The Best Coffee Shops in Glasgow, Scotland

Hipsters get their caffeine fix in a rare moment of Scottish sunshine at Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow
Hipsters get their caffeine fix in a rare moment of Scottish sunshine at Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow | © Findlay / Alamy Stock Photo
Madeleine Bazil

Scotland may be more celebrated for its whisky, but its coffee scene is also putting it on the map – and edgy, creative Glasgow is, as you might imagine, at the forefront. The city has coffee shops and artisan roasters at every turn, all on a mission to prove that their hometown is clued-up about caffeine. Here are the top coffee shops to try next time you’re in Glasgow.

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Tinderbox

One of the pioneers of Glasgow’s coffee movement, this family-owned coffee shop now has six locations throughout the city, each working with local suppliers. It all began in 1998 when the brand set up shop with its first outlet in the West End at 189 Byres Road. However, the one on Ingram Street, Tinderbox Merchant City, is by far the most seductive, split over two floors: head upstairs and settle into an inviting leather armchair. It’s unpretentious and serves various treats, from pastries to bento boxes, as well as the perfect pick-me-up coffee.

Papercup Coffee Company

Nobody minds the daily grind when it’s this aromatic – specialising in beans from Rwanda, Brazil, Peru and Colombia, Papercup Coffee Company has been in the business of killer coffee for a decade. It is a West End favourite, all artfully peeling walls, high ceilings and trendy dangling lanterns, drawing the footsore with an ever-changing menu of sandwiches, baked goods and delicious omelettes. Avid customers can buy the beans described above to take home, and should you fancy learning more about the roasting process, the shop offers training sessions.

Jelly Hill

For the best part of two decades, charmingly unique Jelly Hill has been feeding hungry visitors to the West End with croissant-laden breakfasts and lunch sandwiches, as well as charcuterie plates accompanied by wines from a short but satisfying list. Furnishings feature unusual seats carved from chunks of wood, and, as you might hope, given the cafe’s name, there’s an enormous bowl of jelly beans on the counter, free for customers to grab on their way out of the door. Caffeine and sugar – that’s two super hits from one homely establishment.

Meadow Road Coffee

Using beans from Dear Green Coffee Roasters, a cult-favourite Glaswegian brand, this little gem might be off the beaten track for visiting weekenders, located as it is in the residential neighbourhood of Thornwood – but who cares when it’s such a welcoming spot, turning out delicious, reasonably priced drinks. The flat whites are particularly good, and on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings a plain coffee is very decently priced at £1 a pop. Sip one as you sit gazing through full-length windows, devouring poached eggs with smoked salmon and avocado at your leisure.

Laboratorio Espresso

With its slick, metal-window-framed facade and minimalist timber interiors with stone tiling, Laboratorio Espresso might lull you into thinking you’re getting your caffeine fix somewhere chic in Milan. In fact, you’re just a block over from Glasgow’s Queen Street Station. It’s certainly a great place to wait for a train. The bespoke blend is supplied by Dear Green Coffee Roasters, and there’s a weekly “special” espresso option. This coffee shop takes its craft very seriously, and the attention to detail pays off. We like the cappuccino with textured milk and micro-foam, taken with something sinfully calorific from the choice of cakes and pastries.

Offshore

On Gibson Street, right next to Kelvingrove Park, this spacious, bohemian coffeehouse is also near the university, therefore a no-brainer for idling students and work-shy freelancers. In situ here since 1999, it feels laid-back and live-in, affording views of the River Kelvin through its full-length windows. It’s dog-friendly and does a fine line in cupcakes and pastries among decent lunch staples of the jacket-potato type. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual atmosphere, making Offshore a delightful place to enjoy a kicky brew and a bit of downtime.

The Glad Cafe

This cafe, in the Shawlands area of leafy Southside, is a perennial classic, covering all the bases. Great coffee and food come as standard – Glasgow’s celebrated Big Bear Bakery supplies the cakes and pastries – there’s beer on tap, including he ever-popular Williams Bros Brewing Co, and constantly changing displays of prints and artworks on the fashionably bare brick walls. Devotees of the place rock up routinely for the frequent film screenings, plays and performances by local musical guests. If you want to mingle with Glasgow’s creatives, make your way here.

