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Not many museums can get away with casually displaying a World War II aeroplane amidst stuffed animals and international masterpieces. But anything is possible at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, one of the most beautiful museums in the United Kingdom. In addition to its famous collection of paintings and impressive natural history department, the museum is filled with fun curiosities. And just who exactly is Sir Roger?
Since its inauguration in 1901, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has been the most visited museum in Scotland. Visitors are particularly drawn to the museum’s spectacular and diverse art collection, with more than 8,000 artefacts displayed in 22 rooms. But the 19th-century building, located in lovely Kelvingrove Park, is impressive in its own right. The red sandstone exterior is built in a distinctive Spanish-Baroque style with ornate towers on the roof.
The most famous painting in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery is Salvador Dali's "Christ of St. John of the Cross”. But the rooms filled with Dutch and French masters also attract major crowds. The collection includes works by Rembrandt and Jozef Israëls, while the French room displays art by impressionist painters such as Monet, Renoir and Pissarro. One of the works by Van Gogh has generated years of controversy: his painting of red-headed Glasgow art dealer Alexander Reid was initially mistaken for a self-portrait. But Reid’s family confirmed that the Scotsman and Van Gogh shared an apartment in Paris around 1880.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery displays not only the works of foreign artists, but also showcases Scottish art history. The room with furniture by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh brings the Glasgow Style (the Scottish version of Art Nouveau) to life. The adjacent room displays works by The Glasgow Boys, a well-known painters’ collective from the 1880s and 1890s.
The nice thing about Kelvingrove is that you only need to cross the Central Hall to enter a totally different universe. Inside the building’s west wing, visitors come face to face with stuffed animals from the museum’s natural history collection. A kangaroo and a cheetah share a space with a life-size giraffe. Visitors can also admire the elephant tusks that David Livingstone brought back from Africa. But the highlight of this section is undoubtedly Sir Roger, the stuffed Asian elephant that lived in the Glasgow Zoo until 1900; he alone is viewed by more than one million visitors a year.
A perfectly restored Spitfire from WW II flies above this motley crew of animals, while the adjacent exhibit room displays Egyptian finds, including a sarcophagus from the 12th dynasty. And that is not all! The museum also houses a medieval weapons collection and a bee exhibit for children, featuring a real beehive. You can easily spend half a day at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. And an added bonus is that admission is free, as in every national museum in the UK.
If you are looking for a nice place for lunch or dinner after a visit to the museum, then head to The Ubiquitous Chip, located in the entertainment street of Ashton Lane, just behind Kelvingrove Park. This popular and attractive café has been serving Scottish cuisine with a contemporary twist for almost 40 years. There are 2 menus: a gourmet menu for the restaurant and a bistro-style menu for the bars and the roof terrace. The roof terrace is the perfect place to try the typical Scottish black pudding (blood sausage), accompanied by fresh apple chutney.
12 Ashton Lane, Glasgow, Lanarkshire G12 8SJ