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Hillhead Bookclub
Photograph: Hillhead Bookclub

The 20 best bars in Glasgow right now

From historic little spots to bustling, beer-filled streets, these are the best bars in Glasgow right now

Written by
Malcolm Jack
Contributors
Arusa Qureshi
&
Liv Kelly
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The Scots love to celebrate, and doing so with a drink in hand is pretty much the norm. As a city steeped in history, there's plenty of traditional candlelit Glaswegian pubs, but also a popular university town, this Scottish city is also brimming with a vibrant nightlife too.

So, it's not that surprising that the streets of the nation's largest city are bustling with absolutely brilliant bars. From secluded cellars for a cosy evening to vibrant party spots where you can dance into the night, there's no lack of places to try in Glasgow. Here are our top picks for the best bars in the city right now. 

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At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Best bars in Glasgow

  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops

Dimly lit and decked out with colourful murals, funky low-hanging lamps and beat-up leather booths, this ground-floor café-bar is a buzzing place. And thanks also to its dirt-cheap club in the basement, it’s been pretty much the epicentre of Glasgow nightlife for three decades. New beers and beer deals crop up all the time and bargain white and black Russians remain a permanent fixture. And yes, Nice'n'Sleazy still sell Buckfast. 

  • Bars and pubs

Just opposite sister venue Stereo and owned by the folks behind Mono, The Flying Duck and The 78, The Old Hairdresser’s started life in 2011. Since then, it’s steadily built up its own identity, both as a relaxed café-bar and as a leftfield gallery and music venue. The ground-floor café-bar is so rudimentary in decor and set-up – mismatched tables and chairs, bare walls, a tiny bar offering a limited range of beers and ciders – you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a pop-up rather than a permanent business. It all adds to the relaxed, hip feel.

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  • Restaurants
  • Burgers

To dine here, you might have to wait at peak times, but the bar area is a cool place to linger. Stravaigin opened in 1995, and taking its title from the an old Scottish word meaning ‘to wander aimlessly with intent’, the ambience here is artfully bucolic – think exposed stone walls, open fire, chunky wooden beams, an iron staircase tangled with twinkling fairly lights and huge floor-to-ceiling windows that swing fully open in the summertime (when there are also tables outside on Gibson Street). The draught beer selection is a little limited, but check the fridge for a good selection of craft brews. 

  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops

A vegan café-bar, music venue and sometime exhibition space hosting one of the best record stores in the world in Monorail: there’s a lot to love about Mono. Browse the vinyl racks, tuck into a spicy seitan burger with homemade BBQ sauce, relax with a beer (vegan, naturally) or a glass of wine, and even stick around for a show in the evening if there’s one on (some are free).

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  • Bars and pubs

Stereo has become one of the vibiest alternative café-bars and gig venues in the city since moving into town from the West End in 2007. A central location together with great food and drink and a diverse programme of events keeps the place buzzing from noon until night (3am at weekends), seven days a week. The style is bright shabby-chic, with mismatched old tables and chairs and gig posters stuck in every available space throughout the bar and down the winding stairwell to the basement venue. The beer range is broad, with plenty of local brews on tap and in bottles, including Sam Smiths and Williams Bros.

  • Restaurants

Charles Bukowski was a man not exactly averse, shall we say, to the occasional drink. This upscale bourbon joint and restaurant named in his literary alter-ego Hank Chinaski’s honour is a damn sight classier than the kind of Los Angeles dives in which the notorious barfly liked to wet his whistle, but he’d have surely approved of the sheer volume of whisky on sale, if nothing else – 80-odd varieties, besides various good beers, wines and spirits. Inside, Chinaski's is dark, discreet and unselfconsciously cool.

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  • Bars and pubs

Craft brewers extraordinaires the Williams Brothers teamed up with Scotland’s oldest lager brand Tennent’s to run a craft brewery, bar and kitchen and a beer hall here at Drygate, a compound at the Wellpark Brewery in the East End. Set over two floors – restaurant on the ground floor, beer hall and terrace upstairs – Drygate is a craft beer nirvana with dozens of draught beers, some brewed on site, and hundreds more in bottles. The food’s not bad either.

8. El Jefe’s

El Jefe’s was originally a big hit with Glasgow’s West End, until it closed its doors in early 2022. But the Mexican bar is back in a new permanent home in Finnieston and it seems as though they’re more popular than ever. Expect delicious tacos, tequila, cocktails including frozen margaritas and mojitos, plenty of sombreros and a live Mariachi band every Friday and Saturday.

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  • Bars and pubs

This Ashton Lane fixture was way ahead of the curve in bringing a taste of continental beer culture to Glasgow when it opened in 1996. It’s named after legendary Belgian crooner Jacques Brel, after all, and specialises in that other great export from the low countries: strong beer. Besides blockbusting Belgian brews, Brel also offers a wide variety of beers from Scotland and around the world, including local brands Williams Bros, WEST and the excellent Kelburn Ales. There’s also a covered seated section in the beer garden – which, once just a bare grassy slope, is now elaborately designed with built-in benches, chairs and snugs.

