One of Glasgow’s claims to fame is its nightlife. Think of its drinking scene and you may picture wood-panelled pubs stocked to the ceiling with whisky. And you’d be right – the city still retains plenty of places with that old-school charm. Yet Glasgow’s appeal also lies in its diverse blend of traditional and modern. To help you have a night to remember, here’s where you can sample the best of Scotland’s biggest city.
The Horseshoe Bar
There aren’t many pubs in Glasgow where you can expect to find such an eclectic mix of people. From the old guys you feel have been there for centuries to students preparing for a big night out, locals and visitors alike are all here for the same thing – no fuss drinks and a welcoming Glaswegian atmosphere in the legendary home of ‘Europe’s longest’ bar. An American company once tried to buy the entire contents of the pub (including the original fixtures and fittings) and ship it all to New York, demonstrating the Horseshoe’s international appeal. The offer was, thankfully, turned down.
Cool, but unpretentious, this dimly-lit Mitchell Lane hideout draws in a young, hip crowd for chilled-out chat over cocktails. If you fancy something a little more adventurous, on weekend nights you can usher yourself through a seemingly nondescript rear door to the exclusive Panther Milk Bar, a cavernous, candle-lit dive serving only old-school glass milk bottles full of the legendary and delicious Spanish concoction, Leche de Pantera (Panther's Milk: gin, rum, cointreau, peppermint and cinnamon mixed with condensed milk).
The Flying Duck
Once self-styled as ‘like your gran’s house, without the smell of cats’, the Flying Duck has carved something of a niche for being a little off-the-wall. The decor in the basement hangout often gives the impression of having been thrown together that morning (in the most endearing sense) and is as casual as it comes in terms of city centre bars. From a selection of classic board games, to trivia nights and 3am raves, everything is catered for, and it's even established itself as one of the leading lights in the city’s burgeoning vegan scene.
If a traditional Scottish night out is what you’re after, Sloans is the place to go. Tucked away in a quiet courtyard off Glasgow’s main shopping thoroughfare, Buchanan Street, this three-centuries-old bar comes to life on Fridays when it hosts its legendary ceilidhs. In Sloans’ magnificent Grand Ballroom, visitors can link arms with kilt-clad locals to the backdrop of raucous Gaelic folk music for an evening of country dancing. Make sure to book in advance – this is one of the hottest tickets in town.
Promising guests a nostalgia trip to a bygone era of travel, Champagne Central offers elegance in the midst of one of Glasgow’s most manic, yet charming locations, Central Station. With high-end decor and an extensive drinks list which includes over 20 different champagnes, locally-produced gins and a fine selection of classic and contemporary cocktails, this bar is the perfect setting for an afternoon of indulgence. One to dress smartly for, this isn’t the place for jeans and a T-shirt.
The Wee Pub
Describing itself as ‘Scotland’s smallest pub’, there’s certainly a case for the Wee Pub to be considered Glasgow’s most charming. Nestled away on the cobblestoned side street leading to Ashton Lane’s main drag (the West End’s ever-attractive go-to area for nightlife), this off-shoot of popular venue Ubiquitous Chip is the ultimate sanctuary to warm up with a dram of one of the hundreds of whiskies on offer. The intimate bar’s rustic interior will trick you into thinking you’re knocking back drinks in a Highland bothy (traditional cottage or hut), away from bustling Byres Road, just a stone’s throw away.
The Tiki Bar & Kitsch Inn
The similarities between Glasgow and Hawaii may be few and far between, but the Tiki Bar does a great job of transporting you from the west coast of Scotland to Waikiki Beach. Without being tacky, the slightly manic surf-inspired interior and notoriously strong cocktails (Zombies are limited to two per person) bring a tropical element to the far end of the Bath Street strip. Looking for something to eat? Head upstairs to the Kitsch Inn for some fresh Thai fare.
The Pot Still
A serial award-winner, including the title of Scotland’s Pub of the Year, the Pot Still is a must-visit for all whisky aficionados. With over 700 bottles of the stuff, brought in from all corners of the country, an hour spent in this central tavern is as much of an education as it is a great way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon. Don’t know where to begin? Ask one of the highly knowledgeable bar staff and they’ll ease you in gently.
Radisson RED Skybar
For years Glasgow has been crying out for a rooftop bar overlooking the city. Enter Sky Bar. Sitting atop the chic and stylish Radisson Red hotel, this riverside spot has been attracting Glaswegians for after-work drinks since it opened in 2018. The panoramic views of the River Clyde, historic Finnieston Crane, Hydro events arena and the University of Glasgow may be its main selling point, but the attractive design-led bar, which wouldn’t look out of place on the front cover of a style magazine, is worth the trip too.
The Clutha is finally in a good place after a devastating helicopter crash at the site which took the lives of 10 people in 2013. Since its reconstruction and reopening, there’s nothing but positive vibes at this riverside institution. Outside, murals depicting famous Glasgow characters adorn the walls all the way to the sizeable beer garden, while inside the welcoming atmosphere gives you the impression of being in your local, neighbourhood pub. One for music fans, different acts take to the stage seven nights a week.
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