Babbity Bowster

A drink (or two) in the Merchant City

Babbity Bowster by Lost in Scotland

If you haven’t yet, you should have a drink or two in one of the trendiest parts of Glasgow: the Merchant City. While the West End has a truly unique vibe (it is, oh, so very Glasgow), the Merchant City sometimes feels like downtown New York. Like the slogan says, it is at the heart of Glasgow. Comparisons aside, the Merchant City has a wide variety of types of drinking outlets, from the traditional pub, to the more futuristic bar.

Let’s start with a range of traditional places. Top of the list is the Blackfriars, on Bell Street. This is the whole package: a great selection of beers, very friendly atmosphere, tasty food, and a range of events (music, comedy, even tango nights). The only downside is that it tends to be full of people, but even that does not spoil a good drink here. Similar (minus the food and events, is the Babbity Bowsters in Blackfriars Street. It is not my favourite, but it is always packed and has a loyal crowd that gather there at the weekends. I am sure it is for a good reason. The Scotia and the Clutha (formerly the Clutha Vaults, Clutha being the Gaelic name of the Clyde, Glasgow’s tidal river), in Stockwell Street, are also superbly friendly and sport a variety of well-priced drinks (including a great range of whiskeys). They have music events at the weekend –their resident band The Vagabonds play a range of covers that will get you singing-, which is a guarantee that they will fill up quickly. The Scotia and the Clutha are very cosy so people tend to meet and stay there for the whole evening. For something quieter, and certainly stranger, head to the Steps Bar in Glassford Street, although I would try to avoid it on a football night.

If you want to play that New York vibe to the maximum, the Merchant City can transport you straight into Carrie Bradshaw territory through a bar crawl. When it reopens in Summer 2010, start at the Corinthian in Ingram Street and marvel at the space, the cornice and the moody lighting. Pity the cocktails are not what they should be -or at least my Cosmopolitan wasn’t, let’s hope they fix that apart from the paint. From there, head to Home to listen to a cool DJ set, or to the Metropolitan, for a nice sit down. Where you will find the New York trendies doppelgangers, though, will be in the bar of the Brunswick Hotel (oh I love hotel bars, so glamourous!), aptly named Brutti ma Buoni, ugly but nice. If vodka is your thing, you will not leave this bar, as it sports a long menu of flavoured Russian specialties. My favourite? Rose Vodka, on the rocks.

Contrary to what I might have implied, though, the Merchant City is not all about drinking, although that is a big part, there’s no denying. This district has a wide variety of daytime and evening entertainment, from tearooms and excellent restaurants to shops (Cruise stocks Louboutin shoes, girls), the Tron theatre, the City Halls (best place in town for classical music) and the Old Fruitmarket, where you can enjoy gigs. And if your thing is karaoke, do it in style at Delmonicas, where you can hire a room for 16 for a few pounds and wow your friends with your tunes, without having to listen to strangers sing the Proclaimers’ greatest hits.

And this is just the beginning of the night. The Merchant City has something for everyone.

Laura Gonzalez


Laura Gonzalez is the Editor of Visit Glasgow. She is an artist and writer whose practice encompasses drawing, photography and sculpture, and her work has been exhibited in the UK, Spain and Portugal. When she is not following Freud, Lacan and Marx's footsteps with her camera, she lectures postgraduate students at the Glasgow School of Art.

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