A Local’s Guide to Glasgow

Here are my recommendations/tips for places to go in Glasgow. These are all places that I have been personally and can vouch for as having been good at one time or another. There are a bunch of other places that will come up in Google searches etc which I haven’t included for a variety of subjective reasons (e.g. Paesano – which gets rave reviews for its pizza, but which I am meh about.). Please note that this is based on my own tastes and opinions. Don’t send me complaints.

They aren’t listed in any particular order, other than grouped by rough area. The city is fairly condensed though, so don’t feel like you have to stick to one particular area. Nothing is more than a 20 minute taxi away from anything else, which will cost you about £10-12. 

Note that there is a relative lack of East End establishments. That’s because the East End is a barren wasteland (!!). Just kidding. Dennistoun etc is worth a look – I just have less experience over that way.

Last updated: 25th October 2023.

Drinks:

Glasgow is a drinking city, and is usually friendly. People will talk to you if you chat to them, or maybe even if you don’t. Embrace this and you’ll have a brilliant time. These are in no particular order…

City Centre

  • Drury Street – Large underground bar with lots of old decor and good drinks. Decent pub food (pizzas, burgers, etc). Alternative and dog friendly. A regular haunt of mine.
  • Pot Still – Old school style small pub in the City Centre that has a dizzying array of single malt whisky available. It manages to cater both to tourists and locals alike. Huge selection and friendly staff.
  • Nice n Sleazy – Cool ‘dive’ esque bar with club nights on weekends. Open late.
  • Bloc – Similar to Sleazy’s, but smaller, and no separate club area. Good pub food. Regularly hosts free gigs.
  • The Laurieston – Just south of the river. It’s a really cool wee, old Glasgow pub where folk are pretty friendly. Lots of interesting things on the walls. It’s the first stop on the fabled Glasgow ‘sub crawl’, so they’re used to having groups appear. Worth the ten minute walk from Glasgow Central. Sadly up for sale, so visit it while you can.
  • Absent Ear – ‘Hidden’ cocktail bar underneath the Amsterdam. Merchant City area. You need to book in advance. Cocktails are about £10-12 but brilliant and best value in Glasgow. Listed as one of the best cocktail places in the UK.
  • Anchor Line – Nice standard cocktails in a fancy-ish but relaxed environment. Good service. Near Queen’s Street Station.
  • Scotia Bar – Allegedly one of the oldest pubs in Glasgow. Has traditional live music. Good mix of tourists and locals. Decent place to take visitors.
  • Shilling Brewing Co. This is a bit more of a modern ‘common’ bar rather than a trendy/dive craft beer place (think the after work crowd), but it is in a cool building, and they have a good selection of beers.
  • The Gate – Down across from the world famous Barrowlands. A bit of a mix of an old pub and a new cocktail bar. Cool place. Nice staff.
  • Cathouse Rock Club – open late. Two floors of rock/alt/metal music. Friendly crowd. Cheap drink. I’ve worked here for years.

Notes on other places:

Some places that used to be on this list, but I have removed for various reasons.

  • Tabac – Near the Lighthouse, down a wee lane. This is meant to be a kind of Barcelona style bar. It has a cool interior but I’ve gone off it in recent years due to a few mixed experiences with the staff.
  • 13th Note – vegetarian cafe pub/restaurant. Laid back and alternative. Surprisingly good food. Somebody once said: “If you don’t get the 13th Note, you won’t get Glasgow.” I put this under drinks as it’s more of a bar/cafe than a restaurant. NOTE: after a dispute with workers this place has shut as of July 2023. Don’t go! 

West End

  • Brewdog West End – The original, and nicer than the city centre one. ‘Craft beer’ pub – famous for brewing the strongest beer in the world a few times. You can get Brewdog everywhere now, it’s pretty Americanised, and the company is a bit controversial, but i still like going every so often.
  • Ben Nevis Bar – If you’re in the Finnieston area and need a more traditional pub which is still good, go here. They have lots of whisky, and attract a wide clientele (read: not stabby).
  • Brel – ‘Belgian’ style beer bar with good food and a big beer garden near the University. Will get busy when it’s sunny. Located in the cobbled street of Ashton Lane which people always like.
  • Banana Moon – a cool bar with some neon. On Great Western Road.
  • Thornwood – near GaGa and Basta. Casual pub that is a mix of traditional and new with nice beers and staff. One of the best pubs in the area. I wouldn’t go out of my way to go, but we do go often before having dinner over that side of the city for pre drinks.

