It's not just for coffee - Glasgow's cafes are where you’ll most definitely experience the city’s famous friendliness, and the scene is filled to the brim with independent cafes and coffee shops to hang out with your friends, read a book or simply just people watch.
But with so many in every neighbourhood in the city, where should you start? Well here’s a taster of some of the cream of the crop when it comes to enjoying Glasgow’s café culture.
Named after the first ever African American student to achieve a medical degree from the University of Glasgow in 1837 (James McCune Smith – who became an influential American abolitionist) this café’s ethos is entrenched in the city’s history and provenance.
This unique little café is situated in the East, the oldest part of the city, and leads the way in their use of produce from local and ethical suppliers, and is renowned for serving Dear Green Coffee (specialist coffee roasters in Glasgow) and for their Scottish Enlightenment themed deli sandwiches. A tasty piece of history served with a modern NYC twist and a laid-back friendly Glaswegian atmosphere.
Affectionately known as “The Lab” this cosy little café, in the city centre, has been listed in the top 30 of Britain’s best coffee shops (Caffeine Magazine) and one of the world’s best places to drink coffee (Phaidon 2017) – suffice to say, these guys know their coffee!
So if you’re a coffee geek, this is a must visit. The staff are famed for their friendliness and knowledge of a perfect brew, both local and global. Topped with an offering of delicious desserts and Italian pastries making this the ultimate café pit stop for the coffee aficionado.
A relative newcomer to the scene is Gnom located in Strathbungo, a small, leafy village South of the city. This bright and airy neighbourhood bistro offers a small, varied and quirky menu - French toast ice cream sandwiches anyone?!
Baking up quite the buzz in the city’s café scene is Singl-End, whose basement café and bakehouse in Garnethill have proven so popular that they have recently opened a second spot in the Merchant City.
This little gem is not only a café but also has it’s own bakehouse, boasting some of the best bread, cakes and brunches in town, with plenty of gluten free and veggie options to boot!
Both family and dog friendly, this quirky artisan café is all about delivering good honest food with a friendly and laid back vibe as well as serving the odd celebrity too… Christian Slater visited recently while shooting his movie “The Wife” with Glenn Close in Glasgow!
Move over coffee, it’s time for tea right in the heart of the city at the opulent tea lounge called Cup, where tea is taken very seriously.
Set in a magnificent Victorian building on Renfield Street, designed by the man behind the Natural History Museum (Alfred Waterhouse) this is a stunning venue where you would be recommended to take your time sipping your way through the enormous tea menu.
Most notably known for their afternoon teas this is a café where you could most certainly make an occasion of it. Then come dusk, Cup turns into one of the city’s most popular gin bars, Gin 71.
Cafe Strange Brew
Rated as the number 1 café on TripAdvisor in Glasgow, it is no wonder that people are queuing around the block at the weekends to try out breakfast, brunch and lunch at Café Strange Brew. Based in Shawlands, South of the city, this friendly haunt, whose affectionate motto is ‘keep Shawlands strange’, serves up baked eggs, speciality pancakes and much more. The décor, which includes old wooden church pews, exposed original tenement tiling and modern prints is as charming as the staff and seasonal menu.
Often described as a “bohemian all day café” the Glad Café, in the city’s South neighbourhood is about more than just the coffee. Run as a social enterprise this is a café where you can well and truly kick back and experience the neighbourhood’s vibe.
Enjoy cakes, including a fantastic range of gluten free, throughout the day alongside some good honest coffee. The café is also open late into the evening, where you can enjoy fresh cuisine from the latest hotly-tipped pop up to take the helm at Glad’s kitchen, whilst indulging in eclectic events from live music to comedy gigs.
Right next door is Glad Rags Thrift, a cool second hand/vintage store that supports the work and ethos of the café and adding to the laidback bohemian experience.
The owners of Riverhill opened their first café in Helensburgh (a Scottish seaside town 40 mins outside Glasgow in Argyll) and following it’s success opened up their Coffee Bar in the city a few years ago, which is now hailed as “the best coffee and cake in Glasgow” by many of their customers and according to Yelp “the friendliest staff in Glasgow”.
A low-key café that sits across from the city’s iconic Central Station, this is a café where you can indulge in the Glasgow roasted Dear Green Coffee brand and no shortage of astounding cakes and pastries, with both vegan and gluten free options.
As the only other Glasgow café to also feature in Caffeine Magazine’s top 30 best Britain’s coffee shops, Pena is a quirky little place down the cobbled Eton Lane in the city’s trendy West neighbourhood.
Despite being tucked away, this café is not easily missed as the outside is covered in grass, which is fitting given its name, a Spanish term meaning a grass-roots meeting place for musicians and artists.
A unique and cosy café, they’re most famous not only for an amazing cup of coffee but for their downright stellar sandwiches. This café may be tiny but it is full of charm which makes it an ideal “off the beaten track” pit stop when wandering around the West neighbourhood.
Explore the beautiful designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh up close and personal at the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow - enjoy a delicious afternoon tea in surroundings that evoke a past era, linked to one of the city's most influential designers.
The Hidden Lane Tearoom
Down another little cobbled lane, you will find a vintage tearoom with a contemporary twist. Nestled nicely amongst local artist studios, this independent café is where you can taste your way around their huge selection of teas in mismatched “granny chic” teacups while tucking into their home baked cakes, sandwiches and salads. Most notable for their afternoon teas, this funky vintage café is a firm favourite for those who are looking to enjoy a relaxing coffee and cake in a modern yet kitsch tearoom.
Looking for the perfect pit stop while you explore the city? Cottonrake is it!
A little artisan bakery on Great Western Road, in the city’s West neighbourhood Cottonrake is famous for its fresh bakes, cakes and croissants. So popular, you’ll often find it with a queue out its doors at lunchtimes, as locals pick up their freshly baked bread and cakes. Although most notably known for their BLTs with tarragon mayo, with fantastic fresh baking too, you’ll be hard pressed not to find a tasty delight to indulge in. It might be small but they still have a little sitting area where you can enjoy their baked goods and people watch, but it’s also an ideal café to drop in and go while you’re busy exploring the city.