Nightlife in Glasgow: pubs, clubs and bars

by mike.maceacheran

Glaswegian's love a good drink - myself included. It's rather fitting then that the city has the best choice of bars, pubs and clubs than you'll find anywhere else in Scotland. 'Mon and take a drink!

Where to drink in the city centre

Brunswick Cellars (229 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3EX; +44 141 331 1820)

This is a perennial favourite with students, music fans and the post-work crowd. Fashioned like an underground Eastern Bloc beer cavern, the Brunswick is a dark dungeon with dripping candles, heavy wooden tables, 1960s rock’n’roll and a striking electric aquarium. It’s often hard to get a seat but you’ll feel especially cool if you nab one of the low-key lounge tables at the back. Its eclectic DJ roster plays some of the best music in the city. Make sure you take a watch or you could come back up for air several hours later than planned.

The Horseshoe Bar (17-19 Drury Street, Glasgow, G2 5AE; +44 141 248 6368; www.horseshoebar.co.uk)

Boasting the longest bar in the UK, this is a fabled drinking saloon that has a lively and often inebriated mix of regulars, locals, tourists, students and lost OAPs. A true slice of Glasgow life, if you want to see where the over 50s go every Saturday night, then drop in on its legendary karaoke night – but be prepared to be dragged on stage to sing an off-key version of The Osmond’s 'Crazy Horses'. It also serves some of the best pub pies in the city.

The Corinthian (191 Ingram Street, Glasgow, G1 1DA; +44 845 166 6030; www.thecorinthianclub.co.uk)

Having undergone a multi-million pound renovation, The Corinthian is the city’s flagship bar for the rich, famous and wannabe rich and famous. Home to five floors of possibilities, including a restaurant, prohibition themed bar, nightclub, private drinking rooms, casino, Champagne bar to name just a few, this is the only place in Glasgow where a visitor can do an entire night’s cocktail crawl without ever leaving the building. Hiring mixologists rather than bar staff, The Corinthian is currently the place to be seen. A bit too cool for the jeans and trainers brigade, though, which includes me.

Nice’n’Sleazy (421 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow, G2 3LG; +44 141 333 0900; www.nicensleazy.com)

Full of indie kids wearing checked shirts, skinny jeans and scuffed Converse this is the coolest music bar in the city and the place that I normally come to on my birthday. Home to the best pub jukebox in Scotland – if not the world – and a fantastic balance of beers, ales, ciders and cocktails, this is pop kid heaven for students and students who have never grown up. Before they were famous the likes of Snow Patrol, Belle and Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand could often be seen propping up the bar. Downstairs, Nice’n’Sleazy opens into a dark and claustrophobic venue, where unsigned bands and low key touring artists try to impress the Glasgow faithful. It also does some mighty fine vegetarian food. In the party hub of Sauchiehall Street, Nice’n’Sleazy is in the focal point for a number of other recommended bars nearby including The Griffin, Capitol and Driftwood.

Republic Bier Halle (7-9 Gordon St, Glasgow, G1 3PL; +44 141 204 0706; www.republicbierhalle.com)

A class above the Oompah band filled beer halls of Munich and Cologne, this underground German beer bar homage is one of the most popular hangouts in the city. Its huge selection of local and imported beers and ales – from as far afield as Argentina or Kenya – are enough to satisfy the thirstiest patrons and its 2 for 1 wood fire pizza offer is the best lunchtime and early evening meal deal in the city. Bier Halle has a couple of sister venues nearby but the downstairs grotto on Gordon Street is the original and best. Across Buchanan Street on Royal Exchange Square, The Social is another choice should Bier Halle be too busy.

The Pot Still (154 Hope St, Glasgow, G2 2TH; +44 141 333 0980; www.thepotstill.co.uk)

Glasgow’s famous malt whisky pub on Hope Street is an absolute cracker and is the best traditional bar in the city centre bar none. Opened back in 1867, visitors come from all round the world to try its unequalled range of whiskies, which currently number somewhere in the high 300s. A popular story goes that a group of Japanese business men flew to Glasgow to try a particular malt unavailable anywhere else.

The Butterfly and Pig (153 Bath St, Glasgow, G2 4SQ; +44 141 221 7711; www.thebutterflyandthepig.com)

Bath Street is home to a number of below-street level bars, which in summer sprawl out onto small shaded patios. The best are Mosquito, Bunker and The Butterfly and Pig. The latter is a quirky hybrid of Glasgow vintage style – it’s a cross between my gran’s old living room and the Mad Hatter’s tea party – and is very much the centre of cool. Mismatched furniture, stained wallpaper and cracked tea cups set the scene for some great food and even better atmosphere.

