Glasgow is well known for its astonishing architecture, from medieval examples (like Glasgow Cathedral, started in the 12th century and ‘modernised’ in the 15th century) to modern classics (like the Riverside Museum). However, it has a rich variety of Victorian buildings that show the brilliance of the architect’s thinking and the comparative wealth of the city. And one of its most famous sons, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, is world-renowned for his style. You’ll still find plenty of examples of his legacy alongside some other fabulous examples of Victorian architecture right across the city.
Mackintosh buildings you really should see
You can learn about Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his impact on the city at many galleries across the city. Visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Lighthouse or the Hunterian Museum and you’ll find out the stories behind his work. But there’s nothing quite like seeing the buildings for yourself.
Unfortunately, the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art suffered another major fire in June 2018, so it’s currently being worked on to save whatever aspects of the building, and its contents, that they can.
The Scotland Street School was designed by Charles between 1903 – 1906. It’s a fine example of his work, with his signature flourishes on display from the perimeter fence to the windows. It now functions as a museum, telling the story of 100 years of Scottish education history.
And the Queen’s Cross Church is the only finished church designed by Mackintosh. This red sandstone building also has his trademark flourishes and is the home of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.
Alexander’ ‘Greek’ Thomson buildings are mesmerising
Another of Glasgow’s favoured sons is Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. There are some fantastic examples of his architectural style across the city. You can find a list of them here.
The most astonishing example is Holmwood House on the southside of the city. The exterior of the house shows all the style we’ve come to expect from Thomson. But Holmwood also has an almost unchanged interior too. And you’ll be able to learn the history of the building. From alterations from past owners to the restoration project to bring it back to its former glory. Another personal favourite is the Maria Villa (which is actually two houses). This building strikes you as unusual from the moment you see it – one of the two houses has been rotated through 180 degrees, so it appears as one house. And you really shouldn’t miss the St Vincent Street Church. It’s a hugely impressive sight, tucked in among some of the city’s most modern architecture.
Other masterpieces you should make time for
There are so many fabulous examples of Victorian architecture right across Glasgow. So here’s a list of some you won’t want to miss.
Served as a fish market for over 100 years, it’s now a cultural space for artists and organisations.
Originally the Templeton Carpet Factory, it was designed by William Leiper and modelled on Doge’s Palace in Venice.
These red sandstone tenements survived the remodelling of the city centre in the 1970s and have some fantastic detailing.
Right in the heart of the city centre, this building has some amazing carvings in the exterior stonework.
Nestled on the banks of the Clyde, the round buildings used to allow access to tunnels under the river.
An enormously unusual building, right in the heart of St Enoch Square.
Originally known as the Herald Building, it was part of the operation of the famous Glasgow newspaper. It’s now been refurbished and houses exhibitions, a Mackintosh centre (he designed it) and cafes and galleries.
These two buildings have been refurbished sympathetically, to keep the beautiful traditional features while updating the buildings to be used for a variety of live music events.
With such a variety of Victorian architecture across the city, we’re sure we’ll have missed out some unmissable buildings. Let us know your favourites in the comments below.