High street chains, one-off independents and quirky specialists – they’re all waiting for the shopaholic.
The ‘Golden Z’
When it comes to shopping, Glasgow is considered to be second only to London when it comes to retail therapy in the UK. Consistently voted ‘top of the shops’, Glasgow is Scotland’s premier shopping destination, with Glasgow stores unrivalled for choice and quality. All of your high street favourites can be found in the city, as well as designer labels, specialist retail outlets, independent boutiques, antique emporiums, flea markets, top quality Scottish tartans and cashmere – and fantastic gifts and goodies for all.
Zip along to the city centre’s ‘Golden Z’ to begin your quest for that perfect purchase. Comprising Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street, this zig-zag route will take you through some of Glasgow’s best shops and department stores. Begin your journey in Sauchiehall Street, which means ‘the alley of the willows’. Established stores such as Marks and Spencer, Waterstones Books and Primark join home-grown shopping experiences like Watt Brother’s department store, on the corner of Hope Street and Sauchiehall Street, which still retains its old wooden panelling and brass-buttoned lift, and offers clothing, linens, glassware, crystal and gifts – plus a fine array of luggage to carry all those additional purchases home with you!
Down towards the top of Buchanan Street you’ll find clothing stores Burton and Top Man, and Scribbler, selling humorous and even cheeky cards, stationery and gifts. Bestriding the end of Sauchiehall Street is the Buchanan Galleries. One of the city’s newer shopping centres, the Galleries is conveniently located next to the underground, rail and bus stations. With plenty of car parking, and only a few minutes from the M8 motorway, it’s easy to reach from all directions – and well worth the effort, with 80 shops selling everything from cute kids’ accessories to designer olive oils. Flagship store John Lewis dominates one end of this futuristic complex, which is also well-served by stores like high street staple Next, hip American store Hollister and lingerie giant Boux Avenue.
On leaving Buchanan Galleries, stroll down pedestrianised Buchanan Street, full of upmarket boutique chains like All Saints, Hobbs and The White Company as well as the more recent additions such as a flagship Paperchase store offering good-quality and stylish stationery. Shoe shoppers are particularly spoilt for choice with Dune, Office, Russell & Bromley and Jones Bootmaker all there while just off Buchanan Street on St Vincent Street you will find Brogue Trader T/A Loake, where you can buy classic shows from the likes of Joseph Cheaney, Crockett & Jones and Herring, as well of course, as Loake. Back on Buchanan Street you’ll find rock star Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green designer wear.
Zip along to the city centre’s ‘Golden Z’ to begin your quest for that perfect purchase. Comprising Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street, this zig-zag route will take you through some of Glasgow’s best shops and department stores
At the heart of Buchanan Street though is the venerable House of Fraser, the original department store in the chain that went on to include Harrods in London. Ranged around beautiful, original wooden galleries and balconies, their wares include cosmetics, homeware and gents’ and ladies’ designer fashion, including Prada, Gucci, Hermes and Miu Miu. Facing Frasers is Princes Square, an elegant Art Nouveau-inspired arcade, with five floors of ethereal wrought iron and glass providing the backdrop to some fabulous clothes stores, including Whistles, Vivienne Westwood, Kurt Geiger, Reiss, Belstaff, French Connection and Joules.
There are plenty of high quality accessories and little luxuries on offer too in stores such as Radley, Jo Malone London, The Pen Shop and Links of London. With several bars, cafes and restaurants, Princes Square is also a stylish destination for drinking and dining. Running along the bottom of Buchanan Street is Argyle Street, from where you can access the St Enoch Shopping Centre – one of the largest glass structures in Scotland.
Named after St Thenew, the mother of Glasgow’s patron saint St Mungo, the St Enoch Centre stands on a site once reputed to be a sacred well to Thenew, and a striking modern mosaic of her can be found on the upper floors of the Centre. Containing Debenhams, Fossil, Dorothy Perkins, Superdry, the traditionally-Scottish The Edinburgh Woollen Mill, The Disney Store, Hamleys Toystore, Kimble’s Chocolate Shop and several food courts, the St Enoch Centre offers something for all the family.
