Doors Open Day, which is now in its 33rd year, gives people the chance to see inside the city’s most famous and unusual buildings, many of which are not normally accessible to the public.
The event, which runs September 11-17, also features a range of talks by experts and historians and allows a variety of communities to welcome new visitors.
Among the speakers this year is Norry Wilson, a journalist and social historian who runs the successful Lost Glasgow platform. On Facebook and through a range of mediums, Norry shares stories from the city’s past and has built a platform where people from all over the world can share their tales.
Ahead of Glasgow Doors Open Day Festival 2023 Norry selects his pick of city buildings “that are well worth a wee nosey”. Just remember, some need to be booked in advance and sell out early.
1 The Trades Hall, 85 Glassford Street
Completed in 1794, and the last surviving Robert Adam-designed building in the city, the Trades Hall has been at the centre of the city’s commercial, charitable, and social life for over two centuries. Home to The Trades House of Glasgow, established in 1605, it is the Georgian jewel of the Merchant City.
2 Camphill Gate, 988 – 1008A Pollokshaws Road
Architect John Nisbet’s 1907 masterpiece of a tenement block has recently undergone a £1.4m refurbishment, part funded by the City Council and the Glasgow City Heritage Trust. The first fire-proof tenement in Glasgow, its communal flat roof offers spectacular views of Shawlands, and Queen’s Park, and North to the Campsie Fells.
3 The Ottoman Coffee House, 73 Berkeley Street
An inspiring place to stop for a good coffee or a delicious bite to eat, step through the doors and you are immediately catapulted back to the fabled kasbahs of the Middle East. Built in 1884, and originally home to the Glasgow Society of Musicians, the Concert Room must be one of the most atmospheric cafes in the whole of the UK.
4 Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow, 12 Nelson Mandela Place
Architect Charles Wilson’s Italianate concoction, of 1857, is still used as a working space by lawyers so it is usually only open to members. The Main Library on the 1st floor has been described as “one of the most exquisite halls in the West of Scotland”. Look out too for the keystones above each of the 14 windows and plasterwork inside depicting the faces of famous, long dead, lawyers.
5 The City Chambers, 82 George Square
It always amazes me how many of my fellow citizens have never stepped inside ‘our’ City Chambers. Completed in 1888, to a design by William Young, it’s a stupendous example of 19th century architecture, with the interior boasting mosaics, marble, carved wood, mural paintings, embossed wallpaper, and gilding. Walking up the main stair, said to be the largest marble staircase in Europe, is like stepping into an MC Esher drawing.
6 The Arlington Baths Club, 61 Arlington Street
Built in 1870, and now the oldest member-run swimming pool in Europe, this ‘A’ listed building houses a skylit swimming pool and a magnificent Turkish Bath, Glasgow’s homage to The Alhambra – that’s the Moorish palace in Spain, not the theatre that used to sit in Wellington Street. It’s a secret world of wally tiles, steam, and chlorine.
7 Bridgeton Bus Garage, 76 Fordneuk Street
Now home to the volunteer-run Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust, this is a must for transport fans of all ages. With over 120 vehicles on display, you can climb aboard vehicles ranging from hulks rescued from scrap yards and awaiting attention to fully restored and active examples. You can also grab a cuppa and some great home baking the ‘Clippies’ Café’.
8 The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, 113-117 Trongate
For me, one of the most evocative and atmospheric interiors in the city. Built in 1857, and now the UK’s oldest surviving Music Hall, this is where a 16-year-old Stan Laurel first trod the boards. During the Festival, the Hall will be screening a collection of Lumiere brothers’ film from 1896, complete with added audio effects, to bring the sounds of the Victorian world to life.
9 Glasgow Gurdwara, 37 Albert Drive
Although not the oldest of buildings, the domed temple complex was only completed in 2013, you are always guaranteed the warmest of welcomes from the city’s Sikh community. Warriors they may have been, but they are also the most welcoming of hosts. Play your cards right, and their langar, community kitchen, will be open, serving up delicious, free, vegetarian food.
10 Govan Old Church (The Govan Stones Museum), 866 Govan Road
Last, but by no means least, Govan Old transports you back to a time when Govan was the seat of kings, when pilgrims prayed at the tombs of saints, and when Viking warriors plundered and conquered throughout the islands of Britain. The church’s unique collection of burial stones date back to the 9th-11th centuries.
And a little bonus: Not officially part of Doors Open Days, but 95-year-old Glasgow artist Tommy McGoran’s exhibition at the Sogo Gallery, 82 – 86 Saltmarket – co-sponsored by Lost Glasgow – has now been extended until September 24. Open Wed to Sun, noon to 5pm.
Journalist and social historian Norry Wilson runs the Lost Glasgow Facebook page.