What was once the domain of sober industrialists, whose palaces of trade and commerce dignify the area, Merchant City is now a playground of restaurants, bars and shops. It's an atmospheric zone that rewards idle strolling with handsome facades and quirky architectural details. Come night-time, there's a buzzy vibe as the area fills with social life and the knot of LGBT venues known as the Pink Triangle starts to hum.
Pacing around on foot is the best way to get to grips with this area, which is better appreciated as an architectural ensemble than as a list of must-see attractions. Start your exploration at George Square, where the free guided tour of the City Chambers is a highlight, and then delve into the narrow streets to the south and east. Remember to look up at the facades of the buildings you are passing; many were trade guilds, mercantile exchanges, shipping company offices or organs of state.
- Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre Being transported to another world with these hypnotic, comic, tragic kinetic sculptures, all of which have a story to tell.
- City Chambers Touring the city's elaborate town hall gives you good information on the city as well as an appreciation of its 19th-century heyday.
- Pink Triangle Attacking the dancefloor and meeting locals in the welcoming bars and clubs of Glasgow's LGBT heartland.
- Live Music Catching a band or a classical concert in the atmospheric Old Fruitmarket venue or one of several other choices.
- Style Mile Shopping till you can't carry any more in the boutiques and retail palaces of the centre, such as the Argyll Arcade, an historic jewellery-laden passage with dressed-up doorfolk.
The Merchant City has a very different feel by day and by night and it's worth visiting at least twice to appreciate it.