Whether you’re after a wee dram in a cosy pub, a microbrewery beer in a swanky bar or a night filled with loud live music and dancing, Glasgow’s nightlife has something for everyone.
The legendary city pub, The Horseshoe Bar, dates from the late 19th century and is largely unchanged. It’s a picturesque spot and, at nearly 32 metres, its Victorian bar is one of the longest in the UK. But the main attraction is what’s served over it – real ale and some of the best value pub grub in town (burgers from £5.50; 17–19 Drury Street).
Related article: Mini guide to nightlife in Brighton
In a quiet corner of the Merchant City area, Babbity Bowster is one of Glasgow centre’s most charming pubs, in one of its noblest buildings (and indeed the intriguing name comes from a dance popular at the time it was built). It’s perfect for a tranquil daytime drink, particularly in the adjoining beer garden, and service is attentive. There are also six en-suite bedrooms on the second floor (mains from £10.50; 16–18 Blackfriars Street).
The friendly staff and chilled-out music at Blackfriars pub make it special. They take their cask beer seriously here – with five regularly changing real ales on tap, and monthly Meet the Brewer events – and have been rewarded by twice being named Camra’s Glasgow Pub of the Year. The seating area with large windows is great for people-watching (sandwiches from £4.50; 36 Bell St).
Bars and clubs
Set in a former cheese market, this baroque bar, music venue and restaurant has to be seen to be believed. Arta is opulent, cavernous and candlelit, with floor-to-ceiling velvet. Despite the luxury, it’s got a relaxed vibe and a mixed crowd. There’s a decent list of inexpensive cocktails too (62 Albion Street; Canvas Club Thu-Sat from 11pm; from £5).
Praise be and let’s give thanks: this converted church – and an almighty one at that – is now home to Òran Mór, a venue comprised of two bars, two restaurants and a club. The whisky bar, with more than 250 malts to choose from, feels like it’s been here for years: it’s heavy on the wood and thick, exposed stone, giving it warmth and a celestial air. Club O is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11pm (top of Byres Road; Club O free–£5 Thur, £6 Fri, £8 Sat).
An impressive domed ceiling, gold-leaf detailing, mosaic flooring, sculptures and majestic chandeliers make Corinthian Club an awesome five-floored venue. Originally a bank and later Glasgow’s high court, the regal building houses the main bar, a plush club (downstairs in the old court cells), a piano bar, casino and numerous private function rooms. You’ll want to get dressed up to fit right in (191 Ingram St; Studio 191 Fri–Sat from 10pm; £5).
One of the city’s premier live-music pub venues, the excellent King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut hosts bands almost every night. It’s a small, intimate venue, allowing you to get up close and personal with the acts, and is a showcase for new and emerging bands: Oasis were signed here straight after a gig (272a St Vincent Street; from £6).
A one-stop culture/entertainment fix, The Arches, below Glasgow’s central station, makes you feel as though you’ve discovered Hades’ bohemian underworld. Not only one of the city’s biggest clubs, it also has a theatre showing avant-garde productions and is an eclectic live music venue for everything from folk and bluegrass to indie and LA prog rock (253 Argyle St; from £8).
An exceptional old dancehall, dating back to the 1930s and with a huge luminous sign outside, Barrowland is now a concert venue that caters for some of the larger acts that visit the city. It’s a little rough around the edges but the place is dripping with history and the atmosphere is incredible. This year sees dates for both The Specials and Nick Cave (244 Gallowgate; from £20).
Ten miles west of the city, Glasgow Airport is well served by easyJet, flybe and BA, which fly from major UK cities (from £70 from London), and buses leave for the city every 10 or 15 minutes. National Express runs coaches from UK cities, and Megabus has competitive rates on buses from London (from £2). Direct trains from London are quicker but more expensive (4.5 hours; from £70). Glasgow is easy to navigate on foot but there are also buses, suburban trains and a Subway that serves 15 stations.
Where to stay
The Brunswick Hotel in Merchant City is the sort of place that every now and again converts itself into a party venue, with DJs in the lifts and art installations in the rooms. The 18 minimal rooms are priced by size, from pokey to penthouse suite (106–108 Brunswick St; from £50).
The Alamo may not sound like a peaceful spot, but that’s exactly what this great little guesthouse is. Opposite Kelvingrove Park, it feels miles from the hustle of the city, but the West End is within walking distance (46 Gray St; from £55).
Blythswood Square is housed in a Georgian terrace and the ‘classic’ rooms look onto the delightful square, but it’s quieter in the new wing at the back. There’s a bar, restaurant and spa (11 Blythswood Square; from £120).