The area is at its most vibrant and colourful when the streets come alive with a carnival atmosphere during the annual Merchant City Festival (July/August). The Festival is a centre-piece of the city’s cultural calendar and presents some of the best Scottish and international art and entertainment and great family activities too.
Start your exploration in Royal Exchange Square, one of the city's most gracious urban spaces filled with great restaurants, cafes and upmarket retailers which surround the splendid neo-classical building that now houses the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).
Head further into Merchant City along Ingram Street, the exclusive fashion boulevard featuring Armani, Ralph Lauren, Mulberry, and Cruise to drop just a few famous names!
Stop for a cocktail at The Corinthian Club and marvel at its elaborate interiors dating back to 1842. Past incarnations of this striking venue include the Union Bank and judiciary courts. Or be wowed by the grandeur of Hutchesons City Grill. Housed in a glorious Grade-A listed building the venue has three floors of decadent dining options.
The area is not known as the designer district for nothing with independent concept stores such as END, 18 Montrose, Walker Slater and Ryan James all showcasing their uniquely curated fashion and beauty brands. Other quirky shopping highlights include:
A trove of vintage, second-hand and retro treasures including clothes and jewellery.
Independent men's streetwear brand located in Royal Exchange Square.
Independent record store on King Street, selling an extensive and eclectic range.
Leading British milliner who creates stunning hats and headpieces for all ocassions.
All that shopping is bound to work up an appetite and the Merchant City has an abundance of great spots.
Miller Street is a popular haunt with the award-winning Paesano Pizza, rated ninth out of Europe's top 50 pizza restaurants in 2019 by Big Seven Travel and easily identified by the queue of eager weekend patrons; as well as the uber-stylish Spanish Butcher – a carnivore’s dream! Through a fairy-lit lane, you’ll also discover Virginia Court, a little courtyard which is occupied by a small but quirky selection of bars. Brutti Compadres has a Mediterranean inspired menu including a great selection of tasting plates while Cup Tearooms by day is a stylish café serving delicious afternoon teas then by night is transformed into Gin 71, a cool venue for craft gins and homemade tonics. You’ll also find the Gin Spa – be perfectly pampered with botanical oils and then enjoy a delicious G&T!
Head further along Ingram Street to Candleriggs and Albion Street where you are literally spoiled for choice with the range of drinking and dining options available. Try Ingram Wynd or Guys for Scottish flavours, KoolBa for top-notch, award-winning curries and The 13th Note and Mono for tasty vegan food.
For laid-back, traditional pubs, favourites include Babbity Bowster with its great beer garden perfect for the summer months, Blackfriars for real ales and live music and Rab Ha’s for top quality, warming pub grub and a cosy fire.
Merchant Square meanwhile, is an undercover courtyard and former merchant’s market which is now home to a further great selection of bars and restaurants. Be sure to stop by at the weekend to pick up some unique Glasgow gifts at their weekly craft and design fair.
This historic and fascinating part of the city is also home to a selection of great visitor attractions. From the small but perfectly formed Glasgow Police Museum (winner of the 'Best Day Out Award' at The Glasgow Awards 2019) showcasing the history of policing in Glasgow over the last 175 years, it also houses Europe's largest international police display of uniforms and insignia from around the world.
The hidden gem in this neighbourhood is the Britannia Panopticon – dating back to the 1850s, it’s officially the world’s oldest surviving music hall. A guided tour is a must to learn about its colourful and quirky history and some of the famous names who starred there.
The area is a magnet for creative talent with independent, artist-run galleries such as The Modern Institute and Transmission. Over recent years a number of creative hubs have also sprung up to support this ever-growing community, allowing them to share innovative exhibition and workspaces.
Trongate 103 is a place to see art, make art and enjoy being creative. It’s home to a number of creative organisations including The Glasgow Print Studio, Street Level Photoworks and the fascinatingly quirky Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre.
The Briggait is a beautiful Grade A listed venue, built in 1873 that has been transformed by the Wasps Trust and Wasps Artists' Studios into a home for visual artists and cultural organisations.
Head towards High Street via Glasgow Cross to capture a photo of the Tolbooth Steeple, a 17th Century landmark that stands proudly on this junction. The Steeple is all that remains of the old Tolbooth buildings which were demolished in 1921.
Wander north on High Street, the oldest and one of the most historically significant streets in the city, and you will discover Cathedral Precinct with the stunning medieval Glasgow Cathedral, St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art and Provand’s Lordship – the oldest house in Glasgow. And be sure to look out for the beautiful lamp posts featuring Glasgow's coat of arms – visit the coat of arms' digital map to find out where else across the city to spot them.
Another great way to discover some of this neighbourhood’s venues is on a Glasgow Music City Tour. Walk the oldest streets as part of their Merchant City Music – Past and Present tour and learn about how this part of the city has been the creative stamping ground for some of the city's finest talents.
Merchant City really comes alive at night and whether it’s comedy, classical music or cabaret you’ll find something you’re sure to enjoy.
The City Halls is Glasgow's oldest purpose-built performance space, having entertained patrons since 1841. Renowned for its world-class acoustics, the spectacular Hall also houses the Scottish Music Centre and is home to The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and hosts regular performances for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
The Old Fruitmarket is also part of the City Halls complex. Dating back to the 1800s and a working produce market until the 1970s, the venue has retained its period charm and regularly hosts a variety of events including jazz, rock and pop concerts, club nights and ceilidhs.
The Tron Theatre has been a familiar landmark in Glasgow's Merchant City for centuries and a popular cultural venue for over twenty years presenting outstanding contemporary theatrical work loved by young and old.
Glasgow has a thriving LGBTQ scene, with much of it concentrated in the heart of the Merchant City.
Delmonicas is one of the city’s longest established gay bars and is guaranteed to have a busy and bustling crowd on almost any night of the week. While snugly situated right next door is The Riding Rooms, where you can expect to see all manner of quirky thrills on the stage throughout the week – from risqué comedy to burlesque shows. Just round the corner is The Polo Lounge, which has won the coveted 'Best Gay Bar' award on a number of occasions.
There really is so much to discover and explore in this fascinating neighbourhood.
Creative spaces, LGBTQ scene, independent and designer stores
Cocktails in stunning surrounds, summer festival atmosphere, fairy-lit Royal Exchange Square