Where to drink in the West End and Merchant City

Ashton Lane

Though it has changed over the years from relaxed student thoroughfare to middle class sanctuary, Ashton Lane is a cobbled mews that has become the focus of West End café society. Bars and restaurants to check out are Brel (Ashton Lane, Glasgow, G12 8SJ; +44 141 342 4966; www.brelbarrestaurant.com), The Loft (Ashton Ln, Glasgow, G12 8SJ; +44 845 166 6028) and Jinty McGinty’s (21 Ashton Lane, Glasgow, G12 8SJ; +44 141 339 0747; www.jintys.com) – but be careful as with so much to eat and drink on offer, you could easily lose track of time and spend an entire weekend here. Not that I’ve ever done that obviously…

Byers Road

Come Friday or Saturday night the street turns into a modern day catwalk full of trendy student waifs and ageing 40-somethings looking to party. My current favourites bars are the Bling Pig (116-122 Byres Rd, Glasgow, G12 8TB; +44 141 357 5482; www.blindpig.co.uk), the Hillhead Book Club (17 Vinicombe Street, Glasgow, G12 8; +44 141 576 1700 ; www.hillheadbookclub.com) and Oran Mor (Byres Road, Glasgow, G12 8QX; +44 141 357 6200; www.oran-mor.co.uk), a converted church turned bar, with a ceiling mural by celebrated home-grown artist and author Alasdair Gray. The latter has become famous for its lunchtime series “A Play, a Pie and a Pint”.

Merchant City

Catering to a slightly older crowd, although sometimes it’s hard to tell, the Merchant City has built on its history of wining and dining the city’s Victorian merchants and businessmen. With some of the city’s best traditional pubs – look no further than Blackfriars (36 Bell St, Glasgow, G1 1LG; +44 141 552 5924; www.blackfriarsglasgow.com) or Rab Ha’s (83 Hutcheson Street, Glasgow, G1 1SH; +44 141 572 0400; www.rabhas.com) – and themed drinking venues such as Arta’s (62 Albion Street, Glasgow, G1 1PA; +44 845 166 6018; www.socialanimal.co.uk/GlasgowCityCentre/Arta), a Caligula inspired Grecian palace that has stood the test of time, a night out in the Merchant City offers a very different experience to the rest of Glasgow. While drinks can be more expensive, especially on the trendy Merchant Square, the pubs and bars are more laid back, which suits me and my friends just fine. Funky, quirky and reminiscent of a junk shop sale, the Red Lizard (47-51 Bell Street, Merchant City, Glasgow, G1 1NX; +44 141 552 3539; www.redlizard.org.uk) on Bell Street is the kind of place I can spend an entire Sunday afternoon.

The best clubs

From ever faithful mainstream club The Garage (490 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3LW; +44 141 332 1120; www.garageglasgow.co.uk), to dance sensation The Tunnel (84 Mitchell St, Glasgow, G1 3; +44 141 204 1000; www.tunnelglasgow.co.uk), the streets of Glasgow sway to hard-core party anthems. To hang with the cool kids, check out The Sub Club (22 Jamaica St, Glasgow, G1 4QD; +44 141 248 4600; www.subclub.co.uk), The Arches (253 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G2 8DL; +44 141 565 1000; www.thearches.co.uk) or The Art School (167 Renfrew Street, Glasgow; +44 141 353 4500; www.theartschool.co.uk) or to dance like a diva to old school Abba and 1980s classics The West End’s Viper Room (408 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G4 9HZ; +44 141 334 0560; www.viperwestend.co.uk) is the current student flavour of the month.

More expert advice on Glasgow

For suggestions on where to stay in Glasgow, see my Glasgow Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Glasgow page.

Read my nightlife overview on my Glasgow nightlife page.

mike.maceacheran

I am a freelance travel writer born in Glasgow and bred on deep fried Mars bars and Tennent's Lager. I have visited 80 countries and I have written for Esquire, Time Out, The Herald, The Scotsman, Sunday Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Geographical, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Sun, News of the World, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Record, Sunday Mail, Business Traveller, CNBC Business, Holland Herald (KLM), Bangkok Post, Silver Kris (Singapore Airlines), South China Morning Post, TNT, Portfolio (Emirates), Etihad Inflight and Aspire (Etihad Airways), The National (UAE), Oryx (Qatar Airways), Fah Thai (Bangkok Airways), Gulf Life (Gulf Air), Discovery (Cathay Pacific), Premier (Barclays Bank), Zoo, Fall-Line Skiing, Seabourn Club Herald (Florida) and Get Lost (Australia) to name quite a few. I also used to write for The Times and The Independent.

