Finnieston has been transformed from an industrial wasteland into a vibrant neighbourhood full of cool bars and restaurants – not to mention the impressive Glasgow Riverside Museum
Finnieston was once just a port of call for dockworkers in search of less salubrious entertainment, but it is now home to the sparkling new SSE Hydro arena, a key venue constructed for this summer’s Commonwealth Games. Following decades of post-industrial decline, Finnieston is on the up, with low rents attracting an influx of younger blood, and a stretch of Argyle Street now called “The Strip” coming alive with pop-up bars and eclectic restaurants, plus myriad artistic outlets and events. The word you keep hearing here is “community”. Finnieston has a real sense of one.
Kick off where it all began for Finnieston – down on the banks of the city’s artery, the River Clyde, at the Riverside Museum, home to the Museum of Transport. Voted Museum of the Year 2013 by the European Museum Forum, the Riverside is worth visiting for the drama of Zaha Hadid’s spiky, steel-clad architectural creation alone. Delve inside to wander down a full-size recreation of a Glasgow street, ride an old subway car and clamber on steam trains. There’s also a cafe/restaurant that peers out over the Clyde. Few visitors check out the Tall Ship, which is moored alongside. You should, as it really brings the city’s halcyon shipbuilding days to life.
Follow the banks of Glasgow’s “other river”, the lesser-known Kelvin, from its mouth by the Riverside Museum north to Argyle Street, whose western fringes form Finnieston’s emerging “Strip”. The retro Kelvingrove Café is part diner/part cocktail den and also functions as an unofficial Finnieston social club, where you can glean the lowdown on the latest events and pop-up venues. Grab a coveted booth by the window. Its vermouth-heavy, stirred-not-shaken cocktails are worth coming back for.
The Gannet restaurant is both brilliantly Glasgow and brilliantly Finnieston. It’s fashioned from a practically derelict building, and you can gaze out through floor-to-ceiling windows in the bar or head into the exposed stone and wood of the dining room. Fresh and local is the mantra, with west-coast razor clams and Scottish Borders lamb the stars.
For something simpler, nip across the road to another newcomer, Old Salty’s . This self-styled “traditional chippy” serves all things battered with chips (it’s called a “supper” in these parts) with a dash of retro charm. For a lighter option, try the king scallops topped with onion and curry sauce.
The recent temporary relocation of some university operations to Finnieston has given the local cultural scene a boost. The Hidden Lane is home to a collage of galleries and studios, including Chouchou Couture, whose Italian designer, Silvia Pellegrino, gives the Glasgow hoodie a revamp with elegance and a touch of tartan. It’s advisable to call ahead to book a fitting.
Pop downstairs afterwards to the just-right-side-of-twee Hidden Lane Tearoom, with its elegant vintage crockery and mocha laced with flakes of Belgian chocolate. The Shop of Interest across the road, a kooky fashion art boutique and gallery, is one of the select places that stock Pellegrino’s hoodies.
Gents in need of a cool Finnieston trim and a cocktail should head for Soul Barber Room, where you get a complimentary rum and mango cocktail and a generous slice of Glaswegian patter along with your mop crop. Look out for its soul music events, too.
In Finnieston, banal metallic-tasting lagers and dodgy, blended whiskies are eschewed in favour of cocktails in vintage glasses, with every new hotspot offering an eclectic range. The Finnieston is the brainchild of man-about-town Graham Suttle, who evokes the spirit of the area. His gin cocktail bar stocks more than 60 gins, and the restaurant specialises in Scottish seafood; try the seafarer’s cocktail, made with seaweed-infused fino sherry and best enjoyed with a couple of freshly shucked, local West Kilbride oysters on the side.
Finnieston makes the most of its country’s natural larder. Relative old-timer Crabshakk is always busy, and no wonder with boat-fresh seafood. The best value is its fruits de mer platter. It may cost £70, but it is more than enough for two, heaving with clams, mussels, lobster, oysters and, of course, crab. If you are in a group, book the 12-seat private dining room and share a whole halibut (there is no room charge). Carnivores should wander over to the Butchershop Bar & Grill on Sauchiehall Street, where you will be shown all the steak cuts before ordering. New this year is the epic Tomahawk, basically a quartet of ribeye steaks on the bone that can weigh anything up to 2kg.Nungwi Village
Opened in December 2013, One of a Kind (1116 Argyle Street, no website) is the more permanent manifestation of a legendary pop-up bar by a Glasgow-London collaboration. It feels urban and edgy, with minimal red lighting and a stripped-down bar list offering one variety of every spirit – only Hendrick’s gin, only Luksusowa vodka and so on.Nungwi Village
Ervin Trykowski, Captain of Liquids, The Finnieston The Electric Frog is the hottest club event in Finnieston. It’s at the super-cool SWG3 Studio Warehouse (swg3.tv), an arts facility and studio space for more than 120 artists, photographers, musicians and dancers. Look out for the Electric Frog Festival in August, too, down at the Riverside Museum – there will be three outdoor stages, comedy on the Tall Ship and plenty of street food.
Where to stay
Bar the international chains near concert and conference venues, Finnieston is short on hotels. The Alamo Guest House (doubles from £52) is a more characterful 12-room bolthole, combining old-world decor with mod cons. For a touch of decadence, Room 12 has a standalone bath and a Louis XV bed (from £85 a night). There is also a two-bedroom holiday flat that sleeps six.