“ George Square is regarded as the very centre of the city as this is the location of the City Chambers, Glasgow`s main public building. The square was laid out in 1781, even though a few years later it was still being described as a `hollow, filled with green-water, and a favourite resort for drowning puppies, while the banks of this suburban pool were the slaughtering place of horses`. Large two- and three-storey houses were built around it between 1787 and the 1820s, but only the present-day hotel on the square`s northern side retains these early buildings. „
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George Square is the main civic square in the city of Glasgow. It was named after King George III and was plans for developement were initially laid out in 1781. George Square is home to many historical statues which remain there all year around. The most prominent one being the 80foot high statue of Walter Scott (author). Other statues include Robert Burns and Queen Victoria as well as a memorium for those who lost their lives in WW1.
~Location and Surrounding Area~
Some may say George Square is in the centre of Glasgow though Glasgow is a huge city. George Square is in a convenient location which can be reached by various side streets from the main shopping precint. It is a 10minute walk from Central Station and an entrance to Queen Street Station is across from the square. It can be reached by walking 5minutes from Argyle Street or Buchannan Street. Bus services coming from Arygle Street service the square and stop of the West side of the square. The Art Museum (GOMA) is visible from George Square.
The square is in the centre of various buildings and separated by a road and pavements (including traffic lights). The main buildings include City Chambers which overshadows the square. The Millenium Hotel sits neatly next to Queen Street Station. Other buildings include various offices, a tourist office and some upmarket restaurants. If you fancy a bite to eat but don't want to pay a fortune, Greggs is on the square and a small Burger King (in Central Station). A short walk will take you to Pizza Hut, Subway and various cafes/restaurants selling a whole host of food at various prices.
~Why George Square?~
Most recently, George Square was closed to the public as filming was going on for a Brad Pitt movie (and previously scenes from Taggart). The square used to have grassy areas but is now mainly red tarmac. In between the columns, you will find various benches to relax on. There are a few trees dotted around the square and not much else. The main focus of George Square, is the event side of it and during events, the square and surrounding area is buzzing! You can actually hire the square for a day (or just 4hours) but it costs upwards of £600.00.
*Starting or ending the year, are the Hogmonay celebrations. Previous years events seen you through to new year but from this year, the focus is on families with day long celebrations finishing at 10pm. Details are to be confirmed.
*Shows - everything from Art, Weddings shows and music festivals throughout the year. In most cases tickets need to be purchased online.
*Lights Switch On - In November each year, the Christmas lights surrounding the square are turned on. This is a big event where you need tickets (max 6per household). Tickets are not yet available for the event. The event includes the light switchon (including the tree and lights around the monuments), singing and a firework display. Clyde 1 or Real Radio usually provide the entertainment.
*Glasgow Loves Christmas! - end of November through to December, George Square turns into a winterfest! There will be singing, fair ground rides (Helter skelter, carousel, swings), various stalls selling goodies and drinks. An outdoor icerink features in the centre which is open all day. Charges apply for the skating from £6.00 upwards.
As I live 25mins (by train) from Glasgow, I tend to visit the city often. There is so much to do and I love the city! George Square isn't a place I visit every time I am in the city. When I used to work in Glasgow, we would head around there during the Summer and chill out with our lunch. It is very popular for this purpose and even when really busy, you can usually find a seat. It is very clean and spacious. Every part of the square is level so pushing a buggy or wheelchair around can be done with ease. Spotting the square is easy enough, getting across the road is a bit more difficult as the traffic can be a hit or a miss!
When we visit, we usually approach the square from Argyle Street or one of the side streets off Buchanan Street. It has an enclosed feel about it and even with the traffic whizzing around the outskirts, it feels safe. The surrounding buildings add to the historic feel of the square. They look old fashioned and classy. There is a distinct lack of shops in this area (unless they are boutique like and hidden away) so everything sort of blends together. The birds (gulls and pigeons) are irritating and there are plenty of them to annoy you so personally, I couldn't sit in the square for too long through fear of being shat on from a great height!
Whilst George Square looks pretty and understated throughout the year, my favourite time to visit is during the festive season. Up until we had our son, we would go in every year for the light switch on. Back then, it was a free for all and got very busy. Now you need a ticket and we are never quick enough to get one! The police shut off the side streets to avoid anyone sneaking in and unless you have birds eye platform, you aren't going to see the event. The whole feel of the square changes when the lights go on. It is never going to be Blackpool Illuminations for sure and certainly can't compete with the delights of Buchanan Street, but it looks beautiful, festive and bright. The firework displays during the switch on are really good with various fireworks being set off from the Chamber building..very magical and a wonderful experience if you can get tickets.
