking buildings down and erecting new structures at the slightest opportunity, the splendor of what architectural critics hailed as "the greatest surviving example of a Victorian city" is still evident. The next big event to come to the city is the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
On Glasgow's doorstep is the scenic estuary of the Firth of Clyde, with attractive coastal peninsulas and atmospheric islands only short drives and ferry rides away. In addition, Glasgow is a good gateway for exploring Burns Country in Ayrshire to the southwest. From Glasgow, visitors can easily tour Loch Lomond and see some of the southern fringes of the Highlands or travel less than an hour away to Stirling and the Trossach mountains.
Search flights to Glasgow with American Airlines and start planning for a trip full of rich and rewarding discoveries. Not only does Glasgow boast some of Scotland's most unforgettable scenery, it's also home to multiple world-class museums, a vibrant music scene and amazing architecture. There's no doubt you'll find a number of fascinating things to do in Glasgow.
Touring the city's museums is hands-down one of our favorite activities in Glasgow. Start with one of the city's newest, the Riverside Museum. It's the home of Scotland's Museum of Transport and Travel and you can view everything from fine art to a 1945 steam locomotive to the famed 1896 Tall Ship (formally known as the Glenlee). The museum's location in a former Glasglow Harbour shipyard enables not only the Tall Ship but other historically significant visiting craft to dock alongside. You'll also want to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, where admission is free to view thousands of objects ranging from natural history and one of the world's finest armor and armory collections to works by Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Henri Matisse. And you simply can't miss touring the Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland's most-visited modern art museum. Also known as GoMA, you'll be struck by the dichotomy of such a contemporary collection being housed in such a neoclassical building in located in Royal Exchange Square. Be sure to note the Carlo Marochetti sculpture in front of the building of the Duke of Wellington, which usually sports a safety cone on its head; authorities have long since given up on permanently removing it. Inside you'll be able to view works by Andy Warhol and David Hockney, among many others.
Glasgow is also where you can view many wonderful styles of architecture, and an architectural tour is another one of our top things to do in Glasgow. You can see excellent examples of Victorian (St. Vincent Street Church), Moorish Revival (Templeton's Carpet Factory) and modern (Clyde Auditorium). But perhaps the most well regarded here is the style crafted by Glasgow-born architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This Art Nouveau pioneer created many stunning buildings across the city, not the least of which is the Glasgow School of Art. His style is so connected with the city that many refer to it as Glasgow Style. His other works include Scotland Street School and Queen's Cross Church.
And how could we forget the music scene? With over 100 concerts weekly, hearing a live band is a must for your list of activities in Glasgow. It's so known for its bounty of melody that is has been named a UNESCO City of Music.
This Scottish jewel is full of fascinating discoveries, and American Airlines can help you fly to Glasgow so you can uncover them all for yourself. Search our flights and start planning your trip now.
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|3D/2D Craft & Design Fair||Dec 2013; Weekends only (various dates)||Glasgow Royal Concert Hall|
|Santa Dash||Dec 2013 (annual)||George Square|
|3D/2D Craft & Design Fair||Dec 2013 (various dates)||Glasgow Royal Concert Hall|
|RSNO Christmas Concert||Dec 2013 (annual)||Glasgow Royal Concert Hall|
|Glasgow Loves Hogmanay||Dec 2013 (annual)||George Square|
|Hogmanay Gala||Dec 2013 (annual)||Glasgow Royal Concert Hall|
|Irn Bru Carnival||Dec 2013 - Jan 2014 (annual)||Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (SECC)|
|The Banff Mountain Film Festival||Jan 2014 (annual)||Mitchell Theatre|
|Celtic Connections||Jan - Feb 2014 (annual)||Glasgow Royal Concert Hall|
|Glasgow Film Festival||Feb 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|Glasgow Music Fair||Feb 2014 (various dates)||Mitchell Library|
|Aye Write! Glasgow's Book Festival||Mar 2014 (annual)||Mitchell Library|
|Glasgow International Comedy Festival||Mar - Apr 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|Glasgow Warriors Rugby Radio Direct Pro12||Aug 2013 - May 2014; Fri, Sat, and Sun only (annual)||Firhill Stadium|
|Glasgow International Festival Of Visual Art||Apr - May 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|Southside Festival||May 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|Coloursfest||Jun 2014 (annual)||Braehead International Arena|
|Glasgow Science Festival||Jun 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|Glasgow Mela||Jun 2014 (annual)||Kelvingrove Park|
|West End Festival||Jun 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|Glasgow International Jazz Festival||Jun 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|The Glasgow Show||Jul 2014 (annual)||Glasgow Green|
|Merchant City Festival||Jul 2014 (annual)||Merchant City|
|World Pipe Band Championships||Aug 2014 (annual)||Glasgow Green|
|Great Scottish Run||Sep 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|Pedal for Scotland||Sep 2014 (annual)||Glasgow Green|
|Glasgow Music Fair||Sep 2014 (various dates)||Mitchell Library|
|Glasgow Doors Open Days||Sep 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|Glasgow Americana||Oct 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|BBC Good Food Show Scotland||Oct 2014 (annual)||Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (SECC)|
|Document - International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival||Oct 2014 (annual)||Centre for Contemporary Arts|
|3D/2D Craft & Design Fair||Nov 2014 (various dates)||Glasgow Royal Concert Hall|
|Glasgay!||Oct - Nov 2014 (annual)||Glasgow|
|Glasgow Fireworks Night||Nov 2014 (annual)||Glasgow Green|
|Glasgow's Christmas Lights||Nov 2014 (annual)||George Square|
|Glasgow's Whisky Festival||Nov 2014 (annual)||The Arches|
|3D/2D Craft & Design Fair||Nov 2014 (various dates)||Glasgow Royal Concert Hall|
|Country Living Magazine's Christmas Fair||Nov 2014 (annual)||Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (SECC)|
|Glasgow Warriors Rugby Radio Direct Pro12||Aug 2014 - May 2015; Fri, Sat, and Sun only (annual)||Firhill Stadium|
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