Beers cafes, cocktails and casinos
If there’s one thing Glaswegians love it’s a good party. And, when out on the town, the friendly partygoers are always ready to welcome strangers into their midst. It’s no wonder that the city has such a thriving nightlife. There are a number of pubs, bars, casinos and nightclubs in Glasgow where laughter, music and banter abound. Glasgow has around 1,000 stylish bars and friendly pubs to choose from in the city centre and West End alone.
St Andrew’s in the Square, a category A-listed 18th-century church converted into a hub for Scottish culture, is a delightful blend of bars, bistro and performance space, where you can often enjoy Scottish folk music and ceilidhs. There’s more live music at Blackfriars gastropub in the Merchant City, where everything from kitsch to country to comedy nights are hosted, or cross the road to the stylish Metropolitan cocktail bar in Candleriggs Market, where the cosy but cool Bar 91 is also to be found.
Just across the road is the Beer Café with the best selection of bottled beers in the city. And, for a taste of Spanish splendour, Arta, based in the old Cheesemarket, is modelled on a Majorcan townhouse, with magnificent barrel-vaulted ceiling and dramatic candelabra housing bar, tapas restaurant and nightclub. The nearby Corinthian Club in Ingram Street offers trendy cocktails and food in a variety of stylish bars and restaurants – and even has a casino.
If you fancy a vantage point over the city while you sip, Citation Taverne & Restaurant has a covered first-floor balcony, while, a little further west of George Square, you’ll find the splendidly-refurbished The Principal Blythswood Square Hotel, with a lovely first-floor cocktail bar overlooking the pretty Blythswood Square. For the younger crowd, the area round Sauchiehall and Bath Street offers Rufus T Firefly, Bunker and Driftwood, while Box has live music most nights, with open mic on Tuesdays.
The Flying Duck, an off-the-beaten-track subterranean bar and club decked out like a flat, offers just about everything from 90s club nights to life drawing. Maggie May’s in the Trongate is also popular, as is Revolution on Renfield Street. And, if you like hard rock with your hard liquor, the Solid Rock Café on Hope Street is your dream venue. For more rocking tunes Glasgow’s Hard Rock Café offers live bands with your burger and beer. Or if you are looking for something loud and lively, but also just a bit different, the Bavaria Brauhaus on Bothwell Street offers an authentic Munich beerhall atmosphere as well as a huge choice of premium German beer.
Just across the road is the Beer Café with the best selection of bottled beers in the city. And, for a taste of Spanish splendour, Arta, based in the old Cheesemarket, is modelled on a Majorcan townhouse
Traditional pubs and breweries
For a more relaxed pint, The Butterfly and the Pig on Bath Street is a quirky gem, with shabby-chic armchairs, pub quizzes and hearty food. Flat 0/1, a bar and club in what feels and looks like a run down 1970s apartment, offering cheap drink and a 3am closing time is also on Bath Street. Or visit the Baby Grand off Elmbank Street, for live piano music five days a week. Hidden away in Drury Street (a narrow lane off Union Street) is the impressive hundred foot long bar known as The Horseshoe. Believed to be the longest bar in the UK, this is where famous Scots rockers Travis started out. Their gold discs hang on the walls, encouraging singers at the ever-popular karaoke nights to sing their hearts out!
Another traditional ‘boozer’ is The Griffin, facing the King’s Theatre. A pub since 1903 a recent refurbishment has added a touch of class without losing any of the old school charm. Then there is the Bon Accord on North Street, an atmospheric real ale pub near the world-famous Mitchell Library. The Pot Still on Hope Street is another traditional favourite thanks to its old fashioned Glaswegian atmosphere, friendly staff and a massive selection of whisky. For ‘music with your meal’ head to the 13th Note. Ideal for vegan snacks and live indie music, it’s popular with students, as is nearby Mono which boasts an in-house record store as well as gigs and good veggie food. But the real student heartland in Glasgow is the West End.
A stroll down the continental cobbles of Ashton Lane will lead you to live music at Jinty McGuinty’s, great records at the Lane Vinyl Bar and Russian spirit at Vodka Wodka, while Byres Road offers 18th-century Curlers Rest, the elegant spires of Oran Mor with its original Alasdair Gray artworks, and a raft of contemporary cafes and coffee shops. If it’s sunny, pop along Great Western Road to Inn Deep, where you can sit by the banks of the Kelvin and enjoy craft beer and great cocktails while the Belle, slightly further west on the same street, is perfect for a cosy evening drink on those dreich (miserable) winter nights.
