Glasgow’s Central Station area is the beating heart of the UK’s third largest city. Since hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the city has been riding a wave of positive change and modernisation. Along with an increasingly pleasing diversity, Glasgow city centre is not only home to renowned restaurants and designer shops, there are just as many independent establishments hidden away to suit a wide range of tastes and interests.
Glasgow’s bars, restaurants and shopping are some of the best in the UK. With a vibrant culture and notable history that has taken root here, there has never been a better time to visit Glasgow. To help you find the most authentic Glasgow and the most exciting external influences, here’s our guide to experiencing Glasgow like a local in the heart of the city.
For the whisky connoisseur, The Pot Still (154 Hope St) is one of the best places in Glasgow. In fact, it’s perfect for whisky novices and whisky curious alike. If you can’t count how many single malts, blends and other whiskies they have, don’t worry: it’s not whisky-drunk warm creep, they just have a lot of them. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable; tell them about a spirit you’ve enjoyed in the past and they’ll identify three or four others that they think you’ll like but may not have tried before. They also serve beer, ale and delicious pies.
Across the street from The Pot Still is Swing (183 Hope Street), a lively jazz bar that might be a natural progression/stumble across the street for dancefloor lovers on a night out. With the layout and feel of an underground bar and club from the 1920s, this is the place to be if you have a glass of champagne or cocktail in hand, a passion for blues and jazz music, and a love of live performances and acrobatics.
The Smokin’ Fox (6-8 Waterloo Street) doesn’t have to prove that there is indeed hope at the bottom of the glass, they just aim to serve good beer and food, The Smokin’ Fox (formerly The Hope) is located opposite Glasgow Central Station and boasts a reasonable whisky selection and a range of wines, cocktails and beers, both bottled and draught. It’s a family friendly place with an extensive food menu at reasonable prices, if you’re looking for a bite to go with your sup.
Sometimes when you’re in Scotland, you want to pretend you’re in Ireland. That’s okay, no one is judging you. At least at Molly Malone’s (224 Hope St), one of Glasgow’s most popular Irish pubs.Molly Malone’s has live sporting events set up on their TVs for those who like to keep up with the latest scores.
The Raven (81-85 Renfield St) is a modern, wood-paneled Glasgow pub that has had a clear influence on its native U.S., whether it’s its excellent bottled craft beers or its smoked food menu, including dry-aged baby back ribs.Eleven large screens dotted around the place bring you the latest sporting events as you dine.
One of the city’s focal points is George Square, home to proud statues of some of the famous Scotsmen who influenced the world, and above George Square is Drouthy’s (155 Queen Street). A friendly local venue, Drouthy’s has no pretensions and is a great place to have a pint or two and even chat to the locals or drop some money on the fruit machine.
While many of the drink options listed above offer pub food, there are some wonderful restaurants in Glasgow to enjoy a classic sit-down meal at, and La Lanterna (35 Hope St) is one of them. The family-run restaurant has been serving delicious Italian food since 1970 and has picked up a number of best restaurant awards in recent years, but still maintains an inviting and unpretentious style. It’s located in the basement, but you’d never know it for its warm furnishings and friendly staff.
Opium Restaurant (191 Hope St) is Glasgow’s most popular Asian fusion restaurant, although it’s hardly as addictive as it sounds. With an extensive menu that isn’t overly large, the attentive service it offers is extra spicy and makes dining out a special experience. A selection of mixed snacks, such as the excellent chilli, salt and pepper calamari or Har Gau, is highly recommended alongside the main course.
Two Fat Ladies in the City (118A Blythswood St) is part of the increasingly popular Two Fat Ladies chain, and that’s more of an insult than a compliment. This bustling city restaurant is dedicated to good food, and much of the menu is fresh seafood. Scallops, snapper and lemon sole are all part of the famous à la carte menu, which is updated monthly.
If anyone is looking for a place that combines an entertainment store and a social space, check out Geek Retreat (63 Union St). The shop has an assortment of comics, figurines, and trading cards, but people stick around for the colorful events; Geek Retreat hosts contests and parties almost every day, whether you’re a Pokéfan, a Bronie, or just curious to see what the first two are.
The Glasgow School of Art Shop (164 Renfrew St) is located across the street from Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s famous building and is home to the Glasgow School of Art. Here you can enjoy browsing the home furnishings, textiles and jewellery of the school’s students, graduates and staff, showcasing their cutting-edge designs and artwork. All items purchased here directly support the school.
For lovers of all things Japanese, the TokyoToys Manga Store (27 Union St) is one of the most unique stores in the country, stocking everything from manga manga to cosplay clothing. If you’re into Dragon Ball Z or Naruto, there’s bound to be something here that interests you. The great staff is guaranteed to impart their knowledge and enthusiasm, especially to new manga fans.
There is no dress here that attracts as much envy and derision as the scotch skirt. This traditional garment, made from a variety of tartans and originally intended to be associated with certain families, is still as popular as ever.James Robertson Kiltmaker (118 Sauchiehall St) has been selling and renting kilt for over 25 years, and for anyone looking for a unique Scottish souvenir! Come to that, they are all well worth a try.
Not only does The Butterfly and the Pig Tearooms (151 Bath St) have a great name and contemporary décor, their afternoon tea is an elegant way to spend a few hours. Alternatively, you can pair your tea with a light lunch. Soups and sandwiches, the sanners that are written on their fun and lively menu, only add to the appealing whimsy of these tea rooms. The menu is marked with lots of gluten-free options.
Glasgow is undoubtedly a cosmopolitan city, which means good Italian food and, perhaps more importantly, good Italian coffee, and Laboratorio Espresso (93 W Nile Street) offers the latter, with a wide range of coffee beans and an excellent in-house blend. Italian pastries and lunch options are also available here.
Riverhill Coffee Bar (24 Gordon Street) is a popular modern café that attracts a variety of people due to its prominent location just a block from Glasgow Central Station. It’s especially busy at lunchtime as people flock to sample their freshly made sandwiches, cakes and ever-changing daily specials.
When visiting Glasgow’s main shopping street, many people stop for a drink at Willow Tearooms (97 Buchanan Street). The traditional tearoom feel is created by a number of small touches such as leaded glass windows, fancy chairs and an exhibition by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. With about 25 different loose leaf teas to choose from, it’s an especially good choice for tea lovers.