The Scots are known around the world for enjoying a drink. So it should come as no surprise to learn the country’s biggest city is home to some properly fantastic watering holes. Whether you’re after a quiet hideyhole ideal for a lazy afternoon pint, bars with kitchens serving superb food or drinking dens with DJs ready-made for pre-club drinks, our pick of the best bars in Glasgow has you covered. And that’s even before you peruse our round-ups of the city’s best pubs and best cocktail bars. Non-alcoholic options also available (this is the country that invented Irn-Bru, after all).
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Best bars in Glasgow
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, they still sell Buckfast.
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 décor and setup – 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.
To dine here, you might have to wait at peak times, but the bar area is a cool place to linger. 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.
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).
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.
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, it’s dark, discreet and unselfconsciously cool.
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.
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.
Tucked inside arguably the most beautiful – not to mention mad-looking – building in Glasgow, an old 19th-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.
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, it 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.
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 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.
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.
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, expect stiff and sophisticated mixed drinks, principally based on fortified wines and Amaro (a herbal liqueur).
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 here. 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).
Shawlands’s one-stop shop for beer’n’burgers is as sweet as can be. They’ve got 12 draught lines carrying a rotating cast of beers by the likes of Black Isle Brewery, Track x Barrier and St. Mars of the Desert. The ‘real American cheeseburgers’ – 100 percent salt-aged beef patties smashed into the grill, cooked to perfection and assembled with style – are supplied by Meat:Stack (veggie and vegan alternatives also available). They even mix a superior cocktail which, if you want a bit of an al-fresco feel without getting rained on while you drink, you can sip on Sweet Recreation’s leafy ‘indoor garden mezzanine’.
No matter how much of their signature craft beer you drink, there’s no forgetting you’re in a Brewdog pub. Their branding screams at you from every angle: the bar, the beers, the walls and the bar staff’s T-shirts. It’s brash, noisy and OTT, but then that’s how these self-styled ‘punk brewers’ do business – and it’s going down a storm worldwide. It’s all about the Brewdog at this hopster’s paradise, plus selected guest brews sharing Brewdog’s craft-only ethics.
It might be themed around the Coen Brothers’ cult movie ‘The Big Lebowksi’ – specifically, its prodigiously laid-back central character, Jeff Bridge’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. There’s 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.
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.