Whether you are after a designer dress or a diamond engagement ring, Glasgow is a shopaholic's dream. Here are my suggestions on where to spend, spend, spend
The best place to start, both from a connoisseur’s point of view and in terms of outright excess, is Buchanan Street. Forming the middle bar of the city’s “Golden Z”, in between Sauchiehall Street to the north and Argyll Street to the south, Buchanan Street is Glasgow’s very own Champs Elysees or Fifth Avenue. If you’re not shaking at the knees with excitement yet, then listen to this: every week, Buchanan Street attracts an average of 1.6 million shoppers.
At the top end, the Buchanan Galleries (Buchanan Galleries Shopping Centre, Glasgow, G1 2FF; +44 141 333 9898; www.buchanangalleries.co.uk) is the city’s newest mainstream shopping mall, home to global brands like GAP, Next, H&M, Levi’s and Boots. There are more than 80 shops including Glasgow’s flagship John Lewis department store and seemingly a zillion other fashion and accessory labels. Come at the weekend, during Easter or in the pre-Christmas rush and you’ll shortly see why the street has earned its style mile status: behind the Galleries a 2,000 space car park overflows with overladen, bedraggled shoppers who haven’t seen daylight for weeks and beg to be fed and watered. Say hi to my mum if you see her; I think she may have got lost on the mezzanine floor last month.
As the street tumbles down towards Argyll Street, the brands on display edge towards the higher end – think Diesel (116-120 Buchanan St, Glasgow. G1 2JW; +44 141 221 5255; www.diesel.com), Apple (147 Buchanan Street; Glasgow, G1 2JX, +44 141 300 4950, www.apple.com), Monsoon (66-70 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, G1 3JF; +44 141 221 4643; www.monsoon.co.uk), Hugo Boss (55 Buchanan Street, Glasgow,G1 3HL; +44 141 221 7168; www.store-uk.hugoboss.com) and Whittard of Chelsea (95 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, G1 3HF; +44 141 221 3504; www.whittard.co.uk) – before reaching a crescendo at Princes Square, the city’s luxury shopping precinct.
Princes Square - don't forget your sunglasses
Take a ride up the fanciest escalators in the city, making sure you have your oversized sunglasses perched on your forehead, and take a deep breath – Princes Square (48 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, G1 3JX; +44 141 221 0324; www.princessquare.co.uk) is Scotland’s premier designer wardrobe. Underneath its stained glass Art Nouveau cupola, and spread across its three elegant floors, iconic brands like Vivienne Westwood, Kurt Geiger, French Connection, Lacoste, Ted Baker and Reiss Womenswear rub shoulders with some of Scotland’s very best home-grown labels and crafts. Check out Arran Aromatics (Level One, Unit 32, Princes Square, 48 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, G1 3JX; +44 141 248 5242; www.ArranAromatics.com) for bath and body products, Chocolatier of Glasgow (Ground Floor, Princes Square, 48 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, G1 3JX; +44 141 222 2224; www.the-chocolatier-of-glasgow.co.uk) and Louise Shafar (Ground Floor, Princes Square, Buchanan Street, Glasgow, G1 3JN; +44 141 221 0022; www.louiseshafar.co.uk), Glasgow’s premier designer jeweller.
A distinctly Scottish House of Fraser
House of Fraser (21-45 Buchanan Street, Glasgow; +44 844 800 3728; www.houseoffraser.co.uk), Glasgow’s version of Harrods, is perhaps the ultimate place to find a gift to spoil a loved one. Stocking everything from luxury accessories and beauty essentials to home furnishings, Frasers may seem like a standard premium department store, but there is more to it than meets the eye – and it is distinctly Scottish. Opened by Hugh Fraser in 1849, the Glasgow branch is the flagship store of a chain that now has 61 stores spread throughout the UK, including prestigious shops in Belfast, Leeds and on London’s Oxford Street.
A family shopping experience
And yet there is still more. Only moments away from Buchanan Street, Argyll Street intersects with another onslaught of shops and boutiques. Chief among them is the recently renovated St Enoch Centre (55 St. Enoch Square, Glasgow, G1 4BW; +44 141 204 3900; www.st-enoch.co.uk), the largest shopping centre in Scotland and Europe’s largest glass structure. Looking like a cross between a glass pyramid and a lopsided Paisley greenhouse, the St Enoch centre prides itself on being a family shopping experience – and there is no doubt that it is more accessible and fun for children than either Princes Square or the Buchanan Galleries. Although it’s been neglected for a number of years, and has suffered at the hands of competition from elsewhere, a recent renovation should ensure that the crowds begin to return in no time. Stores on offer include Debenhams, TK Maxx and Bhs and – in keeping with its family friendly ethos – there is also a Kids' Play Area and Kiddy Cabs. The large food court is also on hand if you want to top up the cholesterol levels with all manners of deep fried junk food.
Shelter under the Heilanman’s Umbrella
If it’s raining, it’s worth heading towards the Heilanman’s Umbrella – the affectionate nickname for the glass railway bridge from Central Station (it used to be a popular meeting place for Highlanders back in the day) – to stock up on cheap DVDs and records at Fopp (19-27 Union Street, Glasgow, G12 8AW; www.foppreturns.com), the city centre’s best independent music store. Mono (King Street, 10 King's Court, Glasgow, G1 5RB; + 44 141 553 2400, www.monocafebar.com) a cross between a connoisseur's record shop and a music brew pub in the Merchant City also comes highly recommended.
Further along Argyll Street, completing the “Golden Z” like a slightly kitsch crown, the Argyll Arcade (51 Argyll Arcade, Glasgow, G2; + 44 870 850 6271; www.argyll-arcade.com) is a stretch of 32 jewellery shops linked together like an overpriced golden bracelet. Even though I feel like I’m walking into a 1980s episode of Only Fools and Horses when I duck into its arches – I can easily picture Del-Boy flagging knock off diamond rings from any of the shop fronts – the corridor is always packed at weekends with engaged couples and romantics. Built in 1827, its ornate iron-framed roof is almost as dazzling as the Aladdin’s Cave of gold on display. It may be a tackier version of the Gold Souks, which tourists can find in Dubai or Muscat in the Middle East, but it has a comforting damp smell, which reminds the visitor that they’re very definitely in Scotland.
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 overview on Shopping in Glasgow.