We usually go in for the Christmas displays. The columns are lit up beautifully. So much so that I often visit the website which shows a live feed to the square to take in how amazing it looks. They erent a huge stage for the event and have a schedule of performances throughout the event. We seem to miss them but last year, we did catch a school choir singing. It is even better if the snow starts to drizzle down as the red tarmac reflects it perfectly. During this time, they have portacabin toilets which are fairly clean and well stocked.
As you can see from my pictures (on ciao), we visited last year with our son. He is a little old now of course and this year we will be going in without a buggy which will allow him to experience it a bit better. The ice rink looks amazing and is always busy. The prices may seem quite high but they aren't too bad as you do get a decent skating session and the surroundings make it very much worth the price. I am not a confident skater so don't want to embarress myself on the ice! I do however appreciate they have parent and toddler sessions certain mornings if you fancy having a skate with your cherub.
There is a limited choice of rides to entertain during the festive season but you wouldn't expect much more as the square isn't massive. If I remember rightly it was around £2.00 for the carousel and swings and it looked so much fun (the inner child shall rise this year I promise!). The small stalls sold some delicious treats such as hot chocolate, burgers, chocolate fountain treats and sweets. An over 18s bar is also present selling mulled wine and alcoholic drinks. The prices are about average considering the event. It was around £1.50 for a hot chocolate and £2 ish for some chocolate fountain fun. If you wish for a wider selection of treats, I would recommend the annual German Christmas Market (around 10mins walk to St Enoch Centre).
If you go at weekends, the area does get crowded but midweek, it isn't too bad. I am aware they have special mini events during this time including activities for families such as face painting and science activities. These normally incur a small charge.
We plan on going in for the festive events this year. We will probably visit twice. One day we will take our toddler in to experience the lights and head off for lunch. I will visit another day with my Mum and sister before doing our Christmas shopping. We can treat ourselves to a wee drink and a ride on the carousel! Either way we will have fun. I definently recommend a visit during December as you won't be disappointed with the atmosphere. Lets hope for snow!
I have only ever been to one other event in the square. I say event but it was a smallish affair which involved a huge inflated dome. I can't for the life of me remember what it was all about but I was intrigued and paid a pound or something to go in and explore this dome. Whilst the events will never be to the standard of SECC, they attract the crowds. I would simply be worried about planning anything due to the open nature of the square and typical Scottish weather!
~Meet You There!~
George Square is the ideal location to arrange to meet someone or a group. Due to how accessible it is (by bus, train or car (many car parks around the area), you can arrange to meet at a certain monument without having to walk too far. We have arranged numerous meet ups for the bingo site we play on and every one has started in George Square. As we meet up on a Saturday, we can say "meet at the lions 1.30pm". No one has ever got lost or misplaced so it is very convenient. The addition of the benches allows those to be in clear view whilst waiting on those stragglers (usually me and my sister) to arrive. The square is well sign posted throughout the city centre and very easy to find.
Whilst George Square isn't somewhere you could spend a full day, it is ideal for relaxing in the summer or experiencing the delights of a Glasgow christmas! The columns are interesting if you haven't experienced them before though the occasional events are what the make the square an interesting place to visit and of course a free place to visit for most of the year. Whilst you could find somewhere to eat in the immediate area, I would recommend going out to the main shopping precint and combine lunch with shopping.
Overall, a 4 star recommendation from me.
Thanks for reading x
In most towns and cities you find that right in the middle you have a square of some description. In New York there is Time Square, In Venice there is the Piazza San Marco, in Moscow there is Red Square and in Beijing there is Tiananmen Square. These places are traditionally found in the centre of the city or town and are generally where you will find that the people will gather for various activities such as demonstrations, events, shows of solidarity and New Year celebrations. Here in good old Glesga, we have George Square.
The square was originally laid out in 1781 on what was then a marsh. Gradually, it was built around until eventually it became the centre of a bustling city which did very well in the industrial revolution and traded heavily in fabrics, tobacco and shipbuilding. Through the years the Square has evolved and changed and is now very much the heart of the city, both geographically and spiritually, and is an excellent attraction that should not be missed on any trip to Glasgow.
How do I get there?
It couldnt be easier. Practically every mode of transport you could take will take you here or very close by. If you are coming in by train, you will either arrive at Queen Street station which is actually on the square or to Central which is just round the corner (and there are signposts), if you are coming by bus practically all go through the square, stop round the corner, or arrive at Buchanan Bus station which is behind Queen Street Station, by underground where you get off at Buchanan Street Subway Station (which is next to Queen Street Station) or even if you fly in there is a special bus service that will take you directly from the airport to George Square itself! If you really must drive in then there is usually loads of parking spaces in the Buchanan Galleries Shopping Mall which is, you guessed it, behind Queen Street Train station and is signposted from the George Square exit off the M8 motorway. So it really is easy to get there no matter how you travel!
What is it like?
