Glasgow: UNESCO city of music

Instruments empty stage

Culture is at the heart of Glasgow, and no place is this more evident than through the city’s vibrant music scene. Glasgow is not named UNESCO City of Music for nothing.

Around every corner there is a venue begging you to come in and listen to good music. Glasgow is alive with fantastic music venues and if you delve into any of the local entertainment guides you will realise the hard part is deciding which venue to choose. Whether you prefer small, intimate gigs in the local pub, or a 60,000 sell-out crowd at a stadium, this city has it all. Soak up the great atmosphere with like-minded people and some of the world’s most famous musicians, or find that special place with a small gig by someone who is yet to be discovered and may be the next big thing. Find out for yourself why Glasgow was named by UNESCO as the City of Music. This global recognition for the city’s contribution to music is something that Glaswegians should be incredibly proud of.

Here are some of the city’s top venues:

1.   Clyde Auditorium

The Clyde Auditorium is probably Glasgow’s most famous large venue and one of the city’s most iconic buildings, known locally as ‘the Armadillo’. Part of the SECC (Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre) it has a great capacity to hold large-scale events. You cannot fail to be impressed by the incredible line-up of international artists that play here. In the next few months alone the Pet Shop Boys, James Taylor, Chris Rea and Jools Holland will be playing here, to name a few. Due to the nature of the venue, concerts sell-out fast, often within minutes, so it is important to plan ahead if you want those once-in-a-lifetime tickets.

2.   Barrowlands Ballroom

It is hard to miss the neon, animated sign that marks the entrance to ‘the Barras’. Originally opened in 1934, the ballroom was used as a dancehall. As times have changed, the decline of people going to the dancehall gave way for a more modern music culture and it soon became the successful concert venue it is today. The list of bands that has been through its doors is endless and includes Radiohead, Metallica, David Bowie, U2 and REM. It is also the ideal venue for promoting Scottish talent, such as Franz Ferdinand, Biffy Clyro, Runrig and Simple Minds.

3.   King Tuts Wah Wah Hut

King Tuts is an institution in Glasgow and is known for showcasing unsigned and emerging bands. As they describe themselves on their Facebook page, they are “quite possibly the best small venue in the world”. This leaves a lot to live up to, but it is quite possibly true. If you are looking for a relaxing weekend activity then check out King Tut’s weekly Saturday Jazz Matinees. If you just enjoy good music in a fantastic atmosphere then be sure to visit this great venue on Pitt Street.

4.   O2 Academy

O2 Academy is part of a successful chain of British concert venues. It is the perfect location for medium sized concerts, but still manages to retain its charm as an intimate venue. Formally an old cinema dating back to 1921, the beautiful décor inside still reveals some of the building’s original art deco features including the balcony, ceiling and even the external facade. The venue has a capacity of 2500 and again attracts international artists. In the coming months you can see the Counting Crows, Lily Allen, Erasure, Robert Plant and many more musicians. Again, tickets are hard to come by so plan your next concert break to Glasgow well in advance.

5.   Royal Concert Hall

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall is one of the city’s premier arts venues located in the very heart of the city centre on Sauchiehall Street. This multi-purpose venue hosts over 400 concerts annually, as well as a number of other events, from stand-up comedy to talks. The concert hall attracts international musicians from all spectrums of music including classical, jazz, opera, pop and rock. Concerts are often performed here by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra too.

6.   Sub Club

The Sub Club is another of the city’s great small gig venues, located on Jamaica Street. It may not appear much from the outside but once you are through the doors of this basement club you are promised a fantastic night of music. It is one of Scotland’s most famous electronic music venues, and has a great crowd of regulars who come to listen to house, techno, disco and base music. The club’s in-house sound engineer and state-of-the-art music system make for a great live music venue.

These are just a handful of Glasgow’s music and concert venues. In addition, the city is full of bars and student unions for smaller gigs, and large-capacity stadiums for massive concerts. If you want to experience the city’s music culture for yourself, the Radisson Blu Hotel, Glasgow makes the ideal base. It is centrally located for the Barrowlands, King Tuts, Royal Concert Hall and the Sub Club, and is close to public transport for reaching the Clyde Auditorium and O2 Academy. The city really does feel like it never sleeps and it is really easy to find a venue and experience a great gig even if you don’t already have tickets.

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