Still heading west, Cottiers Bar also has an outdoor terrace. Child-friendly and set in a beautifully-restored church, it has a great bar menu, too. Another architectural gem is West Brewery, housed in one of the most stunning buildings in Glasgow, the Templeton Carpet Factory out east, at Glasgow Green. A Scots-German venture, West is the only brewery in the UK to produce beer according to German purity laws. Enjoy their pretzels, beer gardens and roaring fires.
Also in the east end, the more traditional Tennant’s Wellpark Brewery offers tours and tastings, too, but these should be booked in advance. Nestled next door to the brewing behemoth, though, is the much smaller Drygate Brewing Company. Only a few years old, it has already garnered a top reputation and has been hailed the “UK’s first experiential craft brewery” offering a restaurant, beer hall, events space (available for weddings or sometimes hosting comedy nights), sun terrace, bottle shop and, of course, a brewery.
Another traditional ‘boozer’ is The Griffin, facing the King’s Theatre. A pub since 1903 a recent refurbishment has added a touch of class without losing any of the old school charm
Poetry clubs and sophisticated clubbing
Fine beers are also on offer at BrewDog at the western end of Argyle Street – a Scottish success story that has now become a global business. For a taste of peaty whisky and more Scottish hospitality, spend some time in Dram on Woodlands Road, complete with folk music, great ales and a range of malts. Likewise, the Lismore in Dumbarton Rd offers stained glass and live music while, at the far end of Argyle Street sit two Glasgow stalwarts: Ben Nevis, providing whisky galore in traditional surroundings, and the Park Bar, gathering place of the Glasgow Gaeldom! A visit there ensures you’ll be left with a warm glow, and fond memories of Glasgow, the friendliest of cities.
With three universities and numerous colleges, there’s a wealth of clubbing on offer for all ages and tastes. Try Scotland’s largest nightclub, The Garage in Sauchiehall Street, for everything from R’n’B to chart to indie, and Firewater for loud, upbeat lounge music. Other places to don your glad rags include Kokomo in West Regent Street and Sugar Cube in Queen Street, while Delmonica’s, the Polo Lounge and the Waterloo Bar are popular and long-established gay clubs.
Hidden away in arts complex SWG3, The Poetry Club in Eastvale Place is another Glasgow secret – an intimate bar and performance space for poetry, music, clubbing and performance art. One Up in Royal Exchange Square offers sophisticated night-clubbing as does Arta in the Merchant City, while Corinthian in Ingram Street has cocktails and casinos in sumptuous surroundings. More glamorous stop-offs include The Social in Royal Exchange Square and the Berkeley Suite in North Street – billed as a late night bar and ballroom in an art deco setting.
You’ll find classy electronic beats at La Cheetah in the basement of Max’s in Queen Street, and yet another basement club at the gorgeous St Judes – a converted Grecian style Church in Bath Street. Also in Bath Street, Bunker has resident DJs playing a mix of indie rock and crossover, or you could head along to Viper, a popular student club with DJs, live bands and an iPad jukebox. A hardy Glasgow perennial is Sub Club in Jamaica Street, down by the Clyde. For 30 years, this venue has been a mecca for music with no prejudices and no limits, and showcases up-and-coming music makers from the city and beyond. If your tastes run to rockier vibes, take a trip to the dark side at The Cathouse in Union Street, where alternative/indie music is the order of the night, and The Classic Grand on Jamaica Street, with two floors of punk, metal and alternative.
Hidden away in arts complex SWG3, The Poetry Club in Eastvale Place is another Glasgow secret – an intimate bar and performance space for poetry, music, clubbing and performance art
Live music in prestigious venues
Check out the Buff Club in Bath Lane for soul, vintage disco and retro pop, while all three universities: Glasgow’s QMU in the West End, and Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian in the city centre offer a range of clubbing and live music opportunities – although you usually need to be signed in by a friendly student. 2015 saw the welcome return of The Vic, Glasgow School of Art’s student union – back in its original building, which is now incorporated into the School’s radical new Reid Building, it is open again after the 2018 fire which all but destroyed the original Mackintosh building.