South Side

South Side is the new West End. My neck of the woods.

  • Allison Arms – South Side of the city. Proper locals pub which has had the same people drinking there for decades, but which has a good mix of younger folk as well. Half hipster, half old man joint. One of the best.
  • Heraghty’s Bar – Decent enough, friendly pub next to the Allison Arms.
  • McNeills – Torrisdale Street, South Side. A bit of a weird one which is on the cusp of old man pub and hipster, though it has been veering towards the latter more recently due to a change in ownership. Drink selection is not great, but the atmosphere can be brilliant. I generally like it here.
  • Linen – Nothing particularly special except that it’s open late, has a weird balcony, and is in quite a cool building.
  • Lunar – Listed as one of the best cocktail bars in the UK. No reservations, and limited seats, but one of the best best cocktail places in the Souff. Try the pickle backs.
  • Charlie Browns – Cocktail bar from staff that used to run Lunar. Up a staircase, next to a Japanese restaurant. Small, with a very stylish interior that seems like it could be right out of Tokyo. Drinks are a bit unusual in a great way, and the staff know their shit.
  • Koelschip Yard – Independent craft beer place. Nice selection. Card only.

Notes on other places:

  • Phillies – A large bar in the centre of Shawlands. We used to be regulars here, but the service got drastically worse after the pandemic. They are table service only, and it can take ages to get served. The food is also not much to write home about. We still go in here occasionally, as they have some good beers on tap, but infrequently.
  • Glad Cafe – A sort of arts cafe place with alcohol license and venue through the back. Can be decent for lunch, though the atmosphere is often lacking, and I don’t really like it as a bar. Hit or miss.

Eats (dinner):

In Glasgow, there are two big main food groups: Indian, and fish and chips. Definitely try at least one of them whilst you are here. Or both. PROTIP: get pakora.

City Centre

  • Fish and chips – Lots of ‘chippies’ are in Glasgow. For the most authentic that is good quality, go to ‘The Coronation’ on the Gallowgate. Lots of the Glesga patter here. If it’s closed, there are a couple of others across the road that also have a lot of charm.
  • Elia – George Square – Greek. The best one in town. ‘Authentic’ with decent portions for not too expensive. Good for big groups.
  • Ardnamurchan – Nice, slightly fancier but not uptight place to eat more traditional Scottish food. Fish, steak, whisky. That kind of vibe. Always had good service here.
  • Jay’s Grill Bar – a Korean hot pot/BBQ place which is all you can eat for 2 hours – and isn’t one of those kind of generic crappy buffet places. Authentic (as far as I can tell), good food, and pretty good value. Used to be in the West End, but has moved.
  • Mosob – Ethiopian with flat breads and things. Authentic (as far as I can tell), with very good vegan options. Well priced. Service can be a bit shonky, particularly when it’s busy, but they are pleasant.
  • Stereo – Another veggie cafe bar/restaurant. Good food. Gig venue downstairs. I put this as a restaurant as it’s more food oriented than the 13th Note, and it’s not really set up like you would expect a bar to be. Very central. Can be a bit hipster wank at times.
  • Dahkin – Slightly different take on Indian food, in that they focus on a region which isn’t as common in Glasgow. Lots of gluten free options. They specialise in these big rice pancake things which are amazing and you have to try. Good for big groups.
  • Obsession of India – Family run Indian. Great curry.
  • Charcoals – Another Indian restaurant. Good stuff. Cheap and tasty. Staff are very very nice. The current place has seen better days post-pandemic, but food is still great. Good for groups.
  • The Flying Duck – Central. Large underground bar that has lots of pub style food – but which is 100% vegan. If you can ignore the number of hipster moustaches, the food is pretty good. 
  • Celentanos, Glasgow – Fancy Italian joint. Very nice. In an old church type building. Stylish. Next to the Cathedral and Necropolis.
  • Mezcal – If you have to have Mexican in Glasgow, this is one of the better ones. Small. Lots of neon signs. Note that Mexican food in Glasgow is not great generally.

