After London, the capital of the U.K. and a city at least 10 times its size, Glasgow brags about having the second-most retail space in all of the U.K. (Birmingham begs to differ). Whatever the fact, Glasgow is a true shopping mecca in Scotland and, apparently, a reason for people to visit from northern England, too, as Glasgow's Buchanan Street is closer to them than London's Oxford Street.
The mainstream area for retail therapy in Glasgow is defined by the predominantly pedestrian zones of Argyle, Buchanan, and Sauchiehall streets, which join together and form a Z shape right in the heart of the city. But for more unique shops and fashions, it pays to venture into Merchant City and the West End. And perhaps the city's most unique shopping experience is at the flea-market-like stalls at the weekend Barras market in the East End.
The Shopping Scene
Glaswegians are notorious shoppers and their taste for labels is reflected in the range of shops across the city center. For quirkier finds, go into Merchant City and the West End, which has a growing number of hip and boutique outlets.
In general, retail outlets in the city center are open from 9am until 6pm, though on Thursday evenings, shops in the heart of the city can stay open until 8pm. Most established stores are now open in the afternoon on Sunday.
Best Buys -- Among the retail goods that are high-quality and priced competitively are fine wool knits, particularly cashmere. Goods produced within the country (with the exception of whisky, which is taxed as heavily as all alcoholic products) should be less expensive than outside the U.K.: From smoked salmon and shortbread to tweed and Caithness glass. Finally, given the number of artists in the country, getting an original piece of art to take home might represent the most value for your money.
Bring That Passport! -- Take along your passport when you go shopping in case you make a purchase that entitles you to a VAT (value-added tax) refund.
Princes Square (Buchanan St.; tel. 0141/204-1685; www.princessquare.co.uk) is the city's most stylish and upmarket shopping center. Within a modernized and renovated Victorian building, the mall has many specialty stores, men's and women's fashion outlets, as well as restaurants, cafes, and bars.
If you're after a fancy watch or gold ring, go to the Argyll Arcade, the main entrance to which is at 30 Buchanan St. Even if the year of its construction (1827) wasn't posted above the entrance, you'd still know that this collection of shops beneath a curved glass ceiling is historic. The L-shaped, Parisian-style arcade contains one of the largest concentrations of retail jewelers, both antique and modern, in all of Europe. It's considered lucky by some to purchase a wedding band here.
Nearby, between Argyle Street and the River Clyde is the St. Enoch Shopping Centre (tel. 0141/204-3900; www.stenoch.com), which was being revamped and expanded in 2010. It is a fairly conventional indoor shopping mall with a couple of major department stores and a food court at one end.
The Buchanan Galleries (tel. 0141/333-9898; www.buchanangalleries.co.uk) are at the top of Buchanan Street. Completed in 1999, this mammoth development is hardly ground-breaking but it does include a John Lewis department store.
On the outskirts of town, the Braehead Shopping Centre (tel. 0141/885-1441; www.braehead.co.uk) is between the city and the airport. Its major draw is a sprawling Ikea store. In south Glasgow, the Silverburn shopping center (tel. 0141/880-3200; www.silverburn.com) is a recent addition. These malls appear to be taking shoppers away from the city center, in part because they are consistently open later in the evening.
Trawling the Stalls
The Barras, held Saturday and Sunday 9am to 5pm, takes place about a kilometer southeast of Glasgow's George Square. This century-old market has traders selling their wares in stalls and shops. You not only can browse for that special treasure, but also get a slice of Glaswegian life. Alas, as the old traders have died off, younger hawkers are not replacing them. And the authorities have had their hands full with the sale of black-market goods, especially tobacco, whose proceeds may help fund organized crime. Still, where else can you see an auction of 4.5kg (10 lb.) of chicken legs, with a pound of bacon thrown in for free?
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.