The Vic has been at the centre of the city’s culture and music explosion for the last 30 years. Glasgow audiences are famous for being among the most enthusiastic musos in the world and, consequently, the city attracts an array of big-name musicians, as well as nurturing a wealth of home-grown talent. Heard of Simple Minds, Orange Juice, Franz Ferdinand or Snow Patrol, for example? They all have their roots in Glasgow. And who can forget that one of the biggest rock bands of them all, Oasis, was discovered at Glasgow’s very own King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut? Tucked away in a basement on St Vincent Street, you could walk past this unassuming venue – but don’t! The legendary 300 capacity venue has been a seminal point in the career of many an artist, so who knows who you might see if you pop inside for a nosey.I
One of the most revered Glasgow institutions is the Barrowland Ballroom. Walk east past Glasgow Cross – the original heart of Glasgow – and you’ll come to the famous neon starburst sign. A popular dance hall since 1934, the ‘Barraland’ is now regularly voted one of the best music venues in the UK – by bands as well as audiences. Getting up close and personal is part of the Barrowland’s appeal. The city specialises in intimate and medium-sized gigging venues, including Ivory Blacks in Oswald Street and Nice‘n’Sleazy in Sauchiehall Street.
Ivory’s is an indie-rock gig venue with a hint of acoustic and metal in the mix, while Nice‘n’Sleazy has been going strong for over 20 years, and is a one-stop shop for eating, drinking, gig-going and clubbing, too. At the bigger end of the scale, two converted city cinemas offer medium to large concert options. Rock favourite the O2 Academy, over in Gorbals on the south side, has a capacity of around 2,500, while sadly the popular ABC in Sauchiehall Street offers two venues: the ABC1, which boasts the largest rotating disco ball in the world, and its little brother ABC2, is still undergoing work on the back of the aforementioned fire at the Glasgow School of Art. And, for mega-concerts with performers like Take That or U2, the SECC on Finnieston’s Clydeside, and the nearby, dramatic Hydro, only opened in 2013 and already hailed as the UK’s second busiest venue, offer huge arenas where you can soak up the stadium atmosphere for performances as diverse as Cirque Du Soliel and Paul McCartney.
Ivory’s is an indie-rock gig venue with a hint of acoustic and metal in the mix, while Nice‘n’Sleazy has been going strong for over 20 years, and is a one-stop shop for eating, drinking, gig-going and clubbing
A Scottish knees up
2014 saw the Kelvingrove’s much missed Bandstand reopen. Now an outdoor amphitheater with a 2,500 capacity, the 93-year-old venue plays host to an array of acts from class rock and pop acts (Bryan Ferry anyone?) to cultural concerts. For music of a different vibe, head to Govan and Glasgow’s famous Grand Ole Opry Country and Western Club. The Opry has live music every Friday and Saturday, also some Sundays, plus occasional events throughout the year. Stetsons and cowboy boots are optional, but you are guaranteed to be yee-ha-ing with the best of them!
For those in search of a more traditional evening out, why not take a turn on the dancefloor and enjoy the spins and twirls of traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing? The Grand Ballroom of the venerable Sloans in Argyle Street plays host to the famous Friday night ceilidh. This Grade A-listed coaching inn – which you can enter from Buchanan Lane, or from Argyle Street beside the Arcade – also offers dinner before the dancing begins. For another unique night out, walk the gangplank to The Ferry. Now permanently berthed at Anderston Quay on the north bank of the river, the old Renfrew Ferry plied its trade for over 30 years before becoming a multi-purpose entertainment hub, with ceilidhs, bands, singers, food and drink, all afloat on Glasgow’s main artery, the River Clyde.
Back on dry land, the city also has several casinos, scattered through the Merchant City, the West End and on the riverfront, where you can try your hand with Lady Luck. Or why not experience a night at the races – the dog races that is. The venerable Shawfield Stadium has been a fixture of Glasgow’s sporting life for over seventy years. Only 10 minutes from the city centre, the stadium runs greyhound racing on Friday and Saturday evenings. And, if you need a laugh after a bad night’s betting, visit The Stand Comedy Club in the West End.
Hillhead Bookclub on Vinicombe Street, just off Byers Road, also offers a night out with a difference. Cocktails, ping-pong, retro computer games and even bingo are all on offer in a large, atmospheric space that very much feels like a Victorian library. The Grade A-listed Grecian Chambers in Sauchiehall Street is home to Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), which is an art gallery, performance space, bar and cinema all in one. With the original building designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, and a contemporary courtyard cafe – the vegetarian Saramago – at the centre of the design, the CCA is a great option for feeding mind and body alike. And that, in a nutshell, is what a night in Glasgow is all about – an eclectic mix of food, culture, friendliness and fun.
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