West End

  • Hooligan – A really nice fancyish restaurant that is reasonably priced and set in a cool location inside an old Glasgow tenement. Unique.
  • Sylvan – Woodlands area. Vegetarian restaurant. A bit pricey, but nice ‘fancier’ place for veg fare.
  • Brett – This is a stylish ‘wine bar’ which has ‘refined food’. A fancier option. Not cheap. Good for stylish couples (like me and Grace, duh).
  • Hanoi Bike Shop – West End. Vietnamese. Good stuff.
  • KaPow – Byres Road West End area. Asian inspired food. Pretty good. Similar to GaGa, but not as ‘independent’ (there’s a few restaurants owned by them).
  • GaGa – Partick area of the West End. Trendy-ish South East Asian place. Good food. GREAT cocktails. I prefer this over KaPow.
  • The Finnieston – Scottish food. Fish and meat and things like that. Nice option if you want something traditional. Bit of a squeeze for larger groups. But can be done.
  • Mother of India – Often recommended for Indian in the city. There are a couple of different ones, so make sure you book the right one (you probably need to book).
  • Kimchi cult – Pop up style small kimchi based restaurant in the West End. Tiny. Korean. We haven’t been in ages but it used to be good.
  • Six by Nico – if you want something fancy, with a whole bunch of different courses/paired wines etc, look up this place. They also have a cousin restaurant called Chateau-x in the West End which does very nicely priced steak.
  • Hug and Pint – Great Western Road. Good Asian veggie food + bar. Also a live venue downstairs.
  • Basta! – Small, independent pizza place where they make their own neapolitan style pizza. Used to be pretty good. Nice folk.

South Side

  • Lobo – Mediterranean small plates. South Side. My wife works here as a chef and my friend owns it. Casual atmosphere. Really good – and I usually hate small plates.
  • Dapper Mongoose – More small plates. Good quality though. Good service. Nice.
  • Oro – A big Italian restaurant that is much nicer than it seems. As in, it looks like a chain, but it isn’t. A bit fancier in terms of prices, but the food is great, and the service is excellent.
  • Chapel Het Noi – casual Thai food. Mostly takeaway but limited sit in. Nice staff. Independent.
  • Sacred Tum Tacos – Glasgow isn’t great at Mexican, but if you have a craving for tacos, these are probably the best. They press their own tortillas etc. Worth a look. I know the girl that owns it. Victoria Road. Currently take away only.
  • Himalayan Dine – Indian restaurant. Specifically Nepalese I believe. Good food. 
  • New Anand – Indian restaurant. More traditional. In a weird building which is kind of quirky and interesting. Their buffet was great but I’m not sure if they do that post-COVID restrictions.
  • Little Hoi An – Tiny Vietnamese street food restaurant. Always packed. Good value. BYOB. The owner is lovely and always really friendly.

Notes on other places:

  • Bungo – A nice place with a decent selection of beers and things. Kind of a mix of Scottish and other influences. Hard to put a finger on. Nothing spectacularly different, but a good all rounder. Note: the service here is hit and miss, and food often takes ages to come out. Owned by the same person as the 13th note, who has recently had controversy about the way they treat staff and shut down the venue as a result. We haven’t gone back since.

Cafes/Coffee/Tea:

  • Spitfire Espresso – I like this place. Merchant City. Good coffee. Cake. Does decent lunch/brunch and also has beer. Small. Nice atmosphere.
  • Singl End – Scottish brunch place with baked eggs and steak sandwiches and other things like that. Nice place. There’s a couple of them in the centre.
  • Ziques – A stylish but laid back cafe place.
  • Wilson Street Pantry – Decent brunch in Merchant City. I always get this and Singl End confused, as they are so similar.
  • Tantrum Donuts – a donut shop in the city centre (with shops in the West End and South Side). Pretty good. 
  • Ottoman Coffee House – independent specialist coffee place in a cool building. Charing Cross area.
  • Cafe Strange Brew – South Side of the city. Good brunch. Busy all the time.

