Just before Christmas, a little over 4 months ago, my flatmate and I decided we had enough of our tiny ground floor flat in the hip streets of Finnieston in Glasgow’s West End, packed our bags and boxes and moved house to explore a new part of town. Finnieston might be one of the coolest neighbourhoods to call home in the UK, but it also comes with steep rents, small flats and higher council tax. Our new home should be at the opposite side if the city, in the infamous East End of Glasgow. To be exact, we had moved to Dennistoun, where for the same amount of rent we got a spacious two-bedroom flat on the top floor and a view over the wide-stretched Alexandra Park.
With the long and cold winter finally coming to an end (well, at least we’re taking baby steps towards summer) we finally get to explore Dennistoun and surrounding areas in the East End in a little more detail. If you find yourself in Glasgow with a full free day at hand, skip the student-flooded West End and make your way out east – there is plenty to explore!
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Coffee by Alexandra Park
The day starts by taking the train to Alexandra Parade train station which is only 4 stops or around 10 minutes from central Queen Street station (take the train towards Cumbernauld or Springburn). Arriving here for 10am is the perfect time to grab a coffee and a vegan sweet treat at Stan’s Studio, a tiny coffee shop where artist and musician Sarah J Stanley serves delicious poured-over coffee, vegan and non-vegan bakery while using the back as studio space (open Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm). Coffee in hand you can either start your day exploring or go for a quick stroll through Alexandra Park, an expansive park with a duck pond, a newly-planted community orchard and a golf course.
Brunch & Shopping on Duke Street
The prime location for a stroll in the East End is Duke Street. This is where you find shops, restaurants, cafes and surprisingly plenty of tanning studios. One even claims to have been ‘tanning your ass for 20 years’ – oh, Glasgow…
For a yummy breakfast and amazing coffee head to Tapa Organic Bakery on Whitehall Street. They bake their own bread but also have a little deli with sandwiches and Spanish tortilla, or plenty of treats for a sweet tooth. Tapa has several shops around town, for example on Great Western Road in the West End or on Pollokshaws Road in the Southside, but I believe this is the original bakery.
Afterwards hit the charity shops dotting the street and make some amazing bargains, visit The Corner Shop, a cut little vintage fashion shop with beautiful, hand-selected items from all decades, or Saint Genevieve, a little boutique with gorgeous designs.
If it is lunch you’re after I can highly recommend Dennistoun Bar B Que a really cool burger joint that looks like something out of a gritty New York City film. The BLT is gorgeous (I tried it back when I was not vegetarian yet) but they also have vegetarian dishes on their menu!
Art & local flavours at The Barras
If you want to experience a brutally honest, yet kind of charming side of Glasgow, head to The Barras – a street and indoor weekend market which has taken place in the East End of Glasgow since the 1920s. The market is a mix of market halls, street vendors, pubs, cafes and shops, and is more importantly a great location to taste some of Glasgow’s original flavour. It might not always be easy to understand the vendors and shopkeepers – there are some strong Weegie accents going on! – but it’s an experience for itself. Whether you stumble into a porn magazine shop in the back of a corridor, dig for vintage treasures in one of the many shops or simply chat about life with the cook who prepares your sausage roll – it’s fabulous!
Market open: Saturday & Sunday 9.30 am – 4.30 pm
For a traditional Scottish breakfast or snack like a roll and square sausage or a Scottish fry-up head to Glasgow Cafe or any of the other breakfast cafe in the market. The Square Yard with its vintage shops and the BAaD artist space and cafe are a wee sign of gentrification, but is also an initiative to turn the market space’s image around. Many stalls in the market halls remain empty these days, and even on a sunny Spring Saturday the streets were not bustling like they should be. Sadly the market is also home to a lot of crime, like the selling of stolen goods or illegal substances…
Personally, I love the local flavour of the Barras even though it can be a bit overwhelming. I hope that art initiatives like BAaD, galleries such as The Pipe Factory and the use of St John’s across the road as event space will contribute to breathing new life into this Glasgow classic.
Glasgow’s Oldest Public Park
Grab a sausage roll or a takeaway coffee and make your way to Glasgow Green, a massive and gorgeous park located just south of the Barras. People come here to relax or get active, or also to attend one of the many fairs, events and market that are being held here throughout the year. I love cycling in this park and have spent more than one lunch break sitting in the grass soaking up the sun – but today I want to explore a new corner of the park…
History & Nature at People’s Palace
Coming from the Barras you have to turn left (or east) to reach the People’s Palace a great museum at the edge of Glasgow Green which you will easily recognize by the attached Winter Garden. People’s Palace is the museum of the people of Glasgow – a kind of cultural-historical exhibition telling the story of what life in Glasgow was and is like. Entrance to the museum is free (just like most other museums in Glasgow) and on a cold day the winter garden is a great place to hide away for a cup of coffee and some cake.
Sunset Dinner at WEST Brewery
After an afternoon of exploring at the Barras and learning Glasgow’s rich story at the People’s Palace we were ready for some proper food. The WEST Brewery just opposite of the museum is one of my favourite places to go and hang with a pint or stuff my face with traditional German and Austrian cuisine. The beer at WEST is brewed after the German Purity Law and there is a kind of beer for everyone. My personal favourite is the Munich Red. The golden facade of the building is pure visual feast, but the food isn’t bad either! In the summer you can enjoy the evening sun on the garden terrace and order burgers or sausages from the Garden Menu – the veggie sweet potato burger as seen below is a delight!
Another one of my local favourites is Celino’s – one of the most authentic Italian restaurant I have been to in Glasgow so far. It’s located on Alexandra Parade, almost back where you started your day at Alexandra Parade train station.
Nightlife in these parts of the East End can still not compare to what is going on in the West End or the South Side, but there are a few places to enjoy a few drinks:
- WEST Brewery: Stick around after dinner and taste every beer they have on tap – good luck!
- Drygate: An even bigger challenge for the beer belly is to taste your way through the beer menu at Drygate – a craft brewery at the food of the Necropolis.
- Redmond’s: Located on Duke Street this is a cool hangout for a few G&Ts on any night of the week.
- Barrowlands Ballroom: For more Glasgow flavour head to a live show at the legendary Barrowlands Ballroom.
- Duke Street pubs: If you like it more traditional, head to one of the Duke Street pubs. I personally have only been in the Duke for a pint once, but the Duchess across the road looks pretty neat too!
What is your favourite thing to do in Glasgow’s East End?
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.