The rest of Argyle Street is worth exploring, too, with, on-trend ladies clothes and accessories at Oasis, stylish fashions at River Island, Topshop, fabulous footwear at Schuh, and the intriguing Argyll Arcade – yes, same word, different spelling! Widely regarded as the Hatton Garden of Scotland, the jewel-filled Argyll Arcade hosts more than 30 jewellers, local designers and diamond merchants all under one roof, and is Scotland’s first ever indoor shopping mall. Constructed in 1827 in the Parisian style, the L-shaped, glass-roofed arcade is actually one of the oldest covered shopping arcades in Europe, carved through old tenements to provide a link between Argyle Street and Buchanan Street. Plenty of opportunities to flex that credit card here.
For the gents, it’s worth taking a short detour to Howard Street, at the rear of the St Enoch Centre, where you’ll find Slaters Menswear – believed to be the largest in Europe, with off-the-peg suits, shirts and casual wear, gents tailoring, and the VIP ‘Ralph’s Room’ for that luxury look. Having started as a small tailor’s store in Glasgow, it is now a network of shops across the UK. It’s worth noting that the firm has a clearance weekend at the end of every month at their warehouse in Uddingston, just a short drive from Glasgow’s city centre.
There are plenty of high quality accessories and little luxuries on offer too in stores such as Radley, Jo Malone London, The Pen Shop and Links of London
Vintage and designer goods
From Howard Street, cross over Stockwell Street, where boatmen would row early Glasgow settlers across the Clyde, and make your way to the Merchant City, stopping first to take a look at the eclectic arcade of second hand and vintage stores in King Street, including the irrepressibly kitsch Mr Ben. Definitely worth a rummage, as are the comic and model shops in Parnie Street. The 130-year-old Tam Shepherd Trick Shop in Queen Street is also something of a find.
Situated east of George Square, the Merchant City is where the traders of centuries past came to do business, to socialise and to build their homes, warehouses and bonds. Today, many of these solid, cavernous constructions have been transformed into contemporary flats, restaurants and shops, with several independent boutiques, jewellery designers, homeware shops and art galleries, as well as designer labels such as Mulberry and Emporio Armani.
In fact, the area around Ingram Street is fast becoming the city’s designer enclave with famous names like Ralph Lauren, Gant and Cruise, one of Europe’s largest independent designer retailers, offering several floors of Gucci, Paul Smith and McQueen, in addition to the Cruise Outlet store, along the M8 at Glasgow Fort shopping complex. Also in Ingram Street, you’ll find fabulous millinery from William Chambers in the Italian Centre and Jigsaw, a stylish boutique inside an old bank, which complements its palatial surroundings with chunky shelves and rails dripping with dresses, skirts and wraps in sumptuous fabrics and flowing lines. And to underpin the look, Bravissimo offers designer lingerie to ensure that perfect silhouette.
A little further along the road, you’ll come to Royal Exchange Square, surrounding the Gallery of Modern Art. Again, this is designer heaven, with LK Bennett, Reiss, lululemon and the scrumptious Neal’s Yard for delicious lotions and potions. Seek out offbeat designs at Urban Outfitters, beside George Square, where you can pick up quirky clothes and homewares, and for more quirky homewares – and some quirky characters, too – go east along London Road to The Barras, Glasgow’s own unique flea market.
With colourful banter and bales of bargains, the Barras is Glasgow in the raw: fresh, friendly, and you’re never quite sure what will happen next. Near the Barrowland Ballroom, Glickman’s Confectionery is the oldest sweet shop in Glasgow. Established in 1903, nostalgia nestles in every colourful jar, crammed full of old-time favourites like Macaroon Cake, Lucky Tatties and Soor Plooms. Take your tastebuds on a journey of discovery – or a trip down memory lane.
Situated east of George Square, the Merchant City is where the traders of centuries past came to do business, to socialise and to build their homes, warehouses and bonds
Antiques and textiles
Delve even further into the past with an exploration of the Glasgow style – that long, lean elegant turn-of-the-century school of architecture and design. Try Glasgow City Antiques in Lancefield Street or, on the weekend only, Glasgow Antiques and Collectibles Market on London Road, open all day Saturday and Sunday. Other caverns of delights can be found at the Ruthven Mews Arcade in Athole Gardens and Glasgow Architectural Salvage in South Street, near the Glasgow Harbour development.
