A Complete Introduction to Glasgow’s Bar & Pub Scene
The city of Glasgow is famous for many things, but perhaps none more so than its love of a good drink (or “bevvy” in the local tongue). If you’re coming to Glasgow as a tourist for the first time or perhaps moving to the city to study or work, becoming familiar with Glasgow’s pub culture will likely be a big part of getting to know this city. Look no further than this guide for for the dummy’s introduction to the Glasgow bar scene from the best areas to go out, to tipping culture and more!
It’s important to point out in any guide to Glasgow’s bars that it’s very much a city with a bar culture. What I mean by this is that, compared to many other cities around Europe where it is much more common to drink at home and then go to a club, or drink beer in cafes, or just have a drink with your dinner, in Glasgow we go to the pub. Pubs/bars are extremely common all over Glasgow and the local culture is very much to meet a group of friends, and spend an evening chatting and drinking. This will all seem blindingly obvious to anyone from the UK, but this kind of bar culture is not necessarily commonplace around the world so I felt it was worth pointing out. It’s also important to note that it’s uncommon to find beer in cafes, and it’s illegal to drink on the street in Glasgow (although it’s not necessarily uncommon to see people breaking this particular law).
Popular drinks and average prices
Glasgow is a bustling, vibrant city – especially when it comes to nightlife. There’s almost nothing you couldn’t find here if you looked hard enough, but when it comes to drinking there are a few old favourites which you will come across time and time again. The most obvious of these is Tennent’s Lager – this is the generic, local lager which you will find almost everywhere at around £2.50 to £3.00 a pint. It’s a light, easily drinkable beer which is worth trying once, but not one for the more adventurous. You’ll find Tennent’s, along with a variety of European lagers such as Amstel, Heineken, San Miguel, Stella Artois on draft (by the half pint or pint) in most bars. A pint of most European lagers will be in the region of £3.50 to £4.00. For the slightly more adventurous, there’s a real craft beer resurgence going on across the city at the moment, with Scottish brewers such as Williams, Drygate and WEST becoming increasingly popular. Particularly in the West End of the city you will find a variety of these beers on draft, and can generally find them bottled in most bars around the city. A pint of a local craft beer such as these will generally be in the region of £4.00 to £4.50, but it’s worth paying extra for if you enjoy a quality beer.
If beer isn’t your tipple, perhaps Whisky is? As the national drink, you can buy a selection of different Whiskys in every bar in the city. A “dram” (single measure) is usually in the region of £2.00 to £3.00, but you can pay a lot more than this if your budget stretches to the finer things in life. There are also many dedicated Whisky bars all around the city where you can peruse and enjoy hundreds of different Whiskys from around Scotland and the world (but perhaps not all on one night, hm?)
If you prefer something which doesn’t burn on the way down, the usual selection of wine and cocktails can be found in most bars around the city. A 175ml glass of wine will set you back anywhere from £4.00 to £6.00, and cocktails can vary wildly from bargain basements prices of £3.00 up to well over £10.00, depending on where you’re drinking.
Areas to go out
Glasgow isn’t a huge city, but has a number of distinct neighbourhoods. The most popular areas to go out are the City Centre, Merchant City and West End. The City Centre is, as the name suggests, the very heart of the city (surrounding the two main train stations and Buchanan Bus Station). There are bars all over this area including around Central Station, the side-streets off Buchanan Street (the main shopping street) and Sauchiehall Street (more of a rowdy, weekend crowd). Click here to see our favourite bars in Glasgow City Centre.
Just a 5 minute walk east of the City Centre is The Merchant City. This is a relatively affluent area of the city with a lot of “city slicker” types hanging out. It’s a little more expensive than certain parts of the city, and is known for a couple of exclusive clubs and a host of stylish bars. That said, there’s also a variety of more traditional bars so there really is something for everyone. At the heart of Merchant City is The Merchant Square, a large indoor complex of bars and restaurants which is always bustling. Click here to see our favourite bars in Glasgow’s Merchant City.
About a 40 minute walk west of the City Centre (or a 5 minute subway ride to Hillhead) is the city’s West End. This is by far Glasgow’s most affluent neighbourhood and plays host to a huge number of bars, restaurants and trendy cafes. The heart of the West End is Byres Road (where the aforementioned Hillhead subway station is located), but great bars lead off in almost every direction from here. It’s a little more expensive than the rest of the city, but it’s a really nice area to spend time in. Click here to see our favourite bars in Glasgow’s West End.
Besides those mentioned above, if you’re staying in the south of the city and don’t want to travel, there are also some great bars and pubs around the Shawlands area. Equally, the Finnieston area (between the City Centre and West End) has quickly become one of the coolest places to go out with a high density of excellent bars, and the Woodlands/Great Western Road area (north of Finnieston) has some great bars with a West End vibe, but more low key. The East End of Glasgow isn’t an area where you would typically travel for a night out, however the Dennistoun neighbourhood (about a 15 minute walk east of the City Centre) is really up and coming with cool cafes and bars starting to crop up here and there, so is one to watch for the very near future.
Tipping culture in Glasgow is the same as most of Europe. If you’re buying drinks at the bar, there’s absolutely no obligation to tip and no-one’s expecting you to do so. That said, if you’ve had a particularly good experience, tips are always much appreciated and will probably go a long way to ensuring you get served quickly the next time you go up. If you’re in an establishment which has table service, it’s always a good idea to stick to a 10% of the total bill tip if you’ve had a good experience, however if you haven’t a good experience (for whatever reason) it’s perfectly acceptable to leave no tip at all – no-one’s going to chase you out of the establishment.