Glasgow city centre
Glasgow city centre
Vibrant and historic, Glasgow city centre is a culture-rich neighbourhood that is home to stunning Victorian architecture, as well as amazing shopping, dining and nightlife.
New York style streets
Dining out options
Mackintosh at the Willow
Things to see and do
Where to start but right in the heart of it all! From global events to people watching, the historic George Square has been a focal point for the city for generations. Beautiful buildings line the square, none more majestic than the City Chambers. Take a peak inside and find Instagram-worthy interiors, including a marble staircase.
The streets of the city centre are an attraction in their own right due to their architectural grandeur. Head in any direction from George Square and stumble upon one elegant street after another, each lined with some of the UK's best-preserved Victorian architecture.
The US-style grid system has long proven a draw for Hollywood filmmakers looking to mirror US cities on screen - check out our top film and TV locations page for more on this. While the cobbled lanes provide a spot for the city's flair for design to come to life in murals, markets and more.
Just around the corner from George Square is Royal Exchange Square - a great space for enjoying alfresco dining. The centrepiece of the square is a neo-classical building, formerly the home of a wealthy lord, and now the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). As the most visited modern art gallery in Scotland, it offers a series of national and international exhibitions and plays host to the biennial Glasgow International festival of contemporary visual art. Visit Glasgow Life's website to find out which exhibitions are on at the free-to-visit attraction.
GoMA is just one of many grand buildings, which started life as a mansion, bank or court, that have been beautifully restored to become some of the city's finest hotels, restaurants and galleries. The Corinthian Club, voco Grand Central Hotel and The Anchor Line are just some examples of modern places that are steeped in 1800s opulence.
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Another building worth the visit for the exterior alone is The Mitchell Library, Europe's largest public library. With over a million items, it also has one of the world’s largest collections of work by Robert Burns and a family history centre to discover ancestry. Find out more at Glasgow Life's library pages online.
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When walking around the city centre you can't help but spot huge pieces of street art adorning the sides of buildings. From a fantastical floating taxi to kids blowing bubbles, the City Centre Mural Trail makes for a great day out, whether you take a self-guided tour or a tour led by expert guides. Find out more at our mural trail page.
Join the ‘hop on and off’ City Sightseeing Bus Tour for a fun and informative way of seeing the city's must-see sights. Check out our tours page for information on city tours that cover everything from music to whisky.
The city centre is also a great neighbourhood for discovering the genius of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. An absolute must-visit is the world-class attraction Mackintosh at the Willow. Designed by Mackintosh in 1903, Miss Cranston’s original Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street underwent a major restoration, reopening in 2018 as a tea room, visitor centre, exhibition space and gift shop.
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The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture* was the first public commission in 1895 for the young draughtsman, Mackintosh. Today the venue is hosts a permanent Mackintosh centre, as well as touring exhibitions and events. Be sure to climb the spiral staircase to the viewing platform for stunning views across the city’s rooftops. *The Lighthouse is currently closed due to covid restrictions.
Find out more about Glasgow's most famous architect and designer and the amazing concentration of work in his home city by visiting our Charles Rennie Mackintosh page.
- Spot art all around on the City Centre Contemporary Art Trail, a walkable route of 14 outdoor artworks.
- Step back in time and discover tenement life as it was in the early 20th century at the lovingly-preserved Tenement House.
- A lesser-known Mackintosh designed building is the Daily Record building on Renfield Lane which is home to music and vegan venue, Stereo Cafe Bar.
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- Sculptured scrap metal figures come alive to music to tell a story of life, death and everything in-between at the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre.
- Tread the boards where Stan Laurel made his debut at the world's oldest surviving music hall, the Britannia Panoptican.
- For a uniquely Scottish experience head to The National Piping Centre and try out the bagpipes as part of your visit!
- Find out about the oldest police force in the UK at the Glasgow Police Museum from friendly ex-police officer volunteers.
Top places for food and drink
From cool and casual to fine dining, brunch to night-caps, Glasgow city centre has got you covered. There are lots of family-friendly dining options, such as the popular Hard Rock Cafe and Platform for tasty fare in the atmospheric railway arches. Visit platformgla.co.uk and find out more about their street food-inspired menu and events.
Singl-end, Café Gandolfi, Côte Brasserie and Picnic are just some of the many city centre options of places to begin the day well. Visit our best places for brunch in Glasgow page for inspiration.
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The city centre is home to some of the most glamorous dining options. The likes of The Anchor Line and The Citizen serve up fine dining in historic grand buildings. New to the glam scene is The Ivy, found right in the heart of the city on Buchanan Street. The exquisite food and cocktail menus are matched by their interiors. Book a table at theivyglasgow.com.
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For authentic Italian, head to La Lanterna, which has been run by the same Italian family for over 50 years and continues to win awards. Visit La Lanterna's website to book a table. For eye-watering curries, Swadish is the 'hot' spot to visit with its innovative approach to combining Scottish ingredients with traditional Indian cooking. Visit swadish.co.uk to view menus.