Stuff to see/Do:

  • University of Glasgow – Apparently looks like Hogwarts. Fourth oldest in the English speaking world. You can wander about the campus freely. Worth it.
  • Glasgow Cathedral – Old and impressive.
  • The Lighthouse – Good view over the city from the top.
  • Gallery of Modern Art – Right in the city. Free entry (as with all museums). Sometimes great stuff. Sometimes terrible.
  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery – Impressive big old building with tons of different kinds of art in various forms. It’s got some cool stuff, and the building is worth a look… and Brewdog is just across the road if you get bored. The University sits on the hill just above.
  • The Necropolis – Big old graveyard that overlooks the city. People seem to like this, for some reason.
  • The ‘Barras’ – Old ‘market’ that is open on weekends. Kind of like a flea market. In a bit of a sad state of repair now as it’s mostly junk and weird people – but the area is cool and worth a look. There is also a lot of regeneration going on, with cool cafes and stuff opening up. Don’t wander too far East as it can get pretty sketchy pretty quickly if you don’t know what’s going on.
  • Gigs – There is music on in Glasgow almost every night of the year. Not that it’s always any good. If there are gigs in King Tut’s or the Barras, they are worth a look. Other venues: Broadcast, 13th Note, Audio, Stereo, Hug and Pint. If there is a band on at the Barrowlands – go! One of the best atmospheres of any venue in the world.
  • Edinburgh – I know, I know. But Edinburgh isn’t that far, and it’s well worth visiting. As much as it pains me to say it as a Glaswegian, it’s beautiful, and they have a castle. Get a train from Queen Street – spend a day or two there and then hurry back.

Try: 

  • Buckfast aka Bucky – an infamous tonic wine drunk by bums and nutcases. Tastes sweet and syrupy. 15%. Lots of caffeine. Not actually Scottish, but it has a special home in our culture. 
  • Irn-Bru – our ‘other’ national drink’. Scotland is the only place in the world where a soft drink outsells Coke. It’s much loved, and cures hangovers and various other things. NOTE: Irn-Bru is now actively being boycotted by many Scots due to the manufacturer changing the recipe. Try it if you must, but be aware it’s no longer the same. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/world/europe/uk-irn-bru-recipe.html
  • Macaroon – Scottish ‘sweet’ – it’s a bar of fondant stuff covered in chocolate and coconut. Delicious.
  • Square sausage – also good for a hangover. Get a ‘roll and sausage’ with red sauce – or tomato sauce. Greasy spoon style thing.
  • Tattie (‘potato’) scone. – Triangle potato thing that is great on a roll and sausage.
  • Haggis – do it. There is a vegetarian version which is also pretty good. 
  • Chicken Pakora – ‘pakora’ is an Indian thing popular in Scotland. Done differently here. Basically stuff fried in chickpea or garam flour. You can get different kinds other than chicken. Veggie, haggis, etc.

Avoid:

Notes on places that I specifically wouldn’t recommend.

  • Howling Wolf – This is a central bar that does food and also has live jazz. I’ve had some experiences there where the food was extremely poor and took forever to come out. I’ve avoided going back since.
  • Roastit Bubbly Jocks – Meant to be a traditional style place for lunch and dinner. I had an especially unpleasant experience there where the staff were incredibly rude, to the point that it was unbelievable.
  • Kelvingrove Cafe – Nicely laid out cocktail place which is pretty expensive. Unfortunately the attitude of the staff has consistently been ‘meh’ on almost every occasion I’ve gone. They’ve either been completely indifferent or aloof. There are better places which don’t make you feel as unwelcome.
  • Inn Deep – Craft beer place with good choice and a pretty cool location in the West End. Unfortunately while this used to be good, certain members of staff have consistently been pricks over the past few years, to the point that I’ll never go back.
  • Halloumi – This is a Greek restaurant that is part of a group which own multiple different places. If you are looking for Greek food, there are far better places in the city which aren’t as expensive.