Cottonrake Bakery

This hub of indie West End creativity, serving great food and coffee, shares a classic stone townhouse with other shops and cafes, and takes localism to new levels. Glasgow-based art and ceramics are as lovingly hand-made as the almond croissants and the delicate raspberry-and-white-choc pastries, not to mention the chard, cheddar and spring-onion quiche. Alistair Dearie’s pale-glazed pottery, menu cards and labels from stylish Passenger Press and arty neon signs by David Shrigley give the interior an individual aesthetic. Not far from the River Kelvin on the Great West Way, Cottonrake has benches and a table outside on the cobbled pavement of Bank Street.

Gordon Street Coffee

Whether you’re looking for an extra-shot latte or an oat-milk cortado, follow your nose to this shop near Central Station, where the aromatic coffee beans are roasted on-site – when it opened in 2014, this was the first place roasting its own in Central Glasgow. There are many blends to choose from, headed by the bold, chocolatey Glasgow Roast, winner of a 2020 Great Taste award. Recently they launched a Premium Collection featuring fruity Kenya Blue Mountain and nutty organic beans from Araku Valley in India. A freshly brewed cup with a pastry makes a great start to your train journey.

Cafe Strange Brew

On a busy corner of Pollokshaws Road, close to hilly Queen’s Park, this bustling, inventive, dog-friendly cafe serves up first-class coffees and arty lattes plus pancakes, Stornoway black pudding and eggs all day, all kinds (we like ours baked with cream, mushrooms, spinach and Roquefort on sourdough). Glasgow Southside is loved by the brunch crowd and this little place, with its casual-cool decor and Formica tables, won the local Shawlands area’s best brunch award last year. Daily blackboard specials might include generous crayfish and artichoke bagels and bacon-blueberry or pineapple-turnover pancakes. Air-con in summer helps dial down Scotland’s rare scorchers, as do the iced lattes.

Kothel

Dangling pot plants and old leather trunks frame the big windows at 300 Crow Road, where the first Kothel opened in 2015, bringing the Greek spinach pie spanakopita and cappuccinos to the young professionals of Broomhill. You can sit outside, too, on a covered terrace of olive trees and linger over the home-made chocolate Guinness cake. There are now two more branches, also serving well-brewed coffees in vintage cups with Mediterranean food: we’re talking baked moussaka or antipasti platters featuring grilled veg, olives and hummus.

Smile Cafe

Italian coffee culture is alive and well at Smile on Douglas Street, not far from the old School of Art. With ornamental gilded plasterwork on the ceiling and bags of imported pasta on the shelves, this sophisticated corner cafe-deli is just the place to sip a Neapolitan-style espresso with choc-hazelnut cannoli, those tubular Italian pastries filled with cream. With wood floors, blue-and-white walls and ironwork picked out in post-box-scarlet it is a light-filled, colourful space. If you’re feeling peckish, summon a slice of home-made pizza or a croissant with sundried tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto.

William Cafe

The coffee beans come from the obsessively ethical Dear Green roastery, the sourdough from the socially conscious Freedom Bakery, the free-range eggs from Nith Valley – home to Scotland’s finest producers – and the organic milk from Mossgiel Farm near Kilmarnock. Portions are big at this neighbourhood gem, just over the River Kelvin from Glasgow’s botanical garden. The all-day vegan breakfast is a feast of mushrooms, tattie scones, avocado and seeds while the fish bowl comes loaded with oak-smoked haddock and truffled hollandaise.

The Coffee Cup

Friendly service and old-school home-made cakes are the superpowers at Coffee Cup, a little Southside cafe on the Clarkston Road between Cathcart and Muirend stations. The dozen cakes and biscuits – perfect with a tasty cup of coffee – vary from jam and coconut sponge to gluten-free lemon and lime. Book ahead for afternoon teas that include the legendary Mars bar cake. There’s a great-value all-day menu doing soup, sarnies and a classic soft morning roll with a square of Lorne sausage and HP sauce.
Phoebe Taplin contributed additional reporting to this article

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