There are so many flavours to be sampled. From the Iranian-inspired cafe and restaurant, Chaakoo Bombay Cafe to the Vietnamese cuisine of Non-Viet to the award-winning Lychee Oriental for exceptional Chinese food.
Merchant city: the city's most stylish quarter
The Merchant city is steeped in history and is home to some of the city's oldest sites, including the likes of the Tolbooth Steeple, a 17th century landmark.
Former warehouses, grand mansions from the 1700s and produce markets of the 1900s are enjoying new lives as some of the city’s best boutiques, galleries, arts hubs, independent bars and restaurants.
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Arts communities have thrived in such spaces, including the likes of multi-purpose arts space Trongate 103 in its former Edwardian warehouse, artist studios The Briggait in the former fish market and music venue, the Old Fruitmarket, which still includes the ironmongery and greengrocers’ signs of the original marketplace.
It is such a culturally rich area of the city that it is no surprise that it has its very own festival. The streets come alive during the annual Merchant City Festival, a carnival of street performers, food markets, family activities and more. Visit merchantcityfestival.com for info.
And it's not just the arts organisations who have taken up residence in former mansions. Exclusive retailers like Ralph Lauren, Emporio Armani and Cruise can be found on Ingram Street - a street that The New York Times described as 'confidently Glaswegian and instinctually international'. Off this thoroughfare, are some great little side streets, full of restaurants and bars. Check out Brunswick Street, Hutcheson Street, Miller Street, and the cobbled, fairy-lit Virginia Court, for some of the best city eateries, many of which have great outdoor spaces.
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Found on the trendy Miller Street is Paesano which was named as one of the top 20 pizzerias in Europe (Big Seven Travel, 2021). Sample their traditional Napoletana pizza and see why it is up there with the best of Italy. Visit Paesano's website for details on their menu.
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On the same street as Paesano is The Spiritualist. Home to Scotland’s greatest bar gantry, take a look at The Spiritualist's menus online for an idea of the huge range of spirits, wines, liqueurs and cocktails on offer. And the locally sourced food menu more than matches the quality of the extensive drinks menu.
Mharsanta brings a taste of Scotland to the heart of Glasgow, with a selection of traditional and new Scottish dishes in chic surroundings. Visit mharsanta.co.uk to book a table.
One of the best shopping areas in the UK
Glasgow is renowned for its shopping scene. The main pedestrianised street Buchanan Street, and surrounding streets, make up a square mile of fantastic shopping!
Buchanan Street is book-ended by St. Enoch Centre and Buchanan Galleries – huge malls housing the best high street brands. St. Enoch Centre is a family-friendly shopping and entertainment destination, while Buchanan Galleries is home to a range of shops from The Lego Store to John Lewis to the independent Scottish Design Exchange, where 100% of profits go directly to the local makers and creators of the products.
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Nestled in the heart of Buchanan Street you’ll also find Princes Square, a speciality shopping mall that houses designer shops, restaurants, bars and a boutique cinema; the original House of Frasers store that has a history dating back to 1849; and Argyll Arcade, widely regarded as the finest jewellery centre in Scotland.
You’ll also come across many independent shops and markets, including the likes of Sloans Market. Visit our shopping pages for more information on Glasgow's amazing shopping scene.
Parks and green spaces
Glasgow Green is the city’s oldest park and is where you'll find the Doulton Fountain, the beautiful McLennan Arch, Nelson's monument and the People’s Palace, a museum dedicated to the social history of Glasgow. The historic park is also home to one of the city's most unusual buildings, Templeton on the Green, which takes its design from the famous Doge's Palace in Venice. There is plenty to keep the whole family entertained with adventure play parks and walks along the River Clyde. Visit our parks and gardens page for more info on green spaces in the city.
Music and arts in the heart of the city
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There are also many iconic venues in the city centre, such as The Theatre Royal, The King’s Theatre and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, each with diverse programmes offering everything from ballet to theatre and comedy to orchestras.
If independent and cutting-edge art, performance, events and film are your scene, then head to the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) on Sauchiehall Street. Just around the corner is Scotland's original independent cinema, the Glasgow Film Theatre - a great place for film lovers all year round and host to the annual Glasgow Film Festival each February. Visit our what's on section for details on major and unique events in the city.
As a UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow is known for its legendary music scene. King Tut's Wah Wah Hut heads up an array of independent venues where you'll discover local bands and catch the next big thing in an intimate venue.
Meanwhile, there are classical concerts, musical extravaganzas, film screenings with live orchestra accompaniment and much more at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, City Halls and Old Fruitmarket. Visit glasgowconcerthalls.com to see what's on.
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If you want to experience the legendary Glasgow crowd, then check out a city centre music festival. Celtic Connections brings the best folk, root and world music to the city each winter, while pipers from across the globe gather in Glasgow Green each summer for the World Pipe Band Championships. Once the piping champions are crowned, Glasgow Green makes way for some of the biggest rock and pop stars in the world to perform at TRNSMT. Visit our music venues page for more information on Glasgow's iconic scene.
Article last updated: September 2021
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