Well for a start, its actually rectangular with the north and south sides of the square being the longest sides. The first building you are likely to notice will be the imposing and impressive City Chambers Buildings to the east. This building dates from 1888 (the height of British Imperialism) and today houses the many of the offices of Glasgow City Council. By day, its stands out with its three towers and by night it is lit up at various places with a soft purple glow which shows off many of its Victorian features. To the south, there is the old General Post Office building that was not long after the City Chambers. It is home to offices and apartments now and for a good few years has been covered by a HUGE advertising board that dominates the views to the south of the square and is one of the most expensive advertising spots in Scotland. The west of the square is occupied by another Victorian building which houses a large public house (well, we are in Scotland here!) called the Counting House. This is a very popular pub which is set in a very large and grand room that serves food during the day and is busy with socialising glasweigans in the evening. An interesting policy of the pub is that it never plays music of any kind and this creates a rather unique atmosphere of simply conversations going on. You cannot miss the semi circular window of Queen Street Station in the north west corner of the square which has another pub underneath it that has an area outside you can sit at. The only part of the square that is not Victorian is the North part that has the Millenium Hotel and a 1970s building housing the Royal Bank of Scotlands call centre operations. While this is not in keeping with the rest of the square, it serves to provide a contrast from the old to the new and doesnt detract from the aesthetics of the square as a whole.
The square itself has a total of eleven statues to various people dotted around and these include such famous figures of history such as Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, James Watt and Rabbie Burns. In the centre of the square, stands a column reminiscent of Nelsons in Trafalgar Square however Sir Walter Scott stands proudly at the top of Glasgows version. It is interesting to note that the very person whom the square was named after is conspicuous by his absence because at the time, the Tobacco Barons were very put out by King George III decision to transfer the major trade in tobacco from Glasgow to the American colonies so refused to fund any of the project if a statue of him was erected!
An interesting and reletively unknown fact, is that George Square actually has one of only two official replica's of the Statue of Liberty in New York (the other being in Paris). If you look on top of the City Chambers, you can see her looking over the square in the same way that she looks over New York across the pond.
The ground is mostly covered by red tarmac (a very controversial decision made Glasgow City Council to enable the square to them to host more events there) with a few grassed areas to enable people to relax when the weather is nice with numerous wooden benches dotted around for people to sit on.
What happens there?
Many varied activities are on offer at many different points in the calendar. Every couple of months you will find a carnival set up in the south west corner of the square which has many classic fairground attractions like a merry-go-round and a chair swing ride and there is plenty of popcorn and candy floss available for all!! In April the annual Glasgow Art Fair has a display set up, in June the Lord Provost had a parade round the city and the square has street theatre, sports, games and exhibits on show, in July Glasgow holds an annual Jazz festival and one of the venues is a marquis set up in the square and lots of other festivals and events are held year round.
At the end of November the citys Christmas lights are turned on by some form of celebrity and the square is transformed into a winter wonderland. In the whole month of December the funfair returns and the city build a real ice rink for people to enjoy open air skating and the atmosphere in the area is fantastic! I would highly recommend a vist at that time to do Christmas shopping in the excellent shopping Glasgow offers and to then end the day in the square to enjoy the fantastic atmosphere generated by the activities on show.
The council then clears the square in the week between Christmas and New Year to set up what is one of the biggest and most popular (apart from Edinburgh) Hogmanay celebrations in the UK (thats New Years Eve to the non Scots among you!). The Radio One roadshow takes up camp in the square and provide the entertainment for the evening with various chart topping artists from all over the world taking the city to the culmination of the year with a spectacular fireworks display from the City Chambers. The atmosphere is out of this world and I defy anyone from around the world to come to Glasgow (or anywhere in Scotland for that matter) and not have a magical time leading up to the bells on the 31st! New Year is Scotlands night and Glasgow is the perfect place to see it in.
The square also plays host to many demonstrations that happen for whatever reason and is very often either the meeting place or the end of many organised walks and when anything happens that people feel they would like to commemorate or show solidarity, it is very often used for large groups of people congregate with this in mind. There are also more than a few candle lit virgils held and these can provide a very poignant and reflective atmosphere for people to openly grieve or commemorate.
From the square it is also possible to start the Glasgow Tour which is provided courtesy of a red open top bus like the ones you see in most citys now and will take you on a tour of various sights around the city and is a highly recommended way of getting your bearings if it is your first visit to the city.
So there you have it. Glasgows George Square is more than the just the centre point of a large city, it is the social heart and soul of a community. It is a great place to start a city break here or can be used just to come and relax in the summer to let the world go by and maybe feed a few pidgins!
If you have any question on the square or Glasgow as a whole, please let me know and I will do my best to answer them!
Thanks for reading and take care.
Here is a link to a site where you can see two different live webcams of George Square