A true Scottish patriot in every sense of the word – you won’t find any underpants beneath my kilt – I have wandered around Glasgow for 32 years spending every restless minute trawling the best bars and restaurants of the Merchant City and the West End, getting sweaty at the country’s best music venues (King Tut’s and the Barras for the uninitiated or inebriated) and shaking my head in disbelief while watching the national team play at Hampden. If I cut myself, I would bleed a sweet electric orange hue as my arteries are clogged with Scottish soft drink Irn Bru.
 

My Glasgow

Where I always grab a beer – Glasgow specialises in dark music bars pasted in posters and crammed full of rock’n’roll credentials, heavenly jukeboxes and bohemian clientele. In the city centre Nice’n’Sleazy, Republic Bier Halle, Brunswick Cellars, 13th Note, Moskito, Mono and King Tut’s are the places where you are most likely to find me nursing a pint of Belhaven Best.

My favourite stroll - Kelvingrove Park or the Royal Botanic Gardens in the West End of the city are perfect to clear your head from the night before or to laze around with a picnic before the night ahead. St Mungo’s Cathedral, Castle Street, and the nearby Necropolis are also recommended for contemplating God.

Fiction for inspiration – Alasdair Gray’s “Lanark” may not be light holiday reading but it’s one of Glasgow’s most praised literary works. For something a little more light-hearted, Christopher Brookmyre’s Glasgow crime novels are hard-boiled Raymond Chandler yarns deep fried in Scottish wit and banter. I’d opt for some of the late great Edwin Morgan’s stunning poetry.

Where to be seen – Princes Square shopping mall off of Scotland’s style mile Buchanan Street represents the Pearly Gates for those carrying a branded handbag but for student types and culture vultures, Byers Road (and its surrounding streets) is the Scottish equivalent of the Parisian Left Bank.

The most breathtaking view – Pointing into the sky like a shoddy compass needle, the Glasgow Tower at the Glasgow Science Centre will have a cracking view if it ever opens… The panorama from Park Terrace across to the Gothic spire of the University and the Kelvingrove Museum is also a cracker.

The best spot for some peace and quiet – The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) on Royal Exchange Square is my favourite rainy day retreat. When the sun shines, go rummaging through the undergrowth with the wildlife in Pollock Park on the south side of the river.

Shopaholics beware – Glasgow has the largest concentration of shops of any city in the UK outside of London – so hold that credit card tighter than a hand grenade. Particular gems include humourous wallpapers from Timorous Beasties, vintage clothing from Felix and Oscar (both on Great Western Road), lost LPs from Mono (King’s Court) and designer fashion cuts in the hedonistic Princes Square. The Golden “Z”, encompassing Argyll, Buchanan and Sauchiehall Streets, has more gifts and goods than you could stick in your luggage in one trip, so it may be a better idea to just buy another suitcase while you’re at it. Bag and Baggage (Royal Exchange Square) should do nicely.

City soundtrack – As the UK’s first UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow has first class indie pop credentials and over the years has produced a multitude of top class talent. Take your pick from Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Simple Minds, Del Amitri, Travis, Franz Ferdinand, Texas, Lulu, Paolo Nutini and Deacon Blue to name just a few. Belle and Sebastian’s “If you’re Feeling Sinister” is the perfect soundtrack for wandering around the tree-lined backstreets around the University of Glasgow. “Like Dylan in the Movies” used to soundtrack my walk from Hillhead station to early morning lectures.

Don’t leave without... visiting Charles Rennie Mackintosh at the Art School, wandering through the cloisters of the University of Glasgow, taking tea at Tchai Ovna, having an Irn Bru picnic in Pollok Park, watching an Old Firm football game at Ibrox or Celtic Park, eating fish’n’chips past midnight on Sauchiehall Street, taking in a gig at the Barras or King Tuts, seeing a show at the Tramway, feasting on fresh seafood at the Two Fat Ladies, sailing on the Tall Ship, exploring the House for an Art Lover, greeting Walter Scott on George Square, riding the Clockwork Orange…. In second thoughts, maybe you should just stay for a bit longer?