Another South Street must-see is Vintage & Retro, which specialises in Ercol furniture, but also stocks some older antique pieces. If wearing antiques is more your thing, head to Saratoga Trunk in Hydepark Street; Scotland’s largest vintage clothing shop. For more antique curios, including several antiquarian book sellers, jump on the underground train that runs in a loop round the city, and take a ride to Hillhead, deep in Glasgow’s West End. This Bohemian enclave is a great place to find something different.
Seek out De Courcy’s Antique and Craft Arcade in Cresswell Lane –which is also great for one-off shops and offbeat boutiques- and Voltaire & Rousseau in Otago Lane for antique books. Otago Street has several antique shops and auction houses, while you may come across some vintage Pucci, Biba and Ossie Clark at Starry Starry Night in Dowanside Lane. Of course, the West End is home to thousands of Glasgow’s students, and so has an artistic, cutting-edge vibe, too.
Enjoy beautiful, contemporary arts and crafts and jewellery from stores such as Nancy Smillie in Creswell Lane, and take time to browse the many galleries and studios lining the leafy pavements. One of the biggest second-hand bookshops in the country is Byres Road’s Oxfam store, with a great turnover of books and old vinyl. Byres Road is also full of retro and vintage stores and independent boutiques although it is also home to Glasgow’s first Oliver Bonas. Turn the corner of Byres Road, and keep following your nose until you come to Mellis Cheesemongers in Great Western Road. Imagine – a whole shop devoted to cheese! Taste and try the huge array of artisan and farmhouse cheeses, preserves and pickles, crumbly oatcakes, or perhaps select a hamper of Scottish produce to take home as a gift.
You’ll find many other interesting gift and lifestyle shops in Great Western Road, including Lupe Pintos Mexican deli, Caledonia Books, Galletly & Tubbs, and, for a unique Scottish take on textiles, don’t miss Timorous Beasties, famed for their surreal and provocative designs. Anyone for Toile de Glasgow? There are plenty of unique designer garrets and galleries in this stretch of town, including children’s designer clothing and fabulous vintage shops like the Glasgow Vintage Co.
Seek out De Courcy’s Antique and Craft Arcade in Cresswell Lane –which is also great for one-off shops and offbeat boutiques- and Voltaire & Rousseau in Otago Lane for antique books
Souvenirs and gifts
All of Glasgow’s major museums also have excellent gift shops: St Mungo’s for shimmering golden icons and fascinating books on the world’s religions, Kelvingrove for fine art postcards and posters, textiles, prints and reproductions of ancient pottery, GoMA for the avant garde, and Scotland Street School Museum for old-time children’s toys and games.
Anyone for peevers? There are some excellent out-of-town shopping centres, too – with the bustling Parkhead Forge shopping centre and market, the Glasgow Fort a short trip further east on the M8 motorway, and the stylish and hugely popular Silverburn Centre at Pollok on the south of the city, while out west lies intu Braehead dubbed the “ultimate family entertainment destination” with all the usual stores such as Marks and Spencer, Next, and Primark, as well as a whole range of entertainment at Soar at intu Braehead including cinema, Climbzone, indoor snow slope, Laser Station and a host of restaurants.
Braehead also sits next door to the only Ikea store in the west of Scotland. A short half hour’s drive will also take you to East Kilbride’s massive shopping centre with its large Debenhams as well as stores such as Zara, Next and Marks and Spencer, two large food courts, including the recently-opened Hub boasting Pizza Express and the Filling Station amongst others amidst an ice rink and aerial assault course. A little further afield, Mackinnon Mills at Coatbridge has high quality Scottish woollens, clothing and gifts at factory prices, while the conservation mill village of New Lanark offers a fascinating day out by the spectacular Falls of Clyde, with plenty of shopping opportunities to purchase Scottish crafts and knitwear.
Back in town, James Pringle Weavers on Buchanan Street also offers traditional woollens, tartans and tweeds, while several fine kilt shops scattered throughout the city, including nearby Slanj, Hector Russell and MacGregor & MacDuff, on Bath Street, will rig you out with everything from a sporran to a sgian dubh – the traditional Scots dirk worn with a kilt. Most will also advise on any family or clan links, and guide you towards the correct plaid – although, with designs now named after cities and football teams, there’s a tartan out there for everyone. Which is fitting, when you think about it. Scotland may be a small country, but there’s an outstretched hand of welcome for every visitor who takes Scotland, and the friendly, cultured, cosmopolitan city of Glasgow, to their hearts.
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