  • Bars and pubs

Tucked inside arguably the most beautiful – not to mention mad-looking – building in Glasgow, an old ninteenth-century carpet factory modelled on the Doge’s Palace in Venice, Bavarian-style independent brewery and beer hall WEST is always worth a visit. Their excellent draft brews include St Mungo and West 4 golden lagers, as well as Munich Red amber brewed in the lager style, and Hefeweizen, their house wheat beer. The Bavarian influence extends to the (excellent) food as well – schnitzel, sauerkraut, bratwurst and all.

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11. Bananamoon

Standing proud as it is on Great Western Road, adjacent to St Mary’s Cathedral, it’s impossible to miss the bright green frontage, neon lighting and long outdoor bench seats of Bananamoon. Inside, Bananamoon feels more Berlin than Glasgow, with retro wood panelling and vintage tables, and a bar that looks like it belongs in the corner of someone’s home from the 1960s. The cocktails are superb. Beers range from Norwegian blondes to heavy-hitting Belgians, IPAs, stouts and porters.

12. Hide & Seek

Hide & Seek is a bar that very much lives up to its name. You’ll find it hidden away on Buchanan Street, at the former home of seafood spot Chippy Doon The Lane. But instead of seafood, you’ll encounter an elegant bar that serves up all manner of cocktails, from classics and crowd pleasers to more unique concoctions like ‘Glasgow Hiding’ (Glaswegian Raspberry and Rhubarb, honey, lavender, lemon) and ‘The Anelka’ (aged rum, Amaro Montenegro, passionfruit, pineapple, lime).

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  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops

The South Side of Glasgow’s music, arts and food hub is also a damn decent nightspot. Inspired by Dalston’s Café Oto, the family-owned Glad Café hosts a busy programme of events – predominantly indie, electronic and folk gigs by local and touring artists alike, but also plays and film screenings – in their intimate and well-kitted-out 120-capacity venue. The food comes from a pop-up kitchen run by the team behind the brilliant Asian-inspired menu at The Hug & Pint in the West End.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars

Channelling ‘the spirit of Brooklyn and Paris’, this place is dark, atmospheric and painfully chic – all Chesterfield booths, monochrome floor tiles, exposed brickwork, wood panelling and a bar that gleams with brass fittings and glasses dangling from above on old-school wire racks. Cocktails-wise, at Kelvingrove Cafe you can expect stiff and sophisticated mixed drinks, principally based on fortified wines and Amaro (a herbal liqueur).

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  • Bars and pubs

It may be owned by the biggest pub and club chain in central Scotland but the hordes of students flocking here don’t seem too fussed – it’s the kind of hangout that the upper end of Byres Road hitherto long lacked. Cheap drinks deals go a long way to explaining what draws so many at Hillhead Bookclub. Cocktails served in glasses, jars, teapots and even old gramophones are a quirky touch, as is a ping-pong table up on the mezzanine and a retro video games corner (some of which are older than the freshers you’ll spot playing them).

16. Redmond’s of Dennistoun

A trusted bar that brings all elements of the gradually gentrifying Dennistoun neighbourhood under one roof, Redmond’s is many things to many people. The beer on tap comes from both local breweries just down the road – Drygate and good old-fashioned Tennent’s – as well as all kinds of other respected craft brew brands from across Europe and beyond. Customers are encouraged to bring along their own records to add to the vinyl-only soundtrack.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood

Founded in 2011 in the former premises of Café Bayan on Argyll Street, this seafood restaurant and gin cocktail bar was just ahead of a wave of new openings in the area, which have seen it transform into one of the buzziest and busiest places to eat in Glasgow. Drinks-wise, The Finnieston has over 60 brands of gins behind the bar at any given time, with cocktails like the ‘Finnie Club 3.0’ (Botanist gin, lemongrass, cassis, lemon, basil and foamer) or ‘The Odyssey’ (Roku gin, Cocchi Rosa, tonka and Hidden Lane lager) extremely popular picks. 

  • Restaurants
  • Burgers

It might be themed around the Coen Brothers’ cult movie ‘The Big Lebowksi’ – specifically, its prodigiously laid-back central character, Jeff Bridges’s iconic Dude, a big picture of whom hangs on the wall – but this Finnieston bar-restaurant (which now also has a sister institution on the South Side) has quality that goes far beyond cheap gimmickry. Lebowskis has a selection of around 30 white Russians to choose from – named after every character in the film from The Donny to The Jesus – in tribute to El Duderino’s favourite drink.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars

If you’re after a well-made, innovative cocktail in a central location that is both stylish and cool, The Spiritualist is the place to go. This Miller Street bar, which is located in the building that once housed Stirling’s Library, has a welcoming atmosphere and a menu that celebrates cuisine from around the world using the best of Scottish produce. From the drinks menu, try one of the many favourites like the Spiritualist Bramble (Beefeater Gin, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup, Crème de Mûre) or the Hazelnut Espresso Martini (Absolut Vanilia Vodka, Frangelico, Kahlúa and espresso topped with ground hazelnut).

  • Music
  • Music venues

Intimate 120-capacity independent music venue downstairs, chilled-out bar upstairs – what more could you ask for? Named after an Arab Strap album, the Hug and Pint has steadily built its audience to become the music bar the West End needed. It’s coolly and colourfully done out, with murals by top Glasgow-based artist Emer Tumilty. The Asian-inspired food is simple, inexpensive, unfussy – and dependably delicious. They offer